Rebbetzin issues an apology to Manny Waks

October 7, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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Rebbetzin Pnina Feldman has issued an apology to child sexual abuse advocate Manny Waks for language used in an email sent to the found of Tzedek on the eve of Yom Kippur.

Following the apology, J-Wire publishes the original chain of correspondence between Pnina Feldman and Manny Waks.

Rebbetzin Feldman is wife of Head Chabad Emissary to NSW/Spiritual Leader of Sydney’s Yeshiva Centre, Rabbi Pinchus Feldman and is the most senior Chabad Rebbetzin/woman in Australia. Rabbi Feldman came to Australia from Brooklyn in 1968 at the behest of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Manny Waks is the founder of Tzedek, an advocacy group established to assist vicitms of child sexual abuse.

From Rebbetzin Pnina Feldman to Manny Waks:

Rebbetzin Pnina Feldman

Rebbetzin Pnina Feldman

Recently I received an email directly from the Waks family requesting that I sign a petition against Yeshivah in Melbourne.

I did not read the email at the time and only opened it on Friday as I was going through my unread emails.

As it was the day before Yom Kippur, the day of atonement and a time of introspection, I personally decided to respond to the email by sending a private email to Manny Waks, which he has chosen to publicise.

The intent of the email was that I agree with all efforts to prosecute pedophiles but take issue with some aspects of Manny’s crusade against Melbourne Yeshivah, one example being the trumped up and ludicrous accusations levelled against Rabbi Avrohom Glick, which Manny ultimately apologised for.

In the email I also offered Manny some personal advice, being that Yeshiva in Sydney provided significant support and succor to him when he was a teenager and I do care for his wellbeing.

In my robust and emotional email I employed offensive language which I remorsefully regret and unreservedly apologize for.

I also want to apologize for any perceived trivialization of the impact of child abuse on victims.

Molestation is a devastating crime, violating the intimacy and innocence of the pure and defenseless. The victim is left feeling that there is something wrong with the world in which he or she lives. Perpetrators of molestation should be reported to the police and prosecuted appropriately. Any person, organization or entity that stands by silently is abetting in the crime and must do everything in its power to ensure that children are safe at all times.

May G-d bless all those who engage in the important and holy work of advancing child protection and safety, both physically and spiritually.

Manny Waks ‘s reaction to the apology. “I’m pleased that Rebbetzin Feldman has now publicly apologised for her vile and offensive email. I accept her apology despite the fact that:
• she’s a repeat offender (she has previously publicly attacked my family as “massers” – collaborators by cooperating with the police regarding these matters);
• the apology was reportedly made due to rabbinic pressure; and
• she has not sent the apology directly to me (although she has my contact details).

I do not intend to address some of the falsehoods and inaccuracies contained in her public statement. As I said, I accept her apology and we can now move on.”

The original e-mail sent by Waks’s father:

I pass this on because I believe it is very important. I am happy to give more information as to the background of this, by email or telephone.
Cheers,
Zephaniah Waks

From: Manny Waks
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 08:54
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: Grassroots petition re Yeshivah

Hi,

Manny Waks

Manny Waks

This email is to advise of a grassroots petition which has been launched today by Jews for Justice for Yeshivah’s Victims (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jews-for-Justice-for-Yeshivahs-Victims/590380737735279). This is not a Tzedek petition. Tzedek was consulted regarding the impact such a petition would have on the victims. It is our view that it would be warmly welcomed by most.

Petition: https://www.change.org/p/rabbi-avrohom-glick-and-don-wolf-apologise-to-the-innocent-victims-who-were-sexually-abused-as-children-on-your-watch-and-resign-from-all-positions-of-leadership

The Age article: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/petition-calls-for-senior-yeshivah-leaders-to-resign-20140921-10jrm7.html

Please consider signing this petition and sharing it widely. It is the right thing to do for the many victims and it is the right thing to do for our community. Please take a stand.

Enough! No more silence.

Thanks & regards,
Manny


Manny Waks
Founder & CEO
Tzedek
www.tzedek.org.au

Rebbetzin Feldman says she only read this on Erev Yom Kippur and sent the following email in response. The apology issued relates to part of its content:

From: Pnina Feldman
Sent: Friday, October 3, 2014 05:11
To: waks wigs
Subject: Re: Grassroots petition re Yeshivah Centre Melbourne

Hi Manny,
Why do you keep highlighting Yeshiva?! Before the pedophile issues you went running to The Age re BER issues. There’s always something with you and Yeshiva. Get over it already- whatever it is that makes you think that attacking Yeshiva justifies your not being frum. There is something very ugly and personal about your antiYeshiva campaign. Just because a security guard molested you don’t blame Yeshiva!

 

[At this point the Rebbetzin makes reference to an incident of sexual abuse which J-Wire understands happened 50 years ago. The perpetrator committed suicide less than a year after the incident.]

