R’ Yossi Feldman’s alleged statements as reported by the AJN

The Australian Jewish News reported

SYDNEY’S top rabbi has been urged to resign after he said it should be up to rabbis to decide whether allegations of child abuse should be reported to police.

In a series of emails that contradicted the recommendations from other rabbinical authorities around Australia in the wake of claims of abuse at Melbourne’s Yeshivah College, Rabbinical Council of NSW (RCNSW) president Rabbi Yosef Feldman outlined his views to fellow members of the rabbinate.

Among his assertions were that anyone who reported a paedophile would be responsible if the paedophile was raped in prison.

He also said abuse should be dealt with, when legally possible, outside the Australian legal system.

“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.”

He added: “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 …”

When contacted by The AJN this week, Rabbi Feldman didn’t back down. He said that if there is no legal obligation to report abuse and the rabbi believed the perpetrator would not reoffend, then there was no need to call the police.

“If there is a grey area then we have to look at the Jewish perspective and the human rights of the aggressor. It is not only the victim that he (the rabbi) has to think of, because in this case he also has to think of the attacker.”

In light of Rabbi Feldman’s emails, the president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA) Rabbi Dovid Freilich told The AJN: “He is halachically wrong and the statement is abhorred. When it comes to molestation and child abuse, it is a mitzvah to go right to the authorities – 100 per cent. I personally would have resigned if I was a member of the NSW Rabbinical Council, to show my total disapproval of Rabbi Feldman’s sentiments.”

Manny Waks, the head of Canberra’s Jewish community, who alleged this month that he was a victim of sexual abuse at Yeshivah College in the early 1990s, described Rabbi Feldman’s comments as “immoral” and “unethical”.

“Contrary to what the rabbi says, there is no grey area in this case. There are victims and there are perpetrators.

“Rabbi Feldman should immediately clarify his remarks publicly, and if he still stands by them then his colleagues should ask him to tender his resignation immediately,” Waks said.

Adding his voice to the chorus of disapproval, the Sydney Beth Din’s Rabbi Moshe Gutnick said Rabbi Feldman was “out of touch with the view of society”.

“He is out of touch with the views of rabbinic Judaism. I dissociate myself with them as should every observant Jew,” Rabbi Gutnick said.

The RCNSW met on Tuesday morning to discuss the issue.

“One rabbi suggested that I should stand down,” Rabbi Feldman said. “He was not listened to and I had overwhelming support.”

The council did, however, express its unanimous adoption of a motion passed by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria condemning all forms of child abuse and affirming “its halachic position” that prohibitions of reporting such crimes to the civil authorities “do not apply in cases of abuse”.

In a statement, Rabbi Feldman said: “I would like to unequivocally publicise my support and encouragement of the adoption of that resolution within the NSW rabbinate and the wider Jewish community.”

However, on Wednesday he told The AJN: “My opinion is that we [rabbis] should determine if there was actual abuse, then call the police. The statement from the rabbinic council does not specify this and I believe it does not contradict my view.”

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Yair Miller said the email exchange was disturbing, but noted the RCNSW’s decision.

“It would be entirely unacceptable and unbefitting any rabbi, even in an abstract discussion, to canvass the theoretical possibility of not reporting allegations of serious criminality to the police,” he said. “What is more important, however, is that that possibility has been unanimously and unreservedly rejected by all members of that council.”

In a joint statement issued yesterday, ORA, the Melbourne Beth Din and the Sydney Beth Din said: “There is no halachic impediment to conveying all credible information regarding such matters to the police or relevant authorities, but to the contrary, it is halachically obligatory to do so.

“The obligation applies not only to mandatory reporters but to all who become aware that abuse is taking place.”

Leaving aside the press hyperbole describing him as “Sydney’s top Rabbi”, in and amongst Feldman’s self-contradictory statements, as reported above, Feldman fails to see the wood from the trees. Feldman struggles to reconcile ובערת הרע מקרבך with לא תעמוד על דם רעך and in doing so, he fails in his responsibility to ensure that the former is addressed. Feldman does make a valid halachic observation: it is definitely problematic that in Australia there is a penal system that passively tolerates inmates who have been found guilty of serious crimes, such as sexual offences or homicide against a minor, being subject to extra-judicial punishment by their fellow inmates. This is clearly not acceptable. The prison system needs to be reformed to make sure that such things do not happen.

