I recently posted some comments in an online discussion at Lost Messiah blog. The thread is titled: Yosef Yitzchak Feldman – Did not Know it Was a Crime to Touch a Child’s Genitals, Filing lawsuits?
Chabad rabbi, Yosef Yitzchak Feldman, as witness at Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, recently made headlines when he called for leniency for pedophiles. He later offered his resignation in response to community outrage to his testimony and bad publicity (a resignation some view as merely symbolic). It’s important to note that Yosef Feldman ran and administered the institution responsible for training rabbis in the state.
In the comment thread Chabad rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Feldman had left a number of comments that threatened to file lawsuits against those commenting in the thread and against the blog owner as well. Though not surprising, I found it very amusing to watch this behavior from a Chabad rabbi offering real time proof of the personality behind the thread topic. One example of Feldman’s trolling for lawsuits is pictured below. Several others can be found in the comment thread.
I returned to the thread Saturday night to see if there were more comments or perhaps a reply to my own. There were more comments, and one that was made by Yosef Feldman struck me as especially offensive, insensitive, and displayed behavior that no reasonable person would expect from someone claiming to be a rabbi:
In a comment only minutes earlier to the same poster Chabad rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Feldman wrote:
I hope you end up in jail and get raped so you can even in a small way realise the hurt you’ve caused others…
Oh, the irony.
I find it incomprehensible that a Chabad rabbi investigated by Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse would feel at liberty to address strangers on the Internet this way because they hold opinions contrary to his own. Not only is it especially unwise on so many levels (and wisdom is one quality people expect from a rabbi), but it’s simply not good for the Chabad franchise’s bottom line.
It is however, very good for THE TRUTH and witnessing this behavior further tears down the facade of righteousness and goodness that Chabad works so hard to maintain. Sadly, in Australia, that work included sexual abuse cover-ups.
It’s time for the Chabad organization, from the top down, to denounce this kind of behavior and cleanse it’s ranks of people unworthy of the title “rabbi.” But unless these matters come to light in a big way causing Chabad the kind of public embarrassment (and financial expense) it so righteously deserves, it is not likely that any action will be taken.
Are these the middot (character traits) of a rabbi? Are these the values of Judaism? I know in both cases the answer is “no.” Is this the way we want to represent Torah in the world? Certainly not.
And in light of this and many other Chabad scandals, we have to ask if we want to attend a Chabad shul that answers to the same leadership that also oversees Chabad in Australia? Does my local shliach (Chabad emissary/missionary) want to keep this matter and others like it secret from me (mine did)? If so, why? Will they condemn one of their own for reprehensible behavior, or will they ignore that matter and continue to project that everything is wonderful in their black-hatted boys club as they sing ‘Hineh ma tov uma na’im’ at their sponsored Kiddush lunches? And if it’s the latter, will we respond based on integrity, or will we just sit with them for Jewish sing-song time like cheder children? Are we willing to suffer the consequences for not holding the biggest marketer of Judaism (Chabad) responsible for their actions? Is serving Chabad really serving God? I hope the Jewish people will wise up and speak with their feet and their wallets (the latter of which is especially important to Chabad).
This isn’t just about Yosef Feldman, or just about Australia. Yosef Feldman’s beliefs expressed at the Royal Commission are held by many like him. This is not an isolated issue. I sincerely believe he merely represents a symptom of a much bigger problem affecting the Chabad organization’s mindset worldwide. Zephaniah Waks, father of Australian abuse victim and victim’s advocate Manny Waks, confirmed for me by citing Royal Commission testimony that Yosef Feldman ran and administered the institution responsible for educating, training, and ordaining Chabad rabbis in the state for 15 years. Yes, 15 years of training and ordaining people who we are supposed to dignify with the title “rabbi.” At least one of the sexual abuses exposed through these investigations was committed by a Chabad rabbinical student related to the Feldman family by marriage. And the Australian case is not the only case of institutionalized child sexual abuse in Chabad. Symbolic or not, Yosef Feldman’s resignation was another case of “too little, too late.” Chabad has a lot of housecleaning to do within their organization, much like the Catholic Church, to which they are resistant. Donors must ask themselves if funding Chabad’s cover-up behavior and legal battles, with funds intended to be “tzdakah,” is something they want to do.
At this point I want to say, just to make sure my bases are covered from Yosef ‘let me know who you are so I can file a law suite (sic) against you’ Feldman: I have verified the poster is Yosef Feldman and not an Internet troll or prank. I was also invited by Yosef Feldman to confirm his identity via Facebook exchanges (a platform I do not currently use). Having seen Yosef Feldman engage in these stupid stunts previously at the former FailedMessiah web site, I can say this is consistent with his behavior. If further evidence of this comes to light, either to confirm or negate, I will update this post accordingly.
I should also note that Yosef Feldman attempted to offer an apology for his offensive rhetoric in the Lost Messiah thread. However, mixed with blame for others, it read more like it was coming from a young child rather than a man holding the title “rabbi”: