Rabbi Yosef Feldman claims he was defamed

August 1, 2011 by J-Wire Staff
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Rabbi Yosef Feldman has issued a statement alleging he has been defamed following the publication of articles in the Jewish and secular media over the weekend.

The original article, published by Jewish media which had obtained leaked emails, accuses the rabbi of wanting matters relating to “all acts of abuse” dealt with internally and not by the official authorities.

He is considering legal proceedings alleging that the initial article is defamatory.

In his statement, Rabbi Feldman says that “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.”

The statement goes on to say: “It would appear that the AJN obtained, by means unknown, 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 AJN took extracts from that exchange and constructed a story and an editorial which attributed to the Rabbi views and opinions which he simply does not hold.”

Rabbi Feldman added in his statement: “The true position is that Rabbi Feldman, like all other right thinking Australian citizens, believes that acts of paedophilia should and must be reported to the police for investigation and, if warranted, prosecution. It is not, and has never been, his view that criminal conduct of this kind should be covered up. The Rabbi’s stance is that suspected paedophiles must face the Australian legal system.

There is no suggestion that any abuse has occurred in any Jewish establishment  in New South Wales.  However, the unanimous view of Rabbi Feldman and the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales is that suspected paedophiles must, if discovered, be reported to the police.”


4 Responses to “Rabbi Yosef Feldman claims he was defamed”
  1. Stuart Sontag says:

    It is perhaps no coincidence that the fracas regarding allegations in the Australian Jewish News that Rabbi Yossi Feldman has advocated leniency for alleged child abusers has occurred during the traditional three weeks of mourning for the destructions of the two Jerusalem Temples in the lead up to Tisha B’av this Tuesday. Sages of old have advised that the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple was the rampant sin of baseless hatred amongst the Jewish People. One interpretation of the meaning of “baseless hatred” is the wilful perception of evil in the good intentions of others.

    I believe that the motivations of the AJN include the noble desire to protect children from the heinous crime of the sexual abuse of children. I believe that Rabbi Feldman has been motivated not by the desire to “cover up” such crimes or to secure leniency for paedophiles but rather based on Jewish sources to ensure the presumption of innocence still prevails even in the most emotive of circumstances.

    To our collective shame there have been several cases of the child sex abuse within our communal institutions. However, there have also been a number of cases of false allegations of abuse which have come to light. Once made in the Public Sphere, the repercussions to the falsely accused and his/her family can be substantial and difficult to redress even if the individual is subsequently vindicated. I believe that the AJN and Rabbi Feldman should reconcile and that the later  should return to his position as the President of the NSW Rabbinical Council. After all, Rabbi Feldman was just doing his Job as a Talmud scholar by analysing all ‘sides’ of the issue. Indeed, as it says in the Torah readings from last Shabbat

    “Hear [disputes] between your brothers and judge justly between a man and his brother, and between his litigant.  You shall not favour persons in judgment; [rather] you shall hear the small just as the great; you shall not fear any man, for the judgment is upon the Lord…”

    In fact we owe a debt to Rabbi Feldman for not slavishly following the group think communal line in the face of overwhelming sensationalism and “peer group pressure”.

    We have wasted much energy and emotional capital in a bizarre exercise of fruitless finger pointing. So let’s press the “UNDO” button a few times and then move on.  The NSW Jewish community does, indeed, need to find an in-house Jewish solution which deals with the entire realm of child abuse. One such solution might include setting up a Panel of Guardians under the auspices of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies with input from the NSW Rabbinical Council and Jewish Care. The Panel would be composed of suitably qualified professionals, psychologists, lawyers, and the odd Rabbi and would be made available to Police and to individuals & institutions bringing forward cases of abuse. The Panel would liaise with Police as required by Law and would also advise Jewish Dayschools and Youth Movements on screening procedures for staff and volunteers. The aims of such a body should include:

    (1)   To protects children from all forms of abuse including the heinous crime of sexual abuse,

    (2)   To provide appropriate support to the victims of abuse and to all those adversely affected by it including the families of both victims and perpetrators.

    (3)   To observe the law of the land and liaise with Australian authorities providing the later with culturally sensitive contextual information to enable accurate assessments of whether actual abuse has occurred. Without such context, we can hardly expect the Police to come to terms with various customs unfamiliar to the wider community including the laws of Family Purity, Mikvah and Nidah etc.

    (4)   To ensure that we don’t throw out the baby with the bath water by pursuing a knee jerk impulse to conduct witch hunts in our schools to find Paedophiles where none exist. Such misguided zealotry would poison the relaxed atmosphere of intimacy and affection between teachers and students which has always been a distinct hallmark of a proper Jewish education.

    (5)   To preserve the presumption of innocence and protect individuals such as teachers and their families from excessive adverse consequences until guilt or innocence is determined by Law.

  2. Otto Waldmann says:

    Peter Strasser is right in wanting to know the contents of the said email.

    I would assume that those criticising Rabbi Feldman did not have access to the email and are accusing the Rabbi ex catedra in a most unfair, unethical way.

    The plethora of acvcusations against the Rabbi by extrapollation, as Rabbi Feldman is stating, and by “moral” standing WITHOUT having access to important and exclusively essential details is in itself indictable.

    It is my humble belief that the Rabbi has acted perfectly within halachic principles by ensuring that any manadatory reportable transgression commited by a Jewish individual and/or institution thereoff, is first checked and cleared by the VALID Jewish authority of the Beith Din.
    Among the most important principles governing the first filter of legality through the Jewish Authorities on and about Jewish matters, is the wellknown – seemingly not so well known, actually – notion of protecting the intergrity AND safety of a possibly falsely accused Jewish entity, personal or institutional.

    These are extremely important matters and cannot be left at the mercy of casual “considerations”. Under the present public “judgement” by the media and by individuals completely unaware of essential facts and documents our esteemed Rabbi is being treated in a shameful way !!!!

  3. Lynne Newington says:

    Which ever way it goes, Synagogues have sent a message loud and clear to the Jewish community and others.
    It’s called Integrity in Ministry.

  4. Peter Strasser says:

    To enable a fair assessment of the Rabbi’s assertion that AJN “constructed a story and attributed to (him) views and opinions which he simply does not hold” …..the “internal email exchange among Rabbis” must be disclosed by him.

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