Manny Waks email to Rabbi Eli Cohen, President of the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia) – 13 December 2016:
I wish to lodge a formal complaint in respect of Rabbi Pinchas Feldman, and ask that he be removed as a member of the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales (RCNSW).
In making this complaint, I refer to the recent formal statement by the Rabbinic Council of Australia and New Zealand (RCANZ), Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) and RCNSW in response to the findings of the public hearing into Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
As you are aware, the RCANZ, RCV and RCNSW publicly stated:
“[T]hat those who did not fulfil their legal responsibility to protect children should step down from public positions, and that those who denigrated victims have lost their moral right to serve.”
I refer to the following findings by the Royal Commission in respect of Rabbi Pinchas Feldman, including but not limited to:
- As dean of Yeshiva Bondi – Rabbi Pinchas Feldman failed to ensure that the Yeshiva Bondi had a formal written policy in respect of complaints of child sexual abuse, despite mandatory reporting being introduced in 1988 and there being an express requirement that Rabbi Feldman have such policies.
- As dean of Yeshiva Bondi – Rabbi Pinchas Feldman failed to ensure that the Yeshiva Bondi recorded complaints of child sexual abuse, despite mandatory reporting being introduced in 1988 and there being an express requirement that Rabbi Feldman ensure such complaints were properly recorded.
- As dean of Yeshiva Bondi – Rabbi Pinchas Feldman failed to undertake any formal training in respect of child sexual abuse, despite the requirement that he do so.
- Rabbi Pinchas Feldman did not take any steps to inform anyone that AVL [alleged perpetrator of child sexual abuse and relative of Rabbi Pinchas Feldman] was contemplating leaving Australia.
- Rabbi Yosef Feldman [son of Rabbi Pinchas Feldman] was appointed to his roles at Yeshiva Bondi, including those as director and dean of the Yeshivah Gedolah Rabbinical College by Rabbi Pinchas Feldman. Rabbi Yosef Feldman advised the Royal Commission, and the Royal Commission accepted, that Rabbi Yosef Feldman relied heavily on Rabbi Pinchas Feldman for guidance and advice in respect of governance and legal requirements. Accordingly, failures of Rabbi Yosef Feldman, are attributable to Rabbi Pinchas Feldman, as he failed in his duty to provide proper oversight and guidance to Rabbi Yosef Feldman, who acted under his direction, and expressly relied on Rabbi Pinchas Feldman to “bring all matter of importance to his attention”.
- Rabbi Pinchas Feldman was a party to several emails which are a matter of public record, that denigrated victims who had reported Hayman to Police. These emails included assertions that:
- the reporting of Hayman was an act of mesirah;
- Hayman had no recollection of the incident and we are relying on a 12-year-old’s memory;
- that the truth could not be found as Hayman had ‘cut a deal’;
- that Hayman was innocent and the allegations were similar to the ‘orchestrated testimony’ against Rabbi Glick; and
- that a man in his fifties should not be punished for allegations made about his youth.
Based on the above, it seems that Rabbi Pinchas Feldman did not fulfil his moral, religious and legal responsibility to protect children, and was a party to conduct that denigrated victims. Accordingly, consistent with the statement of the RCANZ, RCV and RCNSW, it seems clear that Rabbi Pinchas Feldman has lost his moral right to serve the community and should step down from all his public positions, including as a member of the RCNSW. Alternatively, the RCNSW should act swiftly and decisively to stand Rabbi Feldman down.
Finally, I would like to raise a conflict of interest concern. I understand that as Head Chabad Shliach (Emissary) in NSW, Rabbi Pinchas Feldman is effectively your superior, and has a range of powers over you, including the ability to stand you down from your position. If this is indeed accurate, or if you have any other similar relationship with Rabbi Feldman, your involvement in dealing with his matter puts you in a serious conflict of interest. Therefore, your request of another victim to lodge formal complaints regarding Rabbi Feldman directly with you are, in my opinion, and based on any robust governance principles, highly inappropriate.
I look forward to your response in due course.
Email from Rabbi Cohen to Manny Waks – 13 December 2016:
Thank you for your email.
We acknowledge the receipt of your formal complaint outlined in your email.
After an executive meeting I called this afternoon, it was agreed upon unanimously that I, Rabbi Cohen would step aside in relation to the formal complaint before the council due to a perceived conflict of interest as highlighted in your email.
The immediate past president, Rabbi Ulman has also stepped aside. The Vice President, Rabbi Eli Feldman will also not take part in addressing this matter for obvious reasons. Rabbi Ingram has also stated a conflict of interest and has recused himself.
At this stage it will be up to our executive member, Rabbi Paul Lewin to appoint a committee to address the complaint in due course. He is currently overseas and will be returning at the end of the month.
