Samantha Donovan reported this story on Monday, February 9, 2015 18:26:00
MARK COLVIN: An orthodox rabbi has told the child sex abuse Royal Commission that Jewish paedophiles who have repented for old crimes under Jewish law should be treated with leniency and not jailed for long periods.
Rabbi Yosef Feldman told the royal commission that he publicly supported rabbinical statements that child sex abuse allegations should be reported to police.
But personally, he would prefer that Australian law was changed so that Jews were first required to get their rabbi’s advice before going to police.
Samantha Donovan reports.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: In 2011, allegations of child sex abuse triggered a furore in Australia’s orthodox Jewish Chabad community.
The royal commission has heard rabbis debated whether the concept of Mesirah applied in such cases, meaning a Jew couldn’t report allegations against a fellow Jew, without the permission of a rabbi.
In his second day on the stand at the royal commission, Rabbi Yosef Feldman gave evidence that in his role as the president of the New South Wales Rabbinical Council at the time, he supported statements urging people to go to the police.
But he said he personally believed a public statement was unnecessary as media “hype” sometimes encourages people to go to the police with false allegations and that was “bad for the Jews”.
YOSEF FELDMAN: The reality is I make the whole issue of child abuse and it encourages people to accuse people of child abuse when they’re really… to be accused when they’re really innocent. And that’s why my view is even though the (inaudible) correct but it has to be done in a measured way not to encourage people who are frauds in that regard.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Rabbi Yosef Feldman has given evidence to the commission that he was a friend of two men convicted of child sex offences – David Cyprys and Daniel Hayman.
He gave evidence that he would prefer the Australian law be amended so that a Jewish paedophile who had repented and who hadn’t offended for a long time not face a jail sentence.
Royal commissioner Jennifer Coate asked Rabbi Feldman to explain how he would like to see the law changed.
YOSEF FELDMAN: I would be asking, there should be a lot more leniency on people who have shown that they haven’t… that they haven’t offended in the last 20 or decades ago and they have psychological analyses that that is the case, because in Jewish law children repentance is a great thing and even for victims knowing that repentance is a big thing even for them themselves they will understand in many instances how repentance – a main point is for people to stop being paedophiles and if they did so that’s a great thing and we should respect that.
JENNIFER COATE: What should the effect of repentance be?
YOSEF FELDMAN: The effect of repentance will be to encourage other paedophiles to repent because they’ll see that when you repent you do the right thing, you don’t – won’t get mistreated badly and not considered… it’s not the end of the world… end of the life.
I know a few paedophiles who’ve been suspected and they committed suicide. But when people see that you can, when you repent and when you’re not acting anymore then you’re treated not like a pariah like the scum of the earth like everyone looks, wants to look at the paedophiles – that’s it.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Yosef Feldman also gave evidence that in 2013, he rang and then emailed a sex abuse victim of his friend Daniel Hayman. He asked the man what had made him report his allegations to police and would he “get healing” if Hayman were jailed.
Rabbi Feldman told the commission he was unaware it was against the law to contact victims, and in retrospect it may have been “a bit insensitive”.
He gave evidence that as Hayman’s court date approached he emailed him saying “may God grant you victory in all respects.”
Last year Hayman was given a 19 month suspended sentence for his sexual assault of a 14-year-old boy.
He was sentenced under 1980s law, but the magistrate said he would not have hesitated sending him to jail if he were sentencing him under current law.
Rabbi Feldman gave evidence to the royal commission he was pleased Hayman hadn’t been jailed.
YOSEF FELDMAN: I mean the reality is that I wasn’t happy about it, him ending up in jail. Someone is not (inaudible) ending up in jail for many years or is it just a situation where we punish someone for what they did 40 years ago even though they’ve changed totally, they’re not a threat to society and everything else.
Of course according to law you’re supposed to and I never said it shouldn’t be done according to law but I’m certainly not happy about it. I’m not happy about it, and I’ve said this again and again, I don’t know why it’s an issue.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The royal commission hearings continue in Melbourne tomorrow.
MARK COLVIN: Samantha Donovan.
Yeshivah abuse victim says scholarship was removed after he reported rape
Victim of jailed abuser David Cyprys says principal Rabbi Abraham Glick cancelled the award after telling him of incidents, royal commission hears
Monday 9 February 2015 07.46 GMT
A child sex abuse victim who was repeatedly raped by a staff member of an Orthodox Jewish school said he was stripped of his scholarship when he told the principal what happened.
