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May 14, 2012 3:40 pm

Child Abuse in the Hasidic Community and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office

avatar by Ed Koch

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Orthodox Jews. Photo: wiki commons.

The crime of sexually abusing a child, including adolescents and teens, is so heinous that the public is immediately shocked and angered.  For a number of years, we have read of sex acts involving Catholic clergy with adolescents and seminarians taking place in a number of countries, including the U.S.  The New York Times, to its credit, has been relentless in keeping this situation under examination by its reporters over the years with front page stories devoted to exposing the abuses.

The Times is now examining the sexual abuses taking place in the Jewish ultra-orthodox Hasidic community, primarily in Brooklyn, and the response of the Brooklyn District Attorney, Joe Hynes.  The Hasidim started in eastern Europe several hundred years ago.  Each Hasidic sect often takes the name of the village where their rabbi once lived.  The Hasidic community is close knit, somewhat like the Amish.  It maintains a lot of control over its members, with its rabbis and religious courts often being the arbiters of disputes.  The Hassids, as they are known, prefer not to use secular governmental institutions, such as the police and courts.  Those not abiding by community rules are often shunned and sometimes even assaulted.

In Brooklyn, the major communities where Hasidic groups live — the largest being Satmar and Lubavitch — are Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Flatbush and Borough Park.  Different Hasidic groups contend with one another and other ethnic communities for space – their housing needs are enormous because they typically have very large families of eight or more children – and occasionally philosophical differences have led to physical attacks.  In Brooklyn, many Hasidic groups have been very supportive of the Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes, who is Irish and Catholic.  The Times articles provide us with one major reason why the support.  He apparently has treated them preferentially, particularly in child abuse cases.

The ultra-orthodox Jewish community, like all other communities, is ashamed of the fact that child sexual molestation exists in their community.  However, the Hasidic community was apparently outraged when one of their members reported to civil authorities that his son had been sexually molested in a ritual bathhouse.  As reported in a May 11 New York Times article authored by Sharon Otterman and Ray Rivera: “The first shock came when Mordechai Jungreis learned that his mentally disabled teenage son was being molested in a Jewish ritual bathhouse in Brooklyn.  The second came after Mr. Jungreis complained, and the man accused of the abuse was arrested.  Old friends started walking stonily past him and his family on the streets of Williamsburg.  Their landlord kicked them out of their apartment.  Anonymous messages filled their answering machine, cursing Mr. Jungreis for turning in a fellow Jew.  And, he said, the mother of a child in a wheelchair confronted Mr. Jungreis’s mother-in-law, saying the same man had molested her son, and she ‘did not report this crime, so why did your son-in-law have to?'”

The Times article of May 11 also reported the statement of one of the most influential of all of the ultra-orthodox Agudath Israel, stating, “‘You can destroy a person’s life with a false report,’ said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, a powerful ultra-Orthodox organization, which last year said that observant Jews should not report allegations to the police unless permitted to do so by a rabbi.  Rabbinic authorities ‘recommend you speak it over with a rabbi before coming to any definitive conclusion in your own mind,’ Rabbi Zwiebel said.”

The Times article cites a number of cases of sexual abuse of children and the threats parents received from rabbis and others in the community if they alerted the police.  The article reported on the shunning by the community of a rabbi who urged victims of sexual molestation to call the police, reporting, “Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg of Williamsburg, for example, has been shunned by communal authorities because he maintains a telephone number that features his impassioned lectures in Yiddish, Hebrew and English imploring victims to call 911 and accusing rabbis of silencing cases.  He also shows up at court hearings and provides victims’ families with advice.  His call-in line gets nearly 3,000 listeners a day.  In 2008, fliers were posted around Williamsburg denouncing him. One depicted a coiled snake, with Mr. Rosenberg’s face superimposed on its head. ‘Nuchem Snake Rosenberg: Leave Tainted One!’ it said in Hebrew.  The local Satmar Hasidic authorities banned him from their synagogues, and a wider group of 32 prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis and religious judges signed an order, published in a community newspaper, formally ostracizing him.”

Times writers Ray Rivera and Sharon Otterman reported in their article of May 10, “An influential rabbi came last summer to the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, with a message: his ultra-Orthodox advocacy group was instructing adherent Jews that they could report allegations of child sexual abuse to district attorneys or the police only if a rabbi first determined that the suspicions were credible.  The pronouncement was a blunt challenge to Mr. Hynes’s authority.  But the district attorney ‘expressed no opposition or objection,’ the rabbi, Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, recalled.”

