“My understanding is that homosexuality can be cured … my understanding is that in most situations, the answer is yes.”
Rabbi Avrohom Glick
Head of Jewish studies and
MAGISTRATE Luisa Bazzani will announce on Monday whether the case against alleged rapist David Samuel Cyprys will proceed to trial.
In the Melbourne Magistrates Court last week, Rabbi Avrohom Glick, Yeshivah principal from 1986 to 2007 and presently a teacher and head of Jewish studies and student wellbeing at Yeshivah, gave evidence at a committal hearing for Cyprys, who was charged with 53 offences, including rape, against 12 boys, during his long association with the college and the Chabad community.
Before Rabbi Glick began his testimony on Monday, prosecutor Andrew Grant told the court the rabbi wanted to change a key point in a written statement he made to police late last year, in which he had stated: “Rabbi [Yitzchok Dovid] Groner never divulged to me the names of individuals that brought complaints to him.”
However, asked by Grant to set the record straight, Rabbi Glick said in court that Rabbi Groner had in fact told him Cyprys was the subject of a complaint by a parent regarding molestation.
Rabbi Glick said that in “the early 2000s”, Rabbi Groner told him of a complaint by a parent of one of the alleged victims and, although Cyprys’s name did not come up at that time, he “suspected” he was the individual Rabbi Groner was talking about.
Around that time, Rabbi Glick said he had become aware of rumours in the Yeshivah community that Cyprys was homosexual, which led him to suspect it was he the rabbi had alluded to.
But shortly before his death in 2008, Rabbi Groner had divulged Cyprys’s identity to him, Rabbi Glick told the court. “He called me and said to me that he had been approached by a mother who advised that her child had been molested by David Cyprys. She was agitated, threatening to take police action. He called me to ask if I had knowledge of that. I said I had no knowledge of that.”
Rabbi Glick said Cyprys became a youth leader and teacher and may have been involved with transporting students who attended the Gan Yisrael camps until the 1990s. As a security guard and locksmith who ran a security firm, Cyprys was also “subcontracted” for maintenance jobs on campus, he said. He was also a martial arts enthusiast who ran classes for boys.
Around the time the rumours started, Rabbi Glick was approached by the father of a student, urging him that Cyprys should not be employed at the college because of his sexual orientation. Rabbi Glick recalled responding to the parent that Cyprys did not work for the school and he was not his employer. Rabbi Glick added, “I told him Rabbi Groner would not permit Cyprys to work as a security guard if he was a threat to anyone.”
Asked by Bazzani if the rumours resulted in precautions being taken to protect students, Rabbi Glick said Cyprys was no longer involved with the school at that time.
Rabbi Glick had become Yeshivah principal in 1986, the year after Cyprys ended his studies at Yeshivah College and had “not very much” contact with Cyprys and “very little” contact with Jocelyn Searby, a consulting psychologist at the school, with whom Rabbi Groner had close ties.
Questioned by Cyprys’s barrister Marcus Dempsey about procedures in the 1980s to deal with young teenage students who believed they might be gay, Rabbi Glick said they were told “it was not Jewish practice” but they would not be asked to leave the school unless they were “promoting those practices”.
Rabbi Glick said he knew of no student at Yeshivah in the 1980s and 1990s who was openly gay. Asked by Dempsey: “Was homosexuality something to be cured from?”, he responded: “My understanding is that homosexuality can be cured … my understanding is that in most situations, the answer is yes.”
He said students had recourse to shluchim [mentors] to discuss these problems and could go to a religious studies teacher, to Rabbi Groner or to himself for counselling. Asked if he knew whether Cyprys had been counselled by Rabbi Groner, he said he suspected so, but Rabbi Groner “did not keep meticulous records”.
When questioned by Dempsey on Tuesday, Senior Detective Lisa Metcher said she had found no evidence in her search of Yeshivah records that Cyprys had been counselled.
On Tuesday, the court heard police testimony about two alleged rape incidents involving one of the boys.
Detective Senior Constable Tamara Annette Cornelissen gave evidence about one of the alleged victims, who had mentioned the act of “penetration” in a police interview. Two such incidents were identified in the interview.
Cornelissen confirmed the victim’s claim in his statement that the accused “covered my mouth to stop me screaming”.
OVER the past two weeks, the claims and allegations that have surfaced in the Cyprys hearing have shocked the community. That such abuse may have occurred in the first place is alarming enough; that the school seems to have failed to take appropriate measures when fears were raised is equally disturbing.
But these are not the only concerns that have emerged and that will doubtless be discussed over the coming days.
One is the issue of attitudes towards homosexuality, in particular that it can somehow be “cured” as if it were an illness or abnormality. Such a claim is an affront to the gay and lesbian community, and indeed to all those who believe in equality irrespective of sexual orientation. In this day and age, that a teacher responsible for student welfare at a school could hold such a view will no doubt raise eyebrows and prompt debate about his suitability for the role.
On the subject of homosexuality, it should also be made clear that such a sexual orientation has nothing to do with paedophilia. The two are quite distinct and it would be wrong for anyone to draw the impression from reports of the case that being gay and being a potential child abuser are in any way connected.