Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Day 4

February 5, 2015 by Roz Tarszisz
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When sitting resumed this afternoon, counsel assisting the Commission Maria Gerace established that Rabbi Baruch Dov Lesches was an employee of the Yeshiva centre.

Rabbi Pinchus Feldman was asked if he thought that Rabbi Lesches should have informed him he had told Hayman to leave boys alone.

Rabbi Feldman replied that each department looked after its particular employees and he did not accept that he should have informed.  He did say if Rabbi Lesches had been familiar with criminal activity by Hayman, he (Lesches) should have reported it.

When asked if “if knowledge by your staff is knowledge by your institution?”

“Yes” replied Rabbi Feldman.

Part of a statement by a victim who had not been a Yeshiva student but had accompanied other students when they had all stayed with Hayman at a Bondi apartment. A few years later the group of boys realised they had all been assaulted by Hayman (at different times) and approached Rabbi Lesches together.  They told him that Hayman had behaved inappropriately with all of them.

“Oh we have a problem with him and will deal with him.” said the Rabbi Lesches.

Maria Gerace asked Rabbi Feldman “Do you accept that information should have been reported to you?”

“Definitely” replied Rabbi Feldman.
He stressed that Rabbi Lesches had never told him about the problems with Hayman.

A statement was read out.  It had been made by a parent of a then 12-yr-old girl who had wanted to study in Sydney at the Yeshiva and arrangements were made with Rabbi Lesches for her to board. The girl complained that when staying with Daniel Hayman she had been inappropriately touched by him. Rabbi Lesches did not believe her but she was boarded with a different family anyway.

When asked if Rabbi Lesches should have informed him that actions of a sexual nature had occurred, Feldman answered “Yes.”  He also agreed that matters like this should have been reported to police.
He agreed that it was “extraordinary” that given Rabbi Lesches knowledge of previous behaviour by Hayman, that a young girl was placed in his home.

He agreed that Yeshiva had a responsibility to the students under its watch.

When asked about documents required by the Commission, Rabbi Feldman admitted there were no written reports of these matters.

When asked if he understood the concept of grooming by a pedophile, he replied in the affirmative. He agreed that it would be helpful if rabbis had some formal training in recognising signs of child sexual abuse.

Rabbi Feldman was asked if the Yeshiva issued a media release following the conviction of Daniel Hayman of indecent sexual assault but he did not recall this happening.

Rabbi Feldman told the Commission that there were no objective criteria for screening of potential students to undertake rabbinical students. Assessments were given orally by deans of other institutions in regard to academic standing and behaviour of potential candidates.

Rabbi Feldman was not in the habit of making notes on conversations he had had.

When accused AVL was told by Rabbi Feldman of the accusations against him. AVL told him that he might he might return to America.

Rabbi Feldman said that he did not believe that he had “an obligation” to tell police AVL was about to depart Australia.

“I did not believe that within the framework of my roll to call police and tell them that this student might be about to leave the country.”

He admitted it was an error of judgement that he failed to act or tell anyone who might have been able to prevent AVL from leaving the country.

When pressed him about his moral position on not informing authorities about AVL’s likely departure, he said he had  thought that if it were established that AVL had committed a crime, then he could be extradited from the US.

The hearing continues.

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