Dear Rabbi Salomon:
I heard your speech at the Agudah Convention and have a few comments and questions I would like to share with you. I am writing this letter in an open forum as I believe the issues herein are of vital importance to our people and warrant the same circulation as your much publicized speech.
I take no issue with your well reasoned argument calling for civility in expression of disagreement. Bnai Torah should be able to agree to disagree. While I join you in condemning the deplorable language used by the few, I respectfully suggest that dissenters need not be placed in the category of "rasha," or "maskil" for you to make your point. Likewise, suggestions of "hakei es shinov" and proclamations that children of select members of our community whose views you may disagree with have no place in our schools; do little to further civilized discourse.
In your speech you made a point of declaring your lack of cowardice in dealing with the issue of sexual abuse by rabbeim in yeshiva and insisted that keeping your efforts discreet or as you put it to "sweep under the carpet," is a choice you make to protect human dignity. Whose dignity are you referring to? The dignity of those few victims courageous enough to step forward and confront these powerful monsters or the dignity of these monsters and their poor families? I respectfully suggest that by concerning yourself with the dignity of the pedophile and sweeping his heinous acts under the carpet, you subject his victims to another round of abuse at the hands of the community while enabling the predator to continue his reign of terror on unsuspecting victims.
We are taught "chochmah b'goyim, taamin." Medical statistics tell