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Keefler: In a community journal, Bryks boasted a degree there of law from the state of Israel, that he sat as a member of a religious court in Israel, and had a court room. The truth is, he was a rabbinical student, not a judge. And the state doesn't give out law degrees. <1>
Keefler: The board didn't go to the police. Didn't contact child welfare agencies. Instead, board members set up their own private inquiry.Judy Silver: We were trying to try him without it going public. We were trying to protect the synagogue.Keefler: That December 1987, the board, Bryks and his lawyer heard the evidence. The teenager repeated her story. Two women also came forward, accused Bryks of making unwanted sexual advances. They weren't believed.Nathan Kobrinsky: The people who brought forth these concerns against the rabbi were publicly humiliated and insulted and called liars. It was at this point that I felt that the whole process that I was participating in was a sham. <1>During the board's deliberations about Rabbi Bryks, those not seen as loyal to Bryks suffered abuse from other congregants, shunning and were even spat at in the shul. Rabbi Bryks continued to teach at the school and run religious services.Keefler: For three nights, accusations, legal threats, personal attacks.Kobrinsky: We were being threatened collectively for taking a position against the rabbi, that would result in a legal suit. And second of all, we were being threatened individually, because of information that the rabbi had about us and our personal lives, that would be used against us.Silver: He said quite clearly, I have secrets on all of you.Keefler: On New Years Day 1988, a final board meeting. Word got out, more than a hundred people rushed to the synagogue. They feared Bryks would be fired. <1>
With respect to the behaviour of Rabbi Bryks regarding the teenage girls in the school, the findings of the investigation, on review by the Winnipeg City Police, indicated that there was no evidence which would support charges of criminal wrongdoing. Further, there is insufficient evidence to pursue any proceeding under The Child and Family Services Act against Rabbi Bryks.Nothwithstanding the above findings, on review of the report, this writer is in agreement with the investigative team that the acknowledged interactions of Rabbi Bryks with his female students involving tickling at the waist, kissing on the head, hugging, and students sitting on his lap were neither appropriate nor professional behaviour.
Immediate reporting of alleged child abuse by teachers and other caregivers became compulsory in Manitoba following a 1989 amendment to the province's Child and Family Services Act. But Keith Cooper, the executive Director of Winnipeg South Child and Family Services, says that this amendment was passed because "at that time a lot of organizations handled these issues in the same kind of way." However Cooper still had concerns about the way the synagogues's board responded to the allegations."The process the synagogue took, rightly or wrongly--and they thought they were doing things in everyone's best interest--created circumstances within the synagogue community and school staff to choose sides and to let kids know that parents were on one side or another. And that kind of thing is not helpful to pursuing that sort of investigation because all sorts of other factors intrude."
Cooper added that when his office investigates child abuse complaints, investigators talk to children without subjecting them to any kind of outside pressure from anyone else to get a first sense of the allegations. When questioned about the impact of his office's finding that a poisoned environment against disclosing child abuse was inadvertently in effect at the school as a result of the board's initial response, Cooper thought it was possible that during a professional investigation at the outset, "other children might have come forward if there was something to come forward about."
