Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Rabbi Ephraim Bryks - Spiritual Leader, Molester

Protect Our Children writes:

It has come to my attention that Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks who has had serious allegations involving the sexual molestation of young children (see website below) will again be speaking again at Young Israel of Briarwood, Thursday, October 14, 8:30 pm at 84-75 Daniels St., Briarwood, NY 11435 - Topic: 'Beginings -- How They Impact Our Daily Lives.'

1) I call upon the OU and the Young Israel organization to take immediate action to cancel the program scheduled Thursday, October 14, 8:30 pm at Young Israel of Briarwood featuring speaker Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks.

Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks has a long documented history of serious allegations of sexual abuse of young children and sexual exploitation of women he counsels.

See: http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/bryks_ephraim.html
News video: http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/offender/brykslq.rm

This is not the first time Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks has spoken at this Young Israel. Mere weeks ago officials at Young Israel of Briarwood were informed of Rabbi Ephraim Bryks' scheduled program September 2, 2004 and failed to take any steps to cancel the program.

2) I call on the OU, Young Israel and the RCA to fully investigate this situation and take immediate steps to prevent further occurrence.

3) I call on the OU, Young Israel, RCA and youth organizations such as Hillel and NCSY to ban any programs involving the Bukharian Jewish Organization of Youth and all related Bukharian student organizations. The Bukharian Jewish Organization of Youth has been promoting Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks for the past years see:
One of the leaders of this organization is Shlomo Fuzaylov. Fuzaylov is a student of Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks from his days as principal at Queens Torah Academy. Fuzaylov was one of the leaders of student protests in support of Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks as administrators considered removing him from the school (which they ultimately did).

The Bukharian Jewish Organization of Youth has received funding and sponsorship from Astor Brokerage Limited, which I am told is associated with Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks' in-laws (he worked there in the 1990s).

4) Further, I call upon the Orthodox community and its leadership to end their tolerance and silence regarding Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks and his continuing activities in the Orthodox Jewish community.

a. Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks has a mikvah operated out of his home:

Name: Mikvah of Kew Gardens
Address: 84-33 116th St. Kew

b. Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks' Hachnosas Kallah G'mach is promoted by the
Vaad Harabonim of Queens website.


c. Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks' continues to counsel women.

1994 - Documentary Transcript - CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)
Program Prime Time News, Network CBC
Investigative documentary: "Unorthodox Conduct"
Date February 28, 1994 - Time 21:00:00 ET - End 22:00:00 ET

Guest Sara and Mortin Leven, parents; Kristen Balmer, Pychotherapist; Dr.Adrian Fein, friend of Bryks; Judy Silver, fmr. synagogue board member; Ephraim Bryks, rabbi; Kovi Smolak, fmr.student; Patti Cohen, teacher; Nathan Kabrinski, synagogue board member; Keith Cooper, director, Child and Family Services; 5 unidentified persons.

Host Peter Mansbridge and Pamela Wallin

Mansbridge: This is the story of a powerful man, and the shocking accusations that he abused that power with children he was supposed to protect. For more than 10 years, Rabbi Ephraim Bryks was the spiritual leader of a small synagogue in Winnipeg and principal of its school.

But now, in a joint investigation, Prime Time News and CBC Winnipeg have
uncovered some disturbing stories.

Four former students who accuse Rabbi Bryks of sexual abuse. A warning now, this documentary contains graphic language and its content may offend some viewers. You will also see some home video of school concerts, we want to stress that none of the children in those videos is the subject of our documentary.

Here's Danielle Keefler.

Judy Silver: We could not believe, it was hard to believe that this man would do anything wrong.

Mortin Leven: I think he's not just a fraud and -- not a charlatan, but really wicked. And I know how many people he's hurt.

Sara Leven: I was tremendously angry and so deeply hurt that someone should do that to a small child.

Danielle Keefler: The sounds of innocence that once filled the Torah Academy in Winnipeg are no more. The Orthodox Jewish day school closed its doors in 1991, more than 10 years after it was built from scratch by Rabbi Ephraim Bryks. But some former students say what happened to them at his hands has left haunting memories, and scarred lives.

Sara: He was a kid who always had a smile on his face.

