Senior rabbi quits amid sex abuse cover-up claims
1 September 2015
ONE of the country’s most senior rabbis has resigned after he was accused of covering up sex crimes and shunning child sex abuse victims.
Yeshivah Centre chief rabbi Zvi Telsner stood down indefinitely today amid claims he had continued to berate victims who exposed a widespread abuse cover-up within the Jewish community.
The Herald Sun understands Yeshivah’s interim committee of management was pressured to act after a heated exchange with a victim of abuse that saw him claim whistleblowers were trying to destroy the Yeshivah.
Rabbi Telsner, the leader of the biggest Chabad community in the Southern hemisphere, is the third person to lose a senior position after the child abuse royal commission probed the Yeshivah cover-up earlier this year.
Rabbi Telsner has notified the Committee of Management of his decision to stand down from his position as Rabbi at the Yeshivah Centre, effective immediately.
In a letter to the community Rabbi Telsner apologised for his past conduct and urged everyone to show compassion and support towards victims and their families.
“As a senior Rabbi at the Yeshivah Centre I acknowledge and endorse its values, policies and message of continued support and compassion for victims of Child Sexual Abuse, their families and all of the community,” he said.
“I recognise that my conduct towards victims and their families did not demonstrate these values or behaviour to the extent necessary of a Rabbi in my position. Accordingly, I have decided to stand down from my position as Rabbi at the Yeshivah Centre, effective immediately.
“We all must be aware of how our words and actions impact on others and therefore would like to take this opportunity to apologise for my conduct and urge everyone to show compassion and support towards victims and their families.”
The commission was told Rabbi Telsner had lectured the tight-knit community about speaking out without permission and had used sermons to target prominent victims.
He sparked widespread outrage when he told the hearing he believed paedophiles and gay people could be “cured”.
His comments were described as “repulsive, ignorant and insulting” by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria but he remained Chabad’s top man in Melbourne.
Yeshivah sources said there had been increasing pressure on Rabbi Telsner to step down because of his dictatorial leadership style.
In May the rabbi was named as a member of a panel that decided to help the former principal of Adass Israel School flee Australia after she was accused of molesting students in 2008.
Australia’s former top rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant lost his position as head of the Organisation of Rabbis Australasia following after he labelled the father of a sexual assault victim a “lunatic”.
Rabbi Kluwgant made the claim about Zephania Waks, father of prominent victim Manny, in a vile text message.
Manny Waks led calls this week for Rabbi Telsner to be stood down.
“It’s important to emphasise that until Rabbi Telsner is no longer at the helm of Yeshivah it will be difficult for many to move forward,” he said.
“And in the meantime, he is continuing to cause damage to many, including to the Yeshivah Centre itself.”
Originally published at Herald Sun.