Paedophiles who are no longer abusing children should not have to spend their lives feeling like the “scum of the Earth”, a senior rabbi has told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Rabbi Yosef Feldman, a leader within the Sydney Yeshivah community, told the inquiry he was friends with convicted child abuser Daniel Hayman when he was arrested and charged in 2011.
He said he did not think it was fair that a member of the community should go to jail for an historical case of child abuse if they had already repented and received treatment.
“I would be asking for more leniency on people who have shown that they haven’t offended in the last 20 years or decades ago, and have psychological analyses that this is the case,” Rabbi Feldman said.
Once someone is not a paedophile any more or is showing [he] is not acting wrongly any more, that should be considered in a very strong way.Rabbi Yosef Feldman
“Once someone is not a paedophile any more or is showing [he] is not acting wrongly any more, that should be considered in a very strong way.
The more lenient approach would show “when you do the right thing, you won’t get mistreated badly and it’s not the end of the world … then you are not treated like a pariah, like a scum of the Earth”.
Rabbi Feldman lashed out at the media, saying publicity about child sex abuse “encourages even people who may not be real victims or may want to be considered heroes” to go to the police.
“Like we have seen here in Melbourne, we had one rabbi who was ultimately vindicated, and I was very against too much of a public situation, like I see with the media also, they go out in a very public way, and also exaggerating, at times lying,” he said.
“I’m worried about the effect of the hype of child abuse.”
His lawyer told the commission Rabbi Feldman had received death threats since Friday’s hearing, in which he said he did not understand it was illegal for an adult to touch a child’s genitals.
‘The less the media is involved, the better’
Rabbi Feldman was asked about an apparent conflict between one of his public statements and a private email he sent in mid-2011.
The commission heard Rabbi Feldman had once written to the Sydney Beth Din (Jewish court) that convicted paedophile David Kramer’s “life and family is being ruined now for no good reason.”
In a sometimes heated exchange, he told counsel assisting the commission, Maria Gerace, he was entitled to his own opinions, and denied they were at odds with the rule of law.
He said he was concerned about miscarriages of justice occurring.
“It’s obvious I care about people,” he said.
“A rabbi cares mostly about people.”
Rabbi Feldman told the commission, Jewish law dictated that “you have to be very careful about not embarrassing people” and “the less the media is involved the better”.
He said sinners did not deserve to be known “all around the world” for their crimes.
“The publicity of someone being charged and the naming and shaming, it’s already public,” Rabbi Feldman said.
Ms Gerace responded that perhaps it would give more encouragement to others who were abused to come forward and face their perpetrators.
“I have thought about that and I have no problem with the general pronouncement,” Rabbi Feldman said.
“But not at times when it seems like a PR process and it seems like when there’s hype and then you join in the hype … it’s all false, that sort of thing.
“If the rabbis would come out at other times, at normal time, nothing to do with any hype, with society… saying this is a strong issue we should deal with, that is fantastic and the victims are the most important and we have to deal with that.”
Rabbi Feldman said he did believe in secular law and reporting child abuse immediately.
“But not matters of a PR situation … that’s what brings about false charges and things of this nature,” he said.
Rabbi Yosef Feldman says media hype causes ‘fake’ abuse victims
February 09, 2015
AN orthodox rabbi has argued media “hype” causes “fake victims” to make allegations of child sexual abuse, while admitting he feared people were making false allegations against his friend, David Cyprys, who was later convicted of serious child sex offences.
Rabbi Yosef Feldman, rabbinical administrator of Bondi’s Chabad Yeshiva centre, today told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse he had expressed concern when he learnt in 2011 that Beth Dins in Sydney and Melbourne were planning to make public statements encouraging abuse victims to come forward.
“Too much hype causes miscarriages of justice,” he said. “I didn’t think it was the time and place for the rabbis to come out in the media with public statements.
“I think it’s bad for the Jews.”
Rabbi Feldman wrote a series of emails to other rabbis in 2011 — when abuse allegations involving Yeshivah College in Melbourne became public amid a police investigation — arguing Jews with information about child sex abuse allegations should see a rabbi rather than police.
He said today that he would “highly encourage” Australia to change its laws to allow rabbis to assess the veracity of child sex abuse complaints before encouraging victims to alert police.
He also said greater leniency should be shown to paedophiles who had committed sex offences years ago, if it could be shown they hadn’t offended since. And that would be proved how?
“I would lobby the government about this if I could,” he said. “They do the right thing and they are shown to do the right thing, (then) they deserve a bit more respect.”
Rabbi Feldman said he was worried at the time that further complaints might be laid against Cyprys, a friend who had worked at Yeshivah in Melbourne for decades.
Cyprys is currently serving an eight year prison sentence for abusing several boys at Yeshiva.
“I was worried the publicity would bring about fake victims, “ Rabbi Feldman said.
“The reality is they make a whole issue of child abuse and it encourages people to accuse people of abuse when … they are really innocent.”
Other rabbis have condemned Rabbi Feldman’s views and called for victims to be encouraged to go to police.
The commission heard threats had been made against Rabbi Feldman on social media since he began giving evidence.
The hearing continues.