The victim, identified only as AVR, said a security guard at the Yeshivah centre and college in Melbourne, David Cyprys, raped him multiple times.
Cyprys was convicted of those offences in 2013, and is in jail.
AVR told the royal commission into institutional responses to child sex abuse that he had been living interstate when his mother fell ill with leukaemia, and in 1990 he was sent to school at the Yeshiva college in Melbourne.
It was there that Cyprys began abusing him.
“I did not know much about sexual matters,” AVR said, adding that he had no father and that Cyprys was the only father figure he knew.
Despite this, AVR said he eventually gained the courage to call his mother.
“My mum was sick, alone, and interstate and I was worried about her, so I didn’t tell her about the full extent of the abuse,” he told the commission at Melbourne’s county court on Monday. “She was quite sick, and I thought that would push her over the edge.”
His mother immediately flew to Melbourne see him, and together they reported the abuse to the principal of the school, Rabbi Abraham Glick, and the director, Rabbi David Groner, who is now dead.
“Rabbi Glick said my scholarship had been cancelled from that time,” AVR said. “I feel Rabbi Glick and Yeshivah did not want me there any more. They did not offer help or counselling. No one at Yeshivah would speak to us or help us. Even our own family members would not help us, and we had a lot of trouble getting back to the airport.”
Glick will give evidence in the coming days.
Cyprys was “a serial abuser of children”, the commission heard last Monday. AVR said his mother had stopped treatment for her cancer when she came to Melbourne to rescue him from Cyprys, and that she passed away a few years later, in 1995.
“I often wonder if she would have lived without that stop in her treatment and the stress of what happened at Yeshivah and the flow-on effect of what happened to me,” AVR said.
“I became withdrawn and angry after we returned [home]. At the very least her last years would have been happier and easier were it not for the events of Yeshivah.”
Last week, other victims told the commission how they were ignored by senior religious leaders within the orthodox Yeshivah community after reporting their abuse, and of being verbally abused and ostracised.
The royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse has asked a New York rabbi to give evidence. Photograph: Jeremy Piper/AAP
A senior religious figure within New York’s Orthodox Jewish community, Rabbi Boruch Lesches, has been asked to appear before Australia’s royal commission into institutional responses into child sex abuse.
Lesches had been contacted and asked to provide a statement or appear via video link but was yet to respond, counsel assisting Maria Gerace told the commission at Melbourne’s county court on Friday.
Lesches was a former senior figure and rabbi within Sydney’s Yeshivah community, and currently heads the Lubavitch community in Monsey, New York.
Child abuse victims told the commission this week that Lesches had dismissed their abuse allegations when they gained the courage to tell him what they had suffered within Yeshivah centres and their schools in the late 80s and early 90s.
One child sex abuse victim, identified only as AVB, told the commission that Lesches told him “the proper, clever thing to do” about the abuse “would be to let it go”.
He was also told by Lesches that if he reported the staff who had abused him to police, he would ruin their lives, the commission heard.
AVB said Lesches had admitted to confronting a known abuser, former Yeshivah Centre Bondi director Daniel Hayman, about his abuse of children several times, but had never gone to the police.
“You can hear it from the teachers,” Lesches allegedly told AVB. “They are speaking about how to do it, where to go and which place to go, and when the parents will not know.”
On Wednesday Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, a senior judge of the Sydney Beth Din rabbinical court, told the commission a “culture of cover-up, often couched in religious terms” had existed within the Yeshivah centres and the Orthodox community.
Gutnick told the commission: “I’m prepared to say that Rabbi Lesches lied when he said that he didn’t know about the abuse by convicted child abuser Daniel ‘Gug’ Hayman.”
It was a statement that spread shockwaves through the Orthodox community in Australia, victims said.
Child sex abuse in Australia’s Orthodox Jewish community is under scrutiny for the first time since the commission began its work in 2013.
The hearings continue.
Head of Jewish school did not know he had to report child abuse, inquiry hears
Former director of Orthodox Jewish college tells royal commission he ‘didn’t have a clue’ a staff member massaging a student’s genitals might be a criminal matter
Friday 6 February 2015 03.37 GMT
The former director of an Orthodox Jewish school “didn’t have a clue” that one of his staff members massaging the genitals of a young student might be a criminal matter, the royal commission has heard.
Rabbi Yosef Feldman said when he found out a teacher’s aide at the Sydney Yeshivah’s Gedolah college had been accused of sexually abusing a child in 2002, his ignorance of secular law meant he didn’t view it as a criminal offence.
