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Rabbi Bryks

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

Rabbi Henry Balser



By Rhonda J. Spivak, B.A., L.L.B., January 5, 2011

The case of Rabbi Ephraim Bryks who has been dogged by allegations of sexual abuse against children, but never charged with a crime will be the subject matter of part of an episode in a documentary series currently being produced by Apocryphal Productions for Vision Television.
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.

"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 th 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." 

Tanya Fleet of Apocryphal Productions, who is researching visual material for the documentary series, told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that the series will consider “the issue of sexual abuse or allegations thereof pertaining to children in religious communities… The themes to be examined are why it is prevalent, why is it kept quiet, and what is now being done to try and stop potential abuse. We will talk to experts in the fields, activists, survivors and their families.”
According to Fleet, the series which is being produced by Christopher Sumpton and Robin Benger, will deal with these issues 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.

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] has been interviewed for the upcoming documentary series.
Levin, currently lives in Toronto and is the book editor of the Globe and Mail.
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.

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.

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.”
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.”
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.

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

Rabbi Balser told the Winnipeg Jewish Review “I almost broke into tears when I read [in the Winnipeg Jewish Review] that Herzlia Synagogue f

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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.