Jewish aid group tells of child abuse crisis

THE Jewish community's emergency medical response group, Hatzolah, has revealed young children have attempted suicide as a result of being sexually abused.

The acknowledgement of child sexual abuse as an ''ongoing crisis facing our community'' in a letter written by a senior Hatzolah official on Tuesday comes amid revelations of a police investigation into alleged criminal offences that occurred at Sydney's Yeshiva Centre in the 1970s and '80s.

In a letter endorsing the establishment of the Jewish sexual abuse support group Tzedek, Hatzolah's Melbourne operations manager, Danny Elbaum, wrote of his observations ''first hand of the devastating impact of child sexual abuse''.

''On many occasions our emergency responders have been called to assist Jewish patients [including young ones] who have self-harmed or attempted suicide, and upon further inquiry it has become clear that the underlying cause for these desperate acts has been due to the patient's experience of child sexual abuse.''

Mr Elbaum's letter is among the rare occasions a senior Jewish community leader has linked child sexual abuse to suicide attempts. Last year, a Victoria Police report suggested that as many as 40 male suicides in western Victoria could be linked to child sexual abuse cases the Catholic Church failed to report to authorities.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced last year a royal commission on child sexual abuse and how religious organisations handled such cases.

NSW police are investigating allegations against two men formerly associated with the Yeshiva Centre and its school in Bondi.

The police inquiry was triggered by an earlier investigation by Victorian detectives into the Yeshiva College in St Kilda, which resulted in two former employees being charged with multiple child sex offences and claims senior rabbis tried to cover up the scandal.

Fairfax Media reported on Wednesday that one of the accused men associated with Bondi's Yeshiva Centre had told a victim in a recent conversation that he had spoken with the centre's spiritual leader, Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, about incidents involving younger boys.

The accused man's conversation with Rabbi Feldman allegedly occurred in the mid-to-late 1980s.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Rabbi Feldman said he did not recall any confession of child sex abuse crimes by the accused man.

The leadership of Bondi's Yeshiva Centre said it immediately contacted the police last week to offer assistance after it was revealed detectives were investigating past child sexual abuse claims involving former members of their community.

Fairfax Media has also learnt that James Patrick Jennings, a former Catholic priest charged with multiple child sex offences last year in NSW and Victoria, worked at the Bondi Yeshiva Centre during the 1980s.

This story Jewish aid group tells of child abuse crisis first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.