On the Royal Commission

I had previously written that I was so upset by the thing that I couldn’t bring myself to watch proceedings. Yesterday, towards the end of the day, for some reason I can’t explain, I decided to see what was happening, and caught about an hour of Yossi Feldman’s testimony. Some aspects of that testimony made me feel ill, quite literally. It disturbed my sleep last night significantly and I awoke in a nightmarish state imagining I had spent the night in the Royal Commission watching proceedings. I missed Shacharis because I was affected by what I had heard and seen in that one hour and woke in an agitated state.

Many things struck me, but one was reverberating in my head as I drove in to work. When asked whether he had undertaken any specialised education since the issue became headlines, Yossi Feldman admitted had not but intended to do so in the near future. I could not understand why one, who by his own admission, had at best a very immature understanding of sexual crime involving minors (and I note that his answer of 13 years of age (Bar Mitzvah) was disingenuous even from a Jewish point of view because one is not a Bar Onshin (punishable) until they are 20 thereby making a person a “minor” in respect of punishment until they are 20 according to Jewish Law) had not undertaken any formal education in this area himself immediately. I recognise some live cloistered lives, but it is precisely those people who need that type of education more so than those who live in the real world. The world is a much crueller place than some imagine.

I then noticed the laudable statement from the Jewish Taskforce in Victoria this morning which stated

We have been following the Royal Commission into Child Abuse with concern as we hear the awful experiences people have gone through.
We feel deeply for all the victims and applaud their courage in coming forward to tell of the pain they suffered and continue to bear. We encourage all victims  and their families to reach out for support; whether that be in reporting to the police,
in seeking therapeutic assistance or for whatever else they require.

We would like to reiterate that all institutions must have appropriate policies in place to safeguard children so that there will be a clear understanding
of appropriate behaviors and the ramifications of not behaving in accordance with the law. We therefore encourage those organisations who have not yet put
policies in place to attend the JCCV training sessions, or similar appropriate ones. Child abuse is heinous and unacceptable. The responsibility lies with all of us as a community and society to ensure we take action to prevent it.

Debbie Wiener – Chair
Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence Inc.
Admin line: 03 9523 6850
Support line: 03 9523 2100
PO. Box 2439, Caulfield Junction, 3161
admin@jewishtaskforce.org.au
http://www.jewishtaskforce.com.au

and it dawned on me that perhaps there is no chapter of this organisation in New South Wales? If this is indeed the case, there is a strong argument simply based on one hour of what I watched, that all in positions where they educate the young or interact with the young etc undertake a series of courses as described by the Jewish Taskforce and often offered by them. Certainly, I would make it compulsory as part of Rabbinic Studies designed for communal leadership. If there is no such organisation in Sydney, then it’s time some from NSW came down and followed the processes used here to make such facilities available. It would be silly to assume that this problem only existed and will continue to manifest itself solely in Victoria and NSW. These types of education programs should be compulsory in every state, even those with fewer students. I extend this call to Bar/Bat Mitzvah teachers, those who give Shiurim in a Kollel or house of learning, and anyone in a position where they interact in a way that may be amenable to grooming or whether there is a power differential. Knowledge is power. People need to know and understand. Clearly some do not.

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia although my views have nought 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.

35 thoughts on “On the Royal Commission”

  1. (and I note that his answer of 13 years of age (Bar Mitzvah) was disingenuous even from a Jewish point of view because one is not a Bar Onshin (punishable) until they are 21 thereby making a person a “minor” in respect of punishment until they are 21 according to Jewish Law)

    Where on earth did you get such a ridiculous notion?

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    1. I wouldn’t be calling the Chida, Ben Ish Chai, Tzitz Eliezer (where there is a long piece on this which I read 15 years ago) “ridiculous”.
      There is a contradiction between Bavli and Yerushalmi and there are many who hold that it’s only at the age of 20 that the “full force” of punishment is applicable to a youth. Yes, they are responsible for Mitzvos at 13 and 12, but I am talking about punishment.

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      1. Citations, please.

        But even if such opinions do exist, they are surely very much isolated, and are not to be cited as if they were standard. As far as I know the halacha is clear beyond any dispute or discussion, that a 13-year-old is fully subject to punishment by beis din. For you to come along and call that standard mainstream view “disingenuous” is either pure amhoratzus, or itself disingenuous.

