Monday, February 09, 2015

Rabbi decried ‘hype’ over child sex abuse allegations 

In explosive evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse yesterday, Rabbi Yosef Feldman said he was ­"annoyed" a friend who had given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Yeshiva organisation faced the prospect of jail for child sex abuse, describing the victim as an informer and emailing him directly to ask whether he would be "healed" by seeing his abuser jailed.

The commission heard Rabbi Feldman — a senior rabbi at Bondi's Yeshiva centre — had expressed concern when he learnt in 2011 that Beth Dins (rabbinical courts) in Sydney and Melbourne were planning to make public statements encouraging abuse victims to come ­forward.

"Too much hype causes miscarriages of justice," he told the commission. "I didn't think it was the time and place for the rabbis to come out in the media with public statements.

"I think it's bad for the Jews."

Rabbi Feldman wrote a series of emails to other rabbis in 2011 — when abuse allegations involving Yeshivah College in Melbourne became public amid a police investigation — arguing that Jews with information about child sex abuse allegations should see a rabbi rather than police.

Other rabbis have condemned Rabbi Feldman's views and called for victims to be encouraged to go to police.

Despite initially telling the royal commission he still held his original view, Rabbi Feldman later said he had changed his mind and now believed that victims should not be discouraged or shunned for making complaints.

He said he had worried ­publicity about a 2011 police ­investigation into David Cyprys, a friend who had worked at ­Yeshivah in Melbourne for ­decades, would prompt false ­allegations.

Cyprys is serving an eight-year prison sentence for abusing several boys at Yeshivah.

The commission also saw emails sent by Rabbi Feldman in 2013 to a man who had alleged he was abused as a boy by Daniel Hayman while on a Yeshiva school camp.

Hayman — a wealthy Yesh­iva contributor and friend of Rabbi Feldman — was consequently charged with indecent assault and received a suspended prison sentence.

Rabbi Feldman emailed the victim asking whether statements by Jewish leaders encouraging victims to report had influenced his decision to go to police "and be known as a ­victim".

"Do you feel that if he is convicted and jailed it will heal any emotional damage that was caused," Rabbi Feldman asked.

Yesterday, he said he was worried Hayman could go to jail, although the offence had occurred a long time ago, and described the victim as a "practical moser" (informer).

Abuse victim and advocate Manny Waks said outside the commission that his lawyers were preparing a defamation ­action against Rabbi Feldman for an email in which the rabbi called him a "phony" attention-seeker.

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