Australian Jewish school shut down by gov't for failure to protect children

The tribunal found numerous, ongoing breaches of child safety and governance regulations that had not been rectified.

 Yeshivah Centre, Sydney (in Bondi, New South Wales). (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Yeshivah Centre, Sydney (in Bondi, New South Wales).
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A Jewish school in Sydney, Australia, is being forced to shut down because an inspector found it to be non-compliant with some of the local registration requirements, including those in relation to governance, curriculum and child protection standards.

The New South Wales (NSW) Civil and Administrative Tribunal has ordered that the registration of Yeshiva College Bondi be canceled, finding that it was not compliant with several of the registration requirements under the local Education Act.

Why exactly is Yeshiva College Bondi getting shut down?

 In particular, the tribunal found numerous, ongoing breaches of child safety and governance regulations that had not been rectified. Yeshiva Bondi was one of the Chabad institutions whose history of failing to protect children from sexual abuse was laid bare at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“While it is shocking that the institution does not seem to have heeded the recommendations of the Royal Commission, we are relieved that it is finally no longer able to pose a risk to the safety of innocent children,” said Manny Waks, CEO of VoiCSA, an Israel-based, international organization that is dedicated to combating child sexual abuse in the global Jewish community.
 Surfers and swimmers are seen on Sydney's Bondi Beach October 29, 2013, as smoke from bushfires obscures the headland. Thick smoke, mainly from the bushfires that continue to burn in the Blue Mountains region, blanketed the city with around 60 fires still burning in the state of New South Wales. (credit: REUTERS/DAVID GRAY) Surfers and swimmers are seen on Sydney's Bondi Beach October 29, 2013, as smoke from bushfires obscures the headland. Thick smoke, mainly from the bushfires that continue to burn in the Blue Mountains region, blanketed the city with around 60 fires still burning in the state of New South Wales. (credit: REUTERS/DAVID GRAY)

“While it is shocking that the institution does not seem to have heeded the recommendations of the Royal Commission, we are relieved that it is finally no longer able to pose a risk to the safety of innocent children.”

Manny Waks, CEO of VoiCSA

“Child safety within Jewish communal institutions remains the greatest threat to our community,” he said. “For too long, and despite promises made to the Royal Commission, our roof bodies have not done nearly enough to address child safety concerns within our institutions, and in particular, within Chabad institutions.”

“We call on the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies to support the tribunal’s decision and ensure that the individuals involved with the Yeshiva Centre are prevented from future involvement in the education of children, as ought to have occurred following the Royal Commission,” VoiCSA said in a press release.

“VoiCSA continues to support victims/survivors of child sexual abuse within Jewish communal institutions and calls on our institutions and community – especially our leadership – to urgently address this critical issue.”

What sexual transgressions happened in the school? 

In April 2021, “an inspector found the school to be non-compliant with some of the registration requirements, including those in relation to governance and curriculum, and recommended non-renewal and cancellation of the school’s registration,” according to the tribunal.
“The applicant remains non-compliant with some of the registration requirements, including in the areas of curriculum and governance,” the written decision stated.

According to the NSW case law, Yeshiva College is a school of about 56 students from Kindergarten through 10th grade. In addition, it was found that only nine members of the teaching staff, some of whom are part-time, are accredited, teachers. “Other staff members, who are referred to as Jewish studies teachers, are not accredited teachers,” according to the case law.

In addition, according to the case law document, the school wasn’t teaching the educational curriculum that is obligated in NSW. There were also claims of conflict of interest between the head of the school and another local Jewish non-profit.

According to the decision to close the school, the judge specified that the school had no contracts with their teacher and that a second organization was paying for the teachers’ mortgage and the school tuition of their children.

“Our school aims to offer a Torah-centered education that inculcates in students Torah and Chassidic values, fear of God, Torah learning skills and a wide breadth of Torah knowledge,” the Yeshiva College website states.
“Our students will learn and practice self-mastery, aiming to be intrinsically motivated to choose appropriate behavior. They will be trained to open any classical Hebrew or Yiddish text (and for the boys, any Talmudic tractate in Aramaic) and translate, understand, show some familiarity with and place into context the subject matter.”