Publicity about Abuse Brings Out “Attention Seeking Phonies” According to Down Under Rabbi Yosef Feldman

6081012-3x2-340x227

R. Yosef Yitzchak Feldman

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Feldman attained notoriety when Australian Newspapers reported on his testimony about sex abuse in the Chabad community in Australia to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

According to ABC (Australia) in Feb 2015:

The director of the ultra-orthodox Jewish Yeshiva centre in Sydney has resigned after last week telling a royal commission hearing he did not know it was a crime for an adult to touch a child’s genitals.

Since then, Feldman has gone on a spree of libel lawsuits. Manny Waks linked to a listing of those lawsuits in a post on FaceBook on 7/20/16. The targets of his eight lawsuits include The Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Australia, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and a number of media outlets.

In response to Manny Waks’ FaceBook post and some taunting comments he justifies himself by writing

The context as you can clearly see was that in my strong opinion, publicity wasn’t necessarily a good thing in the Jewish community and neither would it help victims. It obviously could encourage attention-seeking phonies to come forward.

Feldman is telling the truth. He, and others like him don’t like victims going public either through the courts or the media. In my experience, Haredi rabbis eager to avoid scandal and criminal prosecutions of frum molesters  don’t like publicizing survivor stories because the example of one victim/survivor can help another also summon the courage.

Multiple victims of an offender are very awkward for those who prefer keeping abuse scandals under wraps. Their usual tactic is to discredit reports by doubting the credibility of the survivor. It gets harder to pull that off as more survivors come forward.

It takes ignorance or malice to think it is easy for a survivor to come forward publicly.

It might be funny to say that Feldman just earned himself another citation for foot-in-the-mouth disease. But he has also kicked abuse survivors, yet again, while they were down.

In my opinion, Feldman does not merit respect as a rabbi or even a mensch.

See other Frum Follies posts about the Royal Commission (and here), and specifically about Manny Waks. Also see posts about Feldman on Failed Messiah.

Advertisements

23 thoughts on “Publicity about Abuse Brings Out “Attention Seeking Phonies” According to Down Under Rabbi Yosef Feldman

  1. I will speak in Rabbi Feldman’s (partial) defence – I believe his testimony to the royal commission was the truth. The truth was ugly, very ugly – but he did not lie.

    He described receiving the accusations that Daniel Heyman (the molester) had been fondling boys’ genitals during “massages” at tutoring sessions. He confronted Heyman, who denied it, claimed it was all a misunderstanding etc, etc… you know the drill.

    Rabbi Feldman did NOT believe Heyman’s denials, and banned him from any further tutoring of the kids. Heyman, who, unlike Rabbi Feldman, DID realize the hot water he had gotten himself into (apparently one of the parents HAD gone to the police, but this was not enough to alert Rabbi Feldman that there may be criminal issues involved), asked if he could continue his semicha by “distance education” from America. Rabbi Feldman said no – if you leave, you leave. Heyman fled the next day for America (he was NOT “shipped off” or kicked out of the yeshiva program, HE made the decision to run), and was not brought to justice for nearly a quarter of a century.

    Now, I truly believe Rabbi Feldman when he says that at the time, he merely viewed Heyman’s behaviour as “highly inappropriate” (and took steps accordingly to cut off Heyman’s contact with the kids) but did not recognize that he was dealing with a criminal offence. (For those who are still not aware, it’s called “performing an indecent act with / on a child”. Not as serious as raping a child perhaps, but still a very serious crime). That truth is ugly and shameful – but I have no reason to believe that it is anything but the genuine beliefs he held at the time. Do remember, this was almost 25 years ago. That’s NOT to say how he would react if faced with a similar situation today. Would he go to the police? I do not know.

    As you say, Rabbi Feldman may be many things, but he is not a liar. To quote you “I believe that in his own clumsy way, Feldman is telling the truth”. What he says he thought then, and thinks now (not necessarily are the two the same, if a similar situation arose today, he might just quietly help the victim go to the police), are genuine expressions of his views and beliefs, not some PR lies for public consumption. His honesty is refreshing, painful and krum as his views may be.

