(photo credit: Courtesy)
Several senior officials at a Melbourne yeshiva quit on Thursday as part of a spate of resignations prompted by revelations that community leaders and yeshiva heads both there and in Sydney were complicit in a series of coverups of child sexual abuse over the decades.
The resignation of four members of the management committee of the Yeshiva Center came only a day after eleven victims of molestation wrote an open letter demanding that the entire committee, as well as the school’s board, immediately step down.
A fifth member of the committee will resign a little later after a transitional period while another four members of the committee will remain in place.
The victims said that the leadership of the school had to take responsibility for the abuse, most of which took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as well as the subsequent coverups.
“The removal of yourselves, as well as key staff and volunteers from the Yeshiva Center who have been implicated in any way in this ongoing scandal, is now required,” they asserted.
No members of the board have announced their resignations.
In an open letter of its own, the committee responded, stating that it was planning to launch what it called a “scheme to respond to the needs of victims of child abuse” within the coming weeks as well as “commenc[ing] a consultation with parents and others in the community” and implementing an independent review of the schools governance arrangements.
“We will undertake a process to renew the Committee’s composition in the light of this review,” the committee stated.
The resignations met with immediate derision by Manny Waks, one of the signatories to the victims’ letter and a prominent advocate for communal change.
“A handful of token resignations is insufficient – it falls well short of what amounts to accountability and does not pave the way for sustainable change,” he wrote on his website.
“As Yeshivah’s reputation is at its lowest point, it seems that for some reason these same leaders who have been (mis)handling their affairs in the last few years feel it is appropriate for them to lead the rebuilding phase. Moreover, the leadership’s unconscionable decision to ignore the wishes of so many of their institution’s victims, and indeed the wishes of so many within the community, is a clear reflection on them, and highlights even more why they simply cannot be trusted in their current roles at the Center.”
The New South Wales Board of Deputies announced on Tuesday that it is establishing a Task Force on Child Protection that will “develop and roll-out on-going seminars and workshops, the first of which will begin in June this year, that will focus on child safety policies and practices, the prevention of child abuse, procedures to protect children against abuse within Jewish institutional and community settings and the mandatory obligation to report to police,” according to a statement on J-Wire.