Important Information Regarding Abuse Allegations
As a concerned Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah parent I called Moorabbin Police station this morning (phone number: 9556 6565) and spoke to the Senior Constable in charge. I stated that as a very worried parent I wanted to know that my children were not at risk.
The Senior Constable said that there is no investigation into any current Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah College staff member, nor any threat to children through the Yeshivah Centre.
I stated that I had read this week’s Jewish News article and a online blog mentioned 11 known perpetrators at the Yeshivah Centre. He stated that again if children were at risk the school would be informed.
He also stated that anyone can make online accusations, often anonymously or through an organisation’s website or facebook. The police do not respond to newspaper articles or online accusations, if children are at risk they take immediate action to ensure their safety.
The Senior Constable said parents should not trust what they read in newspapers, online blogs, third party organizations or even school statements. They should call the police themselves to gain confidence in their children’s safety.
The Senior Constable’s number is 9556 6565. Call for yourself to gain comfort that your children are safe.
Manny Waks responds:
Firstly, well done to the parent for following this up directly with the school and subsequently with the police.
I have not divulged details of who is investigating this specific allegation (not the unit or officers involved). I am not sure who the author of this article spoke to (there is no name provided and my understanding is that there is no such thing as a Senior Constable in charge – there is only a Sergeant in charge) and the exact nature of their apparent conversation.
Let me assure you that this matter is indeed being investigated by the police. It would be absurd for anyone to believe that there is no police investigation undertaken when a victim comes forward and provides a comprehensive statement of this nature. Any victim/survivor reading this should not be swayed by the misleading information provided in this article – each and every credible allegation will be investigated.
There is very limited information that I can provide publicly and even less the police can say while a matter is under investigation. This is why Tzedek only released a very limited public comment earlier in the week (http://www.tzedek.org.au/another-alleged-melbourne-yeshivah-perpetrator-a-current-teacher/). It was the victim’s/survivor’s decision to speak to the Australian Jewish News and it was their decision to run the story. I fully support the victim’s decision to share his story. And I fully support the AJN’s decision to publish the story.
Anecdotally, I recall around two years ago when David Cyprys was under investigation a concerned member of the community (whose name would be familiar to many Galus readers) contacted a member of the police who denied there was a current investigation under way. This individual got all worked up about it at the time – including trying to attack my credibility (and making threats). The officer whom this community member spoke to was in fact the one heading this investigation. And, as they say, the rest is history.
In terms of whether this alleged perpetrator is a current danger to children, this is something that could only be assessed by a professional. No one – not even a police officer – would be in a position to state that someone who is alleged to have raped a child is no longer a danger to children without undertaking a proper assessment.
There is also a major inaccuracy in this article, which must be rectified. I never said that there are ’11 known perpetrators at the Yeshivah Centre’. Rather, this is what I wrote:
‘We [Tzedek] have repeatedly stated publicly that we are aware of around 25 alleged perpetrators who are alleged to have committed crimes within institutions roaming freely within the Jewish community. In fact, 11 of them are from the Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne (none are currently teaching at Yeshivah).’
This does not mean that there are 11 known perpetrators currently walking around Yeshivah. Many of these individuals are not even currently in Australia. The point was that allegations were made about them for abusing children while they were within the Yeshivah community and these individuals are today walking around free. But there are also a few of these 11 who are still roaming around Yeshivah. Without going into too much detail, it’s important to remember that not all the allegations were made in the context of a community setting (i.e. some are allegations of abuse within families). Also, most of them are not under active/current police investigation and some have never been under investigation at all (for a range of reasons – e.g. victims did not want to proceed with a court case, which is very common in these types of cases).
In short, the article just posted raises a number of questions and contains misleading information.
I will refrain from making any further comment on this issue. At this stage I have divulged all the information that I can. If anything changes I will provide further updates. In the meantime, I will leave the police to investigate this and other cases within our community.
Editor’s note: I would like to thank the anonymous parent who wrote the initial post today for alerting me to R’ Smukler’s email (below). We are publishing that email with R’ Smukler’s permission.
A message from the Principal in response to the recent media
As Principal of Yeshivah College I find it most disturbing that anyone reading the Australian Jewish News or Tzedek website may be led to believe that Yeshivah College currently employs a known perpetrator of child sexual abuse. This could be no further from the truth.
We are in regular contact with the Victoria Police and the relevant authorities. The Police have made it very clear that should they believe that there is cause for concern or that we need to take action in relation to any staff member, they will contact us immediately.
The Police have unequivocally confirmed, that at present, there are no concerns about any of our staff whatsoever.
If the Police or any government agency were to make us aware of any staff member being investigated for allegations of child abuse, our school policy is clear and unequivocal; we would unhesitatingly stand them down and remove them from having any access or exposure to our children during the investigation.
We were terribly disappointed that the Australian Jewish News did not have the decency of giving Yeshivah the right of reply prior to publishing an article about an alleged staff member of our College.
It is outrageous and irresponsible for the AJN or the Tzedek advocacy group, who profess to act in the best interests of the community and the children within it, to make broad and sweeping allegations. In doing so, they have cast suspicion on hundreds of innocent educators in circumstances when the police have confirmed there are no concerns. This does nothing to keep children safe.
It is a pity, that instead of acknowledging and encouraging our extensive efforts in child protection, and working together with us to ensure the safety of all our children, that Mr Manny Waks and his Tzedek organisation have instead continued to portray themselves as having a vendetta against orthodox Jewry and in particular the Yeshivah community. It is most disappointing that this vendetta also appears to be supported by the AJN.
Yeshivah, as an organisation today, can only be accused of being overly vigilant in the protection of our children – something for which we are proud.
We conclude by reassuring the community that we are absolutely committed to ensuring the safety of the most vulnerable members of the community – our children. We prioritise child safety, with best practice in relation to staff employment policies and training, and employ effective policies to prevent, and procedures to deal with any issues should they ever arise. We are in the forefront of student and parent education, and collaborate and work closely with the community, the Police and Government and support agencies.
Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler