Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Complexity of child abuse: Manny Wak's brother's version

update: posted the entire Facebook article
The following appeared on the  Facebook page of Avi Yemini (Manny Waks brother) and it illustrates the complexity of ascertaining the truth.  I am not taking sides. There is obviously a lot that has gone in the family. I have discussed the Facebook posting with his father Zephaniah Waks - with whom I have a good relationship. He disagrees strongly with many of the statements his son has made but he said that it will not serve any useful purpose to publicly reply and discuss the accusations. See - Paying the price for speaking out against abuse

Avi Yemini (Manny Waks brother) writes: 
Enough, no more silence.

This is my personal opinion about the Waks family’s compromised involvement in the child sexual abuse campaign, led by my brother Manny Waks and backed by my father Zephaniah Waks. I am sharing it here in a facebook post in response to the constant attempts to silence me whenever I express an opinion which does not promote or support Manny or the Waks family. Just because somebody is fighting a worthy cause, does not give them free reign to say and do whatever they want while silencing anyone who doesn’t support them. Just because I was born in the Waks family, doesn’t mean I am going to keep pretending what a big happy family we are. < I feel extremely motivated and free to share it now as my father boycotted my wedding and my mother cynically cancelled my Shabbat Chatan behind my back because I refused to apologize for expressing an opinion which does not support Manny. It’s sad to me that it took them attempting to ruin our simcha with their toxic energy to realize this, but it is clear to me now that their sudden and random request to reconcile with us (after years of estrangement) nearly 18 months ago, was purely motivated by a fear of what I would say publicly about their involvement with the campaign against child sexual abuse. 

This is just the first thing I have to get off my chest. Enough, no more silence. I supported Manny in the beginning when he went public about being sexually abused, because I felt strongly that someone going public with something as serious as sexual abuse would need as much support as he could get and I obviously believe in people speaking out about what they’ve experienced in an attempt to help others. I still absolutely support the cause itself, of course. However over the past year and a half I have found it very difficult to continue to support the path Manny is taking in regards to campaigning against child sexual abuse.

This is not and has never been acceptable to my parents. All my life my family has operated on a “you’re either with us or you are against us” approach. I experienced this as a young teen when I didn’t want to be religious. In our family that was not acceptable and myself and many of my brothers were given ultimatums that we had to either tow the line (ie. Be ultra orthodox Lubavitch) or get out. I spent my teenage years in foster care, on the street, in friend’s homes, addicted to heroin, drugs and generally wasting my life until I finally got myself into rehab and joined the army. I spoke of this experience in May 2012 at Mizrachi when I was asked to give a speech about my upbringing and the role it played in turning me away from the religion, as the topic for the evening was “Off the Derech”.

I believe it was this speech which motivated my parents to fake reconciliation with me. Since then, it’s been increasingly clear that the only thing that matters to them is keeping me from expressing my opinions about Manny.

Over the past 18 months my relationship with my parents has been filled with demands to apologize to Manny and as a result we were banned from coming to their house if Manny was going to be there because he refused to be in the same room as us e.g. last Pesach we were meant to go for the first night seder and got told at the last minute not to come because Manny was going. It has been filled with constant obsessive discussion about which community member my father says is accused of child abuse, while sitting at the Shabbat table. My father even asked me about hiring bodyguards so that he could continue to go to shul and act like he felt scared to go there without security.

When my parents recently announced their move to Israel, I was accused of forwarding the email onto someone they didn’t want reading it (I still don’t know which sibling forwarded it) and later discovered it was because it contradicted their big, two page spread in the newspaper that came out that weekend, claiming, among other things, to have been ex-communicated when really, it was all financial and something they have been planning to do for years – my mother told me how her plan was always to move as soon as my youngest sister finished school, which she did in 2013.

When I responded to my younger brother’s brave facebook post condemning the way Manny leaked (he calls it “facilitated” in his blog post) a prominent rabbi’s name to the media in connection to allegations of child sexual abuse with this comment:

“Good on you for saying what many of us are thinking. It must have taken alot of courage to write it, and I for one really appreciate it.

