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On January 6, 2018 Manny Waks reported the details of a recent event at a Chabad synagogue in the UK at which another convicted Chabad child molester was celebrated with honors. Manny Waks blog: Another major Chabad injustice 6/1/2018 Convicted child sexual abuser Mendel Levy Chabad, they’ve managed to do it again. After everything we’ve […]
Manny Waks email to Rabbi Eli Cohen, President of the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia) – 13 December 2016:
I wish to lodge a formal complaint in respect of Rabbi Pinchas Feldman, and ask that he be removed as a member of the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales (RCNSW).
In making this complaint, I refer to the recent formal statement by the Rabbinic Council of Australia and New Zealand (RCANZ), Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) and RCNSW in response to the findings of the public hearing into Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
As you are aware, the RCANZ, RCV and RCNSW publicly stated:
“[T]hat those who did not fulfil their legal responsibility to protect children should step down from public positions, and that those who denigrated victims have lost their moral right to serve.”
I refer to the following findings by the Royal Commission in respect of Rabbi Pinchas Feldman, including but not limited to:
Rabbi Pinchas Feldman made no statements to counter the views expressed in the emails. In doing so, Rabbi Feldman was a party to conduct that denigrated victims.
Based on the above, it seems that Rabbi Pinchas Feldman did not fulfil his moral, religious and legal responsibility to protect children, and was a party to conduct that denigrated victims. Accordingly, consistent with the statement of the RCANZ, RCV and RCNSW, it seems clear that Rabbi Pinchas Feldman has lost his moral right to serve the community and should step down from all his public positions, including as a member of the RCNSW. Alternatively, the RCNSW should act swiftly and decisively to stand Rabbi Feldman down.
Finally, I would like to raise a conflict of interest concern. I understand that as Head Chabad Shliach (Emissary) in NSW, Rabbi Pinchas Feldman is effectively your superior, and has a range of powers over you, including the ability to stand you down from your position. If this is indeed accurate, or if you have any other similar relationship with Rabbi Feldman, your involvement in dealing with his matter puts you in a serious conflict of interest. Therefore, your request of another victim to lodge formal complaints regarding Rabbi Feldman directly with you are, in my opinion, and based on any robust governance principles, highly inappropriate.
I look forward to your response in due course.
With the recent conclusion of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, I thought this would be a good opportunity to publicly list those remaining individuals and institutions who, in my view, played a role in the Australian Jewish community’s child sexual abuse scandal and have still not accepted responsibility for their actions and/or inaction or been held to account by others. Over the years, I have named them all in various fora, but this is a good opportunity to list them on a new Wall of Shame. Based on my personal interactions with these individuals/institutions, and/or based on their public comments, in my opinion, it would be appropriate that they publicly acknowledge their offensive behaviour and apologise. They have all been provided with numerous opportunities to take responsibility for their behaviour, so I’m hoping that listing them here will hold them to account in one way or another. All of them have caused significant pain and suffering to me personally and to other victims and survivors of child sexual abuse (and in many cases, to others within the community). It is my view, and that of others, that none of the individuals named should be in any leadership position. If anything, the shunning that so many of us experienced (partly due to most, if not all, of these individuals) should be directed at them. So, now that the Royal Commission has concluded, it is up to each and every one of us to do the right thing. We can take the easier option of ignoring this issue, and hope it will just go away. Unfortunately, this approach has proved counter-productive and ultimately destructive for the entire community. Alternatively, we can do the right thing and ensure full accountability.
Wall of Shame
Based on the Royal Commission findings:
(Rabbi) Yossi Feldman
(Rabbi) Chaim Zvi Groner
(Rabbi) Meir Shlomo Kluwgant
(Rabbi) Boruch Lesches
(Rabbi) Zvi Hirsch Telsner
Yeshivah Centre – Melbourne
Yeshiva Centre – Sydney
Based on personal attacks against me (and/or my family and/or other victims/survivors) and/or their public statements:
(Rebbetzin) Pnina Feldman (see my previous blog post)
(Rabbi) Meir Shlomo Kluwgant (see my previous blog post)
Dr Danny Lamm (see my previous blog post)
David Werdiger (see my previous blog post)
Dr Shyrla Pakula Werdiger (see my previous blog post)
Debbie Wiener / The Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence (see my previous blog post)
The Yeshivah community have chosen the Jewish month of Elul, traditionally a time of repentance in preparation for the High Holy Days, to once again deliver a huge slap in the face to child sexual abuse victims and in particular, to those who have suffered as a result of (Rabbi) Zvi Hirsch Telsner by appointing the disgraced Rabbi to ‘perform non-congregational/non-pulpit duties’.
In 2015, Telsner resigned his role at Yeshivah and admitted that his own ‘conduct towards victims and their families did not demonstrate…values or behaviour to the extent necessary of a Rabbi’ in his position. And yet, at a time when other community institutions are avoiding being associated with those implicated in the child sexual abuse scandal in our community, it is Yeshivah alone, the institution responsible for the rape and abuse of dozens of children in its care, that considers it appropriate to reward Telsner with a new contract.
That this appointment should be made under the guise of being ‘motivated by a genuine desire to move forward’ is cynical and offensive. That the announcement should fail to acknowledge the pain and suffering inflicted by Telsner on child sexual abuse victims and the embarrassment that he has caused the entire Jewish community is a reflection on just how out of touch and insensitive the Yeshivah Board remains.
Telsner’s re-appointment sends a clear message to the community that no matter how badly or how violently you attack child sexual abuse victims, Yeshivah will take little, if any, action. And it also sends a message to victims – that Yeshivah still do not ‘get it’ and you will find no support from within that community.
Despite all of the injustice that Yeshivah’s victims have experienced, it is again apparent that the Yeshivah community is determined to prolong our suffering by denying us the justice that comes with holding to account those who have hurt us.
Sadly, this has been the attitude of successive leaders of Yeshivah. Very little seems to have changed culturally and many are asking if Yeshivah can really ever change.
We call on Yeshivah to belatedly do the right thing and immediately disassociate itself from Telsner.
Since Yeshivah’s personal apology to Victims’ Advocate Manny Waks and their Redress Scheme announcement, Waks has occasionally engaged with the Yeshivah leadership. Due to Telsner’s re-appointment, Waks has decided to sever ties with the Yeshivah leadership.
Yeshivah Centre public announcement:
As you know, settling the matter of Rabbi of the main Yeshivah Shule, has been top priority of the CIVL Board.
We have considered feedback received from many groups of stakeholders including CIVL [Chabad Institutions of Victoria] members, broader Yeshivah community members, the other Moisdois [religious institutions], Halachic [Jewish Law] authorities, legal authorities, political entities, donors and supporters in the wider Jewish community etc.
Motivated by a genuine desire to move forward, we have been in comprehensive discussions with Rabbi Telsner and Rabbi Telsner has shown great support in enabling Rabbinical renewal within the main Yeshivah Shule and broader institutions.
Rabbi Telsner and the Board have reached a mutually beneficial agreement. Rabbi Telsner does not and will not be holding any formal position within the Shule. The Board recognises Rabbi Telsner’s value to the community and as such, the CIVL Board has chosen to retain Rabbi Telsner to perform non-congregational/non-pulpit duties.
Members of our community may choose to engage Rabbi Telsner in an individual and private capacity going forward.
The CIVL Board will now embark on the process of engaging a new Rabbi.
Ksiva Vachasima Tova [traditional Jewish New Year blessing]
The Board of CIVL (Chabad Institutions of Victoria Ltd)
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