SYDNEY (JTA) – A former senior Chabad leader in Sydney suggested that some of the Jewish victims of alleged child sex abuse in Australia may have consented.
Rabbi Boruch Lesches, who now heads the Lubavitch community in Monsey, N.Y., was the top leader at the Sydney Chabad for 20 years starting in the mid-1980s.
In recordings of a recent phone conversation with an individual familiar with child sex allegations against a man associated with Sydney’s Chabad community in the 1980s, Lesches said, ”We are speaking about very young boys … everybody says about the other one that he agreed to this.”
When queried about young boys consenting, he said, “You would be surprised.”
The report in Fairfax Media Sunday also quoted Lesches as threatening to banish the alleged perpetrator and one of his victims from the yeshiva community unless the abuser could refrain from molestation.
”If not, both of them would have to leave,” Lesches was quoted as saying on recordings given to police investigating the case.
Lesches failed to report the alleged child sex abuser, who allegedly committed more offenses, and dismissed reopening the case now as a “can of worms.”
“When it is such a long time ago, everybody suffers,” he said. “If you start to do something about it, it will not be productive.”
The Rabbinical Council of Victoria issued a statement Sunday saying it was “appalled” by the comments.
“It is deeply regrettable and shocking that there still do exist some individuals out there on the fringe in the religious leadership world who take positions contrary to the clear-cut contemporary halachic approach on the matter of child sexual abuse,” said Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, president of the council.
Manny Waks, a spokesman for Jewish child sex abuse victims, also said the comments were “absolutely shocking.”
“Unfortunately this attitude and some of the views are fairly prevalent within the fervently Orthodox community,” he said. “After so many exposes, surely this is now undeniable.”