Fresh revelations of paedophilia perpetrated by an Orthodox rabbi in Melbourne’s Jewish community

November 6, 2012

The following message was distributed by Manny Waks via his Facebook page on November 4 2012.  I encourage anyone who has any relevant information to come forward to the police.  Manny has requested any direct contact with him to be via Facebook.

Over the year or so since I went public with my story of child sexual abuse at Melbourne’s Yeshivah, I’ve been entrusted with allegations relating to numerous other victims/perpetrators.

I want to share one of these with you. A prominent Jewish Australian who’s a household name, informed me that during his Bar-Mitzvah classes (several decades ago) at an Orthodox synagogue (not ultra-Orthodox), the prominent and highly respected rabbi (who for the time being will remain nameless) would expose himself and masturbate in front of him. At this stage, decades later, the victim still does not want to share his story with the police – as he told me, even his parents aren’t aware of his experience.

The reason I’ve elected to share this particular serious allegation is to point out a number of important points:
• anyone can be a victim;
• anyone can be a perpetrator;
• it is not just a Yeshivah/Adass/ultra-Orthodox issue; and
• many victims are still reluctant to share their experience with anyone, including family members and the police.

After holding discussions with the police on this matter, they have advised that they are unable to take any action, as the victim must provide a statement. Consistent with the way paedophiles work, it is reasonable to assume that this prominent rabbi would have done similar things to other children.

So I urge anyone who was also exposed to any such experience, especially similar to the story described above, to report the matter to the police – of course if you are aware of any other cases of sexual abuse, whether perpetrated against you or anyone else, please report this information to the police. It’s important that they are informed of everything so that they can have a broader picture of what has been happening. Because the picture that I currently have is very grim – in my opinion it’s not a question of whether instances of abuse were on a similar scale to the Catholic Church but rather whether this will all become public…..

Contact details (Melbourne, Australia):

Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team
(03) 9556 6129
Detective Senior Constable Jonathan RUSSELL (or others in the team)

If you’re reluctant to make a confidential statement to the police, please realise that you’re not alone – it’s common! But please consider that if you go to the police, you’ll be:
• pursuing justice;
• assisting other past victims; and
• protecting potential victims.

Please feel free to contact me in complete confidence if I can be of any assistance.


History making statement issued by Australia’s Jewish peak body against ‘respected’ Orthodox Rabbi

February 15, 2012

ECAJ logoLast Friday, February 10 2012, news came to me by way of Queer community journalist Doug Pollard that Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen had published a paper via the virulently anti-gay Australian Family Association, slamming homosexuality and along with it the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria.  The SSCV web site describes itself as “Dedicated to supporting gender and sexual diversity in schools.”

Doug Pollard has a personal interest in the welfare of SSCV as he was instrumental in helping the program get off the ground.  I have a personal interest in fighting homophobic intolerance in the Jewish community.  So without delay I wrote to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and asked they intercede in this unpleasant matter, as they had made a commitment to countering hatred against GLBT people.  Together with Doug Pollard and also Rob Mitchell of the RJM Trust we had a dialogue with the ECAJ, explaining our concerns and reasons why a prompt response from the ECAJ would be beneficial.

On Monday, February 13 2012 Peter Wertheim, Executive Director of the ECAJ, issued a statement indicating the rabbi’s views were not representative of those of Australian Jewish community and in doing so, distanced themselves from his toxic viewpoints.  To the best of my knowledge this single acts sets a precedent for the Australian Jewish community (and perhaps even globally), as there has never been an organisation representing, in part, the Orthodox Jewish community that has spoken out publicly against an Orthodox Jewish rabbi.

I have to praise Peter Wertheim and the ECAJ for their professionalism, sensitivity and swift action in handling the concern presented to them.  They have told the community that it is unacceptable to vilify homosexuals and attack organisations and programs that have been established to prevent young people from bullies, especially bullies of the likes of Rabbi Cowen and his cohorts.

In saying that though, there is ample room for improvement in the position taken by the ECAJ.  Their cautiously worded statement lacked the necessary gravitas to tell the Orthodox Rabbinate that they must never again speak ill of homosexuality, that they must never refer to it as an illness, that they must never offer ‘reparative therapy’ as a ‘cure’ for homosexuality and that they must actually accept that homosexuality is a normal and healthy expression of human sexuality.

I have presented the ECAJ with a statement each from the Australian Psychological Society and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.  These statements are absolutely unambiguous in their message and leave no room for uncertainty as to what these two professional bodies believe is the best approach to the issue of reparative therapy.  Yet the ECAJ has refused to publicly acknowledge these two statements.  Why?  It surprises me that an organisation that has access to a plethora of psychologists and psychiatrists in the Jewish community didn’t source one of each to help them understand and convey these plain language statements.

The presence of Professor Kim Rubenstein on the ECAJ executive adds the necessary relevant academic and scientific qualifications to the repertoire of the ECAJ, as she is the convenor of the Gender Institute at the Australian National University, and is well-connected on these matters.  With her talents at hand, and access to a wealth of resources through the ANU, the ECAJ currently has no reason for saying “but it’s outside our area of expertise”.

I need to remind myself that the Jewish community, at its official level, is excellent at fighting hate from beyond its borders.  However it is far from having perfected that art when the hate emanates from within.  What is rewarding though is seeing that it is trying hard to get there.


Australian Jewish Community Security and the invisible terrorist

February 3, 2012

Two stories published on January 31 2012 came to my attention this week: “Safety at all costs” (The Age) and “The Jewish Press won’t be silenced” (The Jewish Press).  After reading these stories it’s clear to me that the greater harm toward members of the Australian Jewish community comes not from outside it’s high security walls, but rather, from within.

The Age story talks about the tens of millions of dollars the Australian Jewish community spends on security each year and questions the merit of such a large investment:

… the inconvenient truth was that the Jewish community had not faced a terror attack in Australia for 30 years, since the Hakoah Club and Israeli consulate in Sydney were bombed on the same day.

The Jewish Press story, coming from a US-based perspective but nevertheless one that is transplantable to the local context, advises:

A significant number of suicide attempts are committed by boys from not just religious but rabbinic homes — because they thought they were homosexual and had no place in the Orthodox world they grew up in, even if they had never acted on those impulses.

If the Jewish community is serious about preventing harm to those within its ranks, which I believe it is, it should, as a matter of priority and urgency, rethink its approach to community security and how best it invests its millions of dollars.  It should be addressing the real and alarming problem of youth suicide, ubiquitous amongst religious communities that are intolerant of homosexuality.  Only then, when all traces of the harm have been eradicated, should the focus be placed on the less evident issues affecting the safety of the community.


Orthodox rabbis champion homosexual acceptance and same-sex marriage

June 14, 2011

[SOURCE]

Our friends over at AJN Watch have published a delightfully accepting and heart-warming piece about homosexuality and marriage equality.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Please thank them for their care and concern.

PS.  If the link above is broken, try this backup PDF version.


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