The orthodox Jewish community likes to make believe that there is a problem of ignorance about child sex abuse. However, the leadership is perfectly aware of many cases of abuse and does it darnedest to keep complaints from reaching the civil authorities. When persuasion does not work it resorts to threats and shunning.
Manny Waks was a victim of abuse by two individuals while he was a student at Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne. Finally, as an adult he came forward. His parents fully supported him in going forward and leading the effort to address the issue in Australia. An excellent example of their good work was their testimony before the Parliament of Victoria.
Zvi Telsner, the rabbi of Zephaniah’s synagogue, led the intimidation effort together with the synagogue’s committee head, Hershel Herbst. They discouraged others from talking to Zephaniah and even denied him aliyot on his yarzeit (anniversary of the death of a parent).
His father sought a solution within the beit din context culminating with an offer of zablah (binding arbitration). But Telsner dodged all these overtures. So, with a heter (permission) from a rabbi, Zephaniah Waks brought his complaint of intimidation to the Victoria Human Rights Commission.
I want to compliment Zephaniah Waks on his persistence in the face of ostracism.
The mistreatment of victims of abuse and their supporters needs to be confronted, and the obstructors of justice must be called on their misconduct. I believe that it is not enough to encourage and support victims in going through the legal process. It is time for those who obstruct justice to be criminally charged as happened during the Weberman trial, as recently happened in England in the Chaim Halpern case and as is now happening in Australia.
Orthodox spokespeople like to claim that a valid complaint about sexual abuse may be brought to the civil authorities. The social reality is different and it is enforced with every available tool. This reign of terror must be ended.