I have thought for a while now that the direction this campaign has gone is disgraceful. The Glick thing just seems to be the final episode in a very sad story.

The saddest thing is that future victims have had their stories hijacked by self serving people and their so called organisations.”

This was enough for my father to boycott my wedding and what pisses me off is not that he didn’t come, but that a father could use their own son’s simcha to try to manipulate them into supporting their dodgy campaign.

As much as that speech scared them into “keeping their enemies close” they’ve obviously forgotten all the other things I know and they’ve obviously not thought their tactics through very carefully. The big issue I have with my father’s involvement in this campaign against child sexual abuse, is that ours was a home full of physical child abuse. My father used to beat all the boys with a belt as punishment. I remember lining up one day to receive the belt after a whole group of us (there are 11 boys in the family) were caught climbing on the mikveh roof. I was the smallest in that group and the last in line, it was terrifying watching my older brothers scream while wondering what would happen to me. I was also the one he eventually broke the belt on and then he stopped using it but there has always been a culture of intimidation and manipulation - emotional, psychological, mental and physical, in our home.

I think it’s disgusting that someone who clearly has his own violent tendencies can go around condemning other abusers – all child abuse ought to be brought to light and the perpetrators brought to justice, even if it isn’t sexual. I might be the only one from the family who will ever have the guts to say it out loud, but no matter how they present themselves in the documentary about the family, Zephaniah isn’t someone whose judgement of others on the matter of protecting children from abuse is one to trust.

I think that initially his intentions were good - when the first newspaper spread was sprung on him in 2011 by Manny, he probably wanted to support my brother out of the terrible guilt he must have felt over not taking proper responsibility when not one, but THREE of my brothers were sexually abused and he did not go to the police. In fact, in a conversation we had, he justified it, explaining that it was the climate at the time (sounding very similar to the explanations from Yeshivah itself), I didn’t understand what it was like for him, there was no way he could report it and besides where would he send the children, it was the only Chabad school in Melbourne. Justifications aside – he was one of the ones who put pressure on the school to send the perpetrator away, so instead of condemning everyone else I think he should be apologizing himself.

I think he raised us in an environment where we learnt some pretty messed up messages. Some of the boys got molested at school, most turned to drugs to some degree and at some point, many got kicked out of home and all were vulnerable as a result of his shocking parenting tactics. His pursuit of sex offenders now is just a misguided attempt to deflect blame away from himself.

Manny is far too damaged himself to be a stable leader, especially not for victims of abuse. I think it’s disturbing that when confronted by one of our sisters, Manny denied that anyone was ever hit in our home. While he joked about being “touched” in personal conversations between us before portraying himself as a victim became his profession, I don’t think that either making light of sexual abuse OR turning it into a sensationalist media campaign is the right thing to do.

My mother literally said to me just months ago “If you don’t have something to say that promotes or supports Manny, don’t say it at all. Better to be quiet”. I refuse to do that about such an important issue. I refuse to just join the crowd in congratulating and thanking him when I have serious doubts about his motives and think that more people should be thinking more deeply about his motives and the ethics of his conduct. He has been after a leadership position for his entire life and starting Tzedek finally gave him that position. Just because they are one of the only Jewish (not the first) organizations to offer support to victims, doesn’t mean they should be blindly supported without being held to the same standards of accountability and transparency that anyone who is paid to lead an organization should be held to.

This is my opinion. I wont be silent about it.

From now on, whenever anyone congratulates me on how wonderful my parents are, because they saw the doco, or they had a Shabbat meal with them, or they are simply impressed by how many children they brought into the world, instead of smiling awkwardly I will tell them my truth about what I experienced in their home.

From now on whenever anyone congratulates me on how fantastic Manny is, I will continue to express my concerns that his motives aren’t as pure as he would have us believe and to express my opinion that he is not the right sort of person to lead this cause.

From now on, whenever anyone wants to use “enough, no more silence!” as their tagline, they’re going to remember that it also applies to them and they can no longer bully their critics into keeping their mouths shut.

