Sex Abuse Scandals Shatter Orthodox Communities in New York, London

We’ve long followed the issue of sex abuse in an array of communities. It has been more than a decade since the first major wave of sexual abuse lawsuits were weighed against the Catholic Church in the United States. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of children were victims of sexual abuse committed by priests working for the Church, which, rather than risking a tarnished profile, opted to keep these issues to themselves; rather than removing abusive priests, the Church transferred the accused to different churches, allowing them to prey on unknowing parishioners and their children.

Allegations have been made, not only against officials in the Catholic Church, but also against the Boy Scouts of America; the Jehovah’s Witnesses; and Penn State University and former coach, Jerry Sandusky, to name just some. The ultra-Orthodox Jewish population has also been the focus of a growing number of allegations and, now, news is breaking that Orthodox Jewish communities in New York and London are shocked following a number of sex abuse scandals that have split this close-knit community wide open on both continents, revealing a society that has silenced—not protected—victims, noted the International Business Times (IBT).

In New York. Nechemya Weberman, a Brooklyn Jewish leader in the intensely private Satmar Hasidic sect, is being 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. She was 12 when the abuse started. The Satmar Hasidic sect is considered one of the largest and most powerful sects within the Charedi, or ultra Orthodox, community. Meanwhile, last December, four sect members were arrested over allegations of attempting to bribe the victim.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes praised the victim for going against her family and Hasidic community values by reporting Weberman to the police, an act considered a betrayal by some members of her community, said IBT. “I can’t understate just how we’ve come to regard her as a woman of courage to come forward at a very, very difficult time,” Hynes told IBT, pointing out that the case could be a defining moment for the community. “It will give people more courage to come forward,” Hynes said.

Attempts have also been made to intimidate victims and witnesses to these crimes, noted IBT. 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, said IBT.

In London, a number of women made allegations of inappropriate behavior against senior Orthodox Rabbi, Chai Halpen, of the Divrei Chaim Synagogue. The crimes allegedly took place during marriage counseling sessions run by Halpern. The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations will be investigating the rabbi’s behavior. Of note, the rabbi’s father is president of the investigating organization, IBT pointed out.

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, said The Associated Press previously.

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