A man who was molested while studying at a Melbourne Jewish school is celebrating after one of Australia’s most senior rabbis stepped down over his handling of child sex abuse allegations.
Rabbi Zvi Telsner has said he will step down immediately as head of Melbourne’s Yeshiva Centre, which manages schools including Yeshiva College, apologising for his behaviour towards victims.
Manny Waks told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse he was molested by the son of a senior rabbi and teacher at Yeshiva College, bullied by classmates who knew of the abuse and shunned by his community for speaking out.
In a jubilant tweet, Mr Waks said on Tuesday: “Finally. The news we have all been awaiting. I commend all those who stood up and voiced their views.”
Yeshiva College was among Jewish schools in Melbourne and Sydney examined by the royal commission about their response to sex abuse.
The hearings exposed a culture of turning a blind eye, a lack of knowledge about child abuse and reporting requirements, and a dearth of sympathy for victims between the 1980s and 2010.
The hearings revealed a teacher and other men associated with Yeshiva College were allowed contact with children despite being known as or suspected of being child abusers.
In a letter to the Jewish community on Tuesday evening, Rabbi Telsner said he endorses the Yeshiva Centre’s values, policy and message of support and compassion for child sexual abuse victims and their families.
“I recognise that my conduct towards victims and their families did not demonstrate these values or behaviour to the extent necessary of a rabbi in my position,” he wrote.
“We must all be aware of how our words and actions impact on others and therefore would like to apologise for my conduct and urge everyone to show compassion and support towards victims and their families.”
Rabbi Telsner told the royal commission he believes pedophiles could be cured over time.
A group of 11 victims including Mr Waks had demanded the resignation of the entire Yeshiva Centre board.