Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Schlesinger Twins: Timely lessons to be learned from the Australian abuse scandal

picture not of Schlesinger twins
Guest Post by Beth Alexander

It has taken over 20 years for the victims of child abuse in Australia to finally be vindicated and awarded their day of justice at last. Not that anything could ever undo the pain and horror they suffered at the hands of the perpetrators at the time or remove the stain of guilty memories all those torturous years thereafter but at least now it is no longer they who have to carry the heavy burden of shame and silence.

This week marks the second in a two week government inquiry set up to investigate claims of child sexual abuse dating back to the 1980s and 1990s in Sydney and Melbourne. Commissioners of the Australian Royal Commission are currently hearing the victims and interrogating rabbis who were employed by the Yeshivah Centre at the time.

As details come to light, it is horrifying to discover that many of the highest ranking rabbis were informed about the abuse taking place but conspired to cover it up and instead shunned and silenced the victims. Their responses today make for shocking reading but perhaps these individuals, unfit to hold the title rabbi, are more shocked than anyone. Confident it had all been buried in the past, they never expected the scandal to resurface years later to destroy them and their families.

Austria is just one syllable away

Following these events while desperately fighting for justice for my own little boys here in Vienna is chilling. There are so many parallels. 'A week from hell' is how the past week has felt for the Australian Jewish community. I have spent the past four years in that hell - repeatedly calling on the rabbis in Vienna, on Chabad Vienna and the community leaders of Vienna to listen to our anguished pleas for help to end my own little boys' suffering. Instead of the protection, support and compassion their moral code of conduct obligates them to provide, I have also been met by stony silence, indifference and worse, ostracized and re-victimized over again for speaking out, as were the victims in Australia who naively misplaced their trust and confided in the rabbis about what was happening to them.

It's telling that victims in Australia were threatened not to breathe a word to the non-Jewish authorities because of mesirah yet in my case the rabbis and leaders in Vienna have repeated like a mantra, 'It must go though the courts' when they are fully aware  that the judicial process has been subverted by a member of the Jewish community, a high court judge who happens to be a friend of the father and convert to Judaism. Add to that an orthodox psychiatrist who tried (unsuccessfully) to have me committed to a mental hospital on the orders of my ex husband before admitting he had never met me, a false statement by a Chabad rabbi and a court issued gagging order on me and you have the makings of another giant cover up.

Unlike Australia today, not a single Austrian rabbi will be able to claim they didn't know about Samuel and Benjamin Schlesinger in their community.

Recently, one local at the centre of the Viennese community (who has never spoken to me directly) admitted to a trusted friend back home in the UK, 'This is a conspiracy against Beth.' Not only that, he warned portentously, 'The case of the Schlesinger twins will haunt this community. In ten years the rabbis will be shamed, they will have blood on their hands.'

While it is too late to save Manny Waks and the countless other victims who now have to live with their scars and somehow find the strength and courage to rebuild their shattered lives as emotionally and psychologically damaged adults, Sammy and Benji Schlesinger are still young enough to be saved. Will any lessons be learned from Australia?


  1. Let's hope the lessons from Australia are learnt across the world - including in Vienna - and quickly!

  2. Thank you Beth. I know how difficult it is to write about this when the issues are so personal and close to home. Your courage and fortitude are truly admirable, and an example to everyone.

    Unfortunately, the scenario of the rabbi, priest, judge, lawyer, psychologist, psychiatrist... 'omission of actions' that cover-up sexual abuse of children (and all 'abuse of power' in the home, community, work-place, govt. agencies, etc.) is 'par for the course,' and what is considered a "socially acceptable" response to the situation.

    Until people everywhere challenge, dismantle, and denounce this "socially acceptable" response to abuses of power in their communities, courts, govt. officials, etc., etc. the abuses of power and dictatorial/patriarchal structures (family, religion, govt.) in our society will continue to be guided by unbridled greed and amorality -- unchecked by govts. and Empowered by the inaction of the 'PEOPLE'.

    Quenby Wilcox

  3. Chabad in Australia is facing an existential crisis. The non-Lubavitch community is becoming disgusted with all things Chabad. Chabad needs to urgently make sure that their representatives elsewhere are not about to be exposed as cruel, corrupt and shielders of abusers, of any type. It’s therefore vital, for the sake of Chabad, that Biderman’s partisan support for an abusive father and husband which is depriving two little boys of their mother and the right to grow and learn like other children their age, is stopped urgently, before that becomes yet another foul-smelling skeleton in Chabad’s cupboard.