If in fact, Hynes assented to this procedure, in my opinion, he was blessing the obstruction of justice.  The law requires certain categories of employees, e.g., teachers, social workers, etc., to immediately report to the government  any information they gain concerning a case of child abuse.  For a rabbi to counsel otherwise, I believe, is a criminal act to be pursued  by the District Attorney rather than countenanced.

To the credit of the Lubavitch community, the article reports, “In Crown Heights, where the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement has its headquarters, there has been more significant change.  In July 2011, a religious court declared that the traditional prohibition against mesirah [being an informer against a fellow Jew] did not apply in cases with evidence of abuse.  ‘One is forbidden to remain silent in such situations,’ said the ruling, signed by two of the court’s three judges.”

District Attorney Hynes is also accused of, and admits to, the charge that he has “taken the highly unusual step of declining to publicize the names of defendants prosecuted under the program [protecting ultra-orthodox Jews for engaging in sexual abuse of children]— even those convicted. At the same time, he continues to publicize allegations of child sexual abuse against defendants who are not ultra-Orthodox Jews.”

Last week I was asked by Azi Paybarah of Capital New York for my views on this aspect of Hynes’ official acts.  My response, quoted on the Capital New York blog published on May 11, was as follows: “This community does not deserve to have any preferential treatment” and “he should treat them exactly as he would anyone else.”  Koch, who is Jewish, said Hynes should prosecute the rabbis who interfered with victims reporting accusations of abuse.  ‘We’re all equal under the law and they have to subscribe to the law without getting preferential treatment,’ Koch said. ‘It’s just dead wrong.  And there’s no explanation to make it right in any way.'”

At this point, unless District Attorney Hynes announces that he will release the names of all defendants, including those of ultra orthodox Jews charged with child abuse, sexual or otherwise, and will pursue criminally anyone who engages in obstruction of justice, advising someone not to assist the police in their investigation of a child abuse incident, the Governor should supersede him in these cases and appoint a special prosecutor to handle them.

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  • The Flash

    All this gay stuff comes from WHORING heavy drugs and sex outside of marriage, when that happens people receive evil spirits. If you go out as a young person to bars looking for the opposite sex and wind up in the sack with someone involved with bi-sexuality or someone involved with the occult, and you didn’t know it …u received a evil backwards spirit.

    Many people in this generation have evil spirits and (don’t know it) that includes straight people..because of whoring and very few have repented. Others are polluted with evil spirits and r possessed and sleep around everywhere infesting more people…inside of those who r possessed, “{gay)”,many many r waiting to be freed from the grip of satan because they r possessed and there is nothing they can do about it, unless someone prays for them. Which very few do, because for whatever reason, no one seems to understand.

    At the same time many gay people who r possessed, secretly get involved with churches not telling people they r gay and end up wearing holy e tire….telling the people to except the gay life style, blah blah blah and because so many people have very little faith, they will except whatever they r told to keep peace and for the good of humanity….which is a pile of crap!

    This is a current list of accused priests the number of accused priests is beyond staggering!

    Many other churches have the same problem…a good church is far and wide between in this generation.

    If u were to look back in history, there was alot of gays in the early 1900″²s and gay movies at theaters. In 1917 The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to children in a place called Fatima. She gave a warning that if people don’t repent God the Father will punish us by a world WAR…that happened, not just once but twice. When the wars was over, in the 40″²s and 50″²s was the cleanest time with many living with good morals. Divorce was taboo, the movies were clean and decent and people like my mom did not even know what a lesbian was until the 60″²s.

    In the 60″²s young people rebelled…heavy drugs, dirty feet and dirty bodies and hair…open sex ,orgies and whatever. The singer Cher was a part of that and tried a lesbian thing that she realized was not for her….the point is, she tried it! and got cursed for it, just look at her daughter or son…whatever this person is? that goes with many many others…it started back in the 60″²s and many r cursed by it. There is even prophecy that the pope at that time stated “the smoke of satan has entered the church.

    Here’s something off the wall. The Lord has different ways of showing people stuff, if they r receptive. The rock star Alice Cooper was the first man to have a woman’s name .We all know how he flaunted sick images of all kinds in everyone’s face. Alice Cooper comes from a very strong long line of ordained Baptist Ministers and other preachers in his family. His father was a ordained Baptist Minister and the woman AC married, her father is also a ordained Baptist Minister.

    When he first came out IN 1968 0R 69 the majority of people hated his guts BIGTIME!…In LA people would buy tickets just to walk out….even when they came to see Jim Morrison and the Doors…they cleared the building empty when Alice Cooper took stage before the Doors.

