Sexual abuse led to suicide bids
Richard Baker & Nick McKenzie • The Age
The Jewish community's emergency medical response group, Hatzolah, has revealed young children have attempted suicide as a result of being sexually abused.
The acknowledgement of child sexual abuse as an "ongoing crisis facing our community" in a letter written by a senior Hatzolah official on Tuesday comes amid revelations of a police investigation into alleged criminal offences at Sydney's Yeshiva Centre in the 1970s and '80s.
In a letter endorsing the establishment of Jewish sexual abuse support group Tzedek, Hatzolah's Melbourne operations manager, Danny Elbaum, wrote of his observations "first hand of the devastating impact of child sexual abuse".
"On many occasions our emergency responders have been called to assist Jewish patients (including young ones) who have self-harmed or attempted suicide, and upon further inquiry it has become clear the underlying cause for these desperate acts has been due to the patient's experience of child sexual abuse."
Mr Elbaum's letter is one of the first times a Jewish community leader has linked child sexual abuse to suicide attempts.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year announced a royal commission to investigate child sexual abuse and how religious organisations handled such incidents.
New South Wales police are investigating allegations against two men formerly associated with the Yeshiva Centre and school in Bondi.
The NSW police probe was triggered by an earlier inquiry by Victorian detectives into the Yeshivah College in St Kilda, which resulted in two former employees being charged with multiple child sex offences and claims senior rabbis tried to cover-up the scandal.
Fairfax Media reported on Wednesday that one of the accused men associated with Bondi's Yeshiva Centre had told a victim in a recent conversation that he had spoken with the centre's spiritual leader, Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, about incidents involving younger boys.
The accused man's conversation with Rabbi Feldman allegedly occurred in the mid-to-late 1980s.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Rabbi Feldman said he did not recall any confession of child sex abuse crimes by the accused man.
"To make my position absolutely clear, I endorse the unequivocal rabbinical rulings encouraging victims of abuse to report to the police and I will continue to support the efforts of law enforcement agencies in investigating and taking action against these heinous crimes," Rabbi Feldman said.
The leadership of Bondi's Yeshiva Centre said they immediately contacted NSW police last week to offer their assistance after it was revealed detectives were investigating historic child sexual abuse claims involving former members of their community.
Fairfax Media has also learnt that a former Catholic priest last year charged with multiple child sex offences in NSW and Victoria, James Patrick Jennings, worked at the Bondi Yeshiva Centre during the 1980s.