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No Love Lost Between Leaders? Maccabi’s Sex Abuse Silence, What Dutch Courage Really Means, and More

August 15, 2013 – 12:53 pm7 Comments

From the editor:

maccabi coach2Tzedek, the Jewish advocacy group for victims of child sexual abuse, has issued a press release regarding the conviction of a Maccabi coach for sexually abusing girls under the age of 16.

One of the victims summed up Maccabi’s recalcitrance thus:

“Throughout the court proceedings, Maccabi has continuously avoided the issue, denied responsibility and provided little support. Members of Maccabi management were aware that the case had been reopened in 2011, but no real attempt was made to offer any sort of support until we sent a letter to the Board a year later expressing our disappointment that they had failed to acknowledge the situation.

Even after we initiated contact, a high-profile member of Maccabi Australia continued to deny Maccabi’s involvement, stating that it was “not a Maccabi issue” and that he “never wanted to talk about the case”. For a long time, Maccabi ignored that court proceedings were taking place, and neglected to consider the impact it was having on the victims, their families, and others involved. Their lack of sensitivity, compassion and empathy only served to compound our anxiety and distress.

What happened to us was not specific to basketball; it could happen in any sport. It is a broader Maccabi issue and something that needs to be addressed and pursued with urgency.”

Friday update: Maccabi has issued a qualified apology (from J-Wire):

“Maccabi Australia together with its member states and clubs would like to express its satisfaction with the sentence imposed by the County Court of Victoria on Shannon Francis for crimes committed against young girls under his care in 1999-2000. We sincerely hope this sentence brings some comfort to all those involved in the case, especially the victims.

Maccabi acknowledges the complaints of its handling of this matter made by some of the victims.

It is our understanding that, in 2000, the Maccabi officials involved behaved in what was genuinely believed to be the best interests of the victims and their families, and in full consultation and agreement with them.

Upon the commencement of criminal proceedings against Mr Francis, of which Maccabi was not a formal party, the organisation was placed in the invidious position of not having received any official notification that Maccabi members were involved in the case against Mr Francis.

Maccabi could, therefore, not respond publicly and, due to the suppression order in place could not embark on any course of action that might have led to the identification of the victims by anyone outside the legal proceedings. As an organisation, we were constrained in our public response due to the suppression order in place, and genuinely sought to maintain the privacy of the victims and their families.

However, Maccabi recognises the distress of the victims in this matter. If our behaviour  as an organisation and as officials was felt to be uncaring and insensitive, we unreservedly apologise. This was never the intent or the sentiment within Maccabi.

We will continue to privately reach out to those involved in this case, noting that our efforts to date have not met the expectations of some of the victims

Furthermore, we will continue to ensure that our child protection policies and practices remain strong and are implemented with rigour.

Finally, we would like to express our admiration for the courage of the victims and thank them for bringing this matter to justice. Maccabi encourages anyone who may have experienced anything of this nature, whether within Maccabi or not, to raise the matter with the appropriate authorities.”

Do you believe this apology is sufficient?

***

A little bit odd: In this week’s Australian Jewish News (the AJN), there’s an article about a the courage of a Dutch woman who saved a Jew during the Holocaust. For some reason, the headline, “Dutch Courage,” made it through the editing process. “Dutch Courage,” means the courage you get when you’re really drunk.

***

That wasn’t the only oddity in this week’s AJN. Firstly, the reportage of a new group targeting young Jewish Professionals doesn’t challenge in any way the claim made by the group’s founders that there is no other communal group serving young Jewish professionals.

It’s just not that hard to find out that Alon Cassuto runs the Young Business Forum – the youth arm of the Australia/Israel Chamber of Commerce, and Manny Waks runs Capital Jewish Forum. Both groups provide social and networking opportunities for young Jews.

While Cassuto is involved in the new group, and YBF targets young non-Jews as well, YBF and CJF are important fora on the young Jewish professional scene.

***

Meanwhile, the AJN’s reportage on the Presidency of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry proved interesting. It’s hard to know whether the story’s been reported in such a way that makes it seem like Danny Lamm and Robert Goot don’t like each other very much or whether there is indeed no love lost.

