Rabbi Yossi Feldman responds

I have a word of advice to anyone using email: never, but never, assume that what you have written, even with the qualifying words “highly confidential” or “for your eyes only” won’t be sent on against your express wishes. Personally, I would never send out something confidential to a third-party, but the reality is that people do. Indeed, I experienced this “phenomenon” a few weeks ago when I sent an email to four trustworthy people. One of them may have leaked, but all denied it. It is remotely possible that their email account was accessed against their will, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

It would seem, and I do not know, that Rabbi Feldman’s private emails to fellow Rabbis were leaked to the Jewish News. It would then appear that the AJN created a news story based on the email interchange. It is important to remember that Rabbis are also entitled to discuss matters להלכה ולא למעשה. If another Rabbi leaked Rabbi Feldman’s private emails, then it’s beyond contempt, and disgusting.

If the AJN constructed their story based on such leaks, then I suggest their actions are unethical and amoral. I don’t care if they are in the business of selling papers. In the least, I wonder if they conferred with Feldman before publishing? At any rate, no doubt the AJN got legal advice before they went to press and Yossi Feldman has now reportedly got his own counter legal advice, and there are threats of defamation flying around. I’d hope that it would go ahead to an independent international Beth Din for arbitration before it got to any defamation lawyers, though.

Was this episode necessary? If there was just a modicum of respect, the AJN should not have behaved like a Murdoch style paper excitedly thinking they had a Watergate leak. They should have asked Feldman for clarification. This issue of abuse is too grave to be side-tracked by what will become a win/win for only the respective lawyers. How sad.

Here is what I received Erev Shabbos from one of my readers (thanks Steve). It is doing the rounds and is a legitimate email from Feldman.

From: Yeshiva Shul
Date: Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 8:58 AM
Subject: Statement from Rabbi Yosef Feldman in relation to article in the AJN

To: yeshivashul


I would like to put on the record that from my perspective the Australian Jewish News coverage in issue dated 29/7/11 misquoted, misconstrued and misrepresented my comments from an in internal Halachic debate amongst the Rabbinate of Australia relating to the serious and reprehensible issues of Child abuse and the appropriate response. I reserve all of my Halachic and Legal rights in relation to this matter which constitutes in my opinion no less than character assassination at the highest level. Today I will be consulting with a senior defamation Lawyer in relation to what I believe is an outrageous travesty, and exploring all available options including Beth Din or court proceedings to remedy the matter.

I quote the beginning of the article which says that, “Among his assertions were that anyone who reported a paedophile would be responsible if the paedophile was raped in prison.” I never made such an unqualified assertion in relation to a convicted paedophile. This and other serious matters arising from the coverage will be pursued vigorously.

I would also like to make abundantly clear that the Rabbinate of NSW under my Presidency and encouragement has unequivocally and unanimously endorsed a resolution condemning all forms of child abuse and recommends the reporting of such to the relevant secular authorities.

I also emphatically endorse the joint statement on this matter publicised by ORA (The Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia) the Melbourne Beth Din and the Sydney Beth Din, which states that 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.

The Jewish News has called for my resignation as President of RCNSW.

My response is that as a result of what I and others believe to be their unprofessional recklessness, in my personal capacity I call for the immediate resignations of both AJN National Editor Zeddy Lawrence and article author Josh Levi, before they cause further damage to myself, the Sydney Rabbinate and the Jewish community.

Rabbi Yosef Feldman

I hope this rather nasty incident doesn’t deflect from the main issue at hand:

  • protecting children
  • reporting alleged abusers to the police


Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

13 thoughts on “Rabbi Yossi Feldman responds”

  1. If AJN is made up the story then they deserve to be sued especially for the front cover. I wouldn’t be surprised if R Feldman was never interviewed. However, …………………………if there was an interview I hope it was recorded.

    We really make it hard for ourselves a lot of the time.


  2. Im sorry but the thing that bugs me about all this is not the fact that the AJN allegedly twisted Rabbi Feldman’s words, rather that Rabbi Feldman is taking legal action. Not necessary, as was mentioned above, lets focus on the real issue at hand!


  3. steven:

    You said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if R Feldman was never interviewed”, If he didn’t why didn’t he say so in his response?


      1. Pitputim

        I knew that, but there are more quotations in this article about what he said, and I find it strange that he chose to comment that he never said Among his assertions were that anyone who reported a paedophile would be responsible if the paedophile was raped in prison his only way to “clean” himself is to release the correspondence.


        he wrote : “Today I will be consulting with a senior defamation Lawyer in relation to what I believe is an outrageous travesty”/

        talking to a lawyer about what he believes is an outrageous travesty, is a long way from taking legal action.


        1. I don’t think he has a responsibility to release private emails to his colleagues. The only things that matter are למעשה what he held and said. If he did not dissent from ORA’s statement formally, then on what basis did someone say that he did?

          Let’s wait to see what the AJN responds with.


  4. [edited]
    and I don’t think that the ajn has a responsibility to respond to his letter, the main issue in their article were his emails to his colleagues, and he didn’t deny that, and whether he allegedly said that anyone who reported a pedophile would be responsible if the pedophile was raped in prison, is meaningless.


    1. The emails, even if true, are somewhat theoretical, unless they resulted in his dissent from ORA and their ruling. What should bother us is not the שקלא וטריא but rather the מסקנה.
      How many times do we read a long תשובה where the פוסק says: וכל זה להלכה, אבל למעשה … they conclude differently.
      It is a halachic concern if a prisoner is very likely to be abused in prison, whether that concern has the force of then concluding that one should not report למעשה is another issue, surely.

      It is surely a matter of concern if the emails were leaked. I wouldn’t like to think that people leaked my thoughts unless they reflected my eventual conclusion. I’d also seek consent to do so.
      We can’t conclude שתיקה כהודעה here especially when there is a denial of sorts.


  5. emails of thoughts tell you the way the people think, while decisions and press releases of committees and organizations isn’t more then a pr trick, but tells you nothing about how they will act or even think.


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