Australian commission to probe how Chabad handled abuse claims

Ron Kampeas

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – An Australian Royal Commission will investigate how rabbis and senior leaders of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Sydney and Melbourne handled the child sex abuse scandal.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse confirmed this week that Chabad in Sydney and Melbourne will be the focus of a public hearing, starting Feb. 2 in Melbourne. Some of Australia’s most senior Orthodox rabbis have already been subpoenaed to supply documents ahead of the hearing.

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Streamed live online from the County Court of Victoria, the hearing will examine how rabbis and other senior officials dealt with allegations of sexual abuse against three former employees in Melbourne and one in Sydney.

David Cyprys, a former security guard at the Yeshivah Center in Melbourne, was sentenced to eight years in prison last year for multiple sex attacks – including one count of rape – on more than a dozen children.

David Kramer, a former teacher at Yeshivah College in Melbourne, was jailed for three years and four months for molesting four boys between 1989 and 1992. He was deported to his native United States in September.

Aaron “Ezzy” Kestecher, a former youth leader and relief teacher at Yeshivah College, was found dead in his Melbourne home in March as he faced multiple child sex abuse allegations.

In Sydney, Daniel Hayman, a former director of Yeshiva, which houses Chabad headquarters, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one charge of indecent assault on a young boy at a Jewish camp in the 1980s. He was given a 19-month suspended sentence, before returning to the United States, where he now lives.

Manny Waks, the only Jewish victim in Australia to have gone public with his story, said he would be testifying. “Many victims from these institutions, myself included, our families and most of the community are looking forward to these institutions being held to full account for their actions and inactions over many years,” he said in a statement.

A spokesman for Chabad in Sydney told JTA: “We’ve been in contact with the Royal Commission and we are cooperating fully with them.”

The Royal Commission began last year. More than 20 cases have been investigated thus far.