Head Rabbi of Australian Yeshiva Resigns Over Handling of Sex Abuse Scandal

Rabbi Zvi Telsner criticized for lack of knowledge about child abuse at Melbourne's Yeshiva Center between 1980s and 2010, as well as apathy for victims.

Screenshot from abc.net.au

The chief rabbi at Chabad headquarters in Melbourne resigned, apologizing for his conduct toward victims of child sexual abuse and their families.

“I recognize that my conduct towards victims and their families did not demonstrate behavior to the extent necessary of a rabbi in my position,” Rabbi Tzvi Telsner wrote in an open letter Tuesday. “We all must be aware of how our words and actions impact on others and therefore would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my conduct and urge everyone to show compassion and support towards victims and their families throughout the moised [institution] and broader community.”

Telsner had been under mounting pressure to resign following his testimony in February at the Royal Commission, a government inquiry into how Chabad responded to the child sex abuse scandal in Sydney and Melbourne.

During the hearing, Telsner was accused of orchestrating the shunning of whistleblowers and their families, having warned his flock against speaking to police or the media without the permission of a rabbi. He also claimed pedophiles and gays could be cured.

Last week, Telsner was embroiled in a heated exchange with a victim of child sexual abuse, which is understood to have triggered his resignation.

Manny Waks, the only Jewish victim in Australia to go public, posted Tuesday on Facebook, “Finally. The news we have all been awaiting We feel vindicated. We feel that justice has prevailed.”

Telsner is the fourth rabbi to resign in the wake of the Royal Commission. Three men associated with Chabad in Sydney and Melbourne were convicted of child sex crimes dating back to the late 1980s.