Mortin: He was also very vivid and fun-loving.

Keefler: Innocent and trusting. Daniel Leven grew up in a close-kit Jewish Orthodox family; two brothers, two sister, parents Sara and Mortin, who wanted tradition, values instilled in their children. They enroled five-year-old Daniel in the Torah Academy.

Sara: Education is almost everything. It -- Jewish education teaches a person how to live for the rest of their life.

Keefler: Daniel went to the school from kindergarten to Grade 2. Then the Levens moved away to Montreal, later to Toronto. As a teenager, Daniel's smile masked his pain. His parents had separated. The boy was in distress, unable to concentrate in school, prone to explosive fits of rage. At 14, he started therapy. Three years later, he stunned his mother and father.

Sara: Last May, he started having -- May '93, he started having memories of being sexually abused by the rabbi and principal at Torah Academy. He was sitting on his lap, and the rabbi -- in his office in the rabbi's office, and the rabbi was -- it's so hard for me to say this --

Mortin: He was fondling.

Sara: He was fondling his genitals first over his clothes, and then he opened his pants. And afterwards, he gave him a candy. It was a peppermint one, with the blue wrapper, I think it says "Elite" on it. He even remembered the candy.

Mortin: The internal mechanism for a flash second said, "It's got to be a mistake here, I'm not hearing this." But instantly, I knew that he was telling me the truth.

Sara: And then he said he had a memory, and he started coughing and spitting out mucous, and he sat up, and we got tissues for him. And he was coughing and spitting up and spitting up, and he started crying. And he said that he was in the office, and Rabbi Bryks put his penis in Daniel's mouth. And he kept coughing, and I encouraged him to spit it up, spit everything up. That was another memory.

Mortin: He did say that Bryks said things. I wondered why he kept quiet. And then he said, "Well, Bryks said to me, God will punish you if you speak."

Keefler: After 10 years, Daniel's silence was broken. His childhood torment revealed. Last June, he went to the Toronto Police. He gave a statement on tape. His psychotherapist, Kristen Balmer was there.

Kristen Balmer: He said, "I don't want this to continue any more." He said, "I don't want any other person to have to go through what I went through," and I watched him cry, and there's no question he was telling the truth.

Keefler: Daniel tucked away his trauma, spoke of it rarely. But with paint, he let memories, images flow on to paper. In mid-September, Daniel's mother got an unexpected phone call, it was the Toronto Police, their tape machine was faulty, it hadn't recorded Daniel's statement.They wanted him to do it all over again.

Sara: The interview was supposed to take place, I guess, about a week later. A week -- I'm sorry, I can't say it. He never lived to make another interview.

Mortin: He took his own life on Yom Kippur in the afternoon.

Keefler: On the day of atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish year, Daniel hanged himself. Toronto Police had to drop the case, the complainant was dead. A month after Daniel's suicide, a memorial service in Winnipeg. A family friend delivered a message from Daniel's father, a message that hinted at what may have caused Daniel to take his own life.

Rabbi: Most of you here today didn't really know our son and brother Daniel, or at least not since he was very young. You're here to show concern for his family. Some of you may even be here because his death is a grim reminder of a bleakly sinister stain on the Jewish community.

Keefler: Ephraim Bryks grew up in Denver, Colorado. His father, Lejzor, was a respected Orthodox rabbi, a renowned scholar. In 1971, Lejzor Bryks hanged himself amid rumours of financial scandal. That same year, Ephraim began rabbinical studies. In 1978, he looked for work. The Herzalia Adas Yeshurun Synagogue in Winnipeg needed a rabbi --24-year-old Bryks got the job.

Dr. Adrian Fein: He's one of the most exceptional human beings I known.

Keefler: Dr. Adrian Fein became a close friend of the rabbi in Winnipeg.

Fein: An unbelievably hard worker, a person with tremendous interpersonal skills, and an ability to be quite exceptional with either young children or 90-year-old congregants.

Keefler: Bryks injected new life to the small orthodox congregation, new members flocked to synagogue, drawn in by his aura. Judy Silver was a synagogue board member.

Silver: I'd almost call it a cult, a cultish personality, where he was very

Home videotape of Ephraim Bryks: and now for the final moment to see who graduates and goes on to Grade 1.

