Over the next fortnight, the hearings at Victoria’s county court will focus on Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva centres and colleges in Sydney and Melbourne, and evidence will include statements from four victims and their families.
In her opening address, counsel assisting, Maria Gerace, told the commission that all the victims were students at schools run by the institutions at the time of their abuse.
“The victims came into contact with the perpetrators as a result of the perpetrators’ involvement in or association with activities run by the institutions, such as after school martial arts classes, religious programs and overnight youth camps,” she said.
Reporting of and responses to allegations of child sexual abuse by the Yeshivah Centre Melbourne, Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah Colleges, the Yeshiva Centre Chabad NSW and Yeshiva College Bondi would all come under scrutiny, Gerace said.
Gerace outlined allegations of child sexual abuse made against the former director of Yeshiva College Bondi, Daniel “Gug” Hayman, and former staff of the Yeshivah College Melbourne, including security guard and youth leader David Cyprys and “rabbi” David Kramer. All have been convicted.
“David Cyprys was a serial abuser of children,” Gerace told the commission. “The youngest of his victims was seven years old at the time he was abused.”
Cyprys is in jail after pleading guilty to a number of child sex abuse offences. Two of his victims were due to give evidence to the commission over the coming days, Gerace said.
In 2013, he pleaded guilty to five charges of indecent assault and one charge of an indecent act with a child under 16, offences committed between January 1990 and December 1991 while he was a primary school teacher, the commission heard.
His victims were all students and were 10 or 11 at the time they were abused, Gerace said. Two of the victims were brothers of Manny Waks, a victim who was due to give evidence to the commission on Monday afternoon.
The third convicted perpetrator to be examined, Hayman, was charged with indecent assault of a child who was a student of Yeshiva Bondi, Gerace said. His victim was 14.
“Daniel Hayman perpetrated the abuse whilst attending a youth camp, known as Camp Gan Israel, in Stanwell Tops, south of Sydney,” Gerace said.
“His victim, AVB, who will give evidence in this inquiry, attended the camp as a student.
A further alleged perpetrator, substitute teacher Aaron Kestecher, who took his own life last year, will also be examined by the commission.
Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi are both part of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, the commission heard. Gerace said the inquiry would need to examine aspects of that movement in order to understand the role that religious leaders played.
The commission would hear evidence from spiritual leaders, rabbis and other staff at the organisations about the way they handled sex abuse allegations, she said.
The role of Jewish law in the way staff handled abuse cases would need to be examined, she said.
The hearings continue.