I’m sharing this opinion because the issue of child abuse is too important to blindly allow, as a community, any self-serving individual to hi-jack the stories of future victims to suit themselves. I don’t gain anything from writing this, I wont ever gain a cent from talking about child abuse, I just have the satisfaction that those who tried to silence me did not succeed in preventing me from speaking my truth and that anyone who reads this has an opportunity to see things from my perspective and use it to make up their own minds.

If you don’t like the fact that I posted this – too bad, this is my facebook wall, this is my opinion and you don’t have to read it.

24 comments:

  1. Can we have the rest of what he writes there, please?

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  2. So what does he think?February 11, 2014 at 5:49 PM

    Where is the rest of the article? I might comment if I could see the rest of his thoughts here. I should not need to open Facebook.

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  3. the title "Many Waks brother's version" is misleading, since you present nothing of the content of his version. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to form an opinion on the short quotes you cite here... I did not have access to the facebook page.

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    Replies
    1. just added the rest of the Facebook page

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  4. A brave post. Does halacha take into account the difficulties of having so many children (both financial and psychological) when deciding to use contraception?

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  5. How sad! Just as I was nearing the end of reading this post, I was thinking that he too is mixed up. I have Rachmonos on him and on Manny and any other family members who suffered abuse from whomever. Manny is probably doing the best he can in light of the circumstances, as is Avi Yamini. And as I was thinking this, I reached the point where he writes;

    'From now on, whenever anyone wants to use “enough, no more silence!” as their tagline, they’re going to remember that it also applies to them and they can no longer bully their critics into keeping their mouths shut.'

    So he's speaking about himself here too, as this was his tagline too. How sad!

    All I can say is that the only way this damage can be repaired is with the coming of Moshiach BB'A.

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  6. Here's an informative article about the whole shebang. I'm actually surprised that DT hadn't posted anything on this before (unless I missed it):

    Manny Waks pays the price for speaking about sexual abuse in an ...
    www.theaustralian.com.au/news/.../the.../story-e6frg8h6-122664523660...‎
    May 18, 2013 -

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here is the full URL (hopefully):
      http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/the-shunned/story-e6frg8h6-1226645236603

      Delete
  7. No surprises here as Manny has abandoned Judaism.

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    Replies
    1. It is surprising that you accept all accusations as being true and that you also assume that it is the result of not be observant. Where is the evidence?

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    2. I am referring to Manny's war against everyone he is warring against, as his brother has pointed out.

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  8. Sad this got aired. The fact that Mr. Waks has a internal family issue shouldnt detract from the awareness of CSA, the abuse suffered by many and the cover ups perpetuated by leaders. None of that changes. Mr. Waks may even be guilty of it himself, but at least he has the decency to change and reverse his previously held position. That isnt wrong and something that should be condemned. The author sadly thinks it means support for Manny. It isnt. Its reversal of previously held position and atonement for previous sins. Shame he chose to publish this letter publicly. It serves no purpose.

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  9. I thought it would end up being a huge debunking. It wasn't at all. The letter seems to be about why Manny isn't doing a good job, but it barely mentioned him at all. He just talked about his parents the whole letter. And although some of their actions if true seem bad, the big thing they supposedly forgot he knew, which I thought would be a something terrible, is that they got hit when they were naughty. That's bad but not that abnormal for that time. Definitely nothing compared to sexual abuse. Overall, I think it was written to take revenge on his parents for not treating him well, as he pretty much suggests at the beginning. Weird.

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  10. What about the other Waks son who slapped the rabbi on the face - in Shul!!

    A sheyna chevra!!!!

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  11. Chabadnik, Mr Waks senior is onviously continuing his 'abuse' (albeit in a different way), by not attending his son's wedding.

    Some 'atonement'!

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  12. Sam B

    Throwing kids out onto the street is "not abnormal"?

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  13. Mr. Sheezel - why are you assuming 1) the facts are true as stated 2) that there are no mitigating factors.

    Regarding the issues you have raised, if you have spent some time in this world i.e., you are over bar mitzva it is not hard to realize that some of these actions are sometimes appropriate or understandable - or at least were considered appropriate not to many years ago.

