Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Rabbi Yosef Feldman quits Yeshiva Centre board over views on child sex abuse 

Giving evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, Rabbi Feldman admitted he was unfamiliar with child abuse laws and called for leniency for reformed paedophiles.

Today he resigned from his post as director on the board of management of The Yeshiva Centre.

"I apologise to anyone in the Rabbinate, the Jewish community and the wider Australian community who may have been embarrassed or ashamed by my views, words, understandings, recordings or emails about child sexual abuse or any other matter," he said.

"I have dedicated my life to doing whatever I can to protect and assist all people in need including those who have suffered from any form of abuse, especially children, and it pains me greatly that words that I have expressed have upset victims and their families.

"In the future I will be more careful with my words, so that they are only a source of pride to the Jewish and general community."

Speaking at the Royal Commission this week, Rabbi Feldman said he didn't agree that paedophiles who had repented and not reoffended risked jail time if they were prosecuted.

"Someone who's done teshuva (repented), ending up in jail for many years, I didn't think is a good thing," he said.

"Obviously we're terribly concerned about the victims.

"Is it just a situation where we punish someone for what they did 40 years ago even though they've changed totally? They're not a threat to society and everything else ...

"Of course according to law you're supposed to, I never said it shouldn't be done according to law. But I'm certainly not happy about it. I've said this again and again. I done know why this is an issue."

Rabbi Feldman said today he was committed to undertaking formal training and education on how to identify, handle and report abuse allegations.

His resignation followed calls from Australia's peak body for Orthodox Jews, The Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Australia, calling for him to be stripped of all authority.

"It is clear that having made such statements, Rabbi Feldman can no longer be regarded as fit and proper to serve in any communal capacity and in particular any position that involves any pastoral care and involvement within the Jewish and wider community at large," the council said in a statement.

Victims of sex abuse say Rabbi Feldman is one of a string of leaders who ignored allegations of wrongdoing that should now be stood down.

In a statement, Sydney's Yeshiva Centre, where Rabbi Feldman was based, thanked him for "years of selfless dedication".

"The Yeshiva Centre reiterates its staunch commitment to protect victims of abuse including full compliance with authorities and legal procedures," it said.

"As part of a commitment to the highest standards of care for children, Yeshiva has comprehensive child protection policies in place, which are constantly being reviewed and updated to ensure maximum safety and protection for all children in our care."

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