Abuse inquiry hears rabbi let suspect flee
6 February 2015
A LEADING Orthodox rabbi who knew that a teacher’s aide accused of child sexual abuse was considering fleeing the country has admitted he did not try to stop him or inform authorities.
The 2002 case followed several cases of unreported abuse allegations at Bondi’s Yeshiva College examined by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse yesterday.
The commission heard former senior Yeshiva rabbi Boruch Lesches had received numerous complaints from children alleging sexual abuse but had not informed rabbi Pinchus Feldman, the dean of Yeshiva and head of the orthodox Chabad movement in NSW. Instead he had told a 12-year old girl she was making it up.
Rabbi Feldman told the hearing that in 2002 a young boy’s mother told Yeshiva’s principal her son was assaulted by a rabbinical student and teacher’s aide, referred to as AVL, at a school camp.
Rabbi Feldman met AVL, who denied the claim and said he was thinking of returning to the US.
Rabbi Feldman said he had told AVL Yeshiva could not stop him leaving, and did not report the conversation to police even though authorities had already been alerted to the allegations.
“I did not believe that I had that obligation,” Rabbi Feldman said. “I did not act, I did not notify the police that he said he may be going. If this was an error of judgment, then I apologise.”
AVL left the country within 48 hours and remains overseas.
Last year Daniel Hayman, another Yeshiva community member who worked with children in the 1980s, was convicted of indecent assault on a teenage boy.
The commission saw a police statement from another male victim alleging he was assaulted by Hayman when he was aged about 16, and learnt his friends had had similar experiences. They had reported the abuse to Rabbi Lesches, who said he would “deal with it” although no response was evident.
A few years later, Rabbi Lesches boarded a 12-year old Queensland girl with Hayman while she attended Yeshiva.
The girl’s statement to police alleged Hayman had touched her while he was naked and she was trying to sleep. The girl’s statement says she ran out of Hayman’s home and went to Rabbi Lesches, who had said: “I do not believe you — why would you invent such a story?”
Rabbi Feldman said Rabbi Lesches should have told him of these events and reported them to police, but this was not done.
Rabbi Feldman said he and his son had decided last September to contact Hayman to check whether he had ever confessed to Rabbi Feldman about his actions, as Hayman had claimed to one of his victims. Rabbi Feldman said he had wanted to refresh his memory before testifying.
In an email, Hayman had replied he vaguely remembered the conversation and he had not made any confession.
Hayman previously has told police Rabbi Lesches told him in the 1980s to “stay away” from young boys, and he had a similar conversation with Rabbi Feldman.
Rabbi Feldman told the commission he could not recall this conversation and had never received a complaint about Hayman’s behaviour, although he had been told Hayman acted on homosexual urges.
Rabbi Feldman read a statement apologising to victims and offering them support. However, he refused to condemn an email from his wife to victims’ advocate Manny Waks calling Mr Waks a “low-life” attention-seeker.
The hearing continues.
Originally published at The Australian.