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Yeshiva Centre Still Mistreating Family of Abuse Victims

September 14, 2012 – 9:51 am14 Comments

In response to today’s birth of a grandson to my father, the Yeshivah Centre has now clearly demonstrated that nothing at all has changed. The discrimination, intimidation and harassment has continued.

My father has just had the most unpleasant conversation with the head of the Yeshivah Centre (YC) Shule (Synagogue) Committee, Mr Herschl Herbst (HH).

Knowing that his daughter was going to give birth around this time, over a week ago my father initiated correspondence with HH about the YC policy regarding Aliyot (the ritual honour of getting called up to the Torah on the Sabbath) for the birth of grandchildren in the synagogue. My father (and anyone else who goes to the YC) knew what the custom is: Aliyot are always given on these occasions, even though it is not obligatory (rather it is a custom). However, after what happened on my father’s birthday, where the custom is exactly the same and he did not get an Aliyah, he wanted to clarify in good time what will transpire in this instance. Two days ago, my father received an email response that “it’s at the discretion of the Gabbai (the person who assists in the running of a synagogue)”.

Today, after his grandson was born, my father called HH and asked him who the Gabbai was so he could enquire whether he’ll indeed receive an Aliyah. HH said there is no Gabbai at the moment at the YC. My father then tried to understand why he received a response from HH stating that it’s at the discretion of the Gabbai if no such person even existed. After my father persisted in trying to find out if he will get an Aliyah on the Sabbath, after much obfuscation, HH finally clearly and unequivocally divulged the true reason: My father will most probably not get an Aliyah this Sabbath because his perceived actions in relation to certain unspecified matters, have polarised the YC community, and some unspecified people within the YC will feel uncomfortable if he gets an Aliyah when he does not have an obligation to receive one (as it’s only customary in this case).

So all other members of the YC community are eligible to receive an Aliyah under such circumstances….except for my father! Is that not discrimination, intimidation or harassment?

I would like to emphasise that throughout this process over the past year (since this Yeshivah child sexual abuse scandal became public) my father has acted in accordance with Rabbinical direction (i.e. he sought Rabbinical advice for all his actions, which is standard practice within the ultra-Orthodox community). So while there may be “faceless” individuals who may feel “uncomfortable” with what he is doing (i.e. supporting his son who was sexually abused due to this institution’s inactions, facilitation etc.), there is no legitimate reason for them to have any grievances as he has maintained strict adherence to their processes – and of course, being that they are anonymous, he anyway can’t speak to anyone to determine their issues. HH had no answer as to how my father can remedy the situation.

Many of us remember what transpired last time – despite it being customary to receive an Aliyah for a birthday, my father was refused one on his, due to what the YC Rabbi Telsner told J-Wire: “To give Mr Waks an Aliyah was not deemed appropriate.” No explanation, no opportunity to appeal the decision. Nothing. Just a decision by the YC leadership that my father should be the only person from the YC excluded from receiving such an Aliyah (although he did receive one when it was obligatory due to his father’s Yahrzeit (annual commemoration)).

Whether or not it is only a custom and not obligatory, the fact is that my father has been singled out for this treatment. This is what I call discrimination, intimidation and harassment!

On the positive side, next week’s Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) will be followed by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It would seem to me that the YC leadership has much to ask forgiveness for!

My father is willing to go to a Din Torah (a Religious Court, which is customary within the ultra-Orthodox community) with the Gabbai or any other YC representative about this. In previous cases, YC has consistently refused to go to a Din Torah when offered in the past (he has this in writing).

Shame on you Yeshivah Centre!

Manny Waks

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