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NSW rabbis argue over child abuse

 
 
 
 
 
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Rabbi Yosef Feldman

ONE of the state’s most high profile Jewish leaders is fighting off calls for his resignation after he urged rabbis not to report allegations of child abuse to the police.

Rabbi Yosef Feldman, president of the Rabbinical Council of NSW and based at the Southern Sydney Synagogue, has sparked outrage in a series of emails to other rabbis when he said it should be up to them to determine whether a paedophile should be reported to authorities.

The rabbi also said that, where possible, allegations of abuse should be dealt with outside the Australian legal system.

Rabbis could instead “threaten” the child abuser with publicity of their crime as an alternative to reporting it.

“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 (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 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.”

He also argued anyone who reported a paedophile would be responsible if the paedophile was raped in prison.

Rabbi Feldman’s comments are not the first time a religious leader has caused uproar over their stance on sexual assault.

In 2006 Sydney-based Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali likened women would dressed immodestly to “uncovered meat” and suggested it was their fault if a man assaulted them.

The comments come as the Catholic Church in Australia resists calls for an end to the legal sanctity of confessional, which would require priests to report confessions of child abuse.

But Rabbi Feldman did not shy away from the statements when contacted last week.

Instead he insisted the issue was a “grey area” and that as well as the victim the rabbi had to be mindful of the welfare of the abuser.

“If there is a grey area then we have to look at the Jewish perspective and the human rights of the aggressor,” he told the Australian Jewish News.

Rabbi Feldman was unable to comment yesterday because Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, or day of rest, and he was not permitted to conduct business.

The remarks have outraged in the Jewish community with others on the rabbinical council demanding he step down – calls which Rabbi Feldman has so far resisted.

The Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia have also slammed the comments as “abhorred” and have said a rabbi must “100 per cent” go immediately to authorities regarding matters of child abuse or molestation.

The Rabbinical Council of NSW – which Rabbi Feldman is president of – have also rejected his view.

Last week the council passed a motion condemning all forms of child abuse and affirming any prohibition of reporting crimes to police do not apply in cases of child abuse.

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