Lawyer Alleges Institutional Cover-Up in Mondrowitz Case

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman (Five Towns Jewish Times)
January 21, 2010

Abraham Mondrowitz can be known as the man with nine lives. How so?

1. Twenty five years ago, he was somehow able to elude any charges being pressed by the young men that he counseled in his role as a therapist working for Yeshivas.

2. He was able to avoid any repercussions to his ability to be hired by yeshiva after Yeshiva.

3. He managed to elude prosecution in the United States while living here.

4. He managed to flee the United States and live in Israel when finally facing an indictment by the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office.

5. He managed to avoid the repercussions of a cherem placed upon him by the Bais Yoseph Bais Din and signed by Rav Elya Svei zatzal.

6. He managed to avoid extradition back to the United States because the crime he was to be charged with was not in the extradition treaty between Israel and the United States at the time.

7. He managed to have recent charges of possession of child pornography (in Jerusalem, 2007) dismissed by an Israeli court as reported in an article yesterday in the Forward.

8. He managed to get a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court frustrating the latest efforts to face justice in the United States.

9. Through it all, he has managed to continue providing "counseling" even while "on the lam" in Israel.

The question is, how has he been so successful? Michael Lesher, an attorney representing six Orthodox Jews who allege that they were victims of Mondrowitz, believes that he has the answer. He issued a statement this week saying, "We know now, IF we didn't before, just what kind of denial we are facing. In fact, we've been facing denial from the beginning -- so we're angry but not really surprised: we've seen coverups all along by powerful figures in the Orthodox community (and the politicians they influence)."

Lesher, an author and lawyer, has been at the forefront of leading the battle in courts against molesters and those abusing children. His book, "From Madness to Mutiny: Why Mothers Are Running from the Family Courts—and What Can Be Done about It" has been hailed as an indictment against the Family Court system in the United States and an excellent guide as to what to do. He has helped mothers across the country who face an uphill battle in their efforts in court.

What is surprising, however, is that it was Rav Elya Svei zatzal, one of the leading Rabbinic figures in the United States, who signed onto the ruling of the Bais Din not to help Mondrowitz. The Bais Yoseph Bais Din has one of the most sterling reputations in the country as well.

Lesher further stated , "We feel outrage, we feel bitterness and we feel rising anger that bringing Mondrowitz to justice is being resisted AS IT HAS FOR OVER TWENTY YEARS... The real story is not about one bad decision freeing one bad man; it is part of a larger and longer pattern involving many important parts of the Orthodox Jewish community."

Lesher believes that the effort to protect Mondrowitz even extends to Jewish newspapers. He writes in his comments on an article that appeared in the Forward on a blog run by a certain Scott Rosenberg, "I'm afraid it's no accident that this is not being reported, and that even my quotations are being carved up [in newspapers] to avoid any suggestion of a larger institutional cover-up. Jewish media are no less vulnerable to political pressure than other institutions. And lots of influential people do not want the whole truth told in this sordid but crucially important tale."

Change, in fact, does come slowly in the Orthodox Jewish world. Recent rulings by top Rabbinic personalities, however, are encouraging. The Five Towns Jewish Times reported that Rav Moshe Shternbuch Shlita ruled that it is critical for our community to punish offenders - "l'maan yishmeu veyeraoo - in order that people will hear and fear.."

It is important to note, however, that false allegations are often alleged by unscrupulous people and each allegation must be carefully scrutinized.