SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – A senior rabbi resigned as a director of Chabad’s Yeshiva Center in Sydney following comments he made at the Royal Commission into the child sexual abuse scandal inside two Chabad institutions in Australia.
Rabbi Yossi Feldman, a son of the chief rabbi of Chabad in Sydney, stood down from the board of management of the Yeshiva Center on Wednesday in the wake of a torrent of criticism from the rabbinate and mainstream Jewish leaders, who labeled his testimony as “repugnant to Jewish values and to Judaism.”
Feldman told the commission, which is investigating how rabbis responded to the abuse in Sydney and Melbourne in the 1980s and ’90s, that he did not believe it appropriate for victims to go to the police if offenses took place decades prior. He also claimed that the law should be lenient on pedophiles who had not offended for two decades and had repented.
“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,” Feldman said in a statement. “I apologize 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.”
Feldman’s views “shocked and appalled his fellow rabbis, the Australian Jewish community and the wider community,” the Executive Council of Australian Jewry said in a statement Tuesday.
“Yossi Feldman’s statements are repugnant to Jewish values and to Judaism, which is centered on the sanctity and dignity of individual life, especially the life of a child,” the statement added. “We believe his position as a religious leader has become untenable.”