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Family banned from Melbourne school for working with anti-abuse advocate

Michael Visontay
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P61J – 0512 (2)

Published: 6 December 2022

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Cheder Levi Yitzchok has banned children because their parents would not agree to stop discussing abuse in the Jewish community. 

Students at an ultra-Orthodox school in Melbourne have been banned from attending the school after their parents refused to agree to a demand from the school to limit who they could talk to about child sexual abuse allegations.

Last week, the principal of Cheder Levi Yitzchok school in St Kilda, Eliezer Kornhauser, told the parents in a letter, sighted by The Jewish Independent, that “the continued presence of your children at the school is untenable due to your conduct.

“We are not ruling out the possibility of your children rejoining the school next year, but we would need to see clear evidence of a change in your mindset, leading to a very different set of behaviours on your part.”

At the start of November, the school asked the family to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which required them to “not communicate allegations about the school, its students or staff to any third party which is not an Authority mandated by law to be notified of such an event (or a professional engaged to provide allied health services to the family)”.

They were also required to “direct their concerns for the wellbeing of their children (in relation to child safety or sexual abuse) to the Principal of Cheder” or two other senior administrators but “not to any other staff”. 

In a letter accompanying the MoU, the school’s principal wrote: "Cheder Levi Yitzchok… wishes to record that there have arisen publicly in recent weeks, unsubstantiated and defamatory allegations which through their publication have caused serious and unjust harm to the wellbeing of the school’s staff, the wellbeing of families in its community, the reputation of the school, and its operation.”

In a statement released yesterday, Kornhauser said "the agreement neither tried to limit the family’s rights to report to authorities, nor to seek counsel and support from allied health services.

"It was not a ‘gag order’. We don’t have anything to hide from the media, the authorities, or our community. However, the trust between the school and the family has been broken and untenable and undermining behaviour has continued on their part.

"At the root of this: the school is adamant that it cannot abide the family’s continued alliance with an advocacy group at the centre of the smear campaign.

"The situation was not sustainable and the family has been asked to remove their children from the school. We hope that this situation will change to allow the children to return to the school in the future.

"The school sincerely regrets the impact of this decision on the children of the family."

To date eight alleged incidents of sexualised behaviour involving children at the school have been reported to Victorian police. The alleged incidents are understood to have involved an older child engaging in sexual acts with younger children against their will.

VoiCSA, the Jewish child sex abuse advocacy organisation Kornhauser referred to in his statement, said it was liaising with multiple government bodies, including the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority, and was asking them to urgently suspend the school’s registration due to immediate concerns it has for the safety of children.

“Attempts to silence victims/survivors of child sexual abuse in the interests of protecting the reputation of an institution are abhorrent, incompatible with the minimum standards of a registered school and contrary to Jewish law”, a spokesman for VoiCSA said.

In its media statement yesterday, the school said the incidents began in June 2021, when "a 12-year-old student enrolled at the Cheder allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct with several of his school peers at a community centre (neither under the auspices, nor supervision of the Cheder).

"When the incident was notified to the school in late September 2021, the school immediately reported it to the police. Throughout 2021-22 the school has been receiving directions from the South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault (SECASA) who were advocating for the student's reintegration.

"The matter remains unresolved pending further engagement with SECASA."



About the author

Michael Visontay

Michael Visontay is the Commissioning Editor of TJI. He has worked as a journalist and editor for more than 30 years. Michael is the author of several books, including Who Gave You Permission?, co-authored with child sexual abuse advocate Manny Waks, and Welcome to Wanderland: Western Sydney Wanderers and the Pride of the West.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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