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  14. Kudos to you Rabbi Eidenson for publishing this. As someone very familiar with the Waks family for many years I can assure you Avi speaks (writes) the truth. This has been generally known in the Melbourne Lubavitch community for many years, and is the real reason Zephania has been shunned by most people. It was just a question of time before it came out, and I'm sure that when more details emerge, ZW will look more like an abuser than anybody else.
    Do you wonder why Waks hasn't sued anybody yet? He knows what will come out under cross-examination and what that will do to their carefully constructed 'victim' narrative.... The Waks boys were certainly abused and need help, but sadly, charity often starts at home.
    This has set back victims of CSA everywhere.

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  15. Well before Manny Waks decided on publicly being the face of abuse victim, he was interviewed by The Age newspaper.

    As you can see he dumped Torah and Mitzvos and decided to live a goyish lifestyle.

    Here's a few choice snippets:

    As soon as the plane took off, Waks locked himself inside its tiny bathroom and began to shave off his long beard. "It was the first time I had ever used a razor

    from the age of 13 — when a Jewish boy has his barmitzvah and is considered a man under traditional law — he had been rebelling against the religious mores of his family.
    "Around that time, I broke shabbat for the first time," .... my desire to shake this heavy load off my back."

    More transgressions followed, including eating non-kosher food.

    At 18, he made a complete break from his community. He was rejected by his family,

    "When I was 15 or 16, I picked up a girl in a club. I was partying a lot, and went to a lot of pubs and nightclubs, getting drunk a lot."

    In Israel, Waks met a woman, they married, ..She wasn't born Jewish, but converted — "even though at no stage did I tell her that that was a prerequisite.

    his family showed him the door at various times in his youth, they have since come around. "When I was young, they would say, 'Go find somewhere else to sleep,' and I'd have to go to a friend's place. My parents acknowledged that perhaps wasn't the best way for them to deal with the situation

    He is not the only one of his siblings to have turned his back on religion — half a dozen or so have done the same

    does he believe in God? "I'm probably agnostic"

    Here's the full article (not a word there about sexual abuse - only parental - being thrown out of his home)

    THE AGE Leaving the fold

    Rachelle Unreich Published: June 24, 2008

    WHEN he was 18, Menachem "Manny" Waks flew to Israel, to enrol in the Israeli army. For some Jewish men his age, this is a rite of passage; for Waks, it was even more poignant, as it marked the moment he left behind his Hasidic Jewish roots to start living his life as a secular Jew.

    As soon as the plane took off, Waks locked himself inside its tiny bathroom and began to shave off his long beard. "It was the first time I had ever used a razor, and I didn't know how," he says. "I did it without shaving cream, so I was bleeding everywhere. All I knew was that I wanted to be normal.
    CONT---

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  16. CONTINUATION:

    "On the way, we stopped off in Thailand, where I got my first proper haircut. I felt a sense of freedom. It was like, 'Wow, I'm all on my own'."

    At Monash University tonight, Waks will introduce Leaving the Fold, a documentary about ultra-Orthodox Jews in Canada, the US and Israel who try to free themselves from their sheltered communities — and often have to go it alone in the process.

    Waks does not feature in the film, made by Canadian Eric Scott, but he understands the experience all too well. Until that moment on the plane, he had been largely indistinguishable from his Hasidic peers — on the outside at least. He sported sidelocks and dressed in a traditional wardrobe of dark suits, white shirts, black hats and tzitzit (a ritual vest with fringes). But from the age of 13 — when a Jewish boy has his barmitzvah and is considered a man under traditional law — he had been rebelling against the religious mores of his family.

    "Around that time, I broke shabbat for the first time," he says. (On the sabbath, observant Jews are not permitted to drive, work, write, cook or use electricity, among other things.) "Perhaps ordinary teenage rebellion had a lot to do with it, but the most important element was my desire to shake this heavy load off my back."

    More transgressions followed, including eating non-kosher food. Waks is still not entirely sure what compelled him to discard all the rules and regulations he'd been raised with, but he says he was a "non-conformist" from an early age.

