The Royal Commission’s report into Case Study 22 – the response of Yeshiva Bondi and Yeshivah Melbourne to allegations of child sexual abuse made against people associated with those institutions – was released on 29 November 2016.
The report follows a public hearing in February 2015 which inquired into the response of the Yeshivah Centre and the Yeshivah College in Melbourne to allegations of child sexual abuse made against David Cyprys, David Kramer and Aaron Kestecher. The hearing also inquired into the response of the Yeshiva Centre and the Yeshiva College Bondi to allegations of child sexual abuse made against Daniel Hayman.
The case study examined:
- The influence of Jewish (or ‘halachic’) law on the responses of the institutions to child sexual abuse allegations
- The experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse and their families and the community’s response to them
- The response of the leadership of Yeshiva Bondi and Yeshivah Melbourne to survivors of child sexual abuse
- The actions of perpetrators of child sexual abuse and how their connections to the institutions gave them an apparent power or authority
- The present approaches of Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi to child sexual abuse
Four survivors of child sexual abuse perpetrated within the Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi communities gave evidence detailing their experiences of sexual abuse and the impact that had on their lives.
The Royal Commission heard evidence that a Jewish law, known as mesirah, forbids a Jew from informing upon, or handing over another Jew to a secular authority (particularly where criminal conduct is alleged). Under Jewish law gossiping, or speaking negatively of another Jew, Jewish institution or place, is discouraged, even if what is said is objectively true.
The Royal Commission also received evidence that in 2010 the Rabbinical Council of Victoria had issued an advisory resolution that the prohibition of mesirah did not apply to child sexual abuse and that it was an obligation of Jewish law to report such abuse.
Witnesses told the Royal Commission that they observed the community to treat survivors of child sexual abuse as outcasts after it had become known that they had reported their experiences of child sexual abuse to secular authorities.
The Royal Commission found the evidence strongly suggested that, because of the way these concepts were applied, some members of those communities were discouraged from reporting.
The Royal Commission also found that there was a marked absence of supportive leadership for survivors of child sexual abuse and their families within Yeshivah Melbourne and that the leadership did not create an environment conducive to the communication of information about child sexual abuse.
The Royal Commission heard evidence that Yeshivah Melbourne has since taken significant steps to implement child protection measures, including drafting formal policies and giving detailed training to children, parents and staff. The evidence as to any steps Yeshiva Bondi has taken in implementing child protection measures is unclear.
The Royal Commission’s final report will be handed to government in December 2017.