Sydney rabbi resigns as council head over leaked e-mails


A Sydney rabbi stepped aside from his high-profile post while he fights a report suggesting he supported covering up alleged cases of child molestation.

Rabbi Yosef Feldman removed himself as president of the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales Monday after the Australian Jewish News published a damning report, based on leaked e-mails, alleging that he contended that rabbis should determine whether or not pedophiles be reported to authorities.

The report and editorial in last week’s edition comes in the wake of Australian police opening an investigation in June into revelations of child abuse two decades ago at Yeshivah College in Melbourne that were not reported to police at the time.

Rabbi Feldman’s alleged comments were met by a storm of criticism from leading rabbis, who all stated that there was a halachic obligation to report suspected child abuse cases to police.

But in a statement Monday, Rabbi Feldman said that he has “at all times publicly endorsed the unanimous view of the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales under his presidency – that all acts of abuse must be reported to the police.”

He said his reported comments were contained in an “internal e-mail exchange among rabbis in which there was academic discussion of a range of views held by international scholars on how to deal with situations not subject to mandatory reporting.”

He is now considering a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper for publishing “false and defamatory allegations.”

But the newspaper’s editor, Zeddy Lawrence, said he stood by the story and believed “a number of senior rabbis and community leaders” supported him.

E-mails allege Muslim students orchestrated Irvine disruption


The Muslim Student Union at the University of California, Irvine, orchestrated the disruption of a Feb. 8 speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, leaked e-mails indicate.

Muslim Student Union representatives repeatedly had claimed that the disruption, which made national headlines and provoked an academic disciplinary process that is still ongoing, had been the impetus of students acting individually. Eleven students were arrested for disrupting Oren’s speech.

The revelation about the e-mails was published Wednesday by the Washington-based Investigative Project on Terrorism. The group said the e-mails, which were leaked anonymously to both university officials and local law enforcement, demonstrate that the student union not only helped organize the disruptions, but counseled students to assert that they had acted on their own.

In an e-mail to the Muslim Student Union board dated Feb. 6, union president Mohamed Abdelgany described the union’s “game plan” for the Oren speech, including a call for “disruptors.” Later in the e-mail, Abdelgany, who was himself arrested during the Oren speech, laid out the plan for the event itself, which he said would involve “disrupting it throughout the whole time” if possible. Abdelgany also allegedly cautioned disruptors to be loud and firm, but not not lose their composure. “Remember,” he wrote, “that this is a planned/calculated response.”

Representatives of the Muslim Student Union and of the advocacy group Stand with the Eleven did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Campers Display the Write Stuff


Almost every summer day, the Malibu Post Office receives a large amount of mail from the several hundred Jewish campers at Camp Hess Kramer and Camp JCA Shalom, a lot of them letters home written by girls.

When the 13-year-old girls at Hess Kramer’s Cabin Rachel were asked if girls enjoy writing letters more than boys, the entire cabin shouted, “Yes!”

Letters from Jewish summer camps have not changed much since 1963, when Allan Sherman recorded the classic song, “Hello Muddah! Hello Faddah!” Kids still write about what they had for lunch, what their cabin is like and their bunkmates. Though a national Web site allows one-way e-mails from parents to kids, Jewish summer camps still expect campers to write their folks the old-fashioned way — with pen, paper, stamps and envelopes.

“This is my seventh year going to camp; last year, I had to write like one every week, and the year before, I tried to write one every couple of days,” said Hess Kramer veteran, Aaron, at 14 a part of the hipster crew at Cabin Jerry (actually Cabin Jeremiah). “Each year, I’ve written like less and less. We’ve matured, and we can handle being away from our family better.”

The girls of Cabin Rachel know that quality paper is a must for a nice letter home.

“I have Winnie the Pooh stationery,” Megan, 13, said.

“Polka-dots,” a friend said.

“Hello Kitty,” another volunteered.

One girl had two sets of stationery, and another had six.

“Boys don’t even know what a letter is,” Leah, 13, said.

“I really like to write long letters, because I can’t talk to them over the phone,” Carly, 13, said. “I love to tell my parents like everything that … I’ve done in the day.”

Care packages from home included shirts and candy.

“Girls love stuff,” said Blake, 13, whose parents sent her Cosmo Girl, now part of the Cabin Rachel library of Teen People, Teen Vogue, Seventeen, etc.

“The more I write, the more stuff I get,” one girl said .

In a world of junk mail overflowing in real and electronic mailboxes, Sara, 16, a Hess Kramer counselor in training, said, “There’s something about getting a letter that’s addressed to you.”

“E-mail gets annoying,” Carly said, “but letters, like they don’t get old.”

With so much Jewish summer camp mail flowing into the Malibu Post Office, “sometimes letters go out and take a week to get places,” said Howard Kaplan, Hess Kramer executive director.

One solution for concerned parents is the www.bunkone.com Web site, through which parents can send their kids e-mails, but their kids can only reply by regular mail.

While the Wilshire Boulevard Temple-run Hess Kramer hugs the Ventura County line near Malibu’s northern beaches, Camp JCA Shalom is close but requires a nerve-testing drive through empty, mountainous stretches of Mulholland Highway.

Once past its large Hebrew script gate greeting, Camp JCA Shalom has an almost hippie-like casualness. Jewish kids from throughout the Western United States converge at the camp, many wearing or making Grateful Dead-inspired tie-dyed shirts.

Bill Kaplan, executive director of the Shalom Institute, which runs Camp JCA Shalom, said a rule of thumb with camp letter writing is that if kids are not writing to their parents every day, that may be a sign that they are busy and happy.

Here, too, middle school-age girls rule Camp JCA Shalom’s letter-writing culture. The nondenominational camp also finds some campers writing in Cyrillic script. Of the 11 girls in this summer’s Cabin G-5 Survivors, six were from Ukrainian or Russian Jewish families.

“I wrote about five letters in Russian,” said Diana, 12, who had just received a one-page letter written alternately by her mother and father.

Among the 10- and 11-year-old boys in Cabin B-4 Shizzles, postcards were preferred over letters, partly to avoid wasting time during summer camp’s short but memorable window of fun.

“We’re brothers for three weeks,” Austin 10, said. “Everyone in our cabin is like our family, our second family.”

“We’re never homesick!” shouted another B-4 Shizzles camper.

In Cabin G-5 Survivors, Mylan, 12, wrote 10 letters in three weeks. “I’ve written some to my parents so they don’t worry about me,” she explained.

Alissa, also 12, said she writes her own letters, but said that for her younger brother who’s also at the camp, “my mom has to pre-write all the letters and put stamps on them — he writes the letters but [not] the envelopes.”

That afternoon’s mail call included a letter from Alissa’s parents — about one-and-a-half ink-jet-printed pages. Spilling out of the envelope as she opened it were small silver and blue Star of David stickers, which she shared with her camp friends.

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