Rabbi Yosef Feldman says media hype causes 'fake' abuse victims
9 February 2015
AN orthodox rabbi has argued media “hype” causes “fake victims” to make allegations of child sexual abuse, while admitting he feared people were making false allegations against his friend, David Cyprys, who was later convicted of serious child sex offences.
Rabbi Yosef Feldman, rabbinical administrator of Bondi’s Chabad Yeshiva centre, today told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse he had expressed concern when he learnt in 2011 that Beth Dins in Sydney and Melbourne were planning to make public statements encouraging abuse victims to come forward.
“Too much hype causes miscarriages of justice,” he said. “I didn’t think it was the time and place for the rabbis to come out in the media with public statements.
“I think it’s bad for the Jews.”
Rabbi Feldman wrote a series of emails to other rabbis in 2011 — when abuse allegations involving Yeshivah College in Melbourne became public amid a police investigation — arguing Jews with information about child sex abuse allegations should see a rabbi rather than police.
He said today that he would “highly encourage” Australia to change its laws to allow rabbis to assess the veracity of child sex abuse complaints before encouraging victims to alert police.
He also said greater leniency should be shown to paedophiles who had committed sex offences years ago, if it could be shown they hadn’t offended since.
“I would lobby the government about this if I could,” he said. “They do the right thing and they are shown to do the right thing, (then) they deserve a bit more respect.”
Rabbi Feldman said he was worried at the time that further complaints might be laid against Cyprys, a friend who had worked at Yeshivah in Melbourne for decades.
Cyprys is currently serving an eight year prison sentence for abusing several boys at Yeshiva.
“I was worried the publicity would bring about fake victims, “ Rabbi Feldman said.
“The reality is they make a whole issue of child abuse and it encourages people to accuse people of abuse when ... they are really innocent.”
Other rabbis have condemned Rabbi Feldman’s views and called for victims to be encouraged to go to police.
The commission heard threats had been made against Rabbi Feldman on social media since he began giving evidence.
The hearing continues.
Originally published at The Australian.