Rabbi who made controversial abuse comments reinstated


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – The Sydney rabbi who had resigned the presidency of the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales following controversial comments he made about child abuse has resumed his role.

Rabbi Yosef Feldman vowed to clear his name following the editorial in the July 29 edition of the Australian Jewish News that called for his resignation after publishing blistering extracts of a leaked e-mail exchange between him and other rabbis about child abuse. In the e-mails, Feldman appeared to suggest that, where legally possible, rabbis should decide whether or not allegations of child abuse should be reported to police.

Following a month of legal negotiations, however, Feldman and the newspaper issued a joint news release on Thursday in which both parties acknowledged bearing some responsibility for the controversy.

The newspaper – whose July 29 front-page headline read “Top rabbi must quit” – admitted its coverage “may have been considered sensational and apologized for any unnecessary distress this caused.”

Feldman, who had described the newspaper’s coverage as “false and defamatory,” acknowledged that while he was not misquoted, his views “could have been misunderstood” and he “apologized for any distress caused to the community.”

A statement from the executive of the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales asserted that many Australian rabbis believe that Feldman’s views were “simply conjecture within the context of halachic discussion.”

Feldman said: “I unreservedly and emphatically condemn all forms of abuse, particularly child abuse. Perpetrators must be brought to justice in the Australian legal system, and I condemn the suggestion that pedophiles deserve protection from that legal system.”

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