Readers of this blog are familiar with our coverage of the sexual abuse of children in an array of communities. Allegations have been made against officials in the Catholic Church; the Boy Scouts of America; the Jehovah’s Witnesses; and Penn State University and former coach, Jerry Sandusky, to name just a few. The ultra-Orthodox Jewish population has also been the focus of a growing number of allegations and, now, news is breaking that a rabbi at a New York religious school in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community, sexually abused students.
A law enforcement official told the Associate Press (AP) that the rabbi has been arrested on charges of sexually abusing students. The arrest of Yoel Malik, 33, of Brooklyn, comes in the midst of continuing pressure within the very tight-knit community to report allegations of sexual abuse, said the AP. Less than one week ago, a respected religious counselor in the same sect received a 103-year prison sentence for sexually abusing a girl. The official noted that both cases involve the intensely private Satmar Hasidic sect, considered one of the largest and most powerful within the Charedi, or ultra Orthodox, community.
The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and was speaking on the condition of anonymity, also told the AP that Malik was taken into custody Wednesday following allegations that he might have taken two students to motels for sex. Another encounter of sexual abuse allegedly took place in a car, the official said, adding that the victims were boys 14-16 years of age and the attacks occurred between March 2012 and last week, said the AP.
A police department news release indicated that the rabbi, who was unnamed in its release, was charged with “sexual crimes” that involved three teenage males. The release listed 12 counts of sexual abuse, four counts of criminal sexual acts, 11 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and one count of forcible touching, the AP said.
The school, which is located in Brooklyn, New York’s Borough Park, has been closed for an unknown period of time over financial conflicts with the family who runs it, said the AP; Malik is part of that family. The school is described as small, private, and catering to at-risk children. An anonymous tip to a confidential hotline gave rise to the allegations.
Also in New York, Nechemya Weberman, a Brooklyn Jewish leader in the Satmar Hasidic sect, was recently sent to prison after he was found guilty on an overwhelming 60 charges of child sex abuse in which he molested a girl he was counseling over three years, said IBT previously. She was 12 when the abuse started.
Previously, four sect members were arrested over allegations of attempting to bribe the victim; it is no secret that attempts have been made to intimidate victims and witnesses to these crimes. For instance, when Weberman was being convicted, Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg—a known Hasidic activist—was pelted in the face with bleach by a relative of convicted sex offender, Baruch Lebovits, whose conviction was overturned last year.
Members of the Ultra Orthodox community have long been encouraged by their leaders to take allegations of sexual misconduct to rabbis before making reports to secular authorities. According to at least one alleged victim’s family, victims are rarely believed and abusers aren’t punished. Meanwhile, noted the AP, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, has been criticized for minimizing rumors that he overlooked crimes in the community over his ties with powerful rabbis. Hynes has since set up a hotline specifically for victims of sex abuse and has asked victims to come forward, assuring them support should they make a report, said the AP.