Keefler: Daniel went to the school from kindergarten to Grade 2. Then the Levins moved away to Montreal, later to Toronto. As a teenager, Daniel's smile masked his pain. His parents had separated. The boy was in distress, unable to concentrate in school, prone to explosive fits of rage. At 14, he started therapy. Three years later, he stunned his mother and father.Sara Levin: Last May, he started having -- May '93, he started having memories of being sexually abused by the rabbi and principal at Torah Academy. He was sitting on his lap, and the rabbi -- in his office in the rabbi's office, and the rabbi was -- it's so hard for me to say this --Martin Levin: He was fondling.Sara: He was fondling his genitals first over his clothes, and then he opened his pants. And afterwards, he gave him a candy. It was a peppermint one, with the blue wrapper, I think it says "Elite" on it. He even remembered the candy.Martin: The internal mechanism for a flash second said, "It's got to be a mistake here, I'm not hearing this." But instantly, I knew that he was telling me the truth.Sara: And then he said he had a memory, and he started coughing and spitting out mucous, and he sat up, and we got tissues for him. And he was coughing and spitting up and spitting up, and he started crying. And he said that he was in the office, and Rabbi Bryks put his penis in Daniel's mouth. And he kept coughing, and I encouraged him to spit it up, spit everything up. That was another memory.Martin: He did say that Bryks said things. I wondered why he kept quiet. And then he said, "Well, Bryks said to me, God will punish you if you speak." <1>Daniel Levin committed suicide on Yom Kippur after Metro Police asked the Oakwood Collegiate Grade 12 student to re-record a statement he had made in June 1993. The police tape machine had been faulty at the first recording. With the complainant dead and his testimony erroneously not recorded, Toronto Police were forced to drop the case.
Keefler: [We] found another student, who can't close that chapter of her life. A fourth student, this couple's daughter, claims she was molested.Disguised mother: It's horrifying, and its unbelievable.Unbelievably numb.Keefler: Last November, this couple's daughter told them she was molested by Rabbi Bryks in grade 2. They are disguised to protect the girl's identity.Disguised father: Rabbi Bryks would take her out of class and would take her into his office during school time, and he would make her take off her underwear and stockings and then he would fondle her, her genitalia. She remembers it happening many times. She told me that he told her that if she ever told anybody that God would punish her.Disguised father: The most painful recent event since her disclosure for me was going up to see how she was, in her bedroom, it 's just quiet and I just wanted to see how she was, going into her bedroom, she was sitting in her closet, curled up in a fetal ball, listening to Barney tapes with a little Barney book in her hand. I couldn't deal with that.Keefler: The fourteen, year-old is in counseling to the police. Her parents say she isn't ready to go in the police.Disguised mother: She is so fragile that this has to be in her own time.Disguised father: She also knows about another boy who did go to the Police and nothing happened. Rabbi Bryks is still out there, still teaching school. <1>
"School-board members knew about his past and, regardless, gave him the position," said the rabbi, who didn't want his name published. <4>
- Canadian civil authorities investigated charges there and found no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing. <7>
- and authorities declined to charge another because there was no evidence to do so. <8>
- New York Police Department: NYPD Switchboard: 646-610-5000 website: http://www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/nypd/home.html Queens Precinct Addresses and Direct phone numbers can be found at: http://www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/nypd/html/phone.html#Queens
- Queens District Attorney's office at: (718) 286-6000 website: http://www.queensda.org/
<1> Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Program Prime Time News, February 28 1994, Time 21:00:00 ET<2> Jewish Tribune – B'nai Brith Canada, August 4, 1994, More Allegations of Sexual Abuse Involving Rabbi: Police Probe Resumes At School "Jews need to know that this can happen to us" by Marc Huber<3> The Jewish Post & News (Winnipeg), March 9, 1994, CBC report re-opens Bryks controversy by Myron Love<4> The New York Post, March 31, 2002, Queens Yeshiva Boss is a Molester: Boy's Mom by Douglas Montero<5> Newsday (NY), May 26, 2003, Battling a 'Ghost' From Past by Stephanie Saul<6> Newsday (NY), May 28, 2003, Dogged By Allegations, Rabbi Quits - Rabbi Maintains Denial Of Any Wrongdoing by Stephanie Saul<7> The Jewish Week (NY), June 6, 2003 Orthodox Rabbis To Report Abuse by Debra Nussbaum<8> The Jewish Press (NY), June 4, 2003 Newsday And Abuse In The Jewish Community by Editorial Board<9> The Jewish Post and News (Winnipeg), Wednesday, January 10, 1996 Editorial comment - A Second look at "Unorthodox Conduct"
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