Keefler: Within two years, Bryks started a Jewish say school. To many, he became a hero.

Home videotape of child: Without further delay, our very own Rabbi Bryks.

Home videotape of Bryks: I would like to express my thanks.

Keefler: Bryks had more than charisma. He had his own rules. Local orthodox practice wasn't good enough. He alone set the standard for his own followers -- what was kosher, what wasn't. He even set up his own religious court.

Fein: He made a stance on issues that he felt there was no compromise that could be allowed. So his critics, of course, could say he was a megalomania, or this is him wanting to set himself up. I don't think that was his agenda.

Keefler: To some, a visionary, to others, a man obsessed with power. The clash polarized the community. Bryks questioned other rabbi's Jewishness. The questioned his credibility.

Keefler: In a community journal, Bryks boasted a degree there of law from the state of Israel, that he sat as a member of a religious court in Israel, and had a court room. The truth is, he was a rabbinical student, not a judge. And the state doesn't give out law degrees. In "The Jewish Post and News," Bryks plagiarized newspaper columns copied word for word from another rabbi's book. No permission, no credit. In November 1987, Winnipeg's council of Rabbis wrote a scathing letter to the editor. They accused Bryks of simple "plagiarism," "theft." Bryks' lawyer threatened the newspaper with a lawsuit if the letter were published. It was never printed.

videotape of Bryks: You should all have a program in front of you.

Keefler: That was just the first time lawyers would jump to Bryks' defence. Within weeks, the rabbi again faced serious accusations, his reputation on the line; spiritual leader, school principal, suspected of questionable behaviour with students.

Kovi Smolak: He would be sitting on the bench, and he'd be saying hello to kids, saying good morning, and he'd pick one kid out of the group coming in, and he would say hello and put them on his lap, and tickle them, and you know -- and he's laugh, and be very extra friendly towards them, including me sometimes. And he would tickle them along the whole-- along their bodies.

Keefler: Former student Kovi Smolak says Bryks also played games with boys in their bathing suits at the swimming pool.

Smolak: He would kind of like make a cracking noise, and then he would run his fingers like that, like along here, or shoulders or here, down -- sometimes he would stop here, or sometimes he would just continue going on just down the legs, like that. Like moving his fingers around.

Keefler: For the eight years Smolak was a Torah Academy student. He saw nothing wrong with Bryks' incessant touching. And many teachers and parents welcomed his warm, demonstrative style. When teacher Patti Cohen saw Bryks with a girl on his lap in the school hallway, she didn't like it.

Patti Cohen: I felt uncomfortable with it. I mentioned it to one or two people at the time. And they thought I was being too uptight about it.

Keefler: What people didn't see, many didn't believe. Bryks counselled women, studied with teenage girls, all behind his closed office door. Orthodox Jewish law forbids men from touching or even being alone with a female over the age of three who isn't family. A 14-year-old complained the rabbi often sat on her lap, touch her, tickled her, and talked about sex.

Once, she says, he even licked her face. Synagogue board member Nathan Kabrinski heard the girl's story.

Nathan Kabrinski: This struck me as very inappropriate, and I felt that it should be dealt with.

Keefler: The board didn't go to the police. Didn't contact child welfare agencies. Instead, board members set up their own private inquiry.

Judy Silver.

Silver: We were trying to try him without it going public. We were trying to protect the synagogue.

Keefler: That December 1987, the board, Bryks and his lawyer heard the evidence. The teenager repeated her story. Two women also came forward, accused Bryks of making unwanted sexual advances. They weren't believed.

Kabrinski: The people who brought forth these concerns against the rabbi were publicly humiliated and insulted and called liars. It was at this point that I felt that the whole process that I was participating in was a sham.

Keefler: For three nights, accusations, legal threats, personal attacks.

Kabrinski: We were being threatened collectively for taking a position against the rabbi, that would result in a legal suit. And second of all, we were being threatened individually, because of information that the rabbi had about us and our personal lives, that would be used against us.

Silver: He said quite clearly, I have secrets on all of you.

Keefler: On New Years Day 1988, a final board meeting. Word got out, more than a hundred people rushed to the synagogue. They feared Bryks would be fired.

