Playing the Frum Card to Finesse Abuse

Manny Waks

Manny Waks

The culture of the frum (orthodox Jewish) community makes it hard to publicly challenge abuse let alone bring charges to the civil justice system. Sometimes those who leave orthodoxy are less inhibited and more effective in fighting abuse.

For example, Manny Waks grew up in Chabad in Melbourne, Australia. During his school years he was abused. As an adult, when he was no longer orthodox, he became an anti-abuse activist, founding and leading Australia’s highly effective Tzedek. He also pressed charges and gave an important statement at the sentencing of his abuser, David Cyprys.

David Cyprys

David Cyprys

No good deed goes unpunished. He was beyond the reach of Chabad. But his parents who supported him and remained committed ultra-orthodox Jews were shunned in the community in which they built their lives. Eventually they gave up and moved out of that community but not out of orthodoxy. Instead they moved to another neighborhood and synagogue and spend part of their year in Israel.

As part of Manny’s anti-abuse activism he personally supports a petition campaign organized by Jews for Justice for Yeshivah’s Victims asking Rabbi Avrohom Glick and Mr. Don Wolf, the leadership of Melbourne’s Chabad Yeshivah Centre, to “Apologise to the innocent victims who were sexually abused as children on your watch and resign from all positions of leadership.” This initiative got coverage in the Australian paper, The Age.

Zephaniah Waks and his son, Manny Waks

Zephaniah Waks and his son, Manny Waks

Some people use the Days of Awe (The period leading up to Yom Kippur) to improve themselves. Then there are others like Mrs. Pnina Feldman, principal of the Chabad girls’ high school in Sydney whose husband, Pinchos Feldman, dominates Chabad in Sydney. Pninah Feldman couldn’t abide the thought of being asked to behave like a good Jew, and have Chabad leadership in Melbourne admit its sins and apologize. So she used the season’s motif to play the frum card and instead chastise Manny Waks. In her sloppiness she addressed the message below to the sheitel business owned by Manny’s orthodox parents. (It was posted last week in Failed Messiah but without the reply by Manny’s father.)

Pninah Feldman 2From: Pnina Feldman
Sent: Friday, October 3, 2014
To: waks wigs
Subject: Re: Grassroots petition re Yeshivah Centre Melbourne

Hi Manny,

Why do you keep highlighting Yeshiva?! Before the pedophile issues you went running to The Age re BER issues. There’s always something with you and Yeshiva. Get over it already- whatever it is that makes you think that attacking Yeshiva justifies your not being frum. There is something very ugly and personal about your antiYeshiva campaign. Just because a security guard molested you don’t blame Yeshiva! A principal in Moriah College (not Jewish) once molested nearly half the girls in the school! NONE of whom have ever blamed the school! Get over it! You need counselling! I haven’t met a person yet with one nice word to say about you. Most people consider you a lowlife- not because of

any molestation, which wasn’t your fault, but because of your malicious blame game which is unjust, unwarranted, undeserved and wicked. The person you hurt most by that is yourself and your own psyche and spiritual and emotional wellbeing. I realise you may go on hate campaign against me now, but like yourself, I have no fear in saying it as it is when I feel passionate about something.

Erev Yom Kippur. Get the pedophiles. That’s fine. But get the hate out of your heart or at least try to control it. That hate is very bad for you personally as it doesn’t allow you peace of mind or any form of internal harmony or happiness.

Words from the heart.

A Gmar Tov to you and yours,

Rebzn Pnina Feldman

There you have it. According to Pninah Feldman, everything is fine at Yeshivah Centre which still won’t admit its past misdeeds or apologize. The only problem is that anti-abuse advocates are angry.

Manny’s Father, Zephaniah Waks replied:

From: Zephaniah Waks
Sent: Friday, October 3, 2014
To: Pnina Feldman
Cc: Rabbi Moshe Gutnick ; Manny Waks
Subject: Re: Grassroots petition

Hi Pnina,

I am Zephaniah, not Manny. I am actually much harder line than him on these issues, even though I am shomer shabbes [Sabbath observant] etc (I cringe at the words “Orthodox” or “observant”), which demolishes your claim about him that “you think that attacking Yeshiva justifies your not being frum”.

scales of justice and childI have Googled “The Age BER issues Waks” and I have no idea what you are talking about.

I am harder on Yeshivah than Manny: they claim moral superiority, so I do hold them to a higher standard than Moriah (for example), & I know nothing about the knowledge of the leadership in the Moriah case.

“A principal in Moriah College (not Jewish) once molested nearly half the girls in the school!”. I’m speechless that you try to use this fact to bolster an argument against Manny. Perhaps he should have been allowed to continue as principal, just as those leaders in Yeshivah Centre Melbourne were allowed to remain in their positions even after their criminal conspiracy became known? Paying for a self-confessed felon to leave Australia was a serious crime 20 years ago as well.

“NONE of whom have ever blamed the school!” Problem is,  Groner & others knew about the criminal actions of the “security guard” [David Cyprys] for years, including multiple victims & rape, & did nothing (in fact, he was helped to have no conviction recorded in the 1 case that came to court then). I personally asked Groner & Glick to restrict his presence on Yeshivah grounds to prayer times only, & they refused, even though they knew at least some of his crimes.