A responsible comment taking the above into consideration would have read like this:

It is incumbent upon the Jewish community to protect children at all costs from the scourge of sexual predators who are in our midst. I am troubled by the continued revelation of instances of child molestation and abuse. These occur both within the religious and irreligious communities, amongst Jews and non Jews. I fully support all efforts to protect our children and encourage any victim of such abuse, to come forward and identify themselves to the authorities irrespective of when such offences may have taken place. Studies clearly show that predators have a predilection to re-offend, and even if they have not, they need to face the justice system as per the laws of our country. Rabbis should be trained to appreciate the gamut of issues surrounding sex abuse and we will ensure that each Rabbi is so trained by professionals.

I am gravely concerned, however, about the incidence of abuse within the prison system. Abuse of those who are incarcerated by fellow inmates is simply not acceptable. It isn’t acceptable according to Jewish law and it should not be part of our modern society. Accordingly, I will, through the Organisation of Orthodox Rabbis and the aegis of the ECAJ be mounting a political campaign to stop the incidence of rampant prison abuse. We accept that criminals need to be incarcerated but we do not accept that they should be abused within the prison system itself.

Feldman’s reported comments in the Jewish News are facile. If these AJN comments are accurate he should stand aside from his elected position as he has not displayed the requisite political prowess or leadership characteristics Sydney so sorely needs. Untold damage may have been done to the cause of מאן מלכי רבנן.

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia although my views have naught​ to do with my employer. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

20 thoughts on “R’ Yossi Feldman’s alleged statements as reported by the AJN”

  1. I’m posting this on behalf of Philip Henenberg, who asked me to do so.

    I hope Rabbi Feldman meant that the Rov could take a part in triaging claims
    of abuse rather than hand over all reported allegations to the Police as
    they arise

    I suppose that is what already happens when reporting to Police – responsible
    persons such as Rabbis would want to make sure there is a case behind the
    allegation before aproaching Police
    But if there was doubt as to what happened, what then?

    That may be the real question and thinking behind Feldman’s statements- who
    is best placed to assess a child’s report of abuse where some doubt lingers?
    perhaps a formally trained child psychologist? perhaps the parents are best
    placed to make that assessment?

    perhaps the Police or Human Services?

    The answer surely depends on each particular circumstance (may Hashem protect
    us all from any more!!) and maybe that is where a rov may assist.

    It is not all that clear in many cases, and none of what Rabbi Feldman stated
    shoud be taken to mean that he is insensitive to the safety and welfare of
    children or anyone else in the community.

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  2. A Rabbi in such situations is a quasi social worker. They may well find themselves in a situation where they need to refer people onto specialists. The Rambam doesn’t have a halachic treatise devoted to triaging victims of abuse. R’ Feldman’s article was not about that. His point was a halachic one, which I have discussed with R’ Schachter. It is a concern. That being said, he in no way should have made the facile comments that he did. Issues such as this require a very carefully worded and thought out response. He failed on that count dismally in my opinion.

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  3. Would R Feldmans comments have raised an eyebrow a few months ago before the Kramer and other persons of interest investigation broke?I think not.Does anyone seriously believe that R Feldmans’ opinions are not widely held by other Rabonnim? R Feldman said what is not politically correct & what many still debate is or is not halachicly correct. It’s nice to see these strong words of censure from the powers that be.The lips that censure R Feldman were strangely silent until now.This is odd given that so much was already known before the police investigation was announced. All will be revealed in time when the Police do move to bring their target/s to account.I don’t agree with R Feldman but I give him credit for being the same both inside & out which is more than can be said for many of his opponents.

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    1. Bruce,
      Society, and more recently the Melbourne Jewish Community has matured and understood the victim of such crimes in a much more informative manner than in the past. There is an acceptance now of the long term effects of such crimes on people; an acceptance that there is no statute of limitations on such crimes; an acceptance that education and openness is the key to attempting to minimise future incidents; an acceptance that it is okay to name someone as an abuser if and only if one is God forbid abused, or if one has been unfortunate enough to have heard it first hand from the abused.

