Former Australian Jewish School Guard Convicted of Sexually Assaulting Children

David Cyprys worked at Melbourne's Yeshivah College; his victims were between 7 and 14 when they were abused, in the 1980s and '90s.

Dan Goldberg
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Dan Goldberg

SYDNEY, Australia - An ongoing child sex abuse scandal continues to rock the Melbourne Jewish community after a former security guard at an Orthodox Jewish school in the city was found guilty of child rape and multiple counts of molestation.

A jury at the County Court of Victoria last month found David Cyprys, 44, who worked at the Chabad-run boys’ school Yeshivah College, guilty of raping one boy five times between 1990 and 1991. Cyprys, who also taught karate at the school, pleaded guilty to abusing eight other minors during the 1980s and 1990s. He was convicted of indecent assault, gross indecency and attempted indecent assault for these offenses.

The victims were boys aged between seven and 14. Some of the abuse took place in a mikveh, or Jewish ritual bathhouse, and at a school camp. Three of the 12 victims who initially brought the charges now live in America.

A gag order had prevented the media from reporting the trial, but Judge Peter Wischusen lifted it on Tuesday after Cyprys pleaded guilty.

The reports of the conviction come just days after the president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australia, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, issued a Yom Kippur letter begging forgiveness from the victims, blasting the “culture of cover-up” in Australian Jewry and urging perpetrators to turn themselves in to police.

The scandal has roiled Australia’s 110,000-plus Jewish community ever since Cyprys’ arrest in 2011. Other suspected sexual abusers, from Orthodox and non-Orthodox communities, have since been arrested. Last month a non-Jewish coach of the Maccabi junior girls’ basketball team in Melbourne was sentenced to eight years in prison for sex offenses committed in 1999 and 2000.

In July David Kramer, a former teacher at the same school where Cyprys had worked, was jailed for molesting four boys between 1989 and 1992. Kramer had previously fled Melbourne to the United States with the assistance of school officials. While in St. Louis he reoffended. He was prosecuted and convicted of sexual offenses before being extradited to Australia. In August he was sentenced in a Melbourne court to three years and four months in prison. In less than three months, however, Kramer will be eligible for release due to time served.

At least one other case involving alleged sexual abuse at an Orthodox institution is pending in the Australian courts, and several other investigations are under way in Melbourne and in Sydney.

Manny Waks of the victims’ advocacy group Tzedek hailed Cyprys’ conviction but accused Yeshivah College of failing to protect children in their care. “They must be held to full account for their cover-ups and the way they treated victims,” he said.

The current principal of Yeshivah College, Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler, apologized “unreservedly” for the “historical wrongs” after Kramer’s sentencing in July. Smukler was not the principal at the time the abuse occurred. “Yeshivah sincerely regrets and unreservedly apologizes for not informing the police at the time the allegations arose,” he said in a statement at the time.

Cyprys’ wife, Michelle Coleman, said in a statement on Tuesday that the issue highlighted the importance of sex education in Orthodox Jewish institutions.

“Had those involved been able to have frank discussions with teachers and mentors about religiously sensitive issues such as sexual contact prior to marriage and sexual orientation, a great deal of hurt and pain could have been avoided all around,” she wrote on J-Wire, a local Jewish website.

Noting that Cyprus was himself younger than 18 when some of the offenses were committed, Coleman said her husband’s five children and stepchildren – who have only known a “kind and loving father” – have “suffered isolation, ostracism and bullying.”

Cyprys was remanded in custody and will reappear on November 8 for a plea hearing.

Yeshivah College in Melbourne, Australia, where the alleged cases of child sexual abuse took place in the 1980s and early 1990s. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

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