    Within ten yrs after Alice Cooper …gay bars flourished in all major cities…men dressed like women and women dress like men…Everything u see when u look at Alice Cooper is what this generation is all about…total darkness. What people use to hate is now excepted as a normal thing. When AC chopped babies to pieces in front of the world…they didn’t realize, it’s about them and the onslaught of abortions everywhere!…instead, they would point the finger at AC and say your sick! when it’s really the whole generation that is sick.

    AC has never, ever, whored around, never divorced, and he’s not covered in tatoo’s like everyone he is surrounded by.

    There is more to this, The Blessed Virgin has appeared everywhere around the world…VERY FEW LISTEN….There is a Great Warning coming to everyone…After the Warning, many will flock back to church not realizing many of the churches r sick. Soon, after the Warning, the ANTI CHRIST will come out as a man of peace and per sway the people that gay is ok, and preachers the current pope and governments political people and many by the multitudes will agree with this anti christ…until he shows his full colors.

    When he shows his full colors, persecution of Christians will be alarming…..the same thing that everyone has seen at a Alice cooper concert…the hangings guillotines, electrocutions will happen in real life to many Christians and to those who will not take the mark of the beast…which will be a computer chip on the hand or forehead..

    It’s true…The Second Coming of Christ is right above us. It’s going to happen in our life time…once the Warning, then the anti christ for approx 3 and a half yrs…then The Second Coming.

    Only Catholic prophets r calling out about the Warning in the Christian world..all other Christians from different denominations….r putting flames to it because it comes from the Virgin Mary and only a few listen to her when she appears with messages for the whole world. Even many many Catholics today r against these messages of The Warning and Second Coming of Jesus.

    Because a whole pile of them, r queer.

    In Jesus Name, Thy Will Be Done, Amen and Amen (*)

  • Raanan Isseroff

    Honorable Former Mayor Mr. Ed Koch,
    With all due respect, the Jewish Orthodox community has more to worry about with the publication of a persons name than does the non-Jewish and non-religious communities.

    It is only because the Orthodox Jewish community has the highest standards of morals and habits that keep people from such disgusting things. Habits and standards schooled into Jews as children.

    So as such, yes- it is more noticeable when a few Orthodox people do actually do such things. Contrast this sir, to the non-religious and non-Jewish communities where sexual discretions are not only “too numerous to count”, but praiseworthy! “I saw it on TV” is the excuse most criminals give.

    So if they do a few more discretions, then what sir, is the great shame of another?

    I am surprised that our former mayor would lash out at the most cooperative community in New York when it comes to such problems. The most introspective community. The community least prone to this problem. The community most known for fixing and tweaking to ensure that trigger situations leading to child abuse are avoided. Even situations leading to questionable situations between mature men and women are strictly avoided.

    The Orthodox community is the most able to properly ostracize someone found doing this. Most able to train children to stay away from sexually deviant situations. And they do! A child learns about such rules from a very early age.

    What other community in the world does this?

    As well, many people don’t realize that a person found doing these things is subjected to a life that is infinitely worse than going to jail. The family treats them like lepers. Family is everything. Even ones friends who are like family. They don’t want you around their children. Who doesn’t have family and children in the Orthodox community? A child abuser exposed has nowhere to run. Their shame is so great and their respect is destroyed.

    But for someone who has never had such respect, so what is being exposed really? A trip to the doctor? But even then, a debate rages:

    Is this really “sexually deviant abuse”? Perhaps it’s love? A new form of an alternative lifestyle… And before you know it, all sorts of groups get involved who support this form of deviant behavior.

    For an Orthodox person respect is everything! It means your children will get married well (or not). It means your wife may leave you. And many other things that hit so painfully close to home, that the Mayors belittling his own fellow Jews, is uncalled for.

    We certainly don’t see him lashing out as strongly at the Catholic church, do we? Or at the Gay communities?

    Here, Mr. Koch, you take an innocent community to task for being the MOST cooperative community in first implementing changes that help identify and report child abuse. Ask Mr. Hynes what other “community” is even organized to talk to about this problem? There is none.

    The Orthodox community is the most cooperative community in implementing changes and to self-police situations that could lead to child abuse. And while no system is perfect, it is perhaps the best. When a person is found, everyone knows about it and as I described above, there are pains that are worse than jail. What other community even comes close to this? What if your whole community is your family? And they all know your secret…

    Further, the Orthodox community has the highest levels of standards in the world. It is not fair that of all the communities in New York that one after another have sexually deviant lifestyles and low moral standards which each laud and encourage activities, dress and relationships that lead to situations where a definition of child abuse could occur. Yet you say nothing about these communities or their practices.