  4. Will the leaders of Chabad now learn a lesson from the
    shocking recent events in Australia and challenge Rabbi Biderman and the others
    in the Chabad Kindergarten over their support for Michael Schlesinger? Why is he covering up for Michael? He knows full well that this adds to Michael’s
    continued abuse of Beth and therefore his children? Why did he supply false information to the
    Court and continuously disregard the suffering of Beth and her children? Surely Rabbi Biderman doesn’t want his name to
    be forever tarnished and associated with scandal and cover-ups as Feldman’s
    is. As for the other Rabonnim and community
    leaders in Vienna what can their twisted mentality be that they disregard
    Beth’s suffering and anguish and cover up for Michael in much the same
    way? What a scandal in Austria as well
    as Australia

    All truth passes through three stages. First, it is
    ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being
    self-evident. --Arthur Schopenhauer

  5. I find it quite appaling to use this Australian sexual abuse case to refer to a strictly private custody battle. Further, I find it shameful to highlight the judge's chosen religious status. What does she want to imply here? What kind of a person is this author???? We obviously don't know all the details of such a complicated case, which is certainly a very private matter and doesn't belong to such a platform.

  6. @Dave the matter has not been private for a very long time. The points she make have been made repeatedly in the many postings on the subject on this blog.
    The details are readily available and documented on this blog. If you haven't taken the trouble to read them - so why do you think you should be commenting about them?

  7. Beth - Unfortunately in the Australian case there will be no winners - I hope in your case there will be and you will be reunited with those beautiful boys xxx

  8. Dave, I have followed the case closely and my
    husband is a solicitor who too time to familiarize himself with the details in
    order to satisfy his legal doubts, so I can tell you Beth is not drawing this
    comparision lightly. AND she has no other choice as the biased Austrian court
    has placed a gagging order on her. Therefore, she cant discuss/publish anything
    about the case, nor mention anything current about her boys. So much injustice
    has been committed against her and her boys that the matter has been raised in
    the English Parliament with the PM (last year, just google her name and
    Telegraph - a reputable British newspaper).

    What makes you to pass quick and harsh judgements against clearly
    suffering woman?? Even if you didnt bother to do a background research, you
    should check yourself before

  9. Beth. In Melbourne I don't believe there will be any winners. I hope in your case that it will be different for you and those beautiful boys

  10. This is the indictment - our Torah portion this week. The Rabbis in Vienna do not seem to learn Torah - where is the evidence ?

    Exodus 23 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

    23 “You are not to repeat false rumors; do not join hands with the wicked by offering perjured testimony. 2 Do not follow the crowd when it does what is wrong; and don’t allow the popular view to sway you into offering testimony for any cause if the effect will be to pervert justice. 3 On the other hand, don’t favor a person’s lawsuit simply because he is poor.
    4 “If you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey straying, you must return it to him. 5 If you see the donkey which belongs to someone who hates you lying down helpless under its load, you are not to pass him by but to go and help him free it.
    6 “Do not deny anyone justice in his lawsuit simply because he is poor. 7 Keep away from fraud, and do not cause the death of the innocent and righteous; for I will not justify the wicked. 8 You are not to receive a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clearsighted and subverts the cause of the righteous.
    9 “You are not to oppress a foreigner, for you know how a foreigner feels, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

  11. Perhaps now might be an opportune time for Rabbi Kennard to invite and encourage those who have been impacted by CSA at Mount Scopus College to come forward and report their abuse to the authorities - and let's not pretend for one moment that abuse was limited to Chabad institutions all the schools ( jewish and non-Jewish ) have foul-smelling skeleton in their cupboard - for better or for worse, Yeshiva had a Tzefanya Waks whose fight with the GRONER CARTEL predated the abuse by many years.

    For those who might be interested, the COMMISSION of INQUIRY is now taking evidence from victims of CSA that took place in KNOX COLLEGE - one of the top-top church schools in AUSTRALIA and what was going on at that school makes the YESHIVA abuses look like child's play - ( and my comments need not be twisted to suggest that I am trivializing the hurt and damage that the victims of CSA have had to endure ) but the MEDIA ( Jewish and non-Jewish ) seem to have a fascination with the so-called ULTRA ORTHODOX


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