Rabbi ‘too busy’ to discuss scandal

By Shannon Deery (Herald Sun)
February 14, 2014

One of the world’s senior ­orthodox rabbis has shunned Australia’s royal commission into child sexual abuse, saying he’s too busy to talk about it.

In a snub to sex assault ­victims, New York-based rabbi Abraham Shemtov refused to discuss evidence given during a two-week probe into ­Melbourne’s Yeshivah Centre.

It included calls by one of his rabbis for leniency for paedophiles and admissions that senior Yeshivah leaders had covered up child sex crimes.

There have been renewed calls for Australia’s top rabbi, Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, to be sacked from his many posts after he admitted sending a vile text about the father of three sexual assault victims.

Zephaniah Waks, father of high-profile victim Manny, was giving evidence to the royal commission when Rabbi Kluwgant sent an associate a text saying he was a “lunatic” who was “killing” Chabad — the orthodox Jewish movement which oversees the ­Yeshivah Centre.

Rabbi Kluwgant is the president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, a Victoria Police chaplain and holds a string of other senior posts.

Victoria Police yesterday confirmed it would be meeting Rabbi Kluwgant to discuss concerns and his role as a member of the Victoria Police multi-faith council.

When first contacted by the Sunday Herald Sun, Rabbi Shemtov, No. 2 in the Chabad hierarchy, said he was in a meeting and could not talk. He ignored further correspondence and did not return calls.

The New York headquarters appoints and delists emissaries to Australia, and is responsible for the worldwide movement. Rabbi Shemtov regularly leads delegations to the White House and has formed close relationships with the past eight presidents.

But local victims have accused him of failing to do anything to prevent child sexual abuse here.

Last week Rabbi Yosef Feldman sparked widespread outrage when he called for leniency for paedophiles who had not offended in decades.

He also claimed to know little about child abuse laws while director of a school, and said he didn’t know it was ­illegal for an adult to touch the genitals of a child.

There were calls for his sacking as director of Sydney’s Yeshivah Centre that prompted his resignation.

Victims say it hasn’t gone far enough and want Chabad headquarters to make an example of him and Rabbi Kluwgant to prove they are serious about sexual abuse.

“Chabad leaders say nothing about abuse, do nothing about abuse and just let things continue the way they always have,” one victim said.