Victim’s father renounced links with Chabad movement after family persecuted for going public about abuse, inquiry told
The father of three boys sexually abused at the Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne renounced the ultra-Orthodox Chabad movement after his family was persecuted for going public about the abuse, the child sexual abuse royal commission has been told.
The hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse heard that two of Zephaniah Waks’ sons were assaulted by convicted child abuser David Kramer, and the other son, Manny Waks, was assaulted by serial child abuser David Cyprys.
The inquiry heard when Manny Waks told his father he had been abused by David Cyprys, he went straight to police.
“It was worse than the first case. It was very bad I thought I had failed him,” Zephaniah Waks said.
He said when Manny went public about the abuse, it “sealed their fate”.
Mr Waks was verbally attacked in the street by prominent members within the Chabad community.
“It was a new level. It was the next step,” he told the hearing.
“It was very, very embarrassing and also I understood there was a war on now.
“I felt I was being openly attacked, other people [were] standing around and I am being demeaned in public and I could see it was only going to get worse.
“I had no reason to think my worse fears wouldn’t be realised.”
Mr Waks explained the Yeshivah Centre was central to the lives of those in the ultra-Orthodox movement.
“As a member of the Chabad movement you had to send your children to that school, it was socially unacceptable not to,” he said.
“Those who said you should have taken your children out, it wasn’t that simple. You would have had to leave Australia.”
Mr Waks explained the taboo of going to police under Jewish law.
“It almost always leads to shunning, intimidation … disapproval of a family by the community would have dire consequences,” he said.
“Doing anything about it ourselves was a no no.”
Mr Waks has since renounced the Chabad movement, shaving off his long beard in protest.
He begged the Yeshiva community not to blame the victims and their families and to cooperate with police.
Mr Waks asked for support from the rabbis at the centre, but did not receive it.
‘No-one was thinking about the kids’
Mr Waks told the inquiry he first raised the allegations of the abuse committed by David Kramer with principal rabbi, Abraham Glick, in the early 1990s.
He said Rabbi Glick told him Kramer wanted to be caught, had made admissions about the abuse and a psychologist was going to help him.
Mr Waks said a group of families planned to tell the Yeshivah College they would go to the police unless Kramer was fired.
“They were protecting the school at all costs, no-one was thinking about the kids,” Mr Waks said.
The inquiry heard Kramer left the Yeshivah Centre and was given assistance to move to Israel.
Mr Waks said the head of Yeshivah, Rabbi Dovid Groner, told people it was not to be spoken about.
Counsel assisting the inquiry, Maria Gerace, told the hearing the Yeshivah Centre later told an Israeli institution not to hire Kramer as he had left Melbourne “under a cloud”.