Rabbi Yosef Feldman Back as President

August 25, 2011 by J-Wire Staff
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The Australian Jewish News has apologised for any “unnecessary distress caused”  to those of the opinion that remarks made by the President of the Rabbinical Council of NSW Rabbi Yosef Feldman on the subject of child abuse published on July 29 were sensationalised. Rabbi Feldman, who stood aside after the paper called for his resignation, has resumed his position as president. The AJN stands by the content of its story.

J-Wire has received the following joint statement from the AJN and Rabbi Yosef Feldman:

Zeddy Lawrence

AJN and top rabbi look ahead to a peaceful new year

The Australian Jewish News and Rabbi Yosef Feldman, President of the Rabbinical Council of NSW, have this week come to a peaceful agreement in relation to the publication of remarks made by him on the subject of child abuse.

On 29 July 2011, the AJN ran a front page story about Rabbi Yosef Feldman entitled “Top Rabbi Must Quit”. In a related article and editorial, reference was made to a leaked internal email discussion amongst Rabbis in which Rabbi Yosef Feldman put forward certain suggestive views in relation to the reporting of child abuse allegations to the authorities.

The AJN today acknowledged that its coverage may have been considered sensational and apologised for any unnecessary distress this caused.

Rabbi Yosef Feldman acknowledged that while the reporter Joshua Levi did not misquote him in the article, he believes that the context of the email discussion was not clarified. However, he acknowledges that the views he expressed could have been misunderstood. He apologises for any distress caused to the community as a result.

In today’s edition of the newspaper, the AJN admits that since the publication of their first article, many rabbis “have since contacted us to confirm they regarded [Rabbi Yosef Feldman’s] comments as halachic conjecture in the context of an academic debate”.

In a Statement from the Executive of the Rabbinical Council of NSW, also published in today’s edition, the Rabbis go further and assert that “The Executive Members of the Rabbinical Council of NSW, alongside many rabbis across Australia, are of the opinion that the views propounded in those emails were simply conjecture within the context of Halachic discussion and did not necessarily reflect Rabbi Yosef Feldman’s personal opinion on those matters.”

In today’s lengthy article, authored by AJN National Editor Zeddy Lawrence, the newspaper refers to its original coverage and says that “we recognise and fully appreciate that there are those who felt we could have been less forthright and more sensitive in the way we covered it, and we apologise for any unnecessary distress caused.”

“In this instance, if there are those who feel we have been sensationalist, then we must take that lesson on board as we move forwards.”

For his part, Rabbi Feldman stated in today’s edition, “I do acknowledge that things I wrote in emails to rabbinic colleagues could have been taken out of context and indeed misunderstood.”

He went on to “apologise to my rabbinic colleagues as well as to the Jewish community as a whole for any embarrassment caused to them by the publication of material based on my emails”.

He added: “I unreservedly and emphatically condemn all forms of abuse, particularly child abuse. Perpetrators must be brought to justice in the Australian legal system, and I condemn the suggestion that paedophiles deserve protection from that legal system. I believe, as asserted by the major Australian Beth Dins and reported in The AJN, that all credible allegations of abuse should immediately be reported to, and dealt with, by the appropriate Government Authorities.”

Comparing Rabbi Feldman’s contribution to the community with that of Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth Lord Jonathan Sacks,  The AJN concludes that “we wish Rabbi Feldman well in all his endeavours and look forward to reporting on his positive impact on the community in the months and years ahead.”

As a result of The AJN’s initial article, Rabbi Feldman had stepped aside temporarily from his role as President of the Rabbinical Council of NSW in order to clear his name. In today’s statement, the RCNSW Executive informs the community that he has resumed the Presidency, saying that “The RCNSW looks forward to the contribution that Rabbi Yosef Feldman will continue to make together with his Executive in his role as RCNSW President, which he has now resumed.”


“It is a fact of human nature that ‘sorry’ is one of the hardest words to say. Bearing this in mind we warmly welcome the AJN’s willingness to acknowledge that their coverage may have been sensational, as well as their apology for the unnecessary distress caused. In particular we laud its undertaking to thoroughly review the way matters of this nature are reported in the future as well as the acknowledgement of its Editor regarding the fine character of Rabbi Yosef Feldman and the significant contribution that he has made to the community.”

Rabbi Feldman concludes his Letter wishing the AJN well and thanking his “colleagues on the RCNSW Executive as well as many Rabbis in NSW and across Australia for their unstinting support in recent times.”

“I am hopeful that we can all move forward in unity for the benefit of our community.”



7 Responses to “Rabbi Yosef Feldman Back as President”
  1. Lynne Newington says:

    What is it you would like me to repeat Otto, the posting remains on site.

  2. Otto Waldmann says:

    To Lynne Newington

    Can you please repeat your last posting. As I started reading it the phone rang and…

    How could you ??!!!

  3. Lynne Newington says:

    All church’s know how they “should function”, but they don’t, don’t do yourself or the Jewish community a disservice.
    The situation could have been worse, the Rabbi stood down which was the correct thing to do the issue was resolved and apologies were made, he would understand that and accept it not challenge it, not so with other members of the cloth.
    Be grateful for the transparency of all concerned, it is and has been a rarity in cases concerning sex-abuse of innocent children.
    Heaps more to follow you say?
    Where I hail from certainly would take beating, with suicides galore.
    Wait and see what John Searle has in front of him, as Chair of the Victorian Equal Oppotunity and Human Rights Commission.

  4. Otto Waldmann says:

    To Lynne Newington

    The issues you address has almost NOTHING to do with the way Rabbi Yosef Feldman was treated by its own community to a large extent.
    Considering that the matter is so current and unfolded in such clearly prejudiced and, implicitely, ill intended manner, the so called analogy you are making could only show that we DO have serious problems in UNDERSTANDING issues that transcend daily simplicity BUT they do belong to the necesary knowledge of the way in which a Jewish community ought to function.
    Most of the attacks against the respected Rabbi were from the prejudiced quarters of anti Orthodoxy in our community. Consistent with their limited ethics I would not expect vociferous accusers of Rabbi Feldman to commit to any teshuva, to come forward and appologise for the harm they intended and,indeed, caused.
    This is where the idiotic term of “big tent” makes me throw up and I would do it smack in the middle of the imaginary tent.
    Zeddy Lawrence understood, in the event, the issues and returned humbly and with dignity to the basics of Jewish ethical principles. There are heaps more to follow…..

  5. Lynne Newington says:

    JWire as a Jewish website containing news of public interest to the Jewish community, did the right thing.
    Consider other religious denominations who have covered up for decades worldwide, heinious crimes against our children, moving the pepetrator from one place to another, only to carry out further attrocities.
    There was not the slightest insinuation they he personally had done anything insidious.
    Imagine if there had been, and JWire didn’t publicly denounce it.
    You are fortunate for their transparency and they have apologised.

  6. Otto Waldmann says:

    The dignity with which Rabbi Feldman handled the issue should serve as an example to those who were anxious to denigrate without holding and refering to actual facts, but fell into the comforts of prejudice !

  7. shmuel says:

    Will all those who badmouthed the rabbi in the previous updates to this story on this website (see links from Jwire) also apologise?
    Will those individuals who don’t miss an opportunity to criticise Orthodox jews stand silently by their previous posts espousing hate and cynicism – stand up and be counted and say sorry?
    A failure to do so indicates that you are not a mentsch and as such ought not to be taken seriously – not in the past and not in the future.

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