      There has not been an acceptance that anonymous comments naming an abuser are not acceptable. Moderators, including myself, need to be very careful in not allowing that reality. In general, of course, the laws of lashon hara and rechilus need to be uppermost. Indeed, I assisted the mother of an accused person, to trace back very hurtful comments on another blog, so that the irresponsible person will be tracked and caught. They will then have to show the truth of their allegations. If they cannot, they may well face a civil action.

      On the matter of whether Rabonim agree with R’ Feldman or not and when they might have considered this in the past, I think one has to accept the unpalatable fact that the Rabonim were no different to others. Many if not most thought that a) the damage to the abused might pass, b) the abuser could be rehabilitated, and c) it was therefore best to treat such matters internally. Society, and the Rabonim now know that this is not so. In my personal interaction with a range of Rabonim, many of whom have been unfairly maligned, I sense that there is a growing and real understanding of the nature of this scourge, and they are committed to protecting our children and outing molesters and past molesters.

      I don’t take any solace in R’ Feldman’s rather poorly chosen words, even if he is being honest with his views. Honesty is important, but it doesn’t wipe away Sechel. One needs to know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it, and R’ Feldman, in my opinion, has not displayed good sense in any of these.

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  4. “he has not displayed the requisite political prowess or leadership characteristics Sydney so sorely needs”

    Perhaps more importantly, he has failed to demonstrate any depth of Halachic knowledge in relation to the issue at hand. Even if he had, what sort of credentials to pasken on an issue of this sensitivity does a community Rabbi of his ilk have? When the RCA and the Aggudah released their statements, they were done so with the benefit of consultation with their respective (and very well credentialled) poskim. What contribution to the corpus of Halachik literature has Rabbi Feldman made? A dvar torah in his shule’s weekly newsletter?

    Rather than Baal Habatish references to the issur of Loshon Horo, perhaps someone can send him a copy of the relevant responsa from the Tzitz Eliezer or the Aruch Hashulchan. He might want to access a copy of Rabbi Michael Broyde’s “Mesirat Meida al Avaryanim lidei ha-Shiltonot be-Artzot ha-Berit”. If he finds Rabbi Broyde’s Ivrit too challenging, there is an English version available.

    In the interim, his kahal would be better served by Rabbi Feldman sticking to his day job – officiating at simchas, directing the mechanics of his local minyan, and answering questions from homemakers regarding Shabbos platters.

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    1. Amused. I disagree with you. There is a significant issue in what he writes. I discussed that issue with R’ Schachter about a month ago as it turns out, and indeed, I suspect that R’ Feldman heard it from one of R’ Schachter’s shiurim, which I heard a few years ago.

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    1. I don’t think he’s following R’ Menashe Klein. The issues he raises pertain to problems in some prison systems. R’ Menashe Klein would have the same opinion even if the person was in solitary confinement. Presumably, R’ Feldman would not have a problem with prisons if they were in solitary or isolated.

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      1. I don’t think we are in disagreement at all. I’m not for a moment suggesting there aren’t very real issues here. I’m simply making the observation that there are certain issues of halacha that pulpit Rabbis need to have the humility to accept are beyond their pay-grade. If they are relying on the Gedolim, then they should (in the tradition of Chazal) quote them explicitly when paskening. If they have the temerity to rely on their own analysis of Halacha, then they should at the very least present the case in detail.

        Furthermore, if the basis for his position is a “shiur he once heard” from HaRav Schachter, then if that’s how he paskens, he’d better stop advising his kahal on Shabbos platters too! Issues like this need to be taken very, very, very seriously

        Drawing inferences from shiurim (as opposed to 1. in depth halachic analysis where capable and/or 2. detailed discussions with Gedolim) is ENTIRELY INAPPROPRIATE when children’s lives are at risk.

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  5. As a human services worker, it is a policy that any claim/inkling of abuse is immediately reported to police for further investigation… it should be the same policy amongst all Rabbi’s

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  6. [edited]

    Isaac, I love your blog and am an avid reader. You do well to expose some of the problems in our community.

    How about addressing the problem of drug abuse in the community, particularly with regard to people in authority.

