The father of three boys sexually abused at a Jewish school was so fearful of being shunned by his community for breaching an ancient principle that he didn’t report the crime to police.
Zephaniah Waks insists breaking a code of silence by telling non-Jewish authorities about abuse by a Jewish man without permission from senior Rabbis was a taboo on a par with incest.
One witness, known as AVC, told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse that rabbis preached hellfire and damnation for people who breached the mesirah.
Mr Waks, a father of 17, says he feared being shunned and intimidated.
“It was taboo, like, incest or anything like that. It was that big a taboo,” he told the commission on Tuesday.
The response of Melbourne’s Yeshivah College and Yeshivah Centre to sexual abuse allegations has been put under the microscope in the first two days of public hearings.
The commission has heard former Yeshivah Centre director Rabbi Dovid Groner, who died in 2008, knew of allegations as early as 1986 but did nothing about them.
AVC, the wife of a victim due to give evidence on Wednesday, said on Tuesday the community’s reaction to finding out about the abuse made her ill.
“I watched in horror as my community, the Jewish community, has responded to knowledge of child sexual abuse with moral destitution,” she said.
“I couldn’t stop imagining all these victims as little boys – confused, hurt and ashamed by what had been done to them, boys who kept their secret or told their rabbi, only to be met with bewildering or tactless questions or the response that they shouldn’t tell lies.”
Her husband was abused by David Cyprys and Daniel Hayman, both of whom have since been convicted.
Mr Waks’ eldest son Manny was also abused by Cyprys, while two of his younger children were abused by former primary school teacher Rabbi David Kramer who was also later convicted.
Rather than contact police, Mr Waks went to then Yeshivah College principal Rabbi Abraham Glick and was shocked when he learned Rabbi Kramer had partly admitted to the abuse.
Mr Waks said the Yeshivah Centre committee then paid for Kramer to leave the country.
Since his son Manny went public about his ordeal four years ago, he had been effectively excommunicated, Mr Waks said.
“We felt like we were suddenly reduced to nothing, and had lost all our friends,” he said.
The hearing is expected to continue for two weeks.