Manny Waks (r)
Born1976 (age 44–45)
OccupationCommunity activist
Known forFounding Tzedek, an anti-abuse organisation
WebsiteMannyWaks.com

Manny Waks[1] (born 1976) is an Australian activist. He was previously part of the orthodox community in Australia[2] and later became known for his activism against child sexual abuse in the Jewish community worldwide. He founded Tzedek, an organisation to fight child sexual abuse in Jewish communities. Waks assisted the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in investigating Melbourne Yeshivah centre of the Orthodox Chabad movement of Judaism on their handling of child sexual abuse cases.[3]

Personal life

After publicising child sexual abuse in the Jewish community in Australia, Waks moved to France.[2] Waks is the father of three children.[4]

Early life and education

Born Menachem Leib in Israel, Waks was raised primarily in Australia. He is one of 17 children in an Orthodox Jewish family who were part of the Chabad-Lubavitch, Hasidic community in Melbourne. Before they were eventually ostracised for reporting child sexual abuse within the community, Waks, his parents and siblings were viewed as a "poster family for the Australian Chabad movement."[5] Waks returned to Israel when he turned 18, where he served in the Israel Defense Forces.[4] After returning to Australia from his service in the IDF, he obtained a degree in International Relations. He completed internships with a federal parliamentarian and the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney. Waks' family featured in the 2003 SBS documentary Welcome to the Waks Family.[6]

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Main article: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Testimony

In the late 1980s Waks attended Melbourne's Yeshivah centre, run by the Chabad ultra-orthodox movement of Judaism. Starting at the age of eleven, he was sexually abused by two members of the staff at the centre. Waks reported sexual abuse by two different perpetrators to the Yeshivah leadership and to the police in 1996.[7] When no action was taken, Waks went public in 2011 with allegations against the abusers, and pressure to keep quiet.

Both perpetrators were convicted of sex crimes in 2013.[8][9][10][11]

Waks gave evidence at the Royal Commission that he received abusive emails including one from an executive of the Sydney Yeshivah centre reading "Just because a security guard molested you, don’t blame Yeshivah... Get over it. I haven’t met a person yet with one nice word to say about you. Most people consider you a low life."[12] The Sydney Morning Herald wrote that Yeshivah rabbis "railed against the whistleblowing Waks" and claimed that Waks and his father had "a vendetta against the centre."[13] In testimony before the Royal Commission a former manager and director both apologised to Waks and admitted that they should have prevented this.[14]

Reaction

As part of their effort to eliminate child sexual abuse in the Jewish community, Manny Waks and his father, Zephaniah Waks testified before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. As Zephaniah Waks shared evidence about the abuse his sons, the president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, sent a text message to an editor of the Australian Jewish News accusing him of “destroying Chabad” and labelling him a “lunatic”.[15] Kluwgant was cross-examined about whether he watched testimony by Zephaniah, initially stating under oath that he hadn't watched much of the testimony because he was preparing to go to hospital, before conceding that he had sent the text message about the testimony. Kluwgant resigned the next week after child sexual abuse victims told him his position was "untenable."[16]

Rabbi Moshe Gutnick was called to testify. He said, "I believe the cover-ups and bullying and intimidation that has gone on ... represents the antithesis of the teachings of Chabad and Judaism and orthodoxy."[17] He acknowledged that the Orthodox Chabad community in Australia was guilty of covering up sex crimes committed in the community, and pressuring victims and their families not to report the crimes to the police. Gutnick said that people reporting abuse were ostracized mosers (“informers”). He said “a culture of cover-up, often couched in religious terms, pervaded our thinking and our actions.” He said that rabbis in these situations had misused their power, and that anyone who insists a child sexual abuse victim should go first to a rabbi rather than the police is not doing so out of religious reasons but trying to “hush it up, to cover it up, to prevent the victim from finding redress. There is no doubt at all: Mesirah [‘informing’] has no application whatsoever to instances of child sexual abuse. To use mesirah in this way is an abomination.” Gutnick also lamented that there was no formal training for rabbis on how to handle reported abuse.

Manny Waks said, “Today, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick restored my faith in ultra-Orthodox Judaism. For the first time ever the reform that is so critical seems much closer. Thank you Rabbi Gutnick. Hopefully the rest of the Orthodox Rabbinate will now follow suit. What an incredible day for justice.”[18]

In 2015 Chabad’s international leadership made overtures to Waks. Waks says he was invited to meet with Chabad's director of operations, Rabbi Mendy Sharfstein, to discuss best practices in responding to allegations of abuse.[19]

Activism against sexual abuse

Waks is an advocate against child sexual abuse within the Jewish community. In 2012 he founded Tzedek, an Australia-based organisation advocating for a Jewish community free of child sexual abuse, after having brought his own experience of Child sexual abuse in Australia within the Jewish community[2] into the public arena in July 2011.

