Queens Courier - May 28, 2003
A rabbi from Kew Gardens Hills has resigned from the rabbinical organization that was reportedly on the brink of casting him out because of long-standing sexual abuse allegations.
Rabbi Ephraim Bryks, who was first accused of abusing a Canadian boy in the 1980's, resigned last week as a member of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also agreed to leave Jewish teaching. Bryks co-founded the Yeshiva Berachel David in Kew Gardens Hills where he is presently an administrator.
"He wanted to make it very clear that his resignation should not be seen as an admission of guilt," Rabbi Hershel Billet, council president, told Newsday.
Bryks, 49, still denies allegations regarding Daniel Levin, a 16-year-old Canadian boy whom he is accused of abusing as a small child. Daniel was a congregant at the Winnipeg, Manitoba, synagogue where Bryks was rabbi and ran a Jewish day school beginning in 1978. The boy, who had been struggling with depression, committed suicide on Yom Kippur in 1993. Months earlier he had told his parents about being sexually molested by the rabbi.
Accusations by the Levin family are only some of several involving other children that have haunted Bryks since he left Winnipeg for the Torah Academy, a Kew Gardens yeshiva. The academy–a high school where he was administrator–fired him in 1994 after hearing a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) news report that quoted a former student and two families who said their children had also been abused. Bryks would later sue CBC for the report, as well as Cable News Network, which ran the CBC report, but the cases were dismissed on technicalities.
After an extensive investigation, Manitoba authorities announced in 1995 that they would not prosecute Bryks. The child welfare authorities in Winnipeg did their own investigation at that time and found that there was no significant evidence.
No criminal charges have ever been filed against Bryks, who plans to continue life as a private citizen. But accusations made his career an arduous one, preventing his hiring by one congregation and drawing concern from colleagues. The Queens Va'ad Harabonim, an important council of Queens rabbis, has talked of removing him.
"A person shouldn't have something like this hanging over his head," Manny Behar, executive director of the Queens Jewish Community Council, told Newsday."If it's true, it should be verified true and then he probably shouldn't be teaching in a school. If it's not true, he deserves to have his good name restored."
Bryks was not reachable for comment by press time.
CBC Alleges Rabbi is Child Molester
By Gil Kezwer
Jewish Life (March 1994), Cover page (continued page 14)
A shame and a disgrace. An embarrassment for the Jewish people. A desecration of God's holy name. Those were among the reactions in the Toronto Jewish community to the broadcast February 28 and March 1 on CBC Prime Time News of shocking allegations that Rabbi Ephraim Bryks, 39, formerly the principal of Winnipeg's Torah Academy, molested students in his charge.
Equally appalling was the report that Daniel Levin of Glengrove Avenue, one of the four children who have accused Rabbi Bryks of sexual abuse, committed suicide this past Yom Kippur after Metro Police asked the Oakwood Collegiete Grade 12 student to re-record a statement he had made in June 1993. The police tape machine had been faulty at the first recording. With the complainant dead and his testimony erroneously not recorded, Toronto Police were forced to drop the case.
Levin, 17 at the time of his tragic death, studied at the Orthodox Jewish school in the Manitoba capital from kindergarten through Grade Two, when his family moved to Montreal and later Toronto. For seven years the boy was in denial about the traumatic abuse he had suffered , CBC alleges, but then his life began to unravel. After his parents, Sara and Mortin Levin, separated, the tormented youth, then 14, became unable to concentrate at school. Prone to explosive fits of rage, he started treatment with psychotherapist Kristen Balmer.
In May 1993, after three years of counselling, Levin was able to recall long-suppressed memories. His mother told CBC: "He [Rabbi Bryks] was fondling his [Levin's] genitals first over his clothes, and then he opened his pants." The boy told his mother that afterwards the rabbi gave him an Elite peppermint and warned him God would punish him if he spoke about the sex abuse.
His mother added: "And then he [her son] had a memory and started coughing and spitting out mucous...and crying.
And he said that he was in the office, and Rabbi Bryks put his penis in Daniel's mouth.
Psychotherapist Balmer said "I watched him cry, and there's no question he was telling the truth." Levin had told her, "I don't want this to continue any more. I don't want any other person to have to go through what I went through."
