Rabbi Yosef Feldman, the head rabbi of Sydney, Australia and a leading figure in Chabad in Australia, told the world that his assertion that people should call rabbis, not police, when children are sexually molested was an academic exercise that did not reflect his true views. But Feldman was lying.
Originally published at 10:43 pm CDT 8-27-11.
Rabbi Yosef Feldman claimed leaked emails showing he strongly believed that reporting child sexual abuse to police was wrong, and that rabbis should decide how these cases are handled.
He had been outed asserting that Jews MUST violate Australian law and report child sex abuse to rabbis, not police – and he was vulnerable to prosecution as a result.
He got some of his rabbi colleagues to lie for him, and he threatened to sue the Australian Jewish News and other media that reported on the leaked emails under Australia's draconian libel laws, claiming his emails were only theoretical, part of a discussion on Jewish law – not actual policy or an actual assertion of what policy really should be.
Feldman was, as I wrote at the time, lying.
After two heated weeks, the the AJN and Feldman issued a joint press release that was almost, but quite, an apology from the AJN, and almost, but not quite, an apology from Feldman.
But we now we have even more proof that Feldman is a profoundly dishonest man who should not be employed by Chabad or by any other Jewish organization as a rabbi (or as anything else, for that matter).
By chance (or hashgacha pratit, depending on your view), Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, who works as a mikva construction and repair expert but who is better known as an activist working to stop child sexual abuse, was in Sydney early last week.
On Monday, he was in a synagogue with Feldman, and he had a discussion with Feldman about reporting child sexual abuse to police.
Feldman insisted that police should not be called and that calling police risked hurting innocent people.
Rosenberg explained that police are trained to ferret out false accusations and that they're experts in doing so – rabbis are not.
Feldman then asserted calling police is mesira, informing, a severe prohibition in Jewish law.
Rosenberg asked him why you call the police when someone robs your house or kills your wife? Maybe rabbis should handle these cases as well?
Feldman said that the difference between those cases and child sexual abuse is retzicha, murder – meaning that false reports of child sexual abuse are like murder.
Rosenberg explained to Feldman that he could only make that claim if he didn't understand the damage sexual abuse does to children, the lives it destroys or permanently scars. (And also that the number of false reports of child sexual abuse outside of divorce cases is miniscule, 3% or less, and that even in divorce cases the number of false accusations is lower than the number of real cases of child sexual abuse.)
Feldman refused to back down from his position and told Rosenberg that what he was doing – giving speeches in Sydney telling people to call police when child sexual abuse is known or suspected – is wrong, and that he should stop doing it immediately.
Feldman "didn't change his mind. He told me again and again and again that I was wrong with my policies, and with giving speeches" in Sydney about reporting child sexual abuse to police, Rosenberg told me.
This was NOT a theoretical discussion of Jewish law.
It was Feldman telling Rosenberg to shut up, and Feldman saying loudly and clearly that the halakha, Jewish law, was that cases of child sexual abuse MUST be reported to rabbis, not police.
So much for Feldman's claims of being taken out of context by the media.
As I wrote last week, Chabad needs to distance itself from Feldman in every way possible.
Its international headquarters should release a statement signed by Rabbis Krinsky, Shemtov (if he's still in the the triad) and Kotlarsky condemning Feldman's behavior and his position on reporting child sexual abuse.
Chabad's rabbinic organization, headed by Rabbi Dovid Schochet in Toronto, should do the same.
And Feldman should be removed from any list of Chabad rabbis or representatives.
None of this will happen, though, because the men who lead Chabad are, like the Catholic Church was in the 1990s, far more concerned about their physical assets and Chabad's reputation than they are about the lives of children.
Rabbi Rosenberg gave several speeches in English on child sexual abuse while he was in Sydney. Currently, one of them is on his hotline – 1-951-262-3714 box #30. He hopes to add more of those speeches later this week.
Update 11:30 am CDT 8-29-11 – I received the following email from Rabbi Yosef Feldman this morning:
I tried to post this but it didn't go through...
This is Rabbi Yosef Feldman.
I don't know whether you'll have the decency to post this. I'll be brief for now,
1) The AJN clearly reported even in their first article that I advocated Rabbis, only when legally allowed and never when it goes against the law.
2) I've stated that a Rabbi ONLY IN CONJUNCTION WITH AN EXPERT, as is the view of the Agudah, could make a decision re the veracity etc. of a complaint. This was omitted by the AJN initially which is one of the reasons they apologized and with what was reported re Rabbi Rosenberg.
3) Maybe you should better be exposing the proponents of running to the police, that when it comes to their own family members (as we Jews should consider each other), how they actually come running to Rabbis for (references and) help and certainly have tried and try to cover up.
I've had 2 people who lashed out against me publicly and when I reminded one how when his son was involved in an armed robbery approx 10 years ago he came running to me for a reference and for general help and didn't just rely on the police, he then apologized profusely to me and the other a Rabbi who didn't realize that I knew that he actually covered up real child sex abuse with someone in his extended family and didn't report it to the police when a family member of his congregation complained to him on behalf of the victim, and acted strongly in covering up the abuse... and then after I made a fool out of him, he had to explain to me that Poskim hold differently today than a few years ago...
Re Rabbi Rosenberg I don't know what he reported or even what he or someone in his family may have been up to in the past that he may be trying to cover up, being such a proponent... but besides the many discrepancies reported, one vital thing that was omitted (as was with the AJN) as mentioned above was me asking him that just as police get experts to verify etc., what's wrong if a Rabbi also involves experts initially as principals do, according to the law, before they're required to report abuse, to which he had no response. I actually was quite surprised when he told me that he immediately reports abuse to the police before hearing details from the victim. I just wonder if a son of his was accused of molesting a child whether he would immediately report it. Actually maybe I'll accuse a son of his (as many may do when they have an issue with someone...) and let's see if he'll go running to the police... LOL.. I don't understand how he's taken so seriously...
I never told him to stop giving speeches and I actually allowed him to talk to teachers and others in Yeshiva of the good he has achieved and the importance of vigilance in this area etc.
The reported lies in my case really reflect the lack of integrity of your site which its motto is supposed to be exposing the truth and this is actually my issue with always immediately reporting etc. and I expect an apology from Failed Messiah and if not I will consider all my options and very quickly...
Awaiting your prompt response...