By Colleen Long (Associated Press)
January 30, 2013
A rabbi at a religious school in New York's ultra-orthodox Jewish community is suspected of sexually abusing students, a law enforcement official said Wednesday.
The accusations come amid mounting pressure to report allegations of abuse within the insular, secretive community, the largest outside Israel, and were reported barely a week after a respected religious counselor in the same sect was sentenced to 103 years in prison for sexually abusing a girl. Both cases come from within the Satmar Hasidic sect, the official said.
The 33-year-old man was taken into custody after reports he may have brought two students to motels for sexual liaisons, said the official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the case and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. A third encounter was reported in a car. The official said the victims were all teenage boys, ages 14 to 16, and the encounters took place between March of last year and last week.
The school, located in Borough Park in Brooklyn, has been closed amid financial disputes with the family who runs it and has been described as a small, private establishment for at-risk kids. It's not clear how long it has been closed
The allegations arose through an anonymous tip to a confidential hotline. The man, part of the family who ran the school in Brooklyn, is being held and charges are pending.
It is has been difficult to prosecute cases of abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community. Families are encouraged to speak to their rabbis instead of going to secular authorities, and when they do go to police or prosecutors, they are often harassed or shunned. In the case of Nechemya Weberman, convicted last month of sustained sexual abuse, the accuser testified that her family was threatened and harassed.
Four men were charged with trying to bribe the girl, now 18, and her husband with $500,000 to drop the case against Weberman, 54, an unlicensed counselor who worked with families for years. She had been sent to him because she had been questioning her faith and needed help getting back on the religious path, she testified. Prosecutors said there were at least 10 other victims, but the statute of limitations passed on many of them. Weberman maintains his innocence and said he never abused her or anyone else.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who has dismissed rumors that he overlooked crimes in the community because he is too cozy with powerful rabbis, has set up a hotline specifically for victims of sex abuse. He has implored victims to come forward and promises support for them if they do.
Brooklyn is home to more than 250,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews.