'Who gave you permission to speak to anybody?' Rabbi Telsner, the leader of the Yeshivah Centre, thundered during his regular weekly sermon. It was a question directed to Manny Waks's father, after Manny had finally gone public with his accusations of sexual abuse and its cover-up within the centre. Manny Waks was raised in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family, the second oldest of 17 children. As an adolescent he was sexually abused at the religious school across the road from where he lived. Betrayed by those he trusted, Manny rebelled against his way of life, though he later went on to become a prominent Jewish community leader. In mid-2011 Manny went public about his experiences to bring justice to the abusers, and those who covered up their crimes. For his courage in speaking out, Manny and his family were intimidated and shunned by their community. Although he has been forced to leave Australia, Manny continues to advocate for survivors and hold those in power to account.
This is the story of a man who shattered a powerful code of silence, the battles he has fought, the vindication he has earned, and the extraordinary toll it has taken on his personal life and that of his loved ones. It is also the raw self-portrait of a man on a mission, trying to live his life. Manny's journey reminds us of the difference one man can make, and the price he has to pay.
Manny Waks was raised in Melbourne, the second oldest of 17 children in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family. In 2011, Manny publicly disclosed his personal experiences of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community and undertook extensive work as a victim advocate, culminating in a royal commission public hearing into Australian Jewish institutions. He is currently CEO of Kol v'Oz, an organisation he established to address child sexual abuse in the global Jewish community. Prior to this, Manny held numerous senior leadership positions within the Australian Jewish community. Michael Visontay has worked for over 30 years as a journalist, author, and lecturer. A former assistant editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, he has ghost-written four books of memoir, including The Happiest Refugee and Undies to Equities: the remarkable life of Henri Aram. His most recent book is Welcome to Wanderland, a history of the Western Sydney Wanderers football club.