Australian Rabbi Steps Down Over Comments on Pedophiles

Director of ultra-orthodox yeshiva in Sydney said courts should offer leniency to pedophiles who now no longer offend.

DPA - The director of an ultra-orthodox yeshiva in Sydney resigned Wednesday after his comments on pedophiles and apparent tolerance of historical child sex abuse caused an outcry.

Rabbi Yosef Feldman last week said not all sex abuse cases warranted police intervention and that courts should offer leniency to pedophiles who now no longer offend, in comments to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.

He apologized Wednesday to the Jewish community and the wider Australian community and said he would step down, The Australian Jewish News reported.

His testimony came as the national inquiry honed in on instances of sexual assault on children at yeshiva-run schools and other Jewish institutes in Australia.

The rabbi also said when he was informed of an alleged case at the yeshiva in 2002, he did not know it could be a crime for an adult to touch the genitals of a child.

The Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Australia strongly criticized Feldman and said his statements showed he was no longer fit to serve the community.

Feldman is still the rabbi of the Southern Sydney Synagogue, Jewish News reported, quoting unnamed sources as saying that the local board would discuss his future in the coming days.

Victims of abuse at Jewish schools over the past few decades, who had testified of cover-ups by religious leaders, also expressed outrage.