Abuse (Illustrative Photo).
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Another rabbi has admitted to failing to inform police of allegations of sexual abuse in an ongoing scandal that has implicated a number of Australia’s senior Jewish religious officials.
In a letter to Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Baruch Lesches, who ran a Sydney yeshiva more than 25 years ago, said he declined to pass on claims by a young girl that she had been molested because “she was prone to bend the truth to get out of trouble,” the Australian Jewish News reported.
The commission previously had heard testimony that the girl, who was 12 at the time, had been physically assaulted by Daniel “Gug” Hayman, at whose house she was lodged.
During Hayman’s 2014 trial, it emerged that during the late 1980s several children had told Lesches of Hayman’s actions. Lesches, currently a Rabbi in Monsey, New York, declined to testify before the commission via video-link and, instead, submitted a written document, according to AJN.
“Given my knowledge of the girl and the nature of her complaint, I had my doubts and I asked her if perhaps it was imagined or a dream,” he was quoted as saying.
Revelations of cover-ups of abuse and intimidation of the families of victims stunned both Australian members of the Chabad hassidic movement and the larger Jewish community, with several rabbis resigning their positions as a result of the public backlash over their testimony.
The Organization of Rabbis of Australasia split in two following the resignation of its President Rabbi Meir Kluwgant who, in a text to a Jewish journalist, called the father of an abuse victim “a lunatic on the fringe” who was out to destroy the ultra-Orthodox community.
Rabbi Yosef Feldman, likewise, resigned from his administrative role at a Sydney yeshiva following an outcry generated by his statement to the commission that abusers who have repented and not relapsed should be shown leniency for their crimes.
According to The Herald Sun, Feldman said that, while he is concerned for victims, he had concerns about “punish[ ing] someone for what they did 40 years ago, even though they’ve changed totally.”
Such people are “not a threat to society” and, while one should not violate laws mandating reporting, “I’m certainly not happy about it,” he said.
He also admitted that he had failed to report allegations of abuse. He was subsequently removed from a list of Chabad emissaries by the group’s New York headquarters, the JTA reported.
His father, Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, recounted to the commission how an accused pedophile had told him that he was planning on fleeing to America. Feldman declined to pass on this information to police.
Another Chabad hassid, Rabbi Avrohom Glick, resigned from his role as a member of the board of a Melbourne yeshiva last month, where he had served as principal during the years in which several incidents of abuse occurred.
According to The Age, Glick testified that he had only instituted a policy regarding the reporting of abuse in 2007, more than two decades after the government passed laws requiring such action.