Melbourne sex abuse probes spread to Sydney Jewish community


Allegations of child sex abuse, rampant in Melbourne’s Jewish community, have spread to Sydney, with police mounting investigations into two individuals.

Police in New South Wales state said at least one of the alleged perpetrators under investigation is believed to be a former employee of a religious institution associated with Chabad-Lubavitch. Neither of the men have been publicly named.

The allegations date back to the late 1970s or 1980s, a police spokesperson said.

Rabbi Eli Feldman, a spokesperson for the Yeshiva Center, the headquarters of Chabad in NSW, said in a statement Thursday that police had not contacted them.

“Yeshiva unequivocally condemns any form of abuse, including child sexual abuse,” the statement said. “We welcome any police investigation to uncover any improprieties, especially regarding alleged crimes against children.”

Child abuse victim Manny Waks, the head of Tzedek, an advocacy group for Jewish survivors and victims in Australia, welcomed the news.

“This is yet a further positive development,” he said. “The Sydney Yeshiva Center has made its position crystal clear: that it does not tolerate any forms of abuse, it encourages victims to go to the police, it commits to fully cooperating with the police, it offers victims and survivors an acknowledgement of what they may have experienced, and importantly, it offers them support and assistance in a practical and sensitive manner.”

Yeshivah College, the Chabad-run school in Melbourne, has been at the center of multiple child sex abuse allegations. Two former employees – David Kramer and David Cyprys – face multiple charges, including indecent acts on minors and child rape.

On Friday, a magistrate set April 23-24 as the dates for Kramer’s committal hearing, which will determine whether his case goes to trial. Kramer appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court via video-link from jail.

Waks also said a new victim had come forward with allegations that she was sexually abused as a child by a congregant of a synagogue in Melbourne in the 1990s.

Conservatives release guidelines for ethical kashrut certification


NEW YORK (JTA)—The Conservative movement released a

Playing Favorites


When I was a kid, I was a very important person in shul. My dad was not at all prominent in the greater society — he merely worked for his brother, selling toys and stationery as a wholesaler in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, starting his workday at 7 a.m. and working through 7 p.m. every day, including Sunday. (Sabbath-observant, he got to leave midafternoon on Fridays.) But at shul, he was well liked, even loved, and was the vice president of the local Young Israel. He was very important there, and I got treated great.

Then he died — cut down by leukemia at age 45. At his funeral, everyone from shul attended and promised to love our family, to remain close. In time, though, the bonds loosened. There were fewer visits on Shabbat to our home; fewer invitations to others’ homes. And then it happened. One Shabbat, amid 20 talking boys, I was singled out to be chastised — to be quiet. That had never before happened to me.

Never when dad was alive. I suddenly learned that, if some kid had to be made an example, had to be chastised for the noise, it was best to sanction the orphans. Kids with living fathers were protected. Their dads paid dues.

In this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, we are warned so clearly to enact justice fairly: “Tzedek tzedek tirdof” — Pursue justice in heated pursuit. Do not pervert judgment. Do not play favorites in judgment by recognizing certain faces over others. Do not take bribes because bribes blind the eyes of even the wisest judges and pervert the integrity of the words of even the most righteous people. (Deuteronomy 16:19-20).

For many of us, these Torah mandates seem pretty easy to align with — forbidding bribery, requiring unperverted justice, commanding strict fairness in court. But howzabout us, in everyday life? Do we play by these rules?

When we meet someone wealthy, alongside someone of humble means, do we accord dignity to the modest as the rich guy pushes ahead of him? The modest man is telling of his daughter’s tragedy, her victimization at the hands of a man who has harassed her out of her Jewish religious faith and practice, but suddenly the rich guy pushes in to tell a joke. Who among us dares to say: “Excuse me, we were just speaking about this man’s — and his daughter’s — tragedy.”

Tevye sings it because we know it: “And it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong. When you’re rich, they think you really know.”

That indeed is what they think.

It is easy to overlook the orphan, the widow — or, in today’s society, the divorced and the young single in her 40s — because, well, they don’t fit into the “model of success.” If we hang around them, we might catch whatever they are carrying. In time, if not immunized, we might be renting a condo instead of owning a house.

Do we hear them? When they ask our help to find a match for life? When they ask for Shabbat home hospitality? Do we approach the boy and girl whose father or mother has died, or whose father is not Jewish, or the married man who merely works for his brother? I don’t think so. Not in my experience.

Listen to someone of modest means at a Shabbat hotel program lament a theft of $500 cash from his room, and who among us thinks of taking up a collection to salvage that family’s oneg? Instead, we have grist for a new mill — table conversation at lunch.

