May 17, 2012
Two people were arrested at a protest last night in South Williamsburg, outside a fundraiser for an alleged child molester. Nechemya Weberman is accused of sexually abusing a girl over the course of four years, starting when she was 12 years old—she's now 18, but she claims that when Weberman was her therapist he forced her to perform oral sex and other acts. Weberman belongs to the tight-knit ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in South Williamsburg, and many of his neighbors are donating money to his legal defense, which has outraged others.
Posters have gone up around the neighborhood imploring people to support Weberman. Some of them show a missile falling onto a crowd of Orthodox Jewish men, warning of a grave danger to the neighborhood. Ben Hirsch of the group, "Survivors for Justice," tells CBS2, "The missile is, of course, the victim and the community is everyone alongside the accused. They're saying worse than she should shut up; they're saying she's a menace, a danger to the community, needs to be shunned and thrown away."
The victim's mother has to walk past the signs on Bedford Avenue on her way home, and she tells the Daily News, "It is very painful. The community has taken his side." But Weberman's attorney asks, "What's wrong with having a fundraiser if you believe that a person who is falsely accused? Everywhere you go with these people that are opposed to it. They are condemning him as a molester. They don't wait for the process to work itself out in court."
Thousands of supporters gathered at a catering hall last night to raise money for Weberman, 53, while approximately 100 protesters gathered outside behind a barricade. The NYPD press office has not yet responded to our inquiry on the disorderly conduct charges, but NBC New York has video of the protest, and police can be seen pacing back and forth on the sidewalk ordering protesters to disperse. During an interview with some of the protesters, one woman told NBC New York, "There must be some fire where there's smoke, logically."
The alleged child molester fundraiser comes on the heels of a damning NY Times report on Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes's handling of child abuse allegations in ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn communities. The Times found that these communities—which vote in a bloc overwhelmingly for Hynes—are led by powerful rabbis who order adherents to report instances of abuse to them, not the police—and Hynes was reportedly okay with this.
Yesterday Hynes hit back at the Times article with an op-ed in the Daily News and an email exchange with former mayor Ed Koch, who criticized Hynes for not making public the names of ultra-Orthodox sex offenders. Hynes told Koch, "In virtually every case, after the name of the defendant was made public, it was followed by a relentless pursuit by members of the Orthodox Jewish Community for the name of the victim." To which Koch replied:
Others, myself included, take issue with your position, believing that public disclosure of the identity of the alleged predators, especially those convicted, applies to all similarly situated regardless of their religion. Your fear of disclosure of victim identities would apply to Catholic clergy and the many altar boys who were victims of sexual abuse. Yet you disclosed, as do all district attorneys, the names of the alleged predators in the Catholic clergy. There must be one standard before the law. It is public disclosure of the names of the predators.