    For example there are rumours about a doctor who regulalry “smokes up”. How do we know that teachers and other carers we entrust our children with are not high on drugs? What steps do our schools, youth groups and others in positions of responsibility take to ensure that we do not put our children’s lives in the hands of drug abusers?

    Do we have to wait until one day G-d forbid there is a car or other accident or serious malpractice etc in which lives are ruined for our leaders to clamp down on this issue?

    Like

    1. “How do we know..etc?”
      Well we don’t. there is no way of policing everything that everyone does.

      I think that we all need to stop putting so much weight on mere rumors.

      If someone has filed a complaint against said person, whether it is abuse or any other indiscretion, there is no need for it to immediately become a communal affair.

      Even once we all know about “it”, from the media, this blog etc, it still doesn’t give us the right to pass judgment when we are not involved in anyway.

      People need to start worrying more about themselves than others.

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        1. My point was not to apologize for serious allegations leveled against certain individuals, G-d Forbid.
          ‘mother’ (above) was say that she ‘heard’ that someone is smoking drugs, and my only point was that we shouldn’t take everything we hear on face value. They need to be investigated through the proper channels and not just gossiped about.
          I think as a community we tend to put to much weight on rumors.

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  7. Does anyone actually care whether or not Rabbi Yossi Feldman actually said the comments that were reported in the AJN?? I think by now we should all be aware that the media does not always report things truthfully or in the correct context.

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  8. My comment on July 29th above was flawed in view of R Feldmans’ denial.I gave R Feldman credit where credit was not due.Or am I wrong again?Did R Feldman never really make the comments reported in the AJN?Life is so complicated Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

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  9. B’H
    I was actually very critical of Rabbi Feldman and I am deeply sorry now for my attack on him because I am giving him the benefit of the doubt. I think this whole incident was reported out of context and who knows what the motives of the scurrilous rag’s editor were? I personally think that matters of this nature are best dealt with by the appropriate people and rabbis whose specialties of expertise are in other areas of halacha and life are not necessarily the right people to deal with this sort of investigation. There are some rabbonim who do make this sort of pastoral care their mission and Rabbonim like Rabbi Avraham Twerski are few and far between.
    First children must be protected. That is paramount and if there is any suggestion of abuse or potential for, it must be removed from areas where children are. That is a person with a record of child abuse or an incident (even if twenty years or forty years ago) should not be working in schools or kindergartens. Do not put a stumbling block before the blind. They are always likely to re-offend in a weaker moment. Do reformed alcoholics work in bottle shops or pubs? No.
    I think this has taught me that we must be extremely careful of what we are given to read and understand through the media and we must ensure that people actually say what they are reported to have said and sometimes a journalist needs to investigate closely. There are few ethical journalists around. I went to a talk on writing at the VWC last night and this ex-journalist actually said that journalists realise they are not ethical in what they do. They use the traumas and incidents in others’ lives to make their living. In other words they are pen prostitutes living off selling insincerity and falsehood in a big way. Similar I guess in a way to lawyers and barristers who are simply leeches of the legal system and they do have a similar mentality to the high class hookers I used to ferry around when I was a taxi driver years ago. For a price, they will do anything for you and all is for sale. Luckily we are not all like that.

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  10. JOINT PRESS RELEASE BY THE AJN AND RABBI YOSEF FELDMAN

    AJN and top rabbi look ahead to a peaceful new year

    The Australian Jewish News and Rabbi Yosef Feldman, President of the Rabbinical Council of NSW, have this week come to a peaceful agreement in relation to the publication of remarks made by him on the subject of child abuse.

    On 29 July 2011, the AJN ran a front page story about Rabbi Yosef Feldman entitled “Top Rabbi Must Quit”. In a related article and editorial, reference was made to a leaked internal email discussion amongst Rabbis in which Rabbi Yosef Feldman put forward certain suggestive views in relation to the reporting of child abuse allegations to the authorities.

    The AJN today acknowledged that its coverage may have been considered sensational and apologised for any unnecessary distress this caused.

    Rabbi Yosef Feldman acknowledged that while the reporter Joshua Levi did not misquote him in the article, he believes that the context of the email discussion was not clarified. However, he acknowledges that the views he expressed could have been misunderstood. He apologises for any distress caused to the community as a result.

