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While the Catholic Church has borne the brunt of the media’s blowtorch, the Jewish community has been implicated since 2008, when news first broke of sexual abuse allegations against Israeli-born Malka Leifer, former principal of Melbourne’s Adass Israel girls school.
The chief rabbi of Adass, Avraham Zvi Beck, and other officials have been accused of helping Leifer flee Australia for Israel as soon as the allegations — denied by her — emerged within the tightly knit, non-Zionist, Yiddish-speaking community in 2008.
Last year, claims also emerged of alleged child sex abuse in the 1980s perpetrated on 12 Yeshivah College students, three of whom now reside in America.
David Cyprys, a former security guard contracted to the college, will stand trial next July on 41 counts of child sex abuse, including child rape. He has pleaded not guilty.
Another alleged perpetrator, David Kramer, is a former teacher at Yeshivah College, which is part of the Chabad movement’s Yeshivah Centre, in Melbourne. Kramer is awaiting extradition from America, where he was jailed in 2008 for molesting a 12-year-old boy in a St. Louis synagogue. In October, a judge in the United States approved the extradition order to Melbourne, where he is wanted by police investigating claims that he molested four boys attending Yeshivah College between 1989 and 1992.
Timmy Rubin, a Lubavitcher who runs a mikveh in Melbourne, told the Forward: “We understand why Julia Gillard made that decision, but we are nervous for certain people in our community,” she said. “Some people are really nervous because 25 years ago, they probably did the wrong thing.”
Rubin, who services some Adass women at the ritual bathhouse, added: “With Adass, the problem is that nobody pressed charges, and that’s why she got away with it. People whose daughters were mucked around with were furious, but they were scared to press charges because they didn’t want their girls to be shamed in the community — that’s the real tragedy.”
Shlomo Boruch Abelesz, a former secretary of the Adass Israel community, told the Forward, “The fact that there don’t seem to have been any abuse claims for a number of years now shows that the Jewish schools have tackled it and cleaned up their act.”
In the Yeshivah College case, it is alleged that Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner, the Brooklyn-born chief rabbi of Chabad in Melbourne until his death, in 2008, helped cover up allegations of child sex abuse and gave alleged perpetrators the option to flee the country or be reported to authorities.