SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — A Sydney rabbi stepped aside from his high-profile post while he fights a report suggesting that he supported covering up alleged cases of child molestation.
Rabbi Yosef Feldman removed himself as president of the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales Monday after the Australian Jewish News published a report, based on leaked e-mails, alleging that he contended that rabbis should determine whether or not pedophiles be reported to authorities.
The report and editorial in last week’s edition comes in the wake of Australian police opening an investigation in June into revelations of child abuse two decades ago at Yeshivah College in Melbourne that were not reported to police at the time.
Feldman’s alleged comments were met by a storm of criticism from leading rabbis, who said there was a halachic obligation to report suspected child abuse cases to police.
But in a statement Monday, Feldman said that he has “at all times publicly endorsed the unanimous view of the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales under his presidency — that all acts of abuse must be reported to the police.”
He said his reported comments were contained in an “internal e-mail exchange among rabbis in which there was academic discussion of a range of views held by international scholars on how to deal with situations not subject to mandatory reporting.”
Feldman said he is considering a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper for publishing “false and defamatory allegations.”
Australian Jewish News editor Zeddy Lawrence said he stood by the story and believed “a number of senior rabbis and community leaders” supported the newspaper.