    • If he suspected him enough to bar him from ordination it had to be because he perceived it as sexual in some way. Hugging kids non-sexually is normative behavior in his circles as long as it is same-sex.

      But putting that aside, it is easy to see why he may have found a way to lull himself into believing, at least legally that it was non-sexual: it was because he had no trouble doubting the claims of the victim. If Heyman really thought he had everyone snookered he would not have hightailed it out of the country, nor would the question have arisen about distance smichah.

      BTW, do you also feel Debbie Fox was telling the truth?

      https://frumfollies.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/the-fox-was-guarding-the-coop/

      • Crazy as this sounds, I think, at that point, that Rabbi Feldman simply did not appreciate that “adult + child + sexual = crime”. His testimony at the royal commission did not dispute that Heyman’s behaviour was sexual. I see no evidence that he doubted the claims of Heyman’s victims.
        BTW, for someone who’s a Rabbi, is he filing lawsuits against fellow Jews in civil court, as a opposed to beis din? I’m baffled. Even when dealing with thoroughly secular Jews, one is obliged to at least make an attempt to arbitrate in beis din, aren’t they? You may not realistically expect them to say yes, but aren’t you still obliged to make a formal request of them to do so? Has Rabbi Feldman done this? Or are all the lawsuits against non-Jews and non-Jewish entities?

          • To be fair to him, he may have just asked for a beis din hearing and gotten a “no” from the other party. Though that would make sense in regards to the secular Jewish organizations he’s suing, it would seem odd in regards to his case against the council of orthodox synagogues of australia, who (being orthodox) would presumably want to follow halacha. Given the record of our community, sadly, in dealing with child sex abuse, I rather strongly suspect that Rabbi Feldman would get a more sympathetic hearing in beis din than in the civil courts. So why would he be pursuing this particular case in civil court. I don’t get it. Any theories?
            Also, I note that in his case against Jeremy Spinak (then-head of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies), July 29 is “judgement day”. If Rabbi Feldman loses the case, he could be in for a hefty legal bill. Here in Australia, unlike much of the USA, losing plaintiffs generally have to pay the defendant’s legal costs. And that’s before taking into account Rabbi Feldman’s own legal bills (although his lawyers may just have agreed to take the case on a no-win-no-fee basis, this would be unlikely, unless they thought that he had a strong case – or are Jews with a misguided sense of “helping a fellow Jew” with gratis legal representation). How is Rabbi Feldman affording all these lawsuits? Sending threatening legal letters is cheap, but actual court action can be awfully expensive. Is anyone bankrolling this? Or is he just gambling that if he wins just one case, he’ll be awarded enough in damages to pay his legal bills (and the legal bills of all those he sues and loses) for all the cases he loses?
            I’m interested if anyone has any answers to either of my questions. Why is he suing the orthodox defendants in civil court rather than beis din? And how or by whom is this being paid for?

              1. I have no idea of his financial arrangments with his lawyers or whether they are pro bono. However, I never cease to be amazed at how there is always enough money in the frum world to assure quality legal defence and bail for sex offenders and those charged with financial crimes. There also always seems to be enough money to launch suits designed to intimidate those who speak out.

              2. Clearly, if he issued a beit din summons and the other party refused to reply, a beit din will issue permission to pursue the case in civil courts. It surprises me he does not claim to have gone down that route. The beit din route would have also posed problems for R. Feldman. Ordinarily, the defendant can counter with either another beit din or Zabla. Under Zabla, each party chooses a judge and those two judges choose a third judge. Zabla can get bogged down with both unable to agree on a 3rd party. So, in effect, beit din is largely ineffective in many cases. Beit Din lacks effective power unless an entire community has a consensus on which beit din must be used, which would probably not be the case here.

              3. Libel lawsuits seem like a high stakes game in Australia, with libel law favoring the plaintiff, but legal bill penalties deterring suits.