I haven’t met a person yet with one nice word to say about you. Most people consider you a lowlife- not because of any molestation,which wasn’t your fault, but because of your malicious blame game which is unjust, unwarranted, undeserved and wicked. The person you hurt most by that is yourself and your own psyche and spiritual and emotional wellbeing. I realise you may go on hate campaign against me now, but like yourself, I have no fear in saying it as it is when I feel passionate about something.
Erev Yom Kippur. Get the pedophiles. That’s fine. But get the hate out of your heart or at least try to control it. That hate is very bad for you personally as it doesn’t allow you peace of mind or any form of internal harmony or happiness.
Words from the heart.
A Gmar Tov to you and yours,
Rebzn Pnina Feldman

Manny Waks’s reply to Rebbetzin Feldman:

Dear Rebbetzin Pnina Feldman,

 

Last night I didn’t attend synagogue for Kol Nidrei. Instead, I reflected on your email, on the callousness of your words. You may not be aware that, sadly, a synagogue is one of the most uncomfortable places for me to be in. This may have something to do with the fact that I was sexually abused inside a synagogue – inside the Melbourne Yeshivah synagogue.

 

It seems clear that you have no insight into the long-term and often profound impact of child sexual abuse. Perhaps my Victim Impact Statement, which I read out in court on 16 December 2013, will shed some light: http://www.tzedek.org.au/victims-testimonies.html#Manny%20Waks

Perhaps the Victim Impact Statement of another Melbourne Yeshivah victim, which I read out in court on their behalf, will be of value:http://www.tzedek.org.au/victims-testimonies.html#Victim%20Impact%20Statement:%20David%20Kramer%20case

And tragically there are many others available as well.

Let me be clear, I do not seek sympathy. I seek understanding. I seek compassion. For myself, and for the many other victims of child sexual abuse, many of whom endured unspeakable pain – both during the abuse itself and subsequently.

Even if we take the most conservative estimate of the number of victims of child sexual abuse within the broader community – around 1 in 10 children are sexually abused before they turn 18 (some estimate it at around 1 in 5) – it is clear that the scourge of child sexual abuse is endemic. Nothing suggests that it is any different within the Jewish community. In fact, I would argue that there is now sufficient anecdotal evidence to suggest that the rates would be even higher within our community.

Regardless, it would seem reasonable to assume that you would know victims of abuse, perhaps even a friend or a relative. In all likelihood you would not be aware of this as they would probably not feel comfortable disclosing their abuse to someone with the views that you hold. If anyone has indeed disclosed their abuse to you, I shudder to think the ramifications of that conversation.

I deliberately chose to send this email to you now – the exact time that you would be sitting in synagogue for what is one of the most important prayers, Neilah. As you would know, it is the closing prayer on this most sacred day in the Jewish calendar. It is when you are expected to ask God to accept your repentance, and ask to be sealed in the Book of Life. I sincerely hope that you have indeed repented for the damage that you have caused, not least to our community. And of course I hope that God, if indeed He exists, grants you a long life.

Notwithstanding the damage you have caused, I would also like to express my appreciation for providing me with the opportunity to continue to raise awareness of the issue of child sexual abuse. Thankfully the decades of silence have been replaced by the desire to learn and improve, and to correct past wrongs – at least for most within our community. While significant progress has been made, your email – and the views and actions of some of your colleagues – highlights just how far we still have to go. So thank you.

As a matter of courtesy, below is the public statement I issued yesterday in response to your email.

Wishing you well, especially in your capacity to say and do the right things in the future.

 

Manny Waks

Manny Waks then issued the following statement:

“I’m truly shocked and horrified that Rebbetzin Feldman has deliberately chosen the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar, to launch an unprovoked, vile and offensive tirade against me.

Although I have become accustomed to these types of attacks from some within the Chabad community – including their leadership – since going public with the abuse I suffered as a member of the Yeshivah community, and the subsequent cover up by those still in charge of the school, Rebbetzin Feldman’s email is unprecedented in its viciousness and intimidation. As such, I have referred the matter to police for their possible action. I will not be intimidated by the misguided Rebbetzin, and will continue my important work on behalf of many victims – including those within both the Melbourne and Sydney Chabad Yeshiva(h) institutions – for the sake of justice and to minimise the risks to our children into the future.

J-Wire has omitted reference to the sexual abuse incident as it is satisfied it is irrelevant

Rebbetzin Feldman then made the following statement to media:

Recently I received an email directly from the Waks family requesting that I sign a petition against Yeshivah in Melbourne.

I did not read the email at the time and only opened it early this morning as I was going through my unread emails.

As today is the eve of Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, and a time of introspection, I decided to respond to the email by sending a private email to Manny Waks.

The email speaks for itself and I do not intend to comment publicly about an email that I sent to one individual on a private basis. If Manny has decided to publicise this email then that is his choice.

If the media deems this matter newsworthy, I would expect that they print the email in its entirety, so that that individual quotes should not be taken out of context.

I wish Manny Waks and his entire family only blessings and a happy and healthy sweet new year.

Rebbetzin Feldman is wife of Head Chabad Emissary to NSW/Spiritual Leader of Sydney’s Yeshiva Centre, Rabbi Pinchus Feldman and is the most senior Chabad Rebbetzin/woman in Australia;

Manny Waks is the founder of Tzedek, an advocacy group established to assist vicitms of child sexual abuse.