Top rabbi ‘covered up’ child sex abuse
A SENIOR rabbi in Sydney has stepped aside from his high-profile post while he fights “false and defamatory allegations” that he supported a cover-up of child molestation by not reporting it to police.
Amid mounting pressure, Rabbi Yosef Feldman removed himself on Monday as president of the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales.
His resignation followed a report in last Friday’s Australian Jewish News which alleged that, according to Rabbi Feldman, rabbis should determine whether or not paedophiles should be reported to authorities.
Rabbi Feldman’s alleged comments were met with strong criticism from representatives of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, the Sydney Beth Din and the Melbourne Beth Din, who all stated that there was a halachic obligation to report suspected child abuse cases to police.
The controversial report in the AJN comes in the wake of a police investigation in June into revelations of child abuse at Melbourne’s Yeshivah College two decades ago.
In a statement on Monday, Rabbi Feldman said he has “at all times publicly endorsed the unanimous view of the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales under his presidency — that all acts of abuse must be reported to the police”.
He said his alleged comments were contained in an “internal email exchange among rabbis in which there was academic discussion of a range of views held by international scholars on how to deal with situations not subject to mandatory reporting”.
The front-page headline and blistering editorial, which called on the rabbi to stand down and for the Rabbinical Council “to not just brush off the views he expressed but to publicly denounce them”, prompted Rabbi Feldman to consider a legal case against the newspaper this week for publishing “false and defamatory allegations”.
The Rabbinical Council accepted R a b b i F e l d man’s decision to stand aside but attacked t h e n e wspaper’ s “reckless and sensationalist portrayal” of his alleged views, while “unreservedly and emphatically” condemning all forms of child abuse and the protection of perpetrators.
“It is a sad day for the Jewish community when the largest-circulation Jewish newspaper in Australia has stooped to the level of a cheap tabloid,” the council said in a statement.
But the editor of the AJN, Zeddy Lawrence, who is a former editor of the UK Jewish News, said: “We stand by our story and we believe a number of senior rabbis and community leaders support us.”