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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 10 Apr 2020 05:41 PM and ends Sat 11 Apr 2020 06:40 PM

Joint press release by AJN and Rabbi Yosef Feldman

כ"ה אב ה' אלפים תשע"א

AJN and top rabbi look ahead to a peaceful new year

The Australian Jewish News and Rabbi Yosef Feldman, President of the Rabbinical Council of NSW, have this week come to a peaceful agreement in relation to the publication of remarks made by him on the subject of child abuse.

On 29 July 2011, the AJN ran a front page story about Rabbi Yosef Feldman entitled “Top Rabbi Must Quit”. In a related article and editorial, reference was made to a leaked internal email discussion amongst Rabbis in which Rabbi Yosef Feldman put forward certain suggestive views in relation to the reporting of child abuse allegations to the authorities.

The AJN today acknowledged that its coverage may have been considered sensational and apologised for any unnecessary distress this caused.

Rabbi Yosef Feldman acknowledged that while the reporter Joshua Levi did not misquote him in the article, he believes that the context of the email discussion was not clarified. However, he acknowledges that the views he expressed could have been misunderstood. He apologises for any distress caused to the community as a result.

In today’s edition of the newspaper, the AJN admits that since the publication of their first article, many rabbis “have since contacted us to confirm they regarded [Rabbi Yosef Feldman’s] comments as halachic conjecture in the context of an academic debate”.

In a Statement from the Executive of the Rabbinical Council of NSW, also published in today’s edition, the Rabbis go further and assert that “The Executive Members of the Rabbinical Council of NSW, alongside many rabbis across Australia, are of the opinion that the views propounded in those emails were simply conjecture within the context of Halachic discussion and did not necessarily reflect Rabbi Yosef Feldman’s personal opinion on those matters.”

In today’s lengthy article, authored by AJN National Editor Zeddy Lawrence, the newspaper refers to its original coverage and says that “we recognise and fully appreciate that there are those who felt we could have been less forthright and more sensitive in the way we covered it, and we apologise for any unnecessary distress caused.”

“In this instance, if there are those who feel we have been sensationalist, then we must take that lesson on board as we move forwards.”

For his part, Rabbi Feldman stated in today’s edition, “I do acknowledge that things I wrote in emails to rabbinic colleagues could have been taken out of context and indeed misunderstood.”

He went on to “apologise to my rabbinic colleagues as well as to the Jewish community as a whole for any embarrassment caused to them by the publication of material based on my emails”.

He added: “I unreservedly and emphatically condemn all forms of abuse, particularly child abuse. Perpetrators must be brought to justice in the Australian legal system, and I condemn the suggestion that paedophiles deserve protection from that legal system. I believe, as asserted by the major Australian Beth Dins and reported in The AJN, that all credible allegations of abuse should immediately be reported to, and dealt with, by the appropriate Government Authorities.”

Comparing Rabbi Feldman’s contribution to the community with that of Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth Lord Jonathan Sacks,  The AJN concludes that “we wish Rabbi Feldman well in all his endeavours and look forward to reporting on his positive impact on the community in the months and years ahead.”

As a result of The AJN’s initial article, Rabbi Feldman had stepped aside temporarily from his role as President of the Rabbinical Council of NSW in order to clear his name. In today’s statement, the RCNSW Executive informs the community that he has resumed the Presidency, saying that “The RCNSW looks forward to the contribution that Rabbi Yosef Feldman will continue to make together with his Executive in his role as RCNSW President, which he has now resumed.”

“It is a fact of human nature that ‘sorry’ is one of the hardest words to say. Bearing this in mind we warmly welcome the AJN’s willingness to acknowledge that their coverage may have been sensational, as well as their apology for the unnecessary distress caused. In particular we laud its undertaking to thoroughly review the way matters of this nature are reported in the future as well as the acknowledgement of its Editor regarding the fine character of Rabbi Yosef Feldman and the significant contribution that he has made to the community.”

Rabbi Feldman concludes his Letter wishing the AJN well and thanking his “colleagues on the RCNSW Executive as well as many Rabbis in NSW and across Australia for their unstinting support in recent times.”

“I am hopeful that we can all move forward in unity for the benefit of our community.”

This Press Release has been approved by both parties. Please disregard a previous version which had not yet received the approval of all parties involved.

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