Rabbi's views again aired at abuse inquiry

Australian Herald Sun
September 17, 2015

The controversial views of a rabbi who said Jewish leaders should not report offenders to police and complained about media hype around victims have again been aired before the sex abuse royal commission.

The commission sat on Thursday to hear oral submissions in response to recommended findings arising out of an earlier hearing into how ultra-orthodox Jewish centres and schools responded to abuse allegations.
The recommended findings have not yet been made public but parties in the February hearing in Melbourne have been given an opportunity to respond.

Greg Smith SC, representing Rabbi Yosef Feldman, submitted that the focus during the February hearing on the personal views of his client went beyond the commission's terms of reference.

And that recommended findings against Rabbi Feldman by Maria Gerace, counsel assisting the commission, did not take into account the fact he had learned lessons since.

In February the commission heard that Rabbi Feldman, who held senior positions in Yeshivah Jewish organisations in Sydney, sent emails to his religious counterparts saying Jews with information about child abuse should tell a rabbi rather than police.

There was public outcry generally and particularly in Jewish communities when Rabbi Feldman expressed the view that pedophiles should not necessarily go to jail for historical child sex abuse if they had reformed.

He resigned from his position at the Sydney Yeshivah Centre, which runs schools, youth camps and prayer services, because of the backlash.

Ms Gerace pointed out in was within commission's remit to explore the way institutions had responded to child sex abuse and might respond in the future.

She said Rabbi Feldman's views were not private views.

"These are not the views that were overheard at a barbecue or taken from his private diaries or the private musings over the kitchen table in the home," she said.

"These are the views that he is expressing to other leaders at the time."

She also pointed out that Rabbi Feldman contacted a victim of Daniel Hayman, who was later given a suspended sentence for child sex abuse, to get his opinion on reporting the matter.