Ultra-Orthodox Sex Abuse Whistleblower Describes "Child-Rape Assembly Line"

By John Del Signore (Gothamist)
November 12, 2013

The last we heard from ultra-Orthodox sex abuse whistleblower Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg he was recovering from an assault involving a cup of bleach tossed in his face on a Williamsburg sidewalk. Rosenberg, who was nearly blinded, has become anathema in the tightly-knit Satmar community for exposing perpetrators of sexual abuse. Almost a year after the bleach attack, Vice checks in on Rosenberg, who of course has more horrifying stories to tell:

On a visit to Jerusalem in 2005, Rabbi Rosenberg entered into a mikvah in one of the holiest neighborhoods in the city, Mea She’arim. “I opened a door that entered into a schvitz,” he told me. “Vapors everywhere, I can barely see. My eyes adjust, and I see an old man, my age, long white beard, a holy-looking man, sitting in the vapors. On his lap, facing away from him, is a boy, maybe seven years old. And the old man is having anal sex with this boy.”

Rabbi Rosenberg paused, gathered himself, and went on: “This boy was speared on the man like an animal, like a pig, and the boy was saying nothing. But on his face—fear. The old man [looked at me] without any fear, as if this was common practice. He didn’t stop. I was so angry, I confronted him. He removed the boy from his penis, and I took the boy aside. I told this man, ‘It’s a sin before God, a mishkovzucher. What are you doing to this boy’s soul? You’re destroying this boy!’ He had a sponge on a stick to clean his back, and he hit me across the face with it. ‘How dare you interrupt me!’ he said. I had heard of these things for a long time, but now I had seen.”

Rabbi Rosenberg believes around half of young males in Brooklyn’s Hasidic community have been victims of sexual assault, but Ben Hirsch, director of Survivors for Justice, tells Vice, "From anecdotal evidence, we’re looking at over 50 percent. It has almost become a rite of passage." And yet it's extremely rare that any of the perpetrators are brought to justice, a fact that may have cost Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes his job.

Hynes was widely criticized for failing to aggressively prosecute sex offenders in the politically-powerful community (as well as refusing to publicize the names of the few who were convicted). Last week he lost a desperate reelection bid to Ken Thompson, who slammed Hynes for failing to properly vet allegations against another sex abuse whistleblower, Sam Kellner.

Kellner, you'll recall, was accused of trying to shake down an alleged child molester, Baruch Lebovits, for money in exchange for his silence. Like Rabbi Rosenberg, Kellner became a pariah in the community for his role in bringing Rosenberg to justice, but his life got even worse when Hynes's office turned on him. Although the case against Kellner has completely fallen apart—a key witness has recanted his testimony against Kellner, a secretly recorded conversation between Kellner and one of his accusers was distorted in translation—Hynes refuses to drop it. According to today's Times:

Two prosecutors with the Brooklyn district attorney’s office promised to drop all charges against Mr. Kellner. An already-weak extortion case had utterly disintegrated, with evidence falling away. You’ll soon be free of the shadow of prosecution, Mr. Kellner’s lawyers told him.

That was last Wednesday. Two days later, District Attorney Charles J. Hynes and his rackets chief and longtime friend Michael F. Vecchione reversed that decision and again vowed to prosecute Mr. Kellner. They promptly demoted the two veteran prosecutors, Joseph Alexis and Nicholas J. Batsidis, who had handled the case against Mr. Kellner.

Mr. Hynes was not finished. That same day, he fired Barbara Burke, a prosecutor and former nun who had had the temerity to complain that the office had not passed along — as required — all records to a lawyer trying a wrongful conviction case against Mr. Hynes and Mr. Vecchione.

Hynes, 78, had previously promised to help Thompson with a smooth transition. But as Times columnist Michael Powell puts it, Hynes has "ended a once proud career in a manner akin to crashing a car into a brick wall." Read the whole story here, as well as the sickening Vice feature on Rosenberg, and Hella Winston's article in The Jewish Week, which broke the Hynes news yesterday.