Thursday, October 16, 2008

Former Melbourne Jewish school teacher jailed in the United States

Former Melbourne Jewish school teacher jailed in the United States

Australian Jewish News - October 16, 2008

A FORMER Yeshivah College teacher pleaded guilty to two counts of child molestation and was sentenced to a seven-year prison term in the United States, The AJN learnt this week.

David Kramer was jailed in St Louis, Missouri, in July, after a local psychologist and the community's rabbi raised concerns about his conduct.

Former Yeshivah College principal Rabbi Avrohom Glick confirmed this week, that for a short time in the early 1990s, Kramer had taught Jewish studies to boys in years 5 to 8. It is understood Kramer was asked to leave the school, and the country, immediately following an alleged incident, which was not formally investigated.

Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah Colleges general manager Nechama Bendet told The AJN this week that the school has since implemented rigorous protocols to prevent inappropriate behaviour.

"Any allegations of misconduct would be taken very seriously by the school and immediately reported to the appropriate authorities," she said.

She added that the school was fully compliant with the Working with Children Check requirements – a government policy that helps protect children from physical and sexual abuse – as well as the mandatory reporting legislation.

There are also policies in place on appropriate communication between teachers and students within and outside of school hours, and classroom doors have been fitted with windows. In addition, students have been taught to understand their rights to be safe and to develop strategies to avoid inappropriate behaviour.

"The Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah Colleges will act without hesitation to ensure the maintenance of a child-safe environment at all times," Bendet said.

Rabbinical Council of Victoria president Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant also emphasised that schools are better equipped now to deal with complaints about teachers.

"Schools are more vigilant and teachers know what to look for," Rabbi Kluwgant said.

Kramer was working as a volunteer youth leader at the Nusach Hari B'nai Zion Synagogue in St Louis, when Rabbi Ze'ev Smason – who was leading the congregation – developed concerns after discussions with members of the synagogue.

"I met with him to tell him that he would be restricted from any further contact with youngsters within our congregation," Rabbi Smason told The AJN from the United States. "I also contacted the local government abuse hotline to register my concern.

"When my concerns ... intensified, I told him that he would no longer be welcome to attend our synagogue, nor would he be welcome to participate in any of our programs."

Rabbi Smason described Kramer as likeable and personable and said that this made it somewhat difficult to confront him.

"However, it was a no-brainer that I had an obligation to speak with him immediately upon hearing concerns expressed by families in my congregation," he said.

Rabbi Smason added that all rabbis have a legal, moral and religious obligation to protect children at risk.

"To do anything less is a dereliction of the duty we as rabbis have been entrusted with. Our children's safety comes before any other consideration."

The United States-based Awareness Centre, also known as the International Jewish Coalition against Sexual Abuse/Assault, reported details of an impact statement presented in court by the victim's father during Kramer's trial.

"This sentence sends an important and much needed message to the Jewish community and society at large, namely, there shall be zero tolerance of sexual abuse and molestation of children," the statement excerpt reads. "We, the parents, leaders and clergy, have to stand up for our children and put our children first."

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