Rabbi Eli Cohen
Email from Rabbi Paul Lewin, appointed by the RCNSW to deal with Manny Waks’ complaint – 13 December 2016:
Dear rav Eli
As noted I am currently in Israel with the Masada and Moriah ist programme looking after 160 students. I return to Australia on December 20.
I will work with other members of the rcnsw who do not have the conflict of interest to address this serious issue and complaint brought to the rcnsw
Email from Manny Waks – 13 December 2016:
Thank you for your prompt response. I look forward to hearing back from you in due course.
Email from Rabbi Lewin – 24 December 2017:
I had a meeting with rabbi Feldman on Wednesday. I explained to him the nature of the complaint as well as what we have done over the year. I explained to him that for the rabbinate to move forward he needs to acknowledge and apologise for what has taken place and a firm commitment that he and all of the rabbinate will continue our professional development to
A) support the victims
B) support those who come forward
C) that the rabbinate will be at the forefront of protection
D) that the rabbinate will continue to develop its policies and code of conduct practices on line with the recommendations of the RC.
E) that the rabbinate will work with authorised bodies to ensure that best practice is being followed in counciling, support and Services.
I have asked him to present his response to rcnsw at a meeting on Tuesday.
Thanks for your patience
Email from Manny Waks – 24 December 2017:
Thanks Rabbi Lewin for the update.
But just to clarify, you're essentially saying that after this more than a year investigation by the RCNSW of Rabbi Feldman, and after the recent devastating and unequivocal revelations in the Royal Commission's Final Report, the RCNSW is essentially asking Rabbi Pinchus Feldman to issue another public apology?
Have I missed anything?
Email from Manny Waks – 9 January 2018:
Seriously, Rabbi Lewin?
Still no response to my last email, and no update regarding this matter.
Probably true that anything you say or do won't change my opinion - at least not in the short term - that the Orthodox Rabbinic leadership in NSW has no credibility whatsoever. Obviously individual rabbis may still have credibility, and to be clear, Rabbi Gutnick in the leader of the national body, so I'm not referring to him or his organisation, as he has proven himself time and again.
Seriously, it's pathetic. And I'm sorry to say this but this is a direct reflection on you personally, as you have been tasked with resolving this matter.
I won't leave this issue, until it's resolved. And it's not because I don't have anything better to do.
Email from Rabbi Lewin – 10 January 2018:
Just to clarify. A meeting was held by the rcnsw. It was agreed that rabbi Feldman would be required to address the complaints before the council.
According to the constitution in its current form, A complaint about a rabbi is to be presented to the executive. They are to investigate and bring their findings to the council. If the decision is to proceed we need to write to the rabbi to present his defence before the council.
As you may or may not be aware we have been working with a senior judge every step of the way. This is because we felt that we needed professional guidance in this process. The advice received, is that based on the process described there are three options for the council to censure, suspend or expel.
This needs to be decided by the council as a whole.
I met with rabbi Feldman and explained to him that we have taken your complaint seriously and plan to act. It was suggested that he address the complaints.
Rabbi Feldman has since written to me that he is being sued by a victim. He has asked his lawyer to advise him.
I therefore wrote to our honorary solicitor asking how we proceed.
I am currently out of the country returning next Thursday and will pick it up then.
As I have mentioned previously we are taking this seriously. I certainly want to see this through.
Apologies for the delayed correspondence.
But am waiting reply from the lawyers.
Email from Manny Waks – 10 January 2018:
I appreciate the update, and look forward to hearing of further progress.
Email from Manny Waks – 11 March 2018:
Two months after the last correspondence, and still no update.
But apparently the RCNSW is ready and willing to sign up to the National Redress Scheme...not quite sure what that readiness and willingness actually means, when you still haven't resolved a fairly straightforward formal complaint from around a year and a half ago...perhaps the second part of the RCNSW statement gives it away somewhat by claiming that you are 'given to understand' that one of your members is in fact representing you regarding this issue.
May the dear lord have mercy on us all [if He/She/It indeed exists]
Email from Rabbi Lewin – 14 March 2018:
Just to update you. We are currently at lawyer level, coordinating a meeting between our honorary solicitor and Rabbi Feldman and his solicitor.
Please note that I am beholden to the time of our lawyer since he is working in an honorary capacity.
will update when we have had the meeting.
Email from Manny Waks – 19 March 2018:
Thanks for the update, I guess...
Email from Manny Waks – 14 June 2018:
It's now been three months exactly since our last correspondence regarding this matter. That's over a year and a half since the formal complaint was made.
We await, in hope, for some semblance of justice and accountability.
So far, in vain.
Sadly, I presume there's no update...but in case there is...