    In today’s edition of the newspaper, the AJN admits that since the publication of their first article, many rabbis “have since contacted us to confirm they regarded [Rabbi Yosef Feldman’s] comments as halachic conjecture in the context of an academic debate”.

    In a Statement from the Executive of the Rabbinical Council of NSW, also published in today’s edition, the Rabbis go further and assert that “The Executive Members of the Rabbinical Council of NSW, alongside many rabbis across Australia, are of the opinion that the views propounded in those emails were simply conjecture within the context of Halachic discussion and did not necessarily reflect Rabbi Yosef Feldman’s personal opinion on those matters.”

    In today’s lengthy article, authored by AJN National Editor Zeddy Lawrence, the newspaper refers to its original coverage and says that “we recognise and fully appreciate that there are those who felt we could have been less forthright and more sensitive in the way we covered it, and we apologise for any unnecessary distress caused.”

    “In this instance, if there are those who feel we have been sensationalist, then we must take that lesson on board as we move forwards.”

    For his part, Rabbi Feldman stated in today’s edition, “I do acknowledge that things I wrote in emails to rabbinic colleagues could have been taken out of context and indeed misunderstood.”

    He went on to “apologise to my rabbinic colleagues as well as to the Jewish community as a whole for any embarrassment caused to them by the publication of material based on my emails”.

    He added: “I unreservedly and emphatically condemn all forms of abuse, particularly child abuse. Perpetrators must be brought to justice in the Australian legal system, and I condemn the suggestion that paedophiles deserve protection from that legal system. I believe, as asserted by the major Australian Beth Dins and reported in The AJN, that all credible allegations of abuse should immediately be reported to, and dealt with, by the appropriate Government Authorities.”

    Comparing Rabbi Feldman’s contribution to the community with that of Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth Lord Jonathan Sacks, The AJN concludes that “we wish Rabbi Feldman well in all his endeavours and look forward to reporting on his positive impact on the community in the months and years ahead.”

    As a result of The AJN’s initial article, Rabbi Feldman had stepped aside temporarily from his role as President of the Rabbinical Council of NSW in order to clear his name. In today’s statement, the RCNSW Executive informs the community that he has resumed the Presidency, saying that “The RCNSW looks forward to the contribution that Rabbi Yosef Feldman will continue to make together with his Executive in his role as RCNSW President, which he has now resumed.”

    “It is a fact of human nature that ‘sorry’ is one of the hardest words to say. Bearing this in mind we warmly welcome the AJN’s willingness to acknowledge that their coverage may have been sensational, as well as their apology for the unnecessary distress caused. In particular we laud its undertaking to thoroughly review the way matters of this nature are reported in the future as well as the acknowledgement of its Editor regarding the fine character of Rabbi Yosef Feldman and the significant contribution that he has made to the community.”

    Rabbi Feldman concludes his Letter wishing the AJN well and thanking his “colleagues on the RCNSW Executive as well as many Rabbis in NSW and across Australia for their unstinting support in recent times.”

    “I am hopeful that we can all move forward in unity for the benefit of our community.”

    This is the final joint Press Release which has been approved by both parties. A previous version has been withdrawn.

    BELOW ARE THE THREE ARTICLES IN FULL AS THEY APPEAR IN TODAY’S AJN

    Reflections on our role as Reporters
    By Zeddy Lawrence, National Editor of the AJN

