I wrote a post yesterday about the astonishing revelation in the Sydney Morning Herald that a former Sydney Chabad rabbi, Baruch Lesches, had absolved himself of responsibility for a sex abuse scandal at his yeshiva. He operated under the theory that the abused boys had consented to the abuse. A related comment suggested that “goyim” are so avid for sex they do it with dogs.
The Australian Orthodox Jewish community has been riven by a number of such scandals. Those under Lesches’ watch are but a few. In fact, the government has decided to create a Royal Commission to investigate all forms of child abuse both in government sponsored facilities and schools, and in private/religious schools.
I’ve been doing more digging on the Lesches story, especially the U.S. aspect of it and come up with some deeply disturbing information. In addition, I’ve identified the alleged abuser. Before I name him I want to be clear that he’s not been convicted or even charged with any crime (though there is an ongoing police investigation of his actions by the Australian authorities).
The man’s name is Gug Hayman. I have confirmed this through a variety of sources. But the first known public exposure of his identity in connection to these alleged crimes was in the comment section of Failed Messiah. Hayman was a “gofer” for Rabbi Lesches and the Chabad yeshiva which the latter directed. In that capacity, he’s alleged to have molested at least four boys. On discovery of the first victim, Rabbi Lesches met with and warned Hayman not to repeat his sexual abuse. The rabbi did not report the incident to police, nor alert other staff so they could monitor Hayman. The latter later repeated these offenses with three subsequent victims.
The Orthodox community has a nasty habit of shipping accused molesters out of the country on first notice of their offenses. This is supposed to quiet the matter, save face for victim and accuser, and keep nastiness out of the press. Something like this happened in the case of both Rabbi Lesches and Hayman, though neither was spirited from Australia for some time after these misdeeds took place.
Hayman left the country and emigrated to Los Angeles (more about that later). Lesches, with the aid of Gug Hayman’s brother, Avraham, landed in Monsey, NY, where he became the Chabad rabbi. The synagogue’s website proudly notes that Avraham (whose English name is “Arthur”), a shul member, has offered a $36,000 donation, which would match gifts to the school’s building campaign:
Avraham Hayman, the noted philanthropist and mainstay of our Cheder, has agreed to Match up to $36,000 in donations in honor of the recent sixth Yahrzeit of Leah Miriam Hayman, A”H. Any family who donates $100 to $999 will have their donation matched dollar for dollar, donations of $1,000 per family will be double matched with an additional $2,000 contributed by the Hayman family.
One can’t help but wonder whether Rabbi Lesches’ obscene justification of the crimes, as evidenced in the audio tape, was influenced by the new job essentially proffered to him by a Hayman family member.
Sources in Australia tell me that Gug Hayman also offered a large loan to a senior rabbi in the Sydney Orthodox community in the midst of these events. A source surmises that the funds were delivered to Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, who himself is implicated in several sex abuse and financial scandals. Rabbi Feldman is known to have suffered financial problems. Hayman seems to have been in the right place at the right time, and became his financial godsend. Once again, rabbis who are supposed to be moral models for the Jewish community have allowed money to blind them to their obligations.
Now back to Hayman. When he arrived in Los Angeles, he naturally wanted to be around children again. But the community knew something (there is a debate how much it did know) of his past. So he was directed to a special outreach program of Jewish Family Service to the Orthodox community, Aleinu. The director, Debbie Fox, told Hayman that for him to be given approval to work with children he’d have to undergo therapy, take a battery of psychological tests and a lie detector test.
Apparently, Hayman had not completed the process when she began receiving inconvenient inquiries about Hayman:
”I have no idea how anyone found out – but calls are coming daily from many sources. So far, we’ve been protecting you…We have NEVER had any evaluation take nearly this long.
For your security – you must complete it and we must get the evaluation report and recommendations.”
The most shocking phrase is “we protected you.” Further, she uses the term “for your security,” which confirms the notion that JFS was either directly protecting him or participating in an organized operation by others to do so. Even if you choose to interpret these phrases to mean that JFS knew about his background and was protecting him from public exposure, this notion too is troubling. It raises the question why a social service agency committed to the welfare of Jewish families and children would “protect” a suspected child abuser.
JFS’ defense was even lamer than this email. It released a statement claiming Fox was a “nationally-recognized” expert in this field and that at the time she dealt with Hayman she had “no direct, specific” knowledge of allegations against him. Which begs the question: if you don’t have such knowledge then why are you subjecting him to these tests? In short, JFS staff knew this man was damaged goods, but they claim they didn’t know how damaged.
I’m guessing that well-connected members of the L.A. Orthodox community exerted pressure on JFS to accommodate Hayman. They did this in Sydney. They did it in Monsey. Why wouldn’t they do it in Los Angeles as well?
Coincidentally, in the next annual budget cycle JFS took a big hit from Federation and reduced programming and staff. Debbie Fox was let go and the Aleinu program restructured.
These scandals derive at least in part from the insularity of the Haredi community and it’s rejection of modern values. Though Halacha absolutely denounces sexual abuse, clearly there are factors (like money) that attenuate that prohibition. And there simply is not enough independence or internal monitoring or review to resist these pressures. Chabad proudly rejects modernity including the very values that might help it reinforce halachic bans on abuse.
For example, Manny Waks, the leading Jewish community advocate for sexual abuse survivors in Australia has been accused by leading figures in the Chabad community of m’sirah, betraying fellow Jews to the authorities. Such charges amount to a grave violation of morality, both Halacha and general standards of decency. In other words, if Chabad faces such scandals it has only itself to blame.
The point of this post is not to bash Chabad or Orthodox Jews. It is to demand that they adhere to the values they profess but don’t observe. It is to demand accountability and transparency rather than opacity and apologias.
In closing, it’s appropriate to quote an e mail I received from one Pinchos Woolstone (who sounds like he stepped out of a Jewish version of a Dickens novel), a Chabadnik who’s a dear friend of Avraham Hayman and deeply disturbed by my post. I take the following as the highest form of encomium (or hamlatza in the language he would understand):
You have no credibility you are a twisted looser hiding behind a putrid blog.
Thanks to Failed Messiah, which has been covering this story for some time and published some of the material mentioned here.
Disclosure: I lived in Los Angeles for nearly twenty years. During that time I benefited from services offered by Jewish Family Service there. In fact, I find it one of the most important and useful resources offered by the organized Jewish community. So I do not have an axe to grind against JFS. Just the opposite.