SYDNEY (JTA) – The head of a suburban Sydney day school denied allegations that he was aware of child sexual abuse taking place at the institution decades ago and failed to report it to authorities.
One of two men accused of sexually abusing boys at the Yeshiva Centre in Bondi told New South Wales police that he confessed to Rabbi PInchus Feldman, the head of the school, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Wednesday.
The police are investigating allegations of sexual abuse at the Orthodox school in the 1970s and ’80s.
The man who confessed told his alleged victim of a meeting 25 years ago with Feldman, according to the Morning Herald.
”He [Rabbi Feldman] just told me it shouldn’t happen and I should take steps to avoid it,” the accused man recalled. ”It was a once-off conversation in his office.”
But Chabad of Sydney said in a statement issued Wednesday, “This morning there was a media report that an anonymous individual currently under criminal investigation has alleged to have over a quarter of a century ago privately confessed child sex abuse crimes to Rabbi Feldman. Rabbi Feldman does not have any recollection of such a confession.”
The American-born Feldman, who was sent to Australia by the Lubavitcher rebbe in 1964, added, “To make my position absolutely clear, I endorse the unequivocal rabbinical rulings encouraging victims of abuse to report to the police and I will continue to support the efforts of law enforcement agencies in investigating and taking action against these heinous crimes.”
Manny Waks, an advocate for child sex abuse victims, said he believed Chabad officials have “privately acknowledged that it was indeed aware of the abuse allegations” in the 1980s.
Waks claimed he had been approached with information “alleging that the Yeshiva leadership responded to an alleged incident of child sexual abuse by apparently sending the perpetrator overseas.”
News of the police investigation of the Yeshiva Centre cases, one of which is believed to involve a former employee of Chabad-Lubavitch, became public last week, according to the newspaper.
Neither of the accused has been publicly named by the New South Wales police. The second alleged perpetrator, also Jewish, is understood to have moved overseas.
The allegations in Sydney come in the wake of multiple cases of alleged child sex abuse in Melbourne, most within the Orthodox community.