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Rabbi Bryks

Rabbi Dr. Charles Grysman

Noah Erenberg, producer of Winnipeg produced CBC documentary re: Rabbi Bryks case.


By Rhonda J. Spivak, B.A., L.L.B., May 12, 2011

The case of Rabbi Ephraim Bryks who has been dogged by allegations of sexual abuse against children, but never charged with a crime was the subject matter of part of an episode in a documentary series entitled “Sex Scandals in Religion”
produced by Apocryphal Productions for Vision Television.
The episode in which the Bryk’s case wass dealt with was aired on Monday May 16, at 10: 30 p.m. 
According to the Jewish Week, [New York] June 29, 2010, "Rabbi Bryks, who was investigated by police in Winnipeg, on suspicion of inappropriate contact with children at Winnipeg’s Torah Academy where he was principal, resigned from the Orthodox Union’s Rabbinical Council of America in 2003 without admitting any wrongdoing. Bryks, "reached a negotiated agreement to leave the Rabbinical Board of Queens in the fall of 2009," as indicated in the Jewish Week
Notwithstanding the allegations of sexual abuse, Rabbi Bryk’s currently has a blog which was updated several days ago on May 4, 2011 where he posts torah commentary on the weekly parsha.
On his blog Rabbi Bryks describes himself as lecturing on “Shalom Bais” (sanctity and peace in the home) and helping “couples resolve their marital issues.”
Here is how Rabbi Bryks describes himself on his blog:
“Rabbi Ephraim Bryks is a graduate of Ner Yisroel and Yeshiva Beis Hatalmud of Jerusalem. He has smicha (Rabbinic Ordination) in Yoreh Yoreh/Yodin Yodin from numerous Rabbonim and Gedolai Yisroel. He currently heads the Beis Din of Queens and is an active member in numerous Rabbinic organizations. He lectures on a weekly basis and is often consulted on matters of halacha especially hilchos Gitten and Chosen Mishpat.
“As a Rov with many years of experience he also lectures on Sholom Bayis and helps couples resolve their marital issues. In cases of divorce Rabbi Bryks often acts as a mediator to resolve all the issues peacefully and amicably. Working with the legal system and the Batei Dinim he is also available to represent you on a Beis din or din Torah and bemesader the “Get” when the time comes.”
[Needless to say, there is no mention on his blog of any of the allegations of sexual abuse that have dogged Rabbi Bryks.] The blog has a contact section, but it does not leave any contact information {ie phone number, address) to contact Bryks. However, readers of the blog can give their contact info and submit it to him and ask questions or leave comments. [This editor has way too many questions to ask Rabbi Bryks for the allotted space].
"Rabbi Bryks, as principal of the Torah Academy in Winnipeg was found in 1988 to have tickled and hugged some students, but denied more serious charges of sexual molestation, according to press reports. While the more serious charges were not substantiated by an investigation by Winnipeg social workers, the substantiated contact was deemed inappropriate and the Winnipeg Child and Family Services agency recommended that the school adopt guidelines against such behavior," according the Jewish Week. The school closed in 1991, about a year after Rabbi Bryks left Winnipeg.
Allan Levine in  his recent book “Coming of Age,” on p.420, refers to "the agency issuing a report that concluded that Bryks' behavior of having children sit on his lap while he tickled them was "neither appropriate nor professional",  but not illegal." 
In 1993, after Rabbi Bryks moved to New York, a former student in Winnipeg accused him of having fondled him at the school when the student was 8, but prosecutors reportedly declined to file criminal charges, citing lack of corroboration. When the boy, Daniel Leven. at age 17, was asked to re-record a statement he had given earlier, he committed suicide. 


Martin Levin [Daniel’s father] will be on the upcoming episode of the documentary series on May 16. Levin, currently lives in Toronto and is the book editor of the Globe and Mail.

Levine in his recent book “Coming of Age,” on p.420 writes that “Daniel Levin alleged that Bryks molested him." He further wrote "According to Sarah Levin, [Daniel’s mother] Bryks had given Daniel candy to keep him quiet and told him that God would punish him if he ever told anyone what had transpired. This threat of retribution was echoed by other children who came forward.”
This week the Winnipeg Jewish Review spoke with Rabbi Charles Grysman, a Winnipegger now living in Toronto.  Rabbi Grysman is the Rabbi of Zichron Israel Congregation of Associated Hebrew Schools [and a reader of the Winnipeg Jewish Review].
Rabbi Grysman, who is an orthodox Rabbi received his smicha from the Ner Yisroel Yeshiva by Rabbi Gedalia Felder, z”l, the AV Bet Din of Toronto. He was the Director of Jewish Studies and later Vice Principal of Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate during the time when the allegations of sexual abuse by Rabbi Bryks became public.
When asked about the allegations against Rabbi Bryks, Rabbi Grysman, who also holds a Doctorate in Jewish Education and an MSW degree from Yeshiva University, says for the record, “I was never a supporter of Rabbi Bryks.”
A previous documentary was made on the case of Rabbi Bryks by CBC Television and produced by Noah Erenberg, a member of our Jewish community and a graduate of the Joseph Wolinsky class of 1982. The documentary was hosted by the late Danielle Keefler and aired nationally in February 1994.