Whatever the case, if the reportage is accurate, both men have very positive things to say about their own records.

The AJN reports Goot as saying, “Danny has done a good job in maintaining the advances that were made in the three-year period commencing 2008 and the ECAJ is in good shape.”

What’s cute about that is that Goot was ECAJ President during that golden era (2008-2010) to which he’s referring. No mention was reported of any other positive elements of Lamm’s Presidency.

Not to be outdone, Lamm’s assessment was, “”Robert’s got the experience of having done it before and now when he does it, he’ll find he’s got a bigger, stronger, more robust organisation.”

***

ECAJ (The Executive Council of Australian Jewry), AIJAC (Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council) and the ZFA (Zionist Federation of Australia) have expressed disappointment in Bob Carr’s position on the Israel/Palestine conflict – particularly with regards to the legality of the settlements and their role in the conflict.

Do you believe that position accurately reflects Jewish Australian opinion on the conflict?

What role do you believe these organisations should play?

Do you believe ECAJ should be advocating for a particular position on Israel?

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7 Comments »

  • TheSadducee says:

    Has anyone considered that the responses of the organisations where abuse has occured are constrained by expressing themselves by legal and/or financial (insurance) advice?

    Doesn’t make it right (morally) to behave that way but it might go a long way to explaing some of the behaviours and responses that occur?

    I always thought that Dutch courage referred to drinking before undertaking an action – not necessarily drunk, but having drunk enough to feel some effects?

    You see conduct like that explained between Goot and Lamm and people wonder why the youth don’t step up and engage with leadership positions?

  • frosh says:

    To be clear, I think Bob Carr is an absolute disgrace. And this is true for this specific matter as well as most other matters relating to his entire political career.

    Nevertheless, I think ECAJ should leave it to ZFA and AIJAC to make such expressions, both of whom are more than capable of doing so.

    This article pretty much sums it up:
    http://galusaustralis.com/2012/11/6528/misguided-focus-on-israel-robs-attention-from-local-issues/

  • letters in the age says:

    Don’t have the Jewish tag attached to it and it might be more popular and less ethnic…

    Nothing fun,sexy or appealing thus far to join some groups.

    Food for thought#

  • James says:

    Be fair. A good headline is often a pun or a deliberate tranference of a common phrase from one context to another. Thus “Dutch Courage” is a moderately clever way of headlining a story about a Dutch person who was courageous, because of, and not in spite of, its usual meaning.

  • letters in the age says:

    Maccabi….

    Has elements of a jewish boys club mentality about it to some degree with that vague statement…

    to be continued…

  • Jonathan says:

    No surprise, and not the first time that Maccabi Basketball’s incompetence has reared it’s ugly head. With the current board of Gawarke, Swiatlo & Kuran there is no chance of any real change in the culture of ‘no accountability’. The fish rots from the head. It’s time to spill the board and start afresh.

    These victims would not be speaking out if they had received any kind of decent support from Maccabi publicly or privately. The only positive way forward is for new fresh talent at board level, driven by strong leadership at national level.

    The kids who love playing basketball need this for their own protection, otherwise the boards incompetence will no doubt compromise all involved again & again.

    Concerned.

  • Sol Salbe says:

    The matter of sexual abuse of children should not be used for scoring political points. The recent case of Rabbi Motti Elon in Israel is a case in point. Some of my Left-wing friends in Israel think that when it comes to “the Conflict” his positions are closer to theirs. And that the Takana Forum, representing mainly religious nationalist elements, do not have a moral standing to judge him. I beg to differ, This issue this stand alone. At the Tzedek organisation’s request I spent a fair bit of time translating nearly 4000 words of an article from Ma’ariv about it. A lot consisted of comments by heads of Hesder Yeshivot. I don’t care that I don’t see eye to eye with them on another issue. What they do on child abuse is Avodat Kodesh which deserves everyone’s support. Which should keep that in mind locally.

    http://www.tzedek.org.au/media/otherarticles-of-interest-landing-page/other-articles-of-interest-august-2013/takana-forum-on-rabbi-elon-affair-we-have-merely-scratched-the-surface-of-exploitation-in-the-religious-community/

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