One former student, who did not wish to be interviewed on camera told CBC that Rabbi Bryks fondled her breasts. Another girl, today 14 told her parents that when she was in Grade Two the rabbi would frequently remove her from her classroom and take her to his office where he would take off her underwear and fondle her genitalia. She also said that he cautioned her God would punish her if she told anyone.
The unidentified parent said: "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."
The girl is now in counselling, and her parents say she isn't ready to go to the police.
Rabbi Bryks is a native of Denver, Colorado. His father, Lejzor, also an Orthodox rabbi, hanged himself in 1971 amid rumours of financial scandal. That same year Ephraim began yeshiva studies leading to rabbinic smicha. Graduating in 1978, he came to Winnipeg where he transformed the small Herzlia Adas Yeshurun Synagogue into a major congregation.
A highly ambitious and charismatic personality, within two years he had set up a day school as well as his own kosher hasgacha (supervision) and beit din (rabbinical court). His critics accused him of megalomania and said he was obsessed with power. But his supporters said he was an idealist and a visionary unwilling to compromise on issues of halacha (Jewish law).
Questions about Rabbi Bryks began surfacing. CBC's Danielle Keefler stated that he boasted in a Winnipeg journal of a law degree from the State of Israel, and that he was a dayan (religious judge). In fact he was a mere Yeshiva student, and Israel doesn't give out law degrees.
CBC alleged Rabbi Bryks plagiarized his column in The Jewish Post and News from another rabbi's book. In November 1987, Winnipeg's Va'ad Rabbanim (Rabbinic Council wrote a scathing letter to the editor accusing Rabbi Bryks of "plagiarism" and "theft". But libel chill set in after Bryks' lawyer threatened a lawsuit. The letter was never published.
In December 1987 the synagogue board heard allegations of sexual improprieties from a 14-year- old student. Her story, as well as accounts of unwanted sexual advances by two women congregants, simply were not believed. Nine members of the congregation quit in protest. They were ridiculed and humiliated by Rabbi Bryks' supporters.
Though the synagogue board backed the rabbi, they asked Winnipeg Child and Family Services to investigate. For two months, social workers interviewed 45 students, teachers and parents. The CFS issued a report in March 1988 noting that while Rabbi Bryks hadn't broken any criminal law, his incessant tickling and touching of students was "neither appropriate nor professional".
The Jewish community tried to hush up the controversy, fearing it would either lead to anti- semitism or personal repercussions within the community. Specifically Rabbi Bryks.
The troubling questions of whether Rabbi Bryks was a child molester wouldn't go away. He finally left Winnipeg in 1990, and the Torah Academy closed down. The rabbi was offered a position as principal of an Orthodox Jewish day school in Montreal. But a group of irate parents informed the academy of the investigations of Bryks by Winnipeg Police and Family and Child Services. The job was withdrawn. He then was hired as principal of the Torah Academy in Queens, N.Y., a new school for immigrant youth from the former Soviet Union that was desperate to attract a qualified administrator.
CBC's Danielle Keefler went tp New York to interview the rabbi there. Stopped on the street, he would only say "no comment" and that "Winnipeg is a part of my life that is behind me" when asked about the allegations against him.
"People that are ill should not be put into positions where they can hurt others with illness," observed a psychologist and prominent member of the Lubavitch community here, his voice tinged with sorrow.
"There is sexual abuse within the community," said Gordon Wolfe, executive director of Toronto's Jewish Family and Child Service. In 1993, the JF&CS investigated 70 cases of alleged sexual abuse involving minors, of which 34 were intra-familial. Ten of the cases led to criminal charges. Wolfe was unaware of the number of convictions.
As well, Wolfe reported 120 incidents of physical abuse involving children, of which eight led to charges. "What you saw there [in the allegations against Bryks] is part of the pattern that often exists in this kind of behaviour. It doesn't surprise me that the children didn't say anything for a long time before coming forth. It doesn't surprise me that many people did not believe them. And it doesn't surprise me that enormous pressure was brought on the Winnipeg Child and Family Service to not pursue their investigation, particularly because he was a rabbi."
In an interview with Jewish Life after the broadcast, Sara Levin said that she remains optimistic that at least one of the students Rabbi Bryks is alleged to have abused — some of whom are in counselling and drug treatment today -- will one day be able to be strong enough to come forward and testify.