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  2. Isaac,
    Why in heaven did you choose to add this piece: “and I note that his answer of 13 years of age (Bar Mitzvah) was disingenuous even from a Jewish point of view because one is not a Bar Onshin (punishable) until they are 21 thereby making a person a “minor” in respect of punishment until they are 21 according to Jewish Law”

    Firstly even after your “clarification” about a Chida,Ben Ish Chai etc
    A)It is clear that at 13 one is a “bar onshin”, you might be alluding to an aggadic teaching in the Talmud that only at 20 (not 21)is one punished biyedie shamayim. but why muddle the waters with a total non sequitur like this?
    Is that the problem with the testimony??
    Really amazing why you would focus on this , when is is so tangential to what is being discussed??
    That hour you watched must’ve really shaken you up, you usually make very logical points

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    1. The testimony of Feldman was a pilpul. The issue of a 13 year old being considered a minor in respect of crime in Judaism is a nonsense which makes absolutely no difference. He threw it in to try and imply that someone aged 14 would have a different halocho if they were violated. That in of itself is completely irrelevant and only caused a Chilul Hashem. What he should have known is the law of דינא דמלכותא and he does. Accordingly, as a so called educator he has a חיוב to know that Bar Mitzvah is irrelevant in this case. As his testimony was a pilpul, I should remind you that as you don’t bring Korbanos till you are 20 even though you are a Bar Mitzvah, I recall the Tzitz Eliezer (yes it was 15 years ago) asking the question whether someone could be Motzi the Kohol if they were under 20 as Tefilla is BeMokom Korban and someone who does Teshuva brings a Korbon. He was ill advised to go down that path. It was completely irrelevant. You are a rodef whether you go after a 14 year old boy or a 12 year old boy. It’s more than a Medrash. It was my disgust for his use of Torah and appearance as a complete ignoramus of the laws of the land which prompted me to throw that in. Now, Yossi and Berel, if you incite me anymore, I will quote a Tshuva from the Tzemach Tzedek which perhaps he should have brought to the table in his defence. I don’t think you know it, but if you do, you’d not want that brought to a Royal Commission any more than the specious comment about someone being mechuyav b’mitzvos at 12 or 13. Gott in Himmel. Anyway, after today’s unfortunate tape recording, you can see where his misguided pilpulim have led him. Expect his resignation from the NSW Rabbinic Board in the next week. A shande and a charpe. And no, I don’t go to that site. Someone sent me a link and it also destroyed my day.

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      1. Sorry for your having a bad day(s)
        There is a lot to be said about Chabad and their appointing to rabbinical positions individuals with very little time of study in kolel and in the “school of life”. A rov cannot be someone who took a short “semicha” course.It has to be someone who has done intensive study for years.Now is not the place and time to discuss it. I don’t know the people involved here so they may actually be people who have studied for years, I”m just making a general comment.I hope that this saga will end with healing for all parties involved.
        btw, what teshuva from the Tzemach Tzedek were u alluding to?
        kol tuv from a clueless Brooklynite

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        1. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the Sydney community, but there are only a handful of people who have even Smicha, so it’s a case of all hands on-board.
          The results are predictable and embarrassing.

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      2. I should remind you that as you don’t bring Korbanos till you are 20

        That is unmitigated rubbish. Where are you coming up with this stuff? Really, the amhoratzus you’re showing on this subject is astounding.

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            1. No, I haven’t seen R Akiva Eger, or the Tzitz Eliezer, but I can state with confidence that anyone who says a person doesn’t bring a korban until he is 20 is wrong. That is simply not the halacha. The chiyuv to bring korbanos starts at the same age as all chiyuvim, at bar mitzvah.

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      3. I do know about this tesuvah of the Tzemach Tzedek, and since you know of it too, how do you not take it on board? Do you really have the CHUTZPAH to suggest that the Tzemach Tzedek was wrong?!

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        1. Firstly that Teshuvah related to a value judgement based on an assessment of the social proclivities of a person. Now you claiming chutzpah because I mentioned it, is a bit of a straw man and rather inflammatory. Knowing you, I won’t get offended by your rather vicious language. Let me remind you that I don’t subscribe to the view that any Posek or Rebbe is infallible (and that is a Torah view, as I’m sure you acknowledge even though you may not subscribe to that view). Your mileage may differ, and no doubt does. Good luck to you.

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        2. We are in the middle of the biggest Chillul Hashem Australian Jewry has ever experience with Rabbi Glick on the stand right now. Have a look at the AJN. We have had Yossi Feldman put up as a leader and who has made a disgrace of orthodoxy. Now I read comments like ” Do you really have the CHUTZPAH” and “That is unmitigated rubbish. Where are you coming up with this stuff? Really, the amhoratzus you’re showing on this subject is astounding.” A bit of GOYISH derech eretz would be welcome. If you disagree with someone then write it politely and objectively.

