Sparse Crown Heights Crowd Hears D.A. Talk About Child Sexual Abuse; No Chabad Leaders Participate Or Attend

Only a tiny number of Chabad hasidim attend Crown Heights "town hall" meeting on child sexual abuse. Chabad rabbis, community leadership, AWOL.

By Shmarya Rosenberg (FailedMessiah.com)
June 11, 2012

Brooklyn's ethically challenged District Attorney Charles Hynes now says his office has brought 130 haredi pedophiles to justice since he opened his special haredi hotline, Kol Tzedek, in 2009.

That figure is 34 pedophiles higher than it was May 19 when Hynes claimed the number was 96 and 31 higher than the 99 figure he used in during the past two weeks.

Moreover, Hynes claimed during that time span that the 99 cases were all prosecutions.

But The Jewish Week, The Guardian, the New York Post and the New York Times have all shown that close to half those cases have not been prosecuted and that many of the others were plea bargains made to very reduced charges.

Hynes' claim of 130 haredi child sexual abusers being brought to justice, reported in today's New York Daily News, was made at a sparsely attended town hall meeting Sunday in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn populated by Chabad hasidim.

Only about 70 people attended the event held in small a neighborhood synagogue, some of whom came from other communities.

The Crown Heights Chabad community numbers close to 20,000 people. Perhaps 60 of the attendees were Chabad affiliated.

No Chabad community leader or rabbi spoke, and none attended the event.

"There were no local rabbis present...," COLLive, a major Chabad news site reported. "Organizers explained their absence by the limited time available for speeches by all 3 rabbis, and reminded [questioners] of the groundbreaking psak ruling of the Crown Heights Beis Din on the need to report abuses to the police."

The "ruling" is actually a letter signed last year by two of the three beit din judges. No formal beit din proceeding took place, and the third judge was not present when the letter – composed with the help of activists – was signed.

The letter says that there is no prohibition of mesirah, informing, when there is evidence that a child has been sexually abused, and goes on to say that the crime should be reported to police.

The letter does not say what should be done about suspicions of child sexual abuse even though legally mandated reporters under civil law have to immediately report suspicions of child sexual abuse to police or ACS.

Rabbi Yosef Braun and Rabbi Yaakov Schwei signed.

One of the two rabbis who signed, did so only after activists, including Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg from Williamsburg, spent time explaining child sexual abuse to him and cajoling him. Among other issues, Schwei did not understand what pedophiles actually do to children.

A third member of the beit din, Rabbi Osdoba, was not there and did not sign the letter, despite promises that he would.

Generally, a beit din cannot sit as a beit din or act as a beit din with less than three rabbinic judges present.

Despite that, the letter was widely seen as a breakthrough.

COLLive counted 80 attendees at yesterday's event and called the crowd "diverse."

Readers of a Chabad blog, CrownHeights.info, posted comments decrying the lack of support shown by the community.

"Wow, i see maximum 70 people out of a community of 15,000. I guess we really care...", one reader wrote. Another, calling himself "WHERE ARE YOU CROWN HEIGHTS" wrote, "SHOCKED TO SEE SUCH DISINTEREST FROM THE REBBES SHECHUNEH [neighborhood]. DO YOU REALLY CARE ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN? IT SHOWS..."

But several other readers complained that the event had not been publicized.

"why did no one know about this?" one wrote, while another reader asked "how were we supposed to know about it if we were not notified?????"

"The big question is why were there none of our rebbeim or menahalim or rabbonim at this event? Why just outsiders to tell us about halocha??", another, S. Simcha, wrote.

The event was organized by Eliyahu Federman, a Chabad follower who is a Crown Heights neighborhood activist and attorney. He worked in conjunction with the D.A.'s Jewish Liaison, Chabad follower Henna White, civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, and members of Crown Heights Community Watch, an anti-child sexual abuse group made up of several Crown Heights victims.

Siegel; Irwin Zalkin, a clergy sexual abuse attorney from California; Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University; Rabbi Zvi Gluck, a haredi activist and "fixer" from Queens; and Mordechai Feinstein, a Crown Heights victim now living in Florida; were among the speakers.

Hynes was attacked by victims who decried the special treatment the D.A. gives to haredi suspects and defendants and his refusal to follow release the names of the now 130 haredi pedophiles he claims to have brought to justice. Many victims and advocates – along with former NYC Mayor Ed Koch and legal experts from across the country are also angered that Hynes has not prosecuted rabbis and haredi activists who threaten and harass victims and obstruct justice.

Hynes claims the intimidation and harassment of haredi victims of child sexual abuse is worse than what happens in Mafia prosecutions.

Joel Engelman, a 26-year-old victim and advocate who grew up in Williamsburg and who was abused there, reportedly screamed at Hynes, "Your policy is failing!"

"My policy is succeeding," Hynes reportedly shot back. "Anyone who expresses outrage is not being practical," the Daily News reported.

Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, the Williamsburg activist long fed up with Hynes, refused to give legitimacy to the event and chose instead to protest just outside it, carrying a sign that read, "Mr. Charles Hynes why are all Jewish teachers and child molesters free with no bail?"

The orange sign with black lettering was covered with dollar signs, reflecting Rosenberg's view that haredi money – and haredi bloc votes – had bought off the D.A.