Feldman said he was not aware of laws around mandatory reporting of child abuse, and he did not feel he needed training because “sex abuse is not common”.
“My role in general is to look at things from a Jewish law perspective,” Feldman told the royal commision into institutional responses into child sex abuse on Friday. “I’m not in the business of thinking of how society would deal with issues.”
Feldman said it meant he never thought of telling police that AVL – his cousin – had told him he intended to leave the country hours after finding out he would be reported to police.
Feldman was challenged by commissioner Robert Fitzgerald, who said as the director of a school, Feldman had a responsibility to be aware of what constituted child abuse and of mandatory reporting laws.
“By 2002 all schools were well aware of sexual abuse within schools, in NSW there were mandatory reporting requirements, and you as a director would have been aware of that,” Fitzgerald said.
Feldman responded: “At the time I may not have been aware.”
Feldman had been director of the college for about a decade in 2002, the commission heard.
Feldman told the commission later on Friday afternoon that he now believed all cases of child sex abuse should be reported to police.
AVL left the country hours after speaking to Feldman about the abuse allegations and his thoughts about leaving for the US, the commission heard.
AVL now lives in New York and has never faced charges.
Counsel assisting the commission, Maria Gerace, asked Feldman whether being unaware of key legislation made him unfit to be the director of a school in 2002.
She said Feldman should have taken steps as director to familiarise himself with the law around working with students, including reporting sex abuse.
“There are many issues of life and child sex abuse isn’t something I believed was very common at all and even now I don’t think it’s common,” Feldman responded.
“Since it’s very very uncommon, to say [I’m] unfit because [I] didn’t know about it, I’m not sure whether I would go to that extent.”
Gerace asked what constituted uncommon, and how he could know this since he had received no formal training in the area.
Feldman said there was “commonsense involved” in sex abuse claims and that he had yet to receive formal training on dealing with it because he was “an extremely busy person”.
He did not consider grooming a child for sexual abuse to be a crime, if it had not escalated to “actually doing an act of sexual abuse”, he told the commission.
A teacher lying down with a student and massaging them was not necessarily a problem, he said, because sometimes adults tried to make children feel “warm” or “comfortable”.
He told the commission he had considered the former security guard at the Yeshivah College Melbourne, David Cyprys, to be a friend, and he felt in 2011 that Cyprys was being vilified as allegations against him emerged. Cyprys, who the commission has heard was a serial abuser over many years, was convicted in 2013 after victims came forward to police.
“When I heard of allegations I must say I didn’t really believe them,” Feldman said.
“According to Jewish law you are not allowed to believe something about somebody else unless it has been proven.”
He sent an email to senior rabbis saying he did not see why the Yeshivah Centre should report allegations of child sex abuse to outside authorities, and that he was concerned Cyprys could become a “statistic” if wrongfully convicted.
On Thursday Feldman’s father, Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, also told the commission he had no obligation to tell police an alleged child abuser was planning to leave the country.
The hearing continues.
Abuse inquiry hears rabbi let suspect flee
February 06, 2015
A LEADING Orthodox rabbi who knew that a teacher’s aide accused of child sexual abuse was considering fleeing the country has admitted he did not try to stop him or inform authorities.
The 2002 case followed several cases of unreported abuse allegations at Bondi’s Yeshiva College examined by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse yesterday.
The commission heard former senior Yeshiva rabbi Boruch Lesches had received numerous complaints from children alleging sexual abuse but had not informed rabbi Pinchus Feldman, the dean of Yeshiva and head of the orthodox Chabad movement in NSW. Instead he had told a 12-year old girl she was making it up.
Rabbi Feldman told the hearing that in 2002 a young boy’s mother told Yeshiva’s principal her son was assaulted by a rabbinical student and teacher’s aide, referred to as AVL, at a school camp.
Rabbi Feldman met AVL, who denied the claim and said he was thinking of returning to the US.
Rabbi Feldman said he had told AVL Yeshiva could not stop him leaving, and did not report the conversation to police even though authorities had already been alerted to the allegations.
“I did not believe that I had that obligation,” Rabbi Feldman said. “I did not act, I did not notify the police that he said he may be going. If this was an error of judgment, then I apologise.”
AVL left the country within 48 hours and remains overseas.
Last year Daniel Hayman, another Yeshiva community member who worked with children in the 1980s, was convicted of indecent assault on a teenage boy.
The commission saw a police statement from another male victim alleging he was assaulted by Hayman when he was aged about 16, and learnt his friends had had similar experiences. They had reported the abuse to Rabbi Lesches, who said he would “deal with it” although no response was evident.
