One of Australia's most senior Chabad rabbis has admitted he did not inform police after a young boy contacted him 20 years ago and told him that he had been sexually abused by a teacher at Chabad's Yeshiva Centre in Sydney. Instead, he alerted senior members of the Yeshiva about the boy's allegations, and the alleged pedophile then fled Australia. "Knowing what I know now, I would have probably called the police," the rabbi said.
Police not told of abuse claim: rabbi
Richard Baker & Nick McKenzie • The Age
One of Australia's most senior rabbis has revealed he did not inform police after a young boy contacted him to detail allegations of sexual abuse.
Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, who heads the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, said he received an anonymous phone call from a boy more than 20 years ago about the alleged abuse at Sydney's Yeshiva.
Rabbi Gutnick, who was based in Strathfield in Sydney's west at the time, said he alerted senior members of the Yeshiva about the boy's allegations, but did not contact police. "Knowing what I know now, I would have probably called the police," he said.
Fairfax Media has also learnt of more child sexual abuse allegations at Bondi's Yeshiva College in 2003.
The alleged abuser of the boy who contacted Rabbi Gutnick, and a male teacher accused of indecently assaulting a 12-year-old Yeshiva student at a camp in 2003, were both relocated overseas after complaints were made about them.
Fairfax Media does not suggest the Yeshiva community played any role in the men leaving the country.
The victim of the 2003 incident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said his family reported the incident to the NSW Department of Community Services and to two principals at Yeshiva College.
The victim said he was dismayed to learn that the accused teacher was flown overseas within weeks of his complaint. "How would anyone know if he went on to do the same thing there," he said.
A source connected with Yeshiva said the college reported the 2003 incident to child protection services.
Rabbi Gutnick said a man, claiming to be the same boy from 20 years ago, contacted him in 2011. The rabbi said he urged the man to contact police.
Fairfax Media last month reported that the man accused of the 1980s sexual assaults on at least four victims, including the boy who contacted Rabbi Gutnick, was being investigated by NSW Police.
The alleged abuser told one of his victims in a recent conversation that he was called to the office of the Yeshiva Centre's spiritual leader, Rabbi Pinchus Feldman.
"He [Rabbi Feldman] just told me it shouldn't happen and I should take steps to avoid it," the accused man told his alleged victim. "It was a once-off conversation."
The Yeshiva centre last week released a statement on behalf of Rabbi Feldman, who is Rabbi Gutnick's brother-in-law, saying he had no recollection of any confession of child sexual abuse 25 years ago.
In response to a series of questions this week, the Yeshiva Centre said in a statement:
"Yeshiva treats its child welfare responsibilities with the utmost care and has always endeavoured to comply in full with all its legal and moral child safety obligations. It is our policy to consult with appropriate government authorities about such matters.
"Yeshiva representatives recently initiated a high-level meeting with the police to discuss an investigation into historical allegations of child abuse. The police have informed Yeshiva representatives that media speculation could endanger the success of their investigation.
"The police have requested that Yeshiva refer all inquiries relating to the investigation directly to them. It is therefore inappropriate for us to comment on any of these matters."
Manny Waks, a Melbourne-based advocate for child sex abuse victims, said he was not surprised to learn of "new serious allegations of a cover-up within an ultra-Orthodox institution".
He commended Rabbi Gutnick's admissions..
Former president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia Rabbi Dovid Freilich said perpetrators and those who covered up abuse were both guilty of offences.
"Kids' lives are destroyed and you want to cover it up? It's disgusting," he said.