    Instead you lambaste the Orthodox community, which has none of this and the DA’s office, which finally found someone in New York City whom they can work with to battle this crime on the community level! Who else can they work with?

    The other communities have pornography, mixed sex situations, women depicted half naked in the media, explicit and deviant ideas on TV and in movies and magazines which are lauded. To even suggest that people curb their viewing or thoughts is tantamount to a crime! “This is their culture!” Their “rights” are being infringed upon! (Chas ve shoelaces…)

    Meanwhile, these things all give people strange ideas about sexuality and the opposite sex, especially children, that are known to lead to sexual abuse. Yet our former mayor has nothing to say about discouraging these obvious “triggers” that are known to be a source of sex crimes.

    The only reason one cannot mention them is because American society has so institutionalized them and their values to the point of calling them: “Alternative Lifestyles”. Instead, it is easier to pick on the Jews.

    Please, let Mr. Koch suggest that encouraging sexually deviant relationships or sexual ideas in the media “might” cause even thoughts defined as: “child abuse”, and then we will see how brave he is and if he really believes that the true problems need to be dealt with.

    As for reporting of cases in progress, the mayor as a lawyer knows that winning or losing in an American court of law does not mean one is guilty of that crime. One can lose on small technicalities yet still not have committed any crime. Truth is not the objective of American law as much as satisfying bureaucratic needs of the court. At best, it is a “bureaucratic truth”.

    To then victimize a person and his family based on the premise: “the case is in court” (which really means nothing and can drag on for years), so people don’t know if the allegation is true or not and until the person accused wins or loses (notice I did not say: proven or disproven). Losing the case doesn’t mean the person did it. In America this is called: “Quilty until proven innocent”.

    But because one did lose the case? So people now assume the loser is guilty. Even if it is just in court, people assume wrong doings were done.

    As the mayor knows, about half of the people reported for child abuse are false calls. Called by vengeful neighbors or spouses in the middle of divorce actions. The other person is trying to get an unfair edge by alleging or even suggesting to the right ear “child abuse”.

    As such, there is basis for a Jew subjected to the American court system to worry. Any normal person would worry, but for the family of the Orthodox Jew accused of child abuse, there is intense suffering.

    Now if this is true for a court of law that a case in court is questionable, how much more so for a case “being investigated by the New York Times” known for its longstanding bias in its reporting on Israel. So here too, why should we not think they are doing any differently?

    I am surprised that you sir, a lawyer and former mayor would take what is written in any newspaper and deal with it as if you are in a court of law without even questioning the validity of what is written there or who wrote it or why. It shows that you are not objective when it comes to Orthodox Jews.

    It makes me question the credibility of whatever else you have to say, as I see a clear double standard.

    Raanan Isseroff

    • Alfredo

      Being a proud gay father of a 4 years old daughter, I take offence to your suggestion that sexual abuse within the Hasidic community has anything to do with “gay community”. Being gay has nothing to do with sexual abuse so stop using your prejudice and religiously misguided homophobia as a way to justify the covering up of horrifically damaging sexual abuse within the ultra-orthodox community of children.

      • Jean deViant

        At least two of the sexual predators in my particular segment of the Orthodox community are homosexual. That’s two out of 15 whose profiles I know.

        Homosexuality and pedophilia are two separate diseases, but just as you have plenty of paranoid schizophrenics, there are plenty of homosexual pedophiles.

      • Raanan

        Dear Alfredo,
        Thank you for your response.
        I think you didn’t read what I wrote. The point is that the incidence of child abuse is lower in the Orthodox Jewish community as opposed to other communities for obvious reasons which I invite you to come and observe.

        Our laws teach a child from a very early age to be careful of discrepencies between boys and girls. Jewish laws also teach the positive parts about building a family. This requires a certain separation of the sexes that builds on this idea in a positive fashion. It sanctifies the relationship and builds the idea of personal loyalty.

        Now you might argue, that “Well, sir, this doesn’t stop people from thinking about these things” and you are right. The difference is though, what a child in our community spends his day thinking about as opposed to a child growing up in America.

        An Orthodox Jewish child will spend the day being schooled in ethics. Not dry dead ethics that are facts.

        But ethics that he lives. About boys and girls and many other things as well. In stories from people he comes from in the Bible and from famous and not so famous people throughout the ages who lived and died by these ethics. Famous people who lived and breathed just like he does.