A few years later, Rabbi Lesches boarded a 12-year old Queensland girl with Hayman while she attended Yeshiva.
The girl’s statement to police alleged Hayman had touched her while he was naked and she was trying to sleep. The girl’s statement says she ran out of Hayman’s home and went to Rabbi Lesches, who had said: “I do not believe you — why would you invent such a story?”
Rabbi Feldman said Rabbi Lesches should have told him of these events and reported them to police, but this was not done.
Rabbi Feldman said he and his son had decided last September to contact Hayman to check whether he had ever confessed to Rabbi Feldman about his actions, as Hayman had claimed to one of his victims. Rabbi Feldman said he had wanted to refresh his memory before testifying.
In an email, Hayman had replied he vaguely remembered the conversation and he had not made any confession.
Hayman previously has told police Rabbi Lesches told him in the 1980s to “stay away” from young boys, and he had a similar conversation with Rabbi Feldman.
Rabbi Feldman told the commission he could not recall this conversation and had never received a complaint about Hayman’s behaviour, although he had been told Hayman acted on homosexual urges.
Rabbi Feldman read a statement apologising to victims and offering them support. However, he refused to condemn an email from his wife to victims’ advocate Manny Waks calling Mr Waks a “low-life” attention-seeker.
The hearing continues.
Child abuse royal commission: Jewish leader ‘did not act’ when alleged abuser left Australia
ABC News Australia
Photo: Rabbi Pinchus Feldman told the inquiry he made an error of judgement in allowing an alleged child abuse leave the country. (ABC News)
One of Australia’s Orthodox Jewish leaders has told the royal commission into child sexual abuse he did not believe he had an obligation to stop an accused paedophile leaving the country.
The commission heard the student at Sydney’s Yeshivah Centre left Australia less than 48 hours after a complaint was made against him in 2002.
Rabbi Pinchus Feldman said he did not tell authorities he thought the accused might go to America.
“I did not believe that I have that obligation,” Rabbi Feldman said.
“I did not act, I did not notify the police that he said that he may be going.
“We are not in a position to hold him back.”
Asked if he understood the man could neither be interviewed nor charged if the child went to the police, Rabbi Feldman said: “He can be extradited.
“My thought process was, that if it would be established that he actually committed a crime, the police would be able to extradite him.”
Rabbi Feldman conceded he might have made an error of judgment.
“I did not believe and I do not believe at the moment that within the framework of my role, it is to be able to have to call the police to say that this student may leave,” he said.
“I did not know that there was such a protocol or responsibility to do so.
“Now if this is something I should have done, then this was an error of judgment.”
Rabbi Feldman also denied shielding the former Yeshivah director Daniel Hayman, who was later convicted of molesting a student.
He told the commission no one complained to him about Hayman.
The commission heard Rabbi Feldman’s son contacted Hayman last September, asking for details of a conversation his father allegedly had with him about staying away from young boys at the Yeshivah Centre in the 1980s.
He asked Hayman to confirm whether the conversation included a confession.
Rabbi Feldman said he had no recollection of any such conversation with Hayman.
“He has a vague recollection that there was a discussion with me, without speaking about any details. I do not remember any such conversation, at all,” he said.
Asked if he asked his son to contact Hayman on his behalf, Rabbi Feldman said: “You can say so … to refresh my memory if there was something that I didn’t recall.
“I thought it would be worthwhile to have my memory refreshed, if indeed I did have a discussion, because it is extremely important that one is completely truthful.
“I wanted to make sure that what I was going to be saying was not incompatible with the truth.”
Rabbi Feldman tells victims: ‘We are sorry that you suffered’
Rabbi Feldman used his appearance at the commission to apologise to victims of child sexual abuse.
“It breaks my heart to hear of the suffering that victims of abuse and their families have endured,” he said.
“No-one should have to suffer in any way, shape or form, particularly children, the most treasured members of our society, and the ones who need our protection most.
“As the head of Chabad in New South Wales and on behalf of the entire movement, I would like to say to the victims, we are sorry that you suffered.
“It breaks my heart personally, and it breaks all of our hearts.”
Rabbi Feldman told the commission the religious concept of mesirah, which prohibits Jews from informing on other Jews to secular authorities, did not apply to child sexual abuse.
“In democratic Australia where Jews have never been subject to state-sponsored anti-Semitism, when it comes to protecting our children against abuse, mesirah prohibitions do not apply,” he said.