Brooklyn DA Faces Controversy Over Handling Of Sex Abuse in Ultra-orthodox Jewish Community

The Brooklyn district attorney is facing heat over his handling of sex abuse cases in the close-knit ultra-orthodox Jewish community.

Meir Dascalowitz was accused of routinely molesting Mordechai’s mentally disabled son in their synagogue’s ritual bath, a mikvah. Mordechai reported the crime to the police; however, the arrest has made an outcast of Mordechai and his family, the result of a two-year “hate campaign” launched by their neighbors, said The Guardian. The story is part of a larger cover-up of child sexual abuse in the ultra-orthodox community in which abusers are protected and victims continue to be victimized, noted The Guardian.

As we’ve said, convincing child sex abuse victims to speak is difficult in the ultra-orthodox community because rabbis enforce a rule against reporting fellow Jews to secular authorities. Defying the rabbis can result in families becoming outcasts, ruining prospects for marriage or running businesses.

The matter began gaining attention in the mid-2000s when rabbis adopted a practice of denial that molesters exist in their community and crimes are covered up. Advocates and blogs brought attention to the matter, forcing the community’s religious leaders to cooperate with law enforcement. Brooklyn DA, Charles Hynes, has been criticized by advocates for not handling the matter, said The Guardian.

Most victims never go public with their stories and, when they do, nothing is done. Joel Engelman said his teacher, Rabbi Avrohom Reichman, abused him when he was eight. The school refused to fire Reichman, despite that the religious leadership found him guilty. Reichman continues to teach. Luzer Twersky was abused for three years by his private tutor, David Greenfeld, who was also abusing another boy in a mikvah. Greenfeld taught until his arrest in 2009, on new charges, said The Guardian.

Other stories, said The Guardian, include a boy molested by his teacher, a rabbi. The boy’s mother found out, the teacher was suspended for a time and then appointed principal a few years after. Another child accused a man of abuse and later committed suicide. In another case, an abusive father pleaded with the rabbis for secrecy, which he received, and is now working with children. And, in a shocking, but not unusual case, a young boy was commanded by his rabbi to apologize to his molester for having seduced him, noted The Guardian. “My story is one of hundreds they’ve covered up,” said one victim who spoke to The Guardian on the condition of anonymity. “The blood of all those victims is on their hands,” he added, referring to the religious leaders.

Rabbi Yehuda Kolko who taught at Yeshiva Torah Temimah for decades and was also a summer camp counselor was accused in 2006 by two adult men of molesting them as children—in the 1960s and 1980s. A beit din was convened, but Kolko was protected by Rabbi Lipa Marguilies, the school principal. The men went to the media, two other students came forward, and the DA gave Kolko a deal, noted The Guardian. Kolko pled guilty to the lesser misdemeanor child endangerment, not a sex crime, receiving three years probation. Kolko never had to register as a sex offender.

Consider the failed extradition of Rabbi Avrohom Mondrowitz, an unqualified psychologist who used his bogus practice to access children and was protected by a group of powerful friends. After Mondrowitz abused a number of nonOrthodox children, police became involved; however, the night before his arrest in 1984, Mondrowitz fled to Israel. Although indicted on 14 charges, nothing has been done on the Mondrowitz file, in part because the DA is not cooperating.

Mark Dratch, a modern-Orthodox rabbi who founded JSafe, a Jewish abuse advocacy group, told The Guardian, “The DA’s position is an elected position, and the Orthodox have a large voting bloc and I’m sure Mr. Hynes will deny it but I think that is the nature of the situation … there is a lot of pressure on his office from the organized rabbinic community … either not to deal with the cases or to minimize them.”

There’s much to be said on the disturbing child sex abuse cover-up in the ultra-orthodox community and we’ve long followed this issue, recently writing that Hynes refused to name the orthodox Jewish child sex abuse suspects arrested or charged in the highly successful Kol Tzedek initiative that led to 85 arrests. Kol Tzedek was initiated to help abuse victims in the ultra-orthodox community report the crimes to secular law enforcement.

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