"I would like to see him brought to justice, to stand trial for the things he's done."
And with terrible sadness in her eyes, she added, "So many people knew little things but we never put them together. We never suspected."
WARNING: Rabbi Ephraim Bryks and Marriage Counseling
Ephrayim Bryks has become a rabbinic marriage counselor. The term marriage counselor or life coach can be used by anyone. He is not the only "rabbi" suspected of sexual abuse using one of these titles to access vulnerable individuals or couples both here and in Israel. Consulting actual professionals is expensive and unless the community publicly warns against going to these charlatans (often worse) many innocents will continue to be hurt.
Rabbi Yosef Blau
CALL TO ACTION: Contact Rabbi Paysach Krohn and Demand he stop promoting alleged child molester, Rabbi Ephraim Bryks. Remind him if another child is harmed that he could be held liable in a civil suit.
Rabbi Paysach Krohn, Certified Mohel
Toll Free: 866-846-6900
CALL TO ACTION: Asking Herzlia-Adas Yeshurun Synagogue to have the plaque removed honoring Rabbi Ephraim Bryks .
Rabbi Tzvi Muller at Herzlia - Adas Yeshurun Synagogue
620 Brock St., Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3N 0Z4
Phone: (204) 489-6262 Fax: (204) 489-5899
This past Yom Kippur marked the 13th anniversary of the suicide of Daniel Levin an alleged victim of Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks (http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/bryks_ephraim.html). It is a difficult time in particular for his family and friends as Daniel's alleged abuser has never been brought to real justice (if such a thing is even possible at this point) and continues to thrive and work with women and children, not in some small Jewish community but in the New York Orthodox Jewish community.
The Winnipeg Jewish community and Bryks' former Orthodox Union affiliated synagogue, Herzlia Adas Yeshurun (the site of Daniel's abuse), continue to refuse any acknowledgment or responsibility. No apology, no compassion. A plaque honoring Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks remains on the synagogue's "Tree of Life." All Daniel has is a tombstone in a cemetery.
The Awareness Center Has A Call to Action asking everyone to contact Herzlia Adas Yeshurun and ask them to remove the plaque, and perhaps replace it with a plaque honoring the memory of Daniel Levin (see contact information above). For more information regarding the Bryks case, go to: http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/Bryks_Ephraim.html
Vicki Polin, MA, ATR, LCPC
Executive Director - The Awareness Center=================================================================
Rabbi Ephraim Bryks - Monday Nights at 8:30pm
Location : Lefrak Jewish Center Map
98-15 Horace Harding Expwy, Corona 11368
Hudson Valley Resort
June 22-24, 2007
9th Annual Weekend Retreat!!
This wonderful weekend will be filled with inspiration,Torah education, rejuvenation, wonderful speakers, excellent food, and many fun & great activities for everyone!!
Guest Speaker at the Shabbaton, Rabbi Ephraim Bryks!
Guest Speaker at the Shabbaton, Rabbi Paysach Krohn!
Glatt Kosher catering by Meal Mart!
$ Shabbaton Pricelist $
$650 per couple with 2 children
$600 per couple without children
$225 per additional room
$150 per single individual
$75 per each additional child (ages 3-16)
Children under 3 years old are complimentary!!
phone: (718) 591-9574
Case of Rabbi Lewis Brenner
(AKA: Louis Brenner, Lipa Brenner, Lippa Brenner)
Convicted of child molestation. The original charges included 14 counts of sodomy, sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. He agreed to plead guilty to one count of sodomy in the third degree, a Class E felony, in exchange for a sentence of five years' probation.
Prosecutors said Brenner had sexual contact with a youth he met in the bathroom of the temple they both attended. The molestations allegedly took place over a three-year period that ended in 1995 when the victim was 15 years old.
Note: Rabbi Lewis Brenner's daughter Yochevad, is married to Rabbi Ephraim Bryks.
If anyone has a photograph of Rabbi Lipa Brenner, please forward it to The Awareness Center
Video and audio lectures by Rabbi Ephraim Byrks
Vote for Rescue 911 to be released on DVD at http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/showinfo.cfm?showID=3531 and to be put back on television at http://www.petitiononline.com/res911/petition.html (more) (less)