RABBI Yossi Feldman, who made national headlines with outrageous comments at the Royal Commission, has stepped down from the board of management of the Sydney Yeshiva Centre and as rabbinic administrator at the Yeshiva’s rabbinical college.
After two days of testimony and calls from leaders across the community for him to resign from all leadership positions, he issued a statement on Wednesday morning.
“As of today I am resigning from my position as a director on the board of management of The Yeshiva Centre, which includes my administrative responsibilities,” Rabbi Feldman said.
“I apologise to anyone in the rabbinate, the Jewish community and the wider Australian community who have been embarrassed or ashamed by my views, words, understandings, recordings or emails about child sexual abuse or any other matter.
“I have dedicated my life to doing whatever I can to protect and assist all people in need including those who have suffered from any form of abuse, especially children, and it pains me greatly that words that I have expressed have upset victims and their families.”
Rabbi Feldman remains the rabbi of the Southern Sydney Synagogue and provides a hechsher for caterer Amaze In Taste. The AJN understands that the board of Southern Sydney Synagogue are planning to meet in the coming days to discuss his tenure. A director of Amaze in Taste said he would not comment.
Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Australia president Romy Leibler expressed “revulsion and abhorrence” at Rabbi Feldman’s statements before the Royal Commission.
“Such statements and opinions that he has expressed have no basis or foundation in Jewish law and are to be condemned unequivocally.
“Moreover, it is clear that having made such statements, Rabbi Feldman can no longer be regarded as fit and proper to serve in any communal capacity and in particular any position that involves any pastoral care and involvement within the Jewish and wider community at large.”
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Jeremy Spinak said the evidence which has emerged in the last two weeks has been absolutely disgraceful.
“It reflects appalling failures in dealing with incidents of child abuse and protecting children in care,” he said.
“While these awful events occurred in a small section of our community, it is now up to all of us to ensure that the abhorrent practices, attitudes and failures that have come to light never again happen.
“It is our view that after his appalling comments to the Royal Commission, Rabbi Yosef Feldman is unfit to hold any position of authority or leadership in the Jewish community.”
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry issued a statement saying that Rabbi Feldman’s views “shocked and appalled his fellow rabbis, the Australian Jewish community and the wider community”.
“Yossi Feldman’s statements are repugnant to Jewish values and to Judaism, which is centred on the sanctity and dignity of individual life, especially the life of a child.
“We believe his position as a religious leader has become untenable.”
The rabbis of the Council of Progressive Rabbis of Australia, New Zealand and Asia and the leadership of the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) said in a statement they were “shocked and horrified by the revelations about the deceit and ignorance displayed by rabbis within the Chabad yeshivas and communities in Australia”.
“The abhorrence felt about their statements is compounded by the attempts of these senior leaders to use Jewish tradition and Jewish law as an excuse for them to cover up child sexual abuse; to protect the perpetrators; and to vilify the victims and their families,” the statement said.
Victorian member of the Legislative Council Philip Dalidakis said, “It is important to recognise that while these heinous crimes have been committed by individuals, it is equally unacceptable for institutions to hide behind God’s name and use religion to cover them up or rationalise them away.”
For full Royal Commission coverage, see this week’s AJN.
Rabbi Yossi Feldman.