Etc, etc. I just couldn’t be bothered refuting any more of your nonsense, since I feel that you are purposely pretending not to understand.

Zephaniah Waks

PS I CC’d your brother [Rabbi Moshe Gutnick], because he is the only Chabad Rabbi to have taken a genuine public stance on this issue.

 ACTION: I urge all my readers to sign the petition. If you have any connection to Chabad, ask those you know to sign. It is time to demand accountability. If you are not satisfied with the responses you get, remember, you can send messages by your decision to donate, or to withhold donations and other forms of support.

Update – 10/7/14: Feldman, under pressure by rabbis concerned about the bad PR issued a public apology to Manny Waks. But since it was a PR move, not a sincere gesture, she did not bother sending it directly to him, just to the media. Manny Waks replied on his personal page on FaceBook:

http://www.jewishnews.net.au/pressure-forced-rebbetzin-feldman-to-apologise/37944

I’m pleased that Rebbetzin Feldman has now publicly apologised for her vile and offensive email. I accept her apology despite the fact that:
• she’s a repeat offender (she has previously publicly attacked my family as “massers” – collaborators by cooperating with the police regarding these matters);
• the apology was reportedly made due to rabbinic pressure; and
• she has not sent the apology directly to me (although she has my contact details).

I do not intend to address some of the falsehoods and inaccuracies contained in her public statement. As I said, I accept her apology and we can now move on.

I note that her email was a trigger for a subsequent attack which I received from another prominent Chabad-Yeshivah (Melbourne) figure (Dr Shyrla Pakula Werdiger) and suggest a public apology would also be warranted in that instance.

I’m particularly pleased, grateful and buoyed by the report in The Australian Jewish News that Rabbis in Melbourne were involved behind the scenes in procuring the apology. This intervention is most welcome.

I would welcome the opportunity to personally meet both Rebbetzin Feldman and Dr Werdiger to try to address their grievances and to possibly work together constructively to obtain justice for the past and to ensure the safety of our children into the future.

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26 thoughts on “Playing the Frum Card to Finesse Abuse

    • Thanx for the clarification. We who are deeply involved forget that others don’t always understand context.

  1. Since someone has remarked that a particular Sydney school is mentioned, I have no knowledge of what Feldman claims at all, and I will attempt to contact the school & see if they object to their name being mentioned here.

    By the way, lest anyone not understand that this represents the Ultra-Orthodox position of the over 50s at least, it has been reaffirmed by another senior Chabad woman online today.

    To quote Shakespeare in Hamlet: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”…

    • I believe that until the past few years that school only had jewish persons in that position. I am not aware of any recent charge or arrest. It isn’t frankly very difficult to put a name to Pnina Feldman’s allegation. Isn’t Pnina Feldman a mandated reporter in this situation if there is any substance to her allegation?

      • I have no idea about the law in this case, but are you suggesting following the laws of the land? What a novel concept for the UO, and I am surprised at you for even suggesting it…

        • I am suggesting that if Pnina Feldman’s allegation (note if) against the former head of a a particular Sydney school are true and if Feldman is a mandated reported under the current laws then she may be guilty of a crime, if she has not reported the allegation to the proper authorities.

  2. A big thanks to YU and its groupies for the continued RAPE of over 30 men that started with George Finkelstein years back.They admit to the abuse but HA HA ,you ran out of time. Thanks to the so called frum community for their SILENCE and the media that was silenced by YU muscle

  3. This is a horrific situation and the ultra orthodox community needs to change.

    Waks family- you’re very brave.

    I wonder how these rabbis davened on y”k.

  4. Zephaniah Waks, Manny’s father emailed me: “For the outside world, the main point is not that she [Pninah Feldman] is crazy or highly injudicious, but that her views accurately represent the views of most of the ultra orthodox world.”

    • Agreed. This reminds me all too well of the current Meisles school situation where none of the teachers have apologized for looking away at the sexual abuse at the hands of the school’s principal.

      Nevertheless, this Pnina Feldman, you have a lot of chutzpah for sending out that disgusting email.

      • you don’t know her. this is the way she is. those of us who know her, know that her sense of hubris is overwhelming

    • Such an assertion is speculative. I suspect there is a silent majority consisting of those who are simply ignorant as well as those cowed into silence out of fear of repercussions should they say or do anything that makes them stand out from the crowd.

      • Not speculative, unfortunately. Most of them believe it, even now. It’s based on discussions I have had with them, not a few internet posts. And even if you were right, that they just shut up because they were cowed, what sort of Yiddishkeit, nay even simple morality, would that be, to stand idly by while victims & their families were further victimised?

        • Zephania, it seems that your own son has raised questions to how you originally treated the abuse in school :from scott rosenbergs site:
          “my father admits he had blood on his hands at the beginning of the program is because it was well known that he was one of the main parents who lobbied Yeshivah to send the perpetrators away. Yes you read that right. HE was one of them!”

