Brooklyn's D.A. Stacks The Deck

Task force to deal with haredi witness tampering and intimidation to be filled with Hynes cronies; D.A. refuses to meet with leading victims' advocate

By Shmarya Rosenberg (
May 22, 2012

Since Brooklyn's DA Charles Hynes agreed with former NYC Mayor Ed Koch's suggestion to form a task force to deal with rampant haredi witness tampering and intimidation, rumors have swirled that Hynes had stacked the composition of the task force, filling it with employees loyal to him and blocking participation of outside experts and representative of the abuse victims themselves.

Dr. Asher Lipner, a psychologist and leading victims' advocate, wrote Koch. According to a report by Hella Winston in The Jewish Week, Lipner told Koch that many victims' advocates "find it troubling that the district attorney, who has never reached out to work with us, has not taken the opportunity [to do so] now that he is creating [this] task force....[the] choices Mr. Hynes has made for his task force do not reflect a willingness to work with anybody that is truly independent of his office, and [who are] therefore are beyond the scope of community politics."

Koch sent another email to Hynes, Winston reported, telling Hynes that he thought his "statement to the [New York] Times reporter and that of your press secretary [about the task force] were inadequate and far too limited in outlining the composition of the committee you plan to have address the problem." Koch urged Hynes to "meet with Asher Lipner and to add to your committee law enforcement personnel who currently have worked with groups similar to the hasidic, such as the Amish."

Hynes declined to meet with Lipner, Winston reported.

Winston provided several examples mentioned by victims' advocates and victims (there are many, many more) of haredi witness intimidation and tampering that Hynes has failed to prosecute:

• In a speech at the 2006 convention of Agudath Israel of America that was tape recorded by an audience member, Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon, the mashgiach ruchani at Bais Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, N.J., said that there are times when it is good to sweep abuse allegations under the carpet. Salomon cited the case of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, whose more than 30 year history of child sexual abuse had recently been exposed by New York Magazine. Salomon compared people who speak out publicly about child sexual abuse and haredi rabbis who fail to silence them to the Wicked Son in the Passover Haggadah. Salomon said that the correct response to this "wicked child" is to "knock out his teeth" ("hakei es shinav"), which he said would mean shunning those exposing child sexual abuse and expelling the children of the people who publicized the Kolko allegations from attending communal schools.

• In a sworn affidavit, the parent of one of Kolko's victims alleges that Rabbi Lipa Margulies, the head of Yeshiva Torah Temimah (the school where Kolko had allegedly abused the man's son), told him that he (Margulies) could not be responsible for the family's safety if his son kept telling people about the sexual abuse he suffered at Kolko's hands.

• In February of 2006, Eli Greenwald (a Torah Temimah alumnus who is a son of one of the yeshiva's founders and whose son was then a student there) was served with a summons to a beit din (haredi religious court) issued by Rabbi Yisroel Belsky. Belsky is the co-halakhic authority for the Orthodox Union's OU Kosher, and he is also is the head of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas in Brooklyn. The summons, called a hazmanah in Hebrew, demanded that Greenwald answer the charge of hotzoat shem ra (slander) allegedly committed by Greenwald against Kolko after Greenwald called Torah Temimah to investigate allegations that Kolko was abusing children. Greenwald agreed to have the issue heard in beit din, but Belsky and Kolko never answered Greenwald's response, causing many in the community who knew about the matter to view the initial summons as an act of intimidation by Belsky.

• The mother of an alleged victim of Rabbi Nechemya Weberman went to the son of the Williamsburg Satmar Rebbe and another rabbi and told them what had happened to her daughter. Teitelbaum allegedly responded that "we are still Yiddishe kinder and for this Weberman doesn't have to sit in jail, we will take care of him and he will never do this again, and do not hinder us from protecting him."

Last week, more than 1000 hasidim filled a catering hall in Williamsburg to donate money to Weberman's legal defense fund. Posters for the even showed a missile about to strike the hasidic community and called the allegations made by the alleged victim of Weberman "a libel."

The girl's boyfriend was allegedly threatened after he refused to accept a large bribe to induce the alleged victim to drop the charges, and his restaurant's kosher supervision was reportedly withdrawn.

Hynes has not reached out to victims' advocates and several victims or their families have publicly complained of shoddy treatment from Hynes' office.

Hynes has not prosecuted a case witness tampering and intimidation against victims of haredi child sexual abuse in more than a decade, even though he himself admits the problem is rampant. Hynes has publicly described the problem of witness tampering and intimidation of haredi child sexual abuse victims as being worse than the intimidation and tampering suffered by witnesses against the Mafia.