              4. My hunch is that most of the suits will be withdrawn before it goes down to the wire. OTOH, he may be less concerned with losing some than with the prospect of scaring everyone away. He points to the IBT concession and correction. I have no idea what happened in that case. Perhaps they were sloppy in their write up and went beyond the facts on the public record. Perhaps, for various internal reasons they preferred not fighting.

              5. OTOH, someone with enough money can just use lawsuits as an intimidation tactic that will at least peel off some parties.

            • The entire Feldman family think nothing of taking people to a secular court. Jews, non-Jews, makes no difference to them. Where is the money coming from? I don’t think he’s paying the lawyers, probably a misguided follower of theirs is acting on their behalf, although several previous misguided followers have now seen the light. It is very hard to diagnose a person such as Yosef Feldman. He is either a complete basket case, or he is evilly clever. He is also claiming that the reason why Merkos removed him as a Chabad rep is because of the Royal Commission, but I personally believe it was because of the sex-tape which is somewhere on the Failed Messiah site. You can’t make this stuff up!

            • Yerachmiel, it doesn’t look like the suits will be withdrawn before they go “down to the wire”. As I mentioned, the case against Jeremy Spinak has already almost reached “judgement day” (All going smoothly, judgement in the case will be delivered tomorrow, Australian time – too late to withdraw, basically), and the cases against several others are in the “argument” stage (meaning significant legal costs have already been incurred). So if Rabbi Feldman withdraws at this point, the other side may demand their legal costs met – unless they seriously think they’re at risk of losing the case. And remember, he’s brought some of these suits against major media organizations who are well represented legally, and unlikely to cower.

              YZ, I can’t say whether or not he’s a “complete basket case”, but he certainly doesn’t sound evilly clever to me. Clever people, including evilly clever ones, pick their battles carefully – and looking at the list of those he’s suing, it doesn’t seem like he’s doing this. His posts on lostmessiah (if he is indeed the one posting them) sound almost desperate.

              In any case, one Judge (Justice Mccallum) is hearing all the various cases at once, presumably due to the overlap between them. His judgement in tomorrow’s case will likely tell us a lot about how the other cases will pan out. By Motzei Shabbos US time, the judgement should be in. I suspect Manny will post something on the outcome.

      • Reading the full article in the jewish journal, I have no idea if Debbie Fox was telling the truth. But I will note that in general, strange as it sounds, it is not all that uncommon for victims of sexual abuse (be they adult victims, child victims, or now-adult victims of childhood abuse) to seek “restorative justice” – confronting their abuser and attempting to force him to acknowledge his wrongdoing and receive treatment, rather than going through the legal process – particularly since the legal process can be VERY hard on victims. Many victims report that being put in the witness box and grilled by an aggressive defence lawyer accusing them of fabricating their claims is like being abused all over again. (Yes, Heyman pleaded guilty, but many abusers do not. Cyprus, the molester of Manny Waks and several others, pleaded not guilty, and his trial must have been a gruesome ordeal for his victims). So I do find Debbie Fox’s claim that she was approached by the victim and was the one to initiate contact with Heyman at the victim’s request (with the aim of allowing the victim to confront his abuser) to be plausible. That doesn’t mean it’s true, just that it could be true. It would be very relevant to know whether that particular victim ever went to the police, or if he was satisfied with Debbie’s “resolution”. The voice that’s missing in this story is that of the victim (as is the case all too often, sadly), although I respect his right to silence (according to the journal, he declined to be interviewed).

  2. This man is a disgrace to the Jewish people and to Judaism.

    Was he the one that was caught on tape discussing his extramarital relationship with an unmarried woman while referring to it as “farbrenging”?

    Some people just can’t accept when it’s time for a career change.

  3. YL can you cover the supposed “cult” sexually abusing children in the sanhedria murchevet/ ramat eshkol area?

    I have a feeling that the more typical abusers in our community are spreading rumors so that they won’t be suspected and that local rabbis are encouraging this in order to protect them but I don’t have proof…

    • I don’t have direct information. I find your explanation plausible. But equally plausible is that laity frightend by the specter of abuse latch onto scapegoats. It is easy if you are ignorant of the essential fact that molesters are usually ordinary-seeming members of the community, not the oddballs.

