Remembering Daniel Levin zt'l (1976 - 1993)
Does God really punish children who talk about being abused? This is exactly the threat that accused serial sexual predator -- Rabbi Ephraim Bryks has been telling his victims for the last four decades.
On Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement -- we should all be thinking of a life that was taken way too soon. This Saturday will mark the twentieth anniversary of when a young teenage boy by the name of Daniel Levin zt'l committed suicide.
Daniel never stood a chance at life after he was allegedly sexually assaulted by his elementary school principal, Rabbi Ephraim Bryks. His abuse began when he started kindergarten and ended when he was in second grade, when his family moved away from the Torah Academy in Winnipeg, Canada.
Daniel’s story is not unlike so many other survivors. Like so many other young children, he was sworn to secrecy –– believing his offender words “that God would punish him if he told anyone”. Needless to say, Daniel suffered most of his short life in silence.
Both Sarah and Martin Levin only wanted the best for all of their children, which is why they wanted young Daniel to have a solid Jewish education. According to Sarah Levin, “A Jewish education teaches a person how to live for the rest of their lives.”
According to Daniel Levin’s parents, prior to meeting Rabbi Ephraim Bryks, Daniel was the type of child who always had a smile on his face, yet as he got older this jovial child’s behavior dramatically changed.
As a teenager Daniel’s smile masked his horrendous painful and dark secret. Just like Daniel, it is not uncommon for children who were sexually abused at an early age, who had never disclosed their abuse histories –– who never learned how to identify or process their thoughts or feelings, to have difficulties concentrating in school or to be prone to explosive fits of rage.
At the age of fourteen Daniel started therapy. Three years later he stunned his parents by disclosing that he had been sexually assaulted by Rabbi Bryks. Daniel went on to share that after each assault, Rabbi Bryks would give Daniel a peppermint candy and warned him that if told anyone “that God would punish him”. Daniel’s abuse did not just include fondling, and masterbation. According to reports, Rabbi Ephraim Bryks also demanded that this early elementary school aged child, also perform oral sex on him.
Daniel and his family eventually went to the Toronto police. With a great deal of courage Daniel was able to give a recorded statement. At the time Daniel expressed to his therapist that he didn’t want anyone else to ever have to go through what he experienced –– and wanted to do what it took to stop Rabbi Ephraim Bryks from harming anyone else.
Several months later Daniel’s mother Sarah received an unexpected phone call from the Toronto police. They explained to her that their tape machine was faulty and hadn’t recorded Daniel’s statement, and they wanted him to do it all over again.
The new interview was supposed to happen a week later, right after Yom Kippur. Unfortunately, Daniel Levin never lived long enough to make another interview. Daniel took his own life in the afternoon on Yom Kippur (1993). Daniel hung himself. One can only wonder what was going on in Daniel Levin’s mind when he chose to end his own life –– especially since Rabbi Bryks “warned him” that God would punish him if he broke his silence.
Like many other survivors of child abuse, Daniel had difficulties talking about his experiences, yet was able to use art therapy to express the thoughts and feelings he was unable to verbalize. Unfortunately, his art work, nor the statements by his therapist or parents was enough evidence for the Toronto Police to prosecute this alleged sexual predator, and they felt they had no other option but to drop the case.
But the saga of Rabbi Ephraim Bryks didn’t just end with Daniel Levin. Since the death of Daniel Levin, there have been several other suicides linked to Bryks’ alleged sex crimes.
The truth is that Rabbi Ephraim Bryks not only allegedly assaulted young boys, - over the years it has been learned he also allegedly molested girls, both in elementary and high school and went on to manipulate adult women into having sexual relationships with. The alleged assaults occurred behind Rabbi Bryks’ closed office door -- in the guise of providing private Torah lessons or spiritual counseling. All of this violates Halacha (Jewish law), which states that an orthodox man is forbidden to be alone with a female who is over the age of three, who isn’t family. Let alone touching a woman that he is not married to.
Today, Rabbi Ephraim Bryks lives in Queens, NY. He currently is the principal of a Jewish high school that caters to russian immigrants. Every few years The Awareness Center get calls from young women who disclose that they too were sexually violated or manipulated by Rabbi Bryks. All of these women came from very religious homes –– and out of fear have chosen not to make police reports nor to have him prosecuted. The fear repeatedly has been that if they went to the police, not only would they loose the connections they have with their families and communities, they would also either never find a good marriage partner or their husbands would divorce them and they would loose custody of their children.