Fairfax Media of Australia revealed in an undercover expose that Rabbi Boruch Dov Lesches, new to a leadership role with Chabad Rockland after 20 years in Sydney, Australia, made outrageous remarks regarding poor and “goyim” (non-Jewish) children.
The story was part of an investigation of who knew what about child sexual abuse in the Yeshiva community of Sydney during the 1980s. In a secretly recorded conversation, Lesches claimed that some “goyim” children begin thinking of sex at 5-years-old and that incest and bestiality is common among the poor who have “nothing else to do…only thinking 24 hours about sex.”
Lesches has apologized for the remarks, however, it’s not clear if the entire context of the conversation is as the newspaper in Australia presented it. The newspaper portrayed the comments as being part of Lesches’ rationale for ignoring a sexual occurence between an 11-year-old and a 21-year-old that happened at his Yeshiva. But Lesches claims he was under the impression the occurence being discussed was between boys of the same age. During the audiotape, Lesches does, in fact, refer to the boys being the same age.
The Australian article also examines the practice of mesirah, a custom which dictates that Jews not tell non-Jewish authorities about the transgressions of fellow Jews. It remains a strong cultural force among many Orthodox and Hasidic communities. This has led to incidences of sexual abuse going unreported, including in Rockland County and Brooklyn. Activists such as Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg in Brooklyn and Noson Leiter in Rockland County, working with authorities, have had success in fighting against this practice being employed to ignore abuse.
In his apology Lesches made clear that any Jews in his congregation should go to the police if they discover an incident of sexual abuse.