In 2015 Chabad’s international leadership made overtures to Waks. Waks says he was invited to meet with Chabad's director of operations, Rabbi Mendy Sharfstein, to discuss best practices in responding to allegations of abuse.[19]

Waks was featured in a follow-up documentary Code of Silence, in which he had a face to face meeting with a man who was convicted of abusing a victim known as AVB.[20]

In 2016 Waks spoke to the chair of the Knesset Special Committee for the Rights of the Child. In his comments he cautioned the committee: “Sex offenders tend to move from country to country to avoid jail, but what makes Israel unique is the Law of Return, which essentially grants unhindered access to anyone who is Jewish to come here without any real screening." said Manny Waks, the chief executive officer of Kol v’Oz, a newly formed nonprofit that aims to prevent child sexual abuse in the global Jewish community.[21]

Tzedek

Manny Waks founded Tzedek, an organisation dedicated to fighting sexual abuse. The organisation has received $300,000 in funding from the Australian Federal Government.[22]

Global campaign

Waks established a non-profit group, Kol v’Oz. Kol v'Oz is lobbying the Knesset for changes in the statute of limitations on sexual crimes. [21] Waks serves as director of Kol v'Oz.[23]

Lawsuits

Waks has initiated civil proceedings against Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne, Australia.[24]He has also sued his brother Avi Yemini following claims by Yemini that Waks and his father were harbouring a known paedophile in the family home.[25]

Waks was sued for defamation after a member of the public posted a false accusation against a member of the community on his organisation's (Tzedek) web site, and for posting things that suggested to some that this member was guilty.[26]

See also

References

  1. ^ Breaking a cultural code of silence on abuse Archived 2015-04-03 at the Wayback Machine ABC, broadcast 2 April 2015
  2. ^ a b c Topsfield, Jewel (2011-07-08). "Jewish community leader tells of sex abuse". The Age. Archived from the original on 2014-08-14. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
  3. ^ Manny Waks: I'm the 'troublemaker' who blew the whistle on Jewish abuse scandal Archived 2016-12-24 at the Wayback Machine The Guardian, 15 February 2015
  4. ^ a b CJF Founder and President Archived 2014-11-29 at the Wayback Machine Capital Jewish Forum
  5. ^ Advocate calls for global Jewish child-abuse commission Archived 2015-04-02 at the Wayback Machine The Times of Israel, 16 February 2015
  6. ^ "Welcome to the Waks Family (2003)". Archived from the original on 2014-08-18. Retrieved 2014-11-14.
  7. ^ "Advocate calls for global Jewish child-abuse commission". The Times of Israel. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02.
  8. ^ "Kramer pleads guilty to child sex offences - The Australian Jewish News". 18 April 2013. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  9. ^ "Teacher jailed for sexual assault". 24 July 2013. Archived from the original on 3 May 2017.
  10. ^ Cooper, Adam (20 December 2013). "David Cyprys jailed after rape, sexual assaults". Archived from the original on 4 November 2015 – via The Age.
  11. ^ "Cyprys to be sentenced Friday - The Australian Jewish News". 19 December 2013. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  12. ^ Melissa Davey. "Former Yeshivah centre students tell of sex abuse and ostracism". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05.
  13. ^ After the whistle has blown Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 November 2013
  14. ^ Senior Yeshivah official apologises to abuse victim Manny Waks Archived 2015-07-23 at the Wayback Machine ABC, 11 February 2015
  15. ^ Davey, Melissa (13 February 2015). "Australia's top rabbi called abuse victims' father a 'lunatic', inquiry told". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 September 2015.
  16. ^ Davey, Melissa (16 February 2015). "Manny Waks: I'm the 'troublemaker' who blew the whistle on Jewish abuse scandal". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 22 March 2015.
  17. ^ Rabbi Moshe Gutnick tells Royal Commission into child sex abuse that 'Jews must report sex abuse' The Age, 5 Feb 2015
  18. ^ In national abuse probe, leading Australian rabbi decries Orthodox community’s ‘cover-up culture’ The Jerusalem Post, 4 February 2015
  19. ^ a b CHILD ABUSE ALLEGATIONS PLAGUE THE HASIDIC COMMUNITY Archived 2017-08-20 at the Wayback Machine Newsweek, March 3, 2016
  20. ^ Joshua Levi (26 Oct 2015). "Abuse doco sequel set to air". Australian Jewish News. Archived from the original on 2015-10-26.
  21. ^ a b Israel Becoming a 'Refuge for Pedophiles,' Warns Advocate for Child Sex Abuse Victims Archived 2016-03-27 at the Wayback Machine Haaretz, March 22, 2016
  22. ^ "Australia funding group for Jewish victims of child sex abuse". 2014-03-10. Archived from the original on 2014-10-19. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
  23. ^ Prominent rabbis and educator accused of sexual abuse Archived 2016-06-23 at the Wayback Machine The Jerusalem Post, June 21, 2016
  24. ^ Russell, Mark; Cooper, Adam (2014-05-02). "Alleged sex abuse victim Manny Waks sues Yeshivah Centre for negligence". Archived from the original on 2014-05-22. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
  25. ^ Hall, Bianca (2016-09-27). "Manny Waks sues brother for defamation over 'harbouring paedophile' claims". The Age. Archived from the original on 2017-12-22. Retrieved 2017-12-22.
  26. ^ "Rabbi launches legal action against sex abuse victims' advocate". December 19, 2013. Archived from the original on 20 December 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2015.