        Contrast this to a child in America brought up to make the opposite sex a target of desire. It is built into American culture that one must persue the opposite sex. As such, boys and girls think about these things and see these things on the TV and in Movies. It is discussed in the street.

        Women’s body parts are favored topics of discussion. 42nd Street is an ingrained part of American culture. A person is a failure and a loser if one does not live up to this expectation in one form or another.

        There is no “42nd St” for an Orthodox child.
        There isn’t TV for much of the Orthodox community. It is just not socially acceptable to chase the opposite sex excepting for marriage and even that is done within the framework of a third party.

        It is a completely different culture that an Orthodox Jew experiences. As such, anyone knows who has worked in the Orthodox community, that there is a far lower incidence of child abuse.

        Go look on the NY State Registry for child abusers. You will probably see some Jewish looking names there. But the ratio you will observe is far below the rest of the population.

        My point was simply that we have a built in system that keeps a persons head more away from such matters than do any other culture in the world. G-d created the energy to be used for good. How we use it (or abuse it) is up to us. But G-d wants us to make that choice.

        In fact, we have a tradition from the time of Adam and later from the time of Noah that everyone has to observe certain laws in regard to sexual activities.

        Laws such as:
        Encouraging marriage, dressing modestly, separating boys and girls until it is time for marriage; boys and girls who are not married being careful of being alone together; Keeping away from deviant sexual situations or even thinking about them; Being careful of even situations that will lead to the above.

        We even have an example from Eve about whom it is said that “Adam Knew Eve”. Because they didn’t experience being together as a cheap physical thing as we imagine they did.

        They experienced on the level of the intellect. The Old Testament doesn’t dodge the issue. Nor do Orthodox Jews. This is how it is supposed to be by non-Jews as well. G-d created these laws for all men (and women).

        The way to approach the challenge is to channel this energy into positive things and thoughts such as being married and having children.

        G-d created these feelings for a positive reason and that is to get married and have children and train them to respect G-d. In this way we change the world into a settled place where people have respect for each other. This all starts with relations between the sexes.

        A childs respect for G-d begins with his respect for a parent. If a child cannot respect a parent, it is hard to follow any other authority. How can a person follow laws if he has no respect for authrity?

        Jews are obligated to teach our non-Jewish neighbors about these laws called the “Noahide Laws” because they come from our grandfather Noah. (and wife Naamah). These Noahide laws are the laws that Abraham taught in his time. They relavant more than ever today.
        All the very best,
        Raanan Isseroff

  • my2cents

    Without making excuses for or condoning in anyway the illegal and destructive behavior of some individuals it should be noted that Ed Koch, whom I usually respect merely regurgitated excerpts from a NY Times column, but left out a few key relevant facts.

    The NY Times article states that Mr Hynes established an outreach group to help facilitate cooperation and reporting from these groups and individuals, whom are otherwise are un-trusting of the secular American legal system. It should be noted that many other immigrant groups in other regions of the US also have outreach coordinators to help victims navigate through the legal process.

    This is completely acceptable and if it helps with compliance with the law, then there shouldn’t any reason not to have this type of outreach group. Normally liberals are all in favor of special treatment for special groups of citizens. Why should this group be any different?

    As Mr. Koch repeats from the NY Times article “The law requires certain categories of employees, e.g., teachers, social workers, etc., to immediately report to the government any information they gain concerning a case of child abuse.” No where in the NY Times column did it say that anyone was obstructing justice or that the people who were being told about the alleged cases of abuses were part of this category of workers that are compelled to report these cases. Mr. Koch, by leaving this information out is implying that Mr. Hynes may be guilty of condoning obstruction of justice where there is no proof that obstruction of justice has taken place.

    In fact it has been established that this is the loophole for a victim in this community to report these cases without violating any community standards.

    If the victim or family member of the victim speaks to someone in one of the above mentioned categories of employees, e.g., teachers, social workers, etc–these people will be REQUIRED by law to immediately report to the government any information they gain concerning a case of child abuse. And in many cases, that is exactly what the Rabbi or adviser is telling them to do.

    So, Mr. Hynes through his advocacy group appears to be helping to guide these people in right direction, without causing them to violate the community standards that are so important to them. This is a good thing.

  • salvage

    Is it because packs of theists think they’re so righteous and holy (and Chosen!) that they’ll sacrifice children to maintain that illusion?

    It truly will be a better world when religion’s pomposity is deflated.

  • Judy Jones

    Let’s hope that every person who saw, suspects, or suffered sex crimes within the Jewish community, will find the courage and strength to speak up, call police, expose wrongdoing, protect kids and start healing.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511
    (SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.
    SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc. Our website is