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But many inside the Chabad community feel that Groner’s reputation has been besmirched by the sex abuse scandal, especially since he cannot defend himself. Groner was sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to Melbourne in 1958 and is widely credited with putting Chabad on the map in Australia, building a network of educational, religious and outreach institutions.
The commission may summon Rabbi Avrohom Glick, the principal of Yeshivah College at the time of most of the alleged offenses. In his original statement, Glick said he had only recently become aware of the accusations about Cyprys, but in May he changed his story under oath, admitting that he was in fact aware of rumors in the early 2000s.
Magistrate Luisa Bazzani sharply questioned even Glick’s revised position, saying it was “unfathomable” that he was not aware of the alleged abuses in the 1980s.
A senior member of the Orthodox community in Melbourne, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said those rabbis in Chabad and Adass “who knew of cases and turned a blind eye, or didn’t bring them to the attention of the authorities, will be named and shamed. It’s absolutely inexcusable.”
Following Gillard’s announcement of a Royal Commission, the current Yeshivah College principal, Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler, issued a statement commending the prime minister’s move. “Child abuse is abhorrent and has traumatic consequences for victims and their families,” he said. “Yeshivah takes child protection very seriously and will fully cooperate with the royal commission and continue to act vigilantly to eradicate abuse.”
But Waks, who has become an unofficial spokesman for the alleged victims, was underwhelmed. “The Yeshivah leadership has excelled in doublespeak: They inform the public that they are cooperating fully with the relevant authorities, yet in private they are engaged in the most vile and irreligious acts,” he told the press.
Waks, who claims that his family has been victimized by fellow Lubavitchers critical of his public exposure, said that more alleged victims have come forward. “I’m receiving more and more allegations of child sexual abuse coming from the Melbourne, Sydney and Perth Jewish communities,” he said.
The sexual abuse scandals have triggered a flurry of online debate. In one post, a blogger wrote: “In each case, the rabbis of the respective [Chabad and Adass] community were approached by victims. In each case, there was discussion by the victims about going to the police. In each case, the respective rabbi said the victims and their families are prohibited from doing so.”
But in a statement on November 14 the Rabbinical Council of Victoria backed the commission, saying that it “reminds the community that alleged halachic reasons to refrain from reporting abuse to the police or other relevant authorities are completely without foundation.”
Contact Dan Goldberg at firstname.lastname@example.org