Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse : Day 6

February 9, 2015 by Roz Tarszisz
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Rabbi Yossef Feldman completes his evidence…and another victim reads his statement.

The Yeshiva Centre rabbi who made public his support of a resolution that encouraged child sexual abuse victims to come foward to civil authorities was not happy with the identity of a perpetrator of child sex abuse being made public.

Rabbi Yossef Feldman

Rabbi Yossef Feldman

He also had difficulty with the idea of a perpetrator going to prison 25 years after the offences took place.

Rabbi Yosef Feldman made a public statement in July 2011 via The Australian Jewish News in which he clarified his personal views.  He stated unequivocally that there were no longer any grey areas on the issue of mesira (non reporting to authorities). This meant that victims of child sexual abuse should definitely go to civil authorities without fear of retribution from within the Jewish community.

After lengthy questioning by Counsel assisting the Commission, Maria Gerace, Feldman said that he would prefer that publicity was not given to child sexual abuse cases as he feared it could encourage non-genuine , or “fake” victims to come forward.

Feldman appeared to have been fixated on whether public statements by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria and both the Sydney and Melbourne Beth Dins were the catalyst that propelled child abuse victims to come forward.  He appears convinced that encouraging people to come forward is not a good thing and might “encourage people to give false accusations.”

In emails read to the Commission, Feldman had invited other rabbis for their view of the issue.

Rabbi Feldman, a contemporary and friend of David Cyprus (convicted in 2014 of child sex abuse offences) had contacted AVB, a child victim of Cyprus, by email.  Feldman would not disclose to AVB how he had found out that AVB had come forward and pressed him as to whether public statements had caused AVB to come forward.

Victim AVR read his statement to the Court. He arrived at Yeshiva College, Melbourne, over the summer break in December 1990-January 1991 His mother was ill and he was given a scholarship.  Cyprus was caretaker and AVR was told to go to him with any questions or problems that he had. AVR said he looked to Cyprus as a role model and was innocent of sexual matters.

Eventually he told his mother he had been abused but not the full extent of the abuse. When she travelled to the College to see the rabbis, Rabbi Glick told them that AVR’s scholarship had been cancelled.

Feldman said that he had reservations about the law but was prepared to put them aside.  When asked what he would want the law to be he said that “I think the law should be stronger on  repentance.”

He read a statement in which he apologised to victims on behalf of himself and other rabbis.
“I have followed the evidence of the victims of sexual abuse at this hearing and I have read their statements. I have been affected by that evidence.

I agree wholeheartedly with the statement my father gave yesterday.

I am also deeply sorry for the pain that they have experienced as a result of the vilification and abuse from the community for having reported or publicised that abuse.

I agree without qualification that it is obligatory to immediately report all allegations of sexual abuse to the police.

I agree that such an obligation arises whenever sexual abuse is alleged to have occurred and whatever the form of that sexual abuse.

I agree that people in the Jewish community should be encouraged to report child sexual abuse to the police without being subjected to bullying or being labelled a moshef.

I agree that rabbis should receive training in how to identify, handle and report child sexual abuse and educate our community about child sexual abuse. It is our duty to convey to whole community that victims of sexual abuse should be reported.

It is our duty as rabbis to convey to the community that victims of sexual abuse who have complained to the police should be supported.

I regret that anything I have said or written in the past about child sexual abuse that has caused any pain or suffering.. I have to apologise publicly for what I have said or written about Manny Waks .

Basically I am sorry that my words caused hurt to anyone and I apologise, especially to child sexual abuse victims. It was never my intention to cause hurt to anyone , and I sincerely apologise for that especially to victims of child sexual abuse which is a heinous crime and can be compared to murder”.

I believe all rabbis would have the same view.”

He claims he has been defamed by some misreporting of his evidence to the Commission  and has  received worldwide condemnation.

The Commission has been sitting in Melbourne’s County Court.

Rabbi Feldman has been instructed to return at a future date to inform the Commission what steps the College has taken in regard to child sex abuse education for students and for himself.


8 Responses to “Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse : Day 6”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    I have discussed the reasons for my opinion of Rabbi Feldman’s apology and statements on ‘Feldman out on a limb’, another article on this J-wire site, Otto, so I won’t repeat them here. Suffice to say, for the purpose of your question here, that my opinion is based on observation, intellect and gut. Please see other posting for more detail. I would be interested to know what your opinion is based on. I know you fully support Rabbi Feldman and believe him to be sincere, however I don’t know the basis for that.

    My opinion takes into account his words and his demeanour, hardly an idiosyncratic way to judge a person. It’s all we have to go by, and that includes you.

    I am not so noble, or stupid, as to hand out empathy and/or sympathy to all and sundry, Otto. It depends on the person and the circumstances. My empathy is with the victims of sexual abuse who suffered both the abuse and lack of adult support from quarters where one would have expected it. The Rabbi has been, and is, in a far better position than they. It’s a bit dramatic to say I, or anybody else, is throwing the Rabbi to the dogs of vengeance. He must take responsibility for his own behaviour as well as the impression he creates. And I guess if you’re going to accuse me of prejudice towards the whole of Orthodox Judaism, as you do in your response to me on the ‘Feldman out on a limb’ posting, then you’ll have to accuse Feldman’s fellow Rabbis of that as well. That in itself should be enough to prevent you from repeating the accusation.