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          1. Steven, his bark tends to be louder than it need be. Because I know him, I don’t take great offence, but I agree with you. He could be a little gentler in the way he writes. If it was to someone else other than me, I would have edited it, but my skin is a bit thicker 🙂 That being said, yes, we need to become better in all ways. Today I did something I probably wouldn’t have. I was near St. Kilda Road getting into the car and a girl (I guess she would have been 25) asked me where the Philippines embassy was. I looked it up and showed her on my phone where she’d need to walk (Queens St) and that it was a fair distance. I showed her the way via the map, and then said you have two choices: follow the route I just showed you, or hop into my car and I’ll drive to work that way, and drop you off. She did the latter. She was from Paris as it turned out, and bemoaned what had become of her country. I felt good after that, even if I am blowing my own horn. We need to do more things, all of us, להחזיר כבוד ליושנה

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          2. When someone suggests that he knows better than the Tzemach Tzedek, that is an incredible chutzpah. And when someone dismisses the plain halacha as “disingenuous”, based on some obscure pilpul that he once read, that is amhoratzus.

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            1. I’d suggest that nobody has said that they know better than the Tzemach Tzedek. What has been said is that the skills of a Rav in determining whether someone has been violated need to be combined with the knowledge we now have and which was not available then. A Shikul Hadaas in this case involved some verifiably researched knowledge that was not there before. Did the Rashab go to Sigmund Freud for Sheva Mitzvos B’Nei Noach?

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            2. Oh, and after I’ve looked it up, you’ll see that it’s not obscure. The Tzitz Eliezer was never obscure in his Toros and Rav Akiva Eiger was universally considered a giant.

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  3. Isaac i am not sure if chaim new is your friend. But there could be conflict of interest by the task force. While they are making all the right noises about victims not being scared to come forward and training etc there no mention by the task force of how communities should respond if their members come forward and call for action by the commuity members that community starts to vilify that person.

    Sent from my Android phone using TouchDown (www.nitrodesk.com)

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    1. Whether Chaim is a friend is immaterial unless you are shamelessly accusing me of bias because of such a possibility! What do you think would happen if some battered woman or boy rang their hotline and it involved yeshiva? There are a range of people on the taskforce both frum and not frum. I don’t think for one minute it would influence their procedures because one of the board member’s husband’s was one member of the management of an institution that may be involved in the case. Your claim is arrant nonsense

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  4. If I were molested at Yeshivah and went to the Task Force asking what I should do, surely there is a conflict of interest if I am speaking to the wife of one of the Yeshivah Executive.

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    1. Steven you are inventing and concocting. Firstly there is a phone line. Although it is possible that someone could go to an individual and assuming that person was married to a board member, you are alleging that they would conspire to hide or advise the person not to go to the police? Do me a favour. If there were ten members of that board (I don’t know how many actually are) and one of their husband’s was on the board of Maccabi (or whatever organisation) it is possible that they would be approached by someone with a complaint. Are you seriousy suggesting that these ladies would seek to protect the institutions their husbands were involved with? Just look at COSA yesterday. They immediately called for and got Yossi Feldman’s resignation. I think what is being alleged here is scurrilous and without evidence, and frankly I won’t allow any further discussion on that line as it could be deemed defamatory. I would find it offensive in the extreme if I was in that situation.

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    1. I’m not sure that’s the reason. There are CHABAD Rabbis with feeling and commonsense and sometimes education but there are quite a few that are just plain plain and actually achieve the opposite of what the LR wanted. Some communities love their Rabbi and others loathe them. Those who are loathed should vacate. I don’t think they are chassidim if they don’t

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  5. A briliant idea with one problem, that many members of the rcv didn’t study more than one year in a kollel, spending most of their time, learning about things that have nothing to do with the problems they will face in their community.

    They spend hours on “problems” like what is the din when you will find a needle in a cow’s stomach, do you have to suspect that the needle on the cow’s her way from the cow’s mouth to her stomach punctured certain organs, and don’t spend any time learning about problems in the community.

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  6. Even with today’s standards, that rabbi wouldn’t get much of a sentence, if any at all. We’re talking a minor act with one person, where he had an excuse that his kehilla felt was plausible. So it’s obvious that when a true posek paskens, he has sayyata dishmaya. There is obviously nothing to be embarrassed of. However, most cases we hear of today are much different, so from a practical point, it doesn’t have much relevance.

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  7. The teshuva is on what was being asked. Of course there may have dozens of people which no-one new about. That would have obviously been a different answer.
    As an aside, even knowing of an illness, this was a better response than the only option.rather than throw him out to have him move to the next kehilla, keep him there where he could be watched, and he knew he was being watched. Unfortunately, most yeshivos didn’t do this.

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