Director of Orthodox gap-year program at Bar-Ilan fired for installing cameras in girls' dorms
Rabbi Tully Bryks, director of The Israel Experience, claimed hidden cameras were installed due to complaints about maintenance staff; he apologized for his 'lack of judgment.'
The director of an Orthodox gap-year program at Bar-Ilan University was relieved of his duties this week, after it was discovered that he had secretly installed surveillance cameras in the girls' dormitory. Police are investigating the affair.
Rabbi Tully Bryks, director of The Israel Experience, a program that serves mainly high-school graduates from the United States, had installed two surveillance cameras in clocks hung in the hallway of the girls' dormitory.
The surveillance cameras were discovered within hours by several stunned students living in adjacent rooms, who immediately lodged a complaint with program administrators citing severe invasion of privacy and who demanded police intervention.
Bryks was soon thereafter relieved of all his responsibilities at the program and barred from any contact with students.
In a letter addressed to staff, students and their parents, Bryks apologized for what he termed his "poor judgment," saying the reason he had installed the cameras was because of complaints lodged against maintenance staff working in the dormitory.
The board of directors of The Israel Experience program is expected to convene within the next day and, as one source close to the matter said, will "give him the option to resign."
Haaretz contacted Bryks for a response but none was forthcoming by press time.
Meanwhile, Bryks has been replaced by three new acting directors, all fellow administrators at the program: Rabbi Ari Yablok, Rabbi Eli Menaged and Meir Balovsky.
"Whatever reason he had for doing this, it was inappropriate," said Yablok, campus director of The Israel Experience. "That is the reason we took action as soon as we found out about this."
Yablok said the surveillance cameras were not found in the bathrooms or the bedrooms, but only in the hallways. They were not found in the boys' dormitory either.
He said administrators were in full support of student demands to launch a police probe into the matter. Police are being assisted by a private investigations company. In addition, Yablok said that The Israel Experience is conducting its own internal investigation by board members in order to better understand what happened.
He said that the surveillance cameras were removed as soon as they were discovered and that "we are taking every step possible to ensure the survival of this program and the comfort of our students."
The Israel Experience is a program started four years ago and run by Masa, a joint project of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency. There are currently 90 students studying in the program. Although they take courses for college credit at Bar-Ilan University, Israel Experience students live in dormitories in a separate campus in Ramat Efal, not far from the main Bar-Ilan University campus.
Before assuming leadership of the program, Bryks served as regional director of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth in Florida. Yablok said this was the first complaint lodged against him "on a matter like this."
In a letter addressed to parents of students on the program, the new acting directors wrote: "We understand that you have entrusted us with the care, supervision and education of your children. We take this responsibility as seriously as possible. We feel the immediate actions that we have taken will ensure that this matter is dealt with in an efficient, professional and responsible way."
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