Kabrinski: The whole auditorium of the synagogue was filled with people shouting and screaming.

Keefler: Board members cast their ballots. The rabbi wasn't fired. Judy Silver and eight other members quit in protest. They paid a price.

Silver: The community at large was incensed. His supporters were even more incensed, and I and my children were shunned. My child was spat on in the synagogue.

Keefler: Dr. Adrian Fein says Bryks' opponents were on a witch hunt.

Fein: Rational, sane, friendly, good people, "God-fearing people" became rabid seekers of the destruction of the rabbi, thinking that he had done these terrible things.

Keefler: The board backed Bryks, but finally asked Winnipeg child and family services to investigate. For two months, social workers talked to 45 people, students, teachers and parents. When the agency issued its report in March 1988, the rabbi supporters called it an exoneration. The board considered the case closed. Bryks kept his job.

Kabrinski: He created the community and he could do no wrong. And so calling him into question was really calling the community into question. It was just not acceptable to do that.

Keefler: The report found Bryks hadn't broken any criminal law. But it did find his tickling and touching "neither appropriate nor professional." And it warned, "If there is a child in the school that is currently being abused, the dynamics of the reaction of staff, fellow students and other adults over the past couple of months might prevent any child from coming forth with disclosure." That's exactly what happened to one girl, who didn't want to be interviewed on camera. A former student told us what she didn't tell Child and Family Services, that Rabbi Bryks fondled her breasts, once laid completely on top of her, touched her, tickled her all the time. When a social worker asked questions, the girl kept quiet. She wasn't the only student who kept a secret. We found another child who claimed he was victimized. In 1989, a year after the Child and Family Services investigation, a seven-year-old boy went to the Winnipeg Police. His parents watched from the next room, listened, as the boy using a doll, alleged Rabbi Bryks molested him in Grade 1. The couple is disguised to protect their son's identity.

Unidentified Parent 1: He showed on the dolls that he had been basically --
I guess, fondled, masturbated --

Unidentified Parent 2: Rubbed.

Unidentified Parent 1: Rubbed, rubbed would be the word. He used the word

Unidentified Parent 2: The rabbi would comment -- get him out of the classroom during a session of class, take him up to the office.

Unidentified Parent 1: And he threatened him.

Unidentified Parent 2: He threatened him that if he were to say this to anyone, the big boys would come and beat him up.

Keefler: Bryks was brought in for questioning by the police. Then let go. Police asked Manitoba's senior crown attorney for an opinion. The word came back, no charges.

Unidentified Parent 1: We were called one day and told that the crown wasn't going to prosecute.

Father: Because they felt that it would be a child's word against the rabbi's word.

Keefler: We asked Child and Family Services why it didn't reopen its investigation into the Torah Academy after the boy went to the police.

CFS director Keith Cooper.

Keith Cooper: It was decided that it would not be productive to try and go in and talk to all the children in the school because of the highly charged atmosphere. That just sort of blocked off children's ability to respond and so on.

Keefler: That atmosphere took its toll on the school, children were pulled out. Bryks stayed on until 1990. Then left Winnipeg. The Torah Academy closed. But we found another child who can't close that chapter of her life. A fourth student, this couple's daughter claims she was molested.

Unidentified Parent 3: It's horrifying, and it's unbelievable.

Keefler: When we come back, we'll have that girl's story, and where Rabbi
Bryksis today.

(Commercial Break)

Keefler: The name of the school has been wiped from the building, but memories are etched in the mind of a 14-year-old girl.

Unidentified Parent 3: I felt unbelievably numb.

Keefler: Last November, this couple's daughter told them she was molested by

Rabbi Bryks in Grade 2. They're disguised to protect the girl's identity.

Unidentified Parent 3: Rabbi Bryks would take her out of class and would take her into his office during school time, and he would make her take off her underwear and -- her stockings, and then he would fondle, her genitalia. She remembers it happening many times. She told me that he told her that if she ever told anybody, that God would punish her.

Unidentified Parent 4: The most painful recent event since her disclosure for me was going up to see how she was in her bedroom. It was just quiet, and I just wanted to see how she was. Going into her bedroom, she was sitting in her closet curled up in a fetal ball listening to Barney tapes with a little Barney book in her hand. I couldn't deal with that.