    IN recent days, my mind has drifted back to 2002 and the furore that surrounded the publication of The Dignity of Difference by the Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth, Lord Jonathan Sacks.
    Accused by ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Manchester of heresy for implying that Judaism did not have a monopoly on spiritual truth, Chief Rabbi Sacks eventually admitted some of his statements had been open to misinterpretation and may not have accurately conveyed his personal feelings on the matter. As well as rewriting the controversial passages in the book, he issued a statement saying “The problem lies in the use I make of words.”
    It was not the first time the chief had cause to regret his terminology. A few weeks earlier he had been lambasted for claiming in an interview that events in Israel sometimes made him feel “uncomfortable as a Jew” and that Israel was forced into postures “incompatible …with our deepest ideals”.
    For all the flak he received – and boy was there flak! – the chief was and is still held in the highest esteem, and it is a tribute to the man, rather than his ‘problematical words’ that he invariably pops up in almost every top 10 list of Britain’s most influential and respected public figures.
    And so to the present day and the furore that greeted Rabbi Feldman’s comments on the matter of child abuse, as reported in The AJN. ‘Problematical words’ indeed. Taken from an email exchange with fellow rabbis, many of his peers have since contacted us to confirm they regarded the comments as halachic conjecture in the context of an academic debate.
    Others in the community, however, read them another way and were understandably dismayed by the opinions expressed.
    Which is where The AJN came in.
    It is interesting to note the praise heaped on the paper when, in campaigning spirit, it lobbies for Gilad Shalit, it exposes anti-Zionist politicians or it forces online bookshops to remove anti-Semitic books from sale on their virtual shelves. Just last week, a Perth-based ticketing agency removed the option “Occupied Palestinian territories” from its drop-down address menu for overseas subscribers after The AJN alerted them to its presence.
    As proud inheritors of the title ‘The Fourth Estate’, nothing fills journalists or newspapers with greater pride than effecting a change in society on behalf of its readers.
    But turn that same campaigning zeal within the community and for those caught up in the spotlight, the paper goes from hero to zero.
    As a newspaper, we have a duty to represent our readers and take up the baton on their behalf when they feel a grievance towards individuals or institutions that they sense are not acting in their best interests. Likewise, we have a duty to inform our readers of any perceived failings that their leaders may have. As a newspaper and as a journalists, it is our tradition to take a stand.
    However, as a newspaper serving a specific community, we face additional responsibilities. One is to promote a sense of unity and pride within that community and in our communal institutions, another is to endeavour to best represent that community to the outside world.
    Inevitably, these obligations will occasionally come into conflict, and when these circumstances arise we have to make tough decisions as to what side of this narrow editorial tightrope we should fall on.
    Some will welcome our decision and applaud us for our strident stance. Others will feel we have overstepped the mark and condemn us for sensationalism.
    We are not the first, nor will we be the last newspaper to stand accused of this charge. Indeed, in the wake of the allegations that have struck at the heart of the Murdoch media empire in recent weeks, the entire media industry is feeling the heat.
    True or not in the current climate, newspapers are perceived as ignoring ethical and sometimes legal boundaries, in their quest to enthral readers and boost sales.
    It would be churlish of those of us in the industry to ignore that sentiment. Likewise, it would be churlish of The AJN in particular to turn a blind eye to the feelings of many members of the community about the manner in which we handled the story regarding Rabbi Yosef Feldman. While we stand by the content of the story, we recognise and fully appreciate that there are those who felt we could have been less forthright and more sensitive in the way we covered it, and we apologise for any unnecessary distress caused.
    With Rosh Hashanah fast approaching, it is timely for us all to take stock of our actions over the past few months. The AJN is no exception. Drawing on our experiences, we must consider our shortcomings, and resolve to do better, in the year ahead. In this instance, if there are those who feel we have been sensationalist, then we must take that lesson on board as we move forwards.
    For a newspaper, as for rabbis, it is not always easy being all things to all people. But we do our best, just as they do their best.
    Whatever was written in our story does nothing to detract from the tremendous contribution both Rabbi Yosef Feldman and his family have made to our community, or the esteem in which he and they are held.
    And as with Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, it is Rabbi Feldman’s deeds and purpose that are ultimately the mark of the man, rather than some ill-chosen words.
    That being the case, we wish Rabbi Feldman well in all his endeavours and look forward to reporting on his positive impact on the community in the months and years ahead.

