Fury over Rabbi Eli Feldman's view on child sex
Jesse Phillips • The Sunday Telegraph
A HIGH-profile Jewish leader is fighting calls for his resignation after he urged rabbis to deal with allegations of child abuse themselves rather than report it to police.
Rabbi Yosef Feldman, president of the Rabbinical Council of NSW and based at the Southern Sydney Synagogue, has sparked outrage after emailing other rabbis to say it should be up to them to decide whether a paedophile should be reported.
The rabbi also said that, where possible, allegations of abuse should be dealt with outside the legal system.
Rabbis could "threaten" the child abuser with publicity instead of reporting them.
"I really don't understand why as soon as something of serious lashon hara (evil talk) is heard about someone of even child molestation should we immediately go to the secular authorities (sic)," Rabbi Feldman wrote.
"One must go to a Rov (rabbi) who should firstly investigate the veracity of the complaint and if thought to be serious, warn the culprit etc and act in a way that could scare him by threatening him with publicity by internet to the whole community.
"I feel that if we as a Jewish leadership can't deal with this and other issues bifnim (internally) we are showing ourselves to be impotent."
Rabbi Feldman's brother, Rabbi Eli Feldman, had sought legal action over the attack, claiming the comments, which appeared in the Jewish News, did not represent his brother's personal views.
The newspaper, he said, "acted sinfully and committed the worst crime according to the Jewish tradition and that is publicly humiliating on the basis of falseness".
The Rabbinical Council of NSW, which Rabbi Yosef Feldman presides over, has also rejected his view.
Here's the Sydney Morning Herald's report:
Top rabbi fighting to save position
Tim Barlass • Sydney Morning Herald
A SENIOR Sydney rabbi is refusing to resign from the state's Jewish religious authority over comments he made suggesting that sexual abuse cases should be handled within the community and not by police, claiming they did not represent his ''official'' view.
Rabbi Yosef Feldman, the president of the Rabbinical Council of NSW, has been under pressure to resign after making the comments in a series of emails to fellow rabbis last week.
Last night, his brother, Rabbi Eli Feldman, said that, while he does not deny sending the emails, which were leaked to The Australian Jewish News, the contents ''do not reflect his official position'' and he ''is a strong advocate of police intervention in cases of paedophilia''.
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''He was just conjecturing,'' Rabbi Eli Feldman told The Sun-Herald.
The comments by Rabbi Feldman echo an edict given by Pope John Paul II in the 1980s that reports of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy be handled in Rome by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Rabbi Feldman wrote: ''I really don't understand why as soon as something of serious loshon horo [evil talk] is heard about someone of even child molestation should we immediately go to the secular authorities. One must go to a Rov [rabbi] who should firstly investigate the veracity of the complaint and if thought to be serious, warn the culprit etc. and act in a way that could scare him by threatening him with publicity by internet to the whole community.''
He added: ''I personally feel that if we as a Jewish leadership can't deal with this and other issues bifnim [internally] we are showing ourselves to be impotent …''
Rabbi Feldman also suggested that because paedophiles were raped in prison, the people who reported them to the police could be held responsible.
Several rabbis told The Australian Jewish News that Rabbi Feldman's comments did not represent the broader view of the rabbinate and that he should resign from the honorary position.
As of last night, Rabbi Feldman was clinging to his post but a decision had not been made about his future, his brother said.
Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence said that he did not believe there was anyone in his congregation who was sympathetic to the views ascribed to Rabbi Feldman.
He said the rabbi's comments were alien to their understanding of Jewish values and of the responsibility of the rabbinate leadership.
Rabbi Lawrence himself resigned from the council following friction between himself and Rabbi Feldman. Asked if he felt Rabbi Feldman should step down he said that it would remove pressure from other rabbis who felt they were unable to be taken seriously within their communities while the council was enmeshed in controversy.
He stressed that there was no suggestion that there had been any abuse in Sydney or that there had been abuse in Sydney that had been concealed.
Rabbi Eli Feldman said his brother was determined to clear his name and that they were considering taking legal action against The Australian Jewish News.