Levine’s book says on page 421, “Attempts by Rabby Bryks to sue CBC and CNN, which also broadcast the documentary, were discontinued for lack of funds.”

Noah Erenberg's name is not mentioned in Levine's book on pages 419-421.

When asked to comment on the CBC documentary made by Noah Erenberg about the allegations against Bryks, Rabbi Grysman applauded Erenberg’s efforts, “I am proud to have been Noah Erenberg’s teacher. I think he was courageous in making this documentary and I have always been proud to see his commitment to the protection and welfare of children.”

When asked if he was ever contacted by Alan Levine for his book which deals with the Bryks saga on pages 419-421, Rabbi Gryman says he never spoke to Levine. Rabbi Grysman says that to the best of his knowledge Levine never tried to contact him. Grysman’s name is not mentioned in regard to the Bryks episode in Levine’s book.
Herzlia Adas Yeshurun Synagogue in Winnipeg, where Rabbi Bryks served, took down the plaques in his honour on the Tree of Life in the lobby of the synagogue in September, 2010. Herzlia's actions, close to 17 years after  Levin's suicide, occurred less than two months after members of the Jewish community in Winnipeg had a full opportunity to read the article by Adam Dickter, Assistant Managing Editor of the Jewish Week (New York), June 29, 2010 , which was posted in the latter part of July, 2010 on this website and elsewhere. To read this article click on Rabbi  Ephraim Bryks Leaves Rabbinical Board of Queens Under A  Cloud.
When asked to comment on the fact that Herzlia synagogue took down the plaques in honour of Rabbi Bryks this past September, Rabbi Grysman responded “I think that Herzlia’s taking down the plaques was a very good thing...I think it’s wonderful that Rabbi Ellis [the current Rabbi at Herzlia] did something to begin a process whereby that community could heal.”

In the email sent to Herzlia membership days before Yom Kippur this past year, Dr. Earl Hershfield, President of the Board of Herzlia wrote:

 “In response to repeated requests, and after much deliberation, the Board of Directors of Herzlia – Adas Yeshurun has decided to remove all plaques on the Tree of Life in the Shul lobby dedicated in honour of [Rabbi] Ephraim Bryks”[emphasis added].

He also wrote “As a Shul, we have a responsibility to provide moral and ethical leadership for our community.”
In the same email, he wrote “In accordance with a recent resolution taken by the Rabbinical Council of America, Herzlia – Adas Yeshurun condemns all forms of abuse in the strongest terms. Policies and procedures are being developed by your Board to direct future action. Reporting suspected abuse to the appropriate authorities does not violate the Torah’s prohibition of mesirah (turning a fellow Jew over to a non-Jewish authority) or arka’ot (adjudicating cases in a secular court). We are obligated by Jewish law to do so as the concern for saving a life and respecting the law of land are paramount.”

The  documentary new series will deal with the issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic community, the Evangelical Christian community, as well as in Judaism and Islam. The painful saga relating to Rabbi Bryks in Winnipeg will be part of an episode that will focus on orthodoxy in Judaism, and will also deal with the orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. Former Winnipegger Alan Mendelsohn is the producer of the episode of the series relating to the Jewish community. Mendelsohn has previously worked at the CBC as a producer at The Journal

In January 2011, The Winnipeg Jewish Review has spoken to Rabbi Henry Balser who is now living in Florida.

In his book, Levine writes on page 420 “Bryks was nearly hired to head a Jewish school in Montreal until parents there learned of the allegations in Winnipeg.”

Rabbi Balser told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he was giving spiritual advice and comfort to a family who came to him, alleging their child had been molested by Rabbi Bryks.

Rabbi Balser told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that “the vice principal from the Montreal [school] contacted me on the advice of an orthodox Rabbi.”
Rabbi Balser said, “I relied not just on the word of the family that I spoke with. I also did some investigation of my own, and decided then that I was on solid ground in telling the Rabbi in Montreal that I would not recommend Bryks.”
Rabbi Balser told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he told the Montreal Rabbi this even though he feared potentially being sued by Bryks.
Balser also told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he was thankful that Shaarey Zedek Synagogue backed him up and was willing to pay any related legal fees he may have had to incur in so doing.
When asked if he had ever spoken to the school in Montreal where Rabbi Bryks was nearly hired, Rabbi Grysman said he had not as “by that time I had left Winnipeg.”


Rabbi Grysman said that he did not realize that Rabbi Balser had been treating a family whose child had alleged that their son was sexually abused by Rabbi Bryks, until he read this in the Winnipeg Jewish Review.

In his book on page 419, Levine writes that the "biggest controversy in the Herzlia's history-in fact, arguably the most controversial matter in the annals of the Winnipeg Jewish community-involved Rabbi Bryk's..." [emphasis added].

In his book on page 420  Levine refers to the Winnipeg-produced CBC television documentary about Bryks as "controversial."
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.