    Statement from the Rabbinical Council of NSW
    By RCNSW Executive

    Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, father of the musar ethical movement within 19th century Lithuanian Judaism, used to say “not everything that is thought should be said, not everything that is said should be recorded and not everything that is recorded ought to be published!”
    On 29 July 2011, the AJN ran a front page story about RCNSW President Rabbi Yosef Feldman entitled “Top Rabbi Must Quit” with an accompanying prominent article on page 3 and full page Editorial entitled “Sydney rabbinate’s shame”
    In the Article and Editorial, reference was made to an internal email discussion amongst Rabbis in which Rabbi Yosef Feldman put forward certain views in relation to the reporting of child abuse allegations to the Authorities.
    The Executive Members of the Rabbinical Council of NSW, alongside many rabbis across Australia, are of the opinion that the views propounded in those emails were simply conjecture within the context of Halachic discussion and did not necessarily reflect Rabbi Yosef Feldman’s personal opinion on those matters. Although it may have been unwise for Rabbi Feldman to send those emails in the first place to a private Rabbinic list, which included Rabbis that he did not know, that in no way justifies the leaking of those emails to the Press resulting in the AJN’s interpreting in an unflattering way selected quotes from those emails.
    The view of the RCNSW regarding the AJN’s coverage of this matter has already been disseminated within the columns of the AJN and there is no need to reiterate it.
    The RCNSW has unreservedly and emphatically condemned all forms of child abuse and protection of perpetrators. We have encouraged all victims to report directly to the Police. This Halachic ruling has the full support and endorsement of Rabbi Feldman.
    It is a fact of human nature that ‘sorry’ is one of the hardest words to say. Bearing this in mind we warmly welcome the AJN’s willingness to acknowledge that their coverage may have been sensational, as well as their apology for the unnecessary distress caused. In particular we laud its undertaking to thoroughly review the way matters of this nature are reported in the future as well as the acknowledgement of its Editor regarding the fine character of Rabbi Yosef Feldman the significant contribution that he has made to the community.
    The RCNSW looks forward to the contribution that Rabbi Yosef Feldman will continue to make together with his Executive in his role as RCNSW President which he has now resumed.
    In this connection, we commend Rabbi Feldman’s acknowledgement that an error of judgement was made on his part. We all make mistakes and indeed we, the members of the NSW Rabbinate, also need to introspect a little and see how we can more effectively bring the eternal message of Torah Judaism into the lives of those whom we seek to influence.
    Out of bad, good can emerge. We feel optimistic that out of this cheshbon ha-nefesh (soul-searching) a new era of good understanding and goodwill between the Sydney rabbinate and the AJN may dawn in which a genuine endeavour is made to co-operate with, empower and seek the good in that which we each strive to do for the betterment of the Jewish community and the wider society.
    We are now entering the month of Elul. The High Holiday season of repentance and positive resolutions are upon us. Let us hope that this experience has awakened us all to the imperative of moving forward communally in peace and harmony, so that united we can face the most pressing and overwhelming challenge: that of inspiring the next generation of Jews with commitment to our heritage and Jewish continuity.
    We wish the AJN and the entire Jewish Community a Shanah Tovah Umetukah, a happy, healthy and sweet New Year.

    A Letter to the Jewish Community
    By Rabbi Yosef Feldman, President of the Rabbinical Council of NSW

    I first and foremost wish to state for the record that I unreservedly and emphatically condemn all forms of abuse, particularly child abuse. Perpetrators must be brought to justice in the Australian legal system, and I condemn the suggestion that paedophiles deserve protection from that legal system. I believe, as asserted by the major Australian Beth Dins and reported in the AJN, that all credible allegations of abuse should immediately be reported to, and dealt with, by the appropriate Government Authorities.
    I believe that I was seriously misrepresented in material that was recently published by the AJN, although I do acknowledge that things I wrote in emails to rabbinic colleagues could have been taken out of context and indeed misunderstood.
    The Jewish community as a whole has been affected by this controversy. Although my words in the emails were Halachic conjecture as part of a broader discussion and were never written in a manner suitable to be understood by the public, I nevertheless would like to apologise to my esteemed Rabbinic colleagues as well as to the Jewish community as a whole for any embarrassment caused to them as a result of the publication of material based on my emails. I would also like to express my profound sympathy and support for the victims of abuse.
    I would like to thank my colleagues on the RCNSW Executive as well as many Rabbis in NSW and across Australia for their unstinting support in recent times. I would like to particularly commend Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia’s Vice President Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant for his efforts in helping to facilitate this reconciliation with the AJN.
    I am hopeful that we can all move forward in unity for the benefit of our community and wish the AJN and the entire Jewish Community a Shanah Tovah Umetukah – A happy & healthy sweet new year.

    http://www.jwire.com.au/news/rabbi-yosef-feldman-back-as-president/18600

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