Sydney’s Jewish community taking action to detect child sex abuse in wake of Royal Commission findings

By Robbie Patterson and Wentworth COurier (Australian Daily Telegraph)
June 18, 2015

Twenty prominent rabbis from across Sydney attended a seminar on child sex abuse at Jewish House in Bondi on Monday.

Rabbi Mendel Kastel, chief executive officer of Jewish House, said it was a direct result of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

At the commission, disgraced Rabbi Yosef Feldman came under fire for his comments regarding child sex abuse “hype” and the need for paedophiles to receive greater leniency.

The former director of the Yeshiva Centre at Bondi also told the commission that he did not know it was illegal for a man to touch a child’s genitals when he had to deal with an abuse complaint in 2002.

His evidence led to backlash in the Jewish community and his resignation from the Yeshiva Centre.

Rabbi Kastel said the seminar was “informative and engaging”.
“One thing is clear from the royal commission, it taught us that we leaders need to learn more, we need to be more aware.

“We need to make sure the community has confidence that we are learning and following the law in relation to reporting and that we will support those that come to talk to us.”

Among the rabbis in attendance were Yosef’s father Pinchus Feldman and his brother, Eli Feldman.

Eli Feldman said the commission had “definitely put the issue on the front burner and it is definitely something we are paying more attention to”.

“It can be quite disturbing that there are predators out there and we need to be vigilant, the commission underscored the fact that no community is immune.”

Vic Alhadeff, chief executive officer of the Jewish Board of Deputies said another forum for 50 rabbis would be held on Sunday.

“We set up a taskforce on child abuse in the wake of the royal commission … It is indicative of the Jewish community taking what transpired at the royal commission very seriously and doing everything in our power to ensure the horrific instances which were sighted at the royal commission never happen again.”

A spokesman for FACS said it “regularly holds seminars with various sections of the community”.

He said the session helped to “ raise awareness of the signs of child sexual abuse, how to report and stop the abuse and how to support victims.”