  4. Reblogged this on LOSTMESSIAH and commented:

    Mr. Feldman had hoped that we would print a retraction and an apology to our post regarding comments he made but were apparently taken out of context when they were printed.

    His comments to our post speak loudly about what we believe to be his narrative: this is about the reputations of the abusers, those who covered up the abuse and those who have the daunting responsibility of dealing with it and not about the children who were abused.

    Yerachmiel Lopin eloquently explains that silencing the abused also cuts the courage of other abuse victims off at the knees. We would like to see more people gather the courage they need to speak out and report. We would like to see the communities with rampant problems of sexual abuse confront the issue head on even if it means condemnation.

    We would like to thank Frum Follies and Manny Waks for their posts.

  5. If you look at the LostMessiah website post which YL linked to above, Yosef Feldman is very active in the comments, where he threatens to sue LostMessiah and anyone else who speaks out against him, with defamation lawsuits. He says there in the comments that he has 11 defamation lawsuits ongoing and that he wont hesitate to bring more. Of course it isn’t clear if the one posting the messages is in fact Yosef Feldman. But who else would want to impersonate and defend him? The good news is that he doesn’t seem to sue people who don’t have money. He said that is why he didn’t sue Shmarya Rosenberg (of the now defunct Failed Messiah website). So, if you’re poor, you have nothing to fear from his lawsuits. Are the lawsuits about the money or about clearing his name? It’s hard to tell.

    https://lostmessiahdotcom.wordpress.com/2016/07/20/yosef-yitzchak-feldman-did-not-know-it-was-a-crime-to-touch-a-childs-genitals-filing-lawsuits/

    • Credit where credit is due in not suing those who lack the financial resources to hire lawyers to defend themselves. At least all those who he’s sued so far are individuals and organisations which have the ability to “legal up” and hire lawyers to fight his claims, rather than being forced to roll over in the face of legal threats due to a lack of money to do so. I’ve seen plenty of unscrupulous individuals who have no qualms about threatening low-income bloggers who are forced to cower and remove non-defamatory posts, due to an inability to afford legal representation. Rabbi Feldman, for all his flaws, does not appear to be one of them.
      As to suing Shmarya… isn’t Shmarya based in America, where suing for defamation is MUCH harder? I doubt Shmarya has any Australian-based assets, and I don’t know the US legal system would enforce any Australian court order against his assets there. Of course, it’s perfectly plausible that he didn’t go after Shmarya due to Shmarya’s low net worth. As I said, he has shown plenty of boldness in bringing cases against parties such as major news organisations, which CAN afford expensive lawyers and trials. If he’s doing this for money, I say this is a VERY high-stakes gamble. Should he lose cases, he may well be forced into bankruptcy. Remember, here in Australia, the loser pays the winner’s legal costs!

      • At this point, shmarya is no longer posting and his site is inactive but old posts are up and there is a corporation that owns it that has some assets. so he could sue. Not clear if he can sue a us entity with no Australian affiliates, but with web presence anywhere in the world. In any event, a judgment would probably not be enforcable in the US. So I suspect it is not rachmonus but futility that leads him not to sue US entities.

  6. What I posted on LM and I’ll post his response and my further response just to show how dishonest he is…

    …Just briefly to explain it further to you, I NEVER said that I didn’t know it was a crime to sexually touch genitals. It’s in fact legally allowed to
    touch genitals for many reasons including a Bris. She was trying to lead me on with the question as though I knew at the time that there was sexual abuse that I didn’t which is why I answered it literally. Look at comments on reddit (who don’t have an agenda…) who recognised this. Many times in the evidence I clearly mentioned that to sexually touch is a crime. Please read my evidence and submission. All of this is coming out in court which is why IBT settled. If you’re an honest person, which it seems from your writing -a little different than Shmarya- that you may be, please retract everything you wrote and apologise.

See Commenting policy ( http://wp.me/pFbfD-Kk )

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s