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
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