“Did you hear about the family that was robbed?”

“Yeah, it was $500, I heard.”

“Should we help them out?”

“Naaaah. They were stupid. They should have put their cash in the safe.”

Maybe that is why the Torah commands us in a strange, double command: Tzedek, tzedek — justice, justice shall you pursue. Because, amid a smug sense that no one can bribe me, that I am above being perverted in justice, that I surely would exact only pure justice if I were a judge of the Superior Court, the reality is that I — and the vast majority of us — never become clothed in the black judicial robes of the bench. But we do indeed sit in judgment of people every day of our lives. At work. At play. At home.

We legitimately encourage our kids to play with — and later to marry — approved kids from approved families. We legitimately protect them from bad elements in society. Yet we also cast our net of judgment wider, writing off so many good people, little people, the financially less successful, the children of the unimportant, just on the fringe of society’s excellence, qualified to enter yet desperately trying to gain admittance. The singles. The divorced. The boys and girls without a parent, whether missing one due to death, divorce or simple parental apathy.

Do you take bribes? Think about it.

Rabbi Dov Fischer, a member of the Rabbinical Council of California, is rav of Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine and an adjunct professor of law at Loyola Law School.

 

Cool Jews on Campus


College can be a time for Jewish students to further explore their Judaism — religiously, socially and politically. The following is a compilation of resources available to Jewish students and a summary of what these groups are doing on campus.

UCLA

UCLA is the largest college campus in Los Angeles, with a Jewish population of about 3,000 students, constituting 7 percent of the student body. The largest Jewish group at UCLA is Hillel, which offers a range of student activity from Shabbat services to political advocacy and social action.

UCLA’S Hillel has been in existence for more than 65 years. This year, Hillel is expanding greatly and has hired many new leaders in order to cater to the very diverse Jewish population on campus and in anticipation of Hillel’s move to a new building, the Hillel Center for Jewish Student Life.

Uri and Julie Goldstein, new to Hillel, will become religious leaders, organizing programs and leading services for Orthodox students on campus, in addition to the programs led by Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, Hillel director.

This year, Hillel at UCLA has become one of only eight Tzedek campuses, meaning it has been given a $10,000 grant to get involved in the entire community of Los Angeles through social action and community service. Tzedek had its kickoff fair this month, when organizations from around the city came to educate students and help them become politically aware.

“Our goal is to transform Hillel into a social service and political advocacy center on campus,” said Rabbi Mychal Rosenbaum, Hillel’s associate director for Jewish student life.

Hillel at UCLA is also the umbrella organization for many student-led groups on campus, including Bruins for Israel, which will be educating other students about Israel and combating anti-Zionist sentiment on campus. Bruins for Israel is currently planning a weeklong campaign called Pro-Israel week, to provide information about Israel’s history.

University of Southern California

There are about 1,500 Jewish undergrads at USC, representing between 8 and 10 percent of the undergraduate student body. Hillel at USC serves as the only Jewish group on campus, having incorporated all other groups into it a few years ago. Services there are led by Rabbi Jonathan Klein. Hillel sponsors 13 student groups in a roundtable, each chaired by someone on the Hillel student board. These groups include ones for students interested in theater, a capella singing, social action and Jewish films. There is a group for freshmen; for Persian students; a Greek group for Jews within the Greek system; a pro-Israel advocacy group, the progressive Jewish Student Alliance, and groups for Reform, Conservative and Orthodox students.

A week after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., USC Hillel was part of an interfaith service held in the middle of campus. Jewish students at the service raised over $1,600 for relief funds.

The Israel advocacy group, which is associated with AIPAC, is working to educate students about Israel and help them become more politically aware. “Students are not educated enough to combat anti-Israel sentiment,” said Matt Davidson, associate director. “We need to educate students and become more proactive, as opposed to reactive.”

CSUN

At CSUN, 8 percent of the student body, or 3,500 students, are Jewish. CSUN’s main Jewish group is Hillel. This year CSUN’s Hillel has become a Hamagshimim (fulfillment) organization, meaning it has received funding from Hadassah for the purpose of Israel programming. With this money, Hillel sponsors a monthly Israel culture night and has begun a student political advocacy group called SIPAC, or Student Israeli Public Affairs Committee, which is attempting to raise the political awareness on CSUN’s traditionally apolitical campus. SIPAC recently held a forum on the Sept. 11 attacks and how they affect Israel.

CSUN Hillel also offers Shabbat dinner and services, led by Rabbi Jordan Goldson, at least three times a month, and maintains a Rosh Chodesh group and a group for freshmen.