    I am sorry to see you so upset, Otto. Perhaps you need to look at this more objectively and realise that the Enquiry will mean bad things for some people in the religious establishment, and possibly the religious community. Everybody can learn from that, rather than repeat mistakes. It’s not healthy to be so bound to something that you can’t facilitate criticism or necessary changes.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Sorry, Liat, but if you check MY own postings since the Orthodox Rabbinate has declared their hand against Rabbi Feldmann, you will notice that I have stated that I consider their attitude utterly objectionable, that I have repeatedly that they abandoned him and made him a scapegoat , the fall guy and that they failed miserably to offer specific reasons, to the finest details for their cowardice, unethical attitude AGAINST their own Rabbi.
      I have also repeatedly stated that your “reasons” are less than superficial, therefore spurious, unacceptable within the common-sense context of relevant evidence.

  2. Liat Nagar says:

    I saw many of Rabbi Yossi Feldman’s responses to questions at the Royal Commission and was repulsed by what he had to say and the manner in which he said it. He appeared cold, insular and arrogant. And his body language backed that up. He gave the impression he ‘disdained’ being there at all. I felt ashamed of him and for him. There is no way his apology/statements in regard to victims is sincere or repentant. He is saying what he must say to cover his back. This man is not the kind of person who should be a Rabbi. I’m not that easily shocked, but I feel shocked by him. I felt shocked by the inhumanity of Cardinal George Pell and I feel shocked by what I’ve witnessed in regard to Rabbi Yossi Feldman, for all that it implies.

    It’s not about ‘notional ethical matters’, Otto, it’s about a sense of humanity and that being the prime and governing priority, and this man is utterly lacking in that respect.

    As painful as this whole airing in public is for Jewish people, a good thing that can come from it is the realisation that to be a Rabbi requires more than adequate knowledge of Judaism, much more. Many other attributes of a person should be taken into account if they are going to be in contact with and directing other human beings. It would be a good opportunity to put in place perhaps a prerequisite of higher learning other than religious learning to provide a broader range of comprehension and dimension, as well as study in human behaviour and child protection. Also, there should be a Jewish authority to whom Rabbis are answerable to. The other hugely important area to attend to is education of the ultra-orthodox communities so that their religious allegiance is tempered by human moral rights.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      On what basis, Liat, do you dismiss with such ease and even disdain – not the one you mention – Rabbi Feldmann’s lengthy and details repentance and specific rebuttal of all you still accuse him of !!!
      The arrogance in his body language and whatever other idiosyncratic features so utterly irrelevant seem to weigh more than the clear words the man expressed.
      As one who insists on human dramas and centrality of soul searching, on the constant need to arrest reality and appraise it anew, I see now at you a total abandon of all those noble ideas at the behest of a deeply seeded prejudice against all matters Orthodox in Judaism. All empathy gone, throw the Rabbi to the dogs of vengeance, like a relentless vendetta for who knows what. The poor bloke went to extremes to show understanding of what had to change his views on a lot of matters and all he gets is kicks in the guts by his own people.
      I am increasingly unhappy with the attitude of his fellow Rabbis on his current stance.

  3. Otto Waldmann says:

    Here Rabbi Yossi Feldman is proving sincere, repentant, parting his most inner, immediate thoughts with the Commission in a genuine manner. In resolving such complex matters as those raised by the Commission, especially for a spiritual leader, Rabbi Feldman has shown that he applied the necessary dynamics of constant reapprisals of events and, most importantly, notional ethical matters and that is is precisely what a morally reliable communal leader is expected to do.
    Rabbi Feldman’s corollary comments are most relevant because they show that he has noted and absorbed progressively qualitatively important dimensions of our reality. An active, alert mind never stops learning and accepts necessary changes.
    It is shameful for anyone to take sincere displays of a inner process of improvement and extrapolate the redundant into valid current reality, to pick on what the Rabbi consider no longer part of his thoughts and misuse it as still relevant.

    • harry freedman says:

      you’ve got to be kidding Otto.

      anybody else believe this timely remorse? it is shameful that you say nothing of the suffering of the victim, the ostracism of he and his family, the cover up by the institution and the lack of remorse by those senior leaders who had the opportunity to act promptly and properly

      it took the catholic church 5 decades to realise that hiding the evidence only makes the situation worse and causes more harm to the institution

      as a people that reminds itself of its past history, one would think we would learn from it

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        I will have to redefine “semi-illiterate” based on what you keep on saying, harry. It is obvious that you read only half or even less, of what Rabbi Feldmann said to the Commission. I have no reasons to believe that his repentance is not sincere and you cannot offer me any.
        This comment applies to all those who are condemning Rabbi Yossi Feldmann after his appearance at the Commission.
        I am also not satisfied that COA and RCNSW have got it 100% right on Rabbi Yossi Feldmann.

        I must clarify here that , although a Sydneysider myself, I never met Rabbi Yossi Feldmann in person so my comments are based on the man’s character as I observe in all public references, but, then, I am quite sure that most of those attacking him never met him either.

  4. ben gershon says:

    watching online was painful . to think this man trains Rabbis


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