Unabashed, rabbi who resigned over abuse coverup blasts critics’ ‘defamation’

Those who spoke out after Feldman testified before a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse are guilty of defamation, the rabbi told ABC.

February 15, 2015 16:31
2 minute read.
yosef feldman

RABBI YOSEF FELDMAN testifies before Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse last week.. (photo credit: screenshot)

Rabbi Yosef Feldman, whose endorsement of leniency for pedophiles shocked Australia last week, hit back at his critics.

Those who spoke out after he testified before a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse are guilty of defamation, the rabbi told ABC, Australia’s public broadcaster.

“I feel that they are unfit to be leaders. They haven’t read the transcripts, because they only came out after they gave their pronouncements,” Feldman said on Thursday of community leaders who denounced him. Speaking before the commission, he called for “leniency on people who have shown that they haven’t offended in the last 20 [years] and they have psychological analyses [showing] that that is the case.”

Feldman admitted that he had failed to report allegations of abuse and spoke out against media coverage of molestation cases.

Community leaders immediately distanced themselves from him, who until last week was a member of the board of the Sydney Yeshiva Center, with one figure calling his positions “repugnant to Jewish values.”

Feldman’s lawyers, he told ABC, consider the criticism against him to constitute “fullon defamation.”

“I think that every single one of them that came out with an announcement is unfit to be a leader of that organization,” he claimed.

He said he did not believe that what he said was wrong, even if that was the how his statements were viewed. It was this perception, rather than any wrongdoing on his part, that prompted his resignation, he explained.

He did not intend to give up his position as the rabbi of a local synagogue, Feldman added.

Several victims and family members testified before the commission that elements within the Chabad hassidic community worked to ostracize those who came forward and prevent public disclosures regarding abuse.

On Friday, Melbourne daily the Herald Sun reported that Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, who heads the Organization of Rabbis of Australasia, sent a text message denigrating the father of one of victim’s.

Zephaniah Waks testified that three of his children, including prominent victim’s advocate Manny Waks, had been abused while in yeshiva.

Following Waks’s, testimony, Australian Jewish News editor Zeddy Lawrence received a text message from Kluwgant stating that Zephaniah is killing us. Zephaniah is attacking Chabad, he is a lunatic on the fringe, guilty of neglect of his own children. Where was he when all this was happening?” Waks recounted becoming a social pariah after encouraging Manny to come forward.

Addressing the commission, former Rabbinical Council of Victoria head Rabbi Yaakov Glasman said that “there are members of the ultra-Orthodox community... who don’t quite get it, who perhaps are living in a previous generation in terms of their mindset,” the Herald Sun reported.

The facts that have come out before the royal commission provide a “complete justification against ultra-Orthodoxy,” Zephaniah Waks, who remains Orthodox but has split from Chabad, wrote on Facebook.

A number of Australian ultra-Orthodox rabbis posted a video to YouTube on Friday calling on abusers to come forward and seek help and encouraging victims to turn to the police without fear of reprisal.

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