    Although the Chabad community in which he was raised is relatively tolerant in its beliefs, he felt many of the edicts in his house — such as the ban on television and any music that wasn't religious — were too strict.

    "I think the first CD I listened to was my Richard Marx," he recalls. "I have fond memories of listening to Roxette in my room, too."

    At 18, he made a complete break from his community. He was rejected by his family, and soon he was floundering: since his education at Yeshivah College focused on biblical and religious studies after year 7, he was lacking in some basics.

    cont---

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  17. continuation

    "As an adult, I realised my English wasn't very good and my maths was non-existent, so I did my VCE at Swinburne, evening sessions. I wrote my first essay at the age of 25 … It was a struggle, and it's still a struggle now.

    "Sometimes people from my generation talk about things they grew up on, and I have no idea what they're on about if it's related to television or pop culture. I have a lot of catching up to do. Even my English is self-taught, and since I grew up reading biblical texts, it's not natural for me to pick up a novel. But I love reading news."

    Strict laws govern how Orthodox males and females interact — touching is strictly forbidden, and social interaction is restricted — but this was another area in which Waks went his own way. "When I was 15 or 16, I picked up a girl in a club. I was partying a lot, and went to a lot of pubs and nightclubs, getting drunk a lot."

    In Israel, Waks met a woman, they married, and now they are expecting their third child. She wasn't born Jewish, but converted — "even though at no stage did I tell her that that was a prerequisite. It was a complete and utter choice on her part, irrespective of our relationship."

    These days, she insists on keeping a strictly kosher home, and observes the sabbath, and other religious commandments: "She's religious — certainly more religious than I am," he says.

    Although his family showed him the door at various times in his youth, they have since come around. "When I was young, they would say, 'Go find somewhere else to sleep,' and I'd have to go to a friend's place. My parents acknowledged that perhaps wasn't the best way for them to deal with the situation. But I was the oldest male, and I had 15 younger brothers and sisters who looked up to me … I don't hold any grudges against my parents. They thought they were educating and raising me in the best way."

    Now, he'll visit his parents on weekends and for the Sabbath, and he's not the only one of his siblings to have turned his back on religion — half a dozen or so have done the same.

    When all is said and done, does he believe in God? "I'm probably agnostic. I'm not saying there is no God; if he's there, I don't want to upset him too much. In difficult times, I kind of say, 'God, if you're out there, help me out a little'. But generally, I don't feel that God is a major part of my life."


    ■The project reportedly began when Chobocky bumped into an old school friend, Sheree Waks, and asked: "How's your brother?" The brother in question was Stephen, whom Chobocky recalled as a hippy-surfer law student. But since she'd last seen him, Stephen had become a Lubavitcher Jew, changed his name to Zephaniah, married Haya and had 17 children. Oy vay!

    Leaving the Fold screens at Monash University, Caulfield campus, at 7.30pm.

    This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/national/leaving-the-fold-20080623-2vlh.html

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    Replies
    1. What is your point. It is well known that Manny is not frum. Nobody has tried concealing that information. So you discovered a magazine article that details his rejection of religion - what does that have to do with his being advocate for child abuse victims?!

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  18. I think Manny's dishonesty is the single biggest problem with his self-styled advocacy role. The fact that he was thrown onto the street out of an abusive home, and that his father then threatened families who took him in (CN) may have a lot to do with the abuse on the street that came afterwards. I am NOT excusing DC (who was a well-known) pedophile in any way at all c"v, only saying that the Waks' newfound celebrity victim-hood has a lot of locals quite....let's just say amazed.
    As someone who appreciates your incredibly important and pioneering work in the field of fighting frum abuse, it pains me to think of the damage done everyday to real victims by the Waks' self-promotion and vendetta at all costs. If you were a victim thinking of going public and you just saw the stupid circus Manny Waks arranged with this disproven blood libel against Glick, would YOU go public today?!!

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  19. Thank you, a well written, cogent and coherent statement, which has helped me understand a little more the complexity of the issues. I wish you well for you continued recovery - may you win your complete freedom.

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