Keefler: The 14-year-old is in counselling. Her parents say she isn't ready to go to the police.

Unidentified Parent 3: I mean, she's so fragile that this has to be on her own time.

Unidentified Parent 4: She also knows about another boy who did go to the police and nothing happened. Rabbi Bryks is still out there, still teaching school.

Keefler: After Bryks left Winnipeg, an Orthodox Jewish day school in Montreal planned to hire him as principal. A group of parents protested. They'd learned of the investigations by police and Child and Family Services in Winnipeg. The Rabbi wasn't hired. Rabbi Bryks' job search took him across the border to New York City. In 1990, a new Jewish high school also called the Torah Academy opened in Queens. It offers Grade 7 to 12 for both young men and women, most of whom are recent immigrants. In spite of the controversy that followed Bryks from Winnipeg to Montreal, he was hired as the high school's principal. Today, Rabbi Bryks is a success story in Queens' Orthodox community. The school was desperate for a principal, desperate to give young Russian Jews a place to study. Bryks started with an empty building. He now has 400 students, a familiar story, a story we wanted
to talk to him about. Over the phone, he said that "Winnipeg is a part of my life that's behind me" and refused to be interviewed. W

e went to see him in person. Rabbi Bryks, I'm Danielle Keefler with CBC Television. I just wanted to have a moment of your time, Sir, to give you some information on some very serious allegations that have come to our attention.

Bryks: Thank you, but as I mentioned to you yesterday, I really prefer not to discuss this.

Keefler: Daniel Levin, a boy who was at your school, Torah Academy --

Bryks: Thank you very much. I wish you a lot of success.

Keefler: He alleges that you sexually abused him, sir. Did you sexually abuse Daniel Levin?

Bryks: I do not wish to discuss this. Thank you.

Keefler: Did you sexually abuse any children at the Torah Academy?

Bryks: I really have no comment, thank you.

Keefler: Sir, we've spoken to a number of families. A number of their children have come forward and, in great detail, have alleged that you sexually abused them. How do you explain that?

Bryks: I really have no comment.

Keefler: These are very serious allegations, and they're coming forward in
great detail. Are you saying these children are lying?

Bryks: I have no comment.

Keefler: Is there anything you'd like to say also?

Bryks: No. Thank you.

Keefler: Bryks' employers in New York say they checked out his past, and all
they dug up was unsubstantiated rumour, but they knew Child and Family Services investigated the man in Winnipeg, knew he wasn't hired in Montreal. The national body that services all Jewish day schools in North America has no authority over who is hired. The schools are on their own. In Winnipeg, the school's ward, the community, stood by Rabbi Bryks. Many people still do. Joel Mislovski, the board's president at the time, and other board members refused to be interviewed. In a letter, the board defended its decision to keep Bryks on, saying "There were no further occurrences." Many in the Jewish community want the door on the Bryks' affair kept shut, but not the victims' parents.

Unidentified Parent 1: It's time for the community to stop covering it up.
I think there's a -- great fear in the Jewish community because of anti-Semitism that we can't air our dirty laundry, and it's time -- and the Jewish community really has a lot to answer for here.

Keefler: Former board member Judy Silver has many regrets.

Silver: We thought we could keep it among ourselves, keep it a secret, that
no one ever has to know that this happened in our synagogue. Yes, we were ashamed. We were ashamed that we hired this man and let this happen.

Mortin: The irony is you send your child to a school where you think, this of all places, he will be safe.

Sara: We have lost a child through this and nothing, nothing that is ever done to Rabbi Bryks could ever bring him back. Daniel can never come back. His life was destroyed by this.

Keefler: Mortin Levin reaches out to his son every day, a prayer to help guide Daniel's departed soul. Sara Levin mourns through paint therapy.

After a year of mourning, a headstone will replace a simple marker in a Toronto cemetery, Daniel Levin's final resting place. For Prime Time News, I'm Danielle Keefler.

Copyright Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1994. All rights reserved. For
duplication, distribution or exhibition rights to any material contained
herein, copyright release must be received from the Canadian Broadcasting