Former Finchley rabbi resigns amid claims he shunned Australian sex abuse victims

Sydney, Australia


The chief rabbi of the headquarters of Chabad in Melbourne has resigned amid accusations he led the shunning of child sexual abuse victims and their families.

Rabbi Tzvi Telsner, the longstanding rabbi of Finchley Central synagogue before taking up his post in Australia in 2007, stood down as head rabbi of the Yeshivah Centre on Tuesday, effective immediately.

In an open letter to the Chabad community, he apologised for his controversial conduct towards victims. “I recognise that my conduct towards victims and their families did not demonstrate … behaviour to the extent necessary of a rabbi in my position,” he wrote.

“We all must be aware of how our words and actions impact on others and therefore I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for my conduct and urge everyone to show compassion and support towards victims and their families throughout the moised [institution] and broader community.”

Rabbi Telsner had been under mounting pressure to resign following his controversial 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, Rabbi 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” by therapy.

Last week, Rabbi 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 on Facebook on Tuesday: “Finally. The news we have all been awaiting … We feel vindicated. We feel that justice has prevailed.”

Rabbi Telsner is the fourth rabbi to resign in the wake of the Royal Commission, following Rabbi Meir Kluwgant, Rabbi Yossi Feldman and Rabbi Abraham Glick.

Three men associated with Chabad in Sydney and Melbourne were convicted of child sex crimes dating back to the 1980s.

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