          Look, i live in brooklyn, have never been to Melbourne, am not Chabad, yet, i do believe that the time to wind down this story has come.the perpetrators are locked up and change has come, now go and sort out your own issues privately

        • “Fred” (a real authentic Brooklyn name), I know you “have never been to Melbourne, am not Chabad” etc etc. And if you are not a Yeshivah Centre Melbourne, or Chabad, troll, you will be happy to know that what you claim to quote is a complete lie, so please send the link to the quote.

        • Zephaniah:
          You do not know me. nor does Manny, But i have been following this disgusting stuff for last couple of years. I was searching for the comment I had read, here on FF, or perhaps on FM, which I very rarely read for personal reasons, the comment that compared the Black Hatters to the Mafia. maybe someone else remembers seeing that comment, it was, in fact, within the last several days, I am sure (unless it was just re-quoted by someone else) very very recently. how sad, how very very sad, that we, the Jewish people, have come to this.

          Peninah:

          Money talks. And insanity (peninah feldman) is pervasive, but, not even the main problem Nice, attack Manny erev Yom Kippur, Nice going there Peninah, you have surely earned a place in the world to come. Question is, what place???
          I fear for your soul, which is the only reason i am addressing this part of this comment to you, Peninah, I fear for your soul. baba metsiah. you know your stuff. Your timing was impeccable. You surely will be relegated to that place in the attic for the crazy uncle. (or , fill in the blanks…..)

  5. Is there a way to start a similar petition to support victims of SA including victims of the 2 Kolkos, Meisels, Lebovits, Ner Israel victims, maybe even going back to Mondrowitz? Has this ever been done before? I, and I’m sure others like me, would like to exonerate myself in some tiny way for being a part of a community that allows SA to go on with so little outrage, so little complaint.

  6. zephania,
    yes i am from brooklyn and no i have nothing to do with chabad, melbourne or your family.btw, there is , to put it mildly, quite a large group of orthodox jews, who live outside of melbourne, who are not chabad and don’t know you.the comment appeared on scott rosenbergs site in response to an email sent by someone else to your son manny.
    be well and as i said it’s time to lay this to rest

    • Fred,
      My oh my, you sound really desperate.
      Tell us that bubeh meiseh again, that you have no relationship to this story whatsoever, that you are not nogeah b’davar. If this blog bores you, you are free to go back to the Rosenberg blog that you quoted above. kol tuv.

    • Sorry Fred, you really do sound like a Yeshivah troll to me. Your “it’s time to lay this to rest” is essentially saying what Feldman says: “Get over it already”. Give up already, Fred.

    • Fred, Whether or not there are tensions between one son and others in his family is a diversion from the main point. Manny testified against David Cyprys and he was convicted of child sex abuse. Chabad knew about Cyprys’s proclivities because they even intervened on a previous occasion to lessen his criminal justice consequences. When the cops were closing in on Cyprys they paid for his air ticket to leave the country and escape justice. Let’s keep our eye on the ball instead of getting into a diversionary discussion about another person in a very large family.

      The issue is accountability by Chabad not anyone else’s familial relations. The issue is that Manny has good grounds for pressing Chabad leadership to resign. Of course, I can’t blame Chabad in Melbourne from trying to change the topic. But it is absurd for Chabad to kvetch that Manny is angry. Duh!

      • I don’t understand. What am I missing? If any form of SA happened to me or to any close relative of mine, I don’t know if I’d ever be able to get over it. Of course I’d try, but if anyone told me to just move on, I’d want to sock them in the face. It seems that Mr. Waks used his sorrow in a very productive fashion, trying to protect others. What sane person would criticize him for playing a “malicious blame game”?

        • Fred, you really are a Yeshivah Centre Melbourne / Chabad troll. Understand, there are still scores of victims in Yeshivah Centre Melbourne who have not sought help or even talked to anyone, much less gone to the police, not only from 20-50 (yes) years ago but at recent as 2 years ago, as well as very recent (current?) perps from Melbourne wandering around free, here in Melbourne, in Israel, and in the USA. All this due to the climate of intimidation of victims and their families. Then there is the upcoming Royal Commission investigation (more than a Senate committee) into Yeshivah, as well as pending civil litigation. As well as the ongoing self-revelations of how appallingly senior Chabad figures view victims. Get over it Fred: it’s not over.

      • Yes- it is 100% a diversion from the main point. Everyone is getting ino a routine of pointing fingers instead of looking in the mirror at themselves.

  7. There is a HORRIBLE sickness of Ignoring and covering up ABUSE in the entire Jewish community! Kinda worse than the Vatican. YU spent over a million $$$ on an independent study of many years of abuse that took place in their High School by George Finkelstein (who now lives happily in Israel) YU admits that abuse was rampant, and yet Refuse to release this report to the public. A fine Torah institution. Sick beyond compare.They also put a GAG order on their employees under threat of termination and more. The wonderful media has been gagged too,like the Jewish Press,etc. which had a tiny 1 paragraph on the Abuse and yet sings and prints Praise for such a fine Torah institution with its famous and corrupt donors. The mantra of our all -wise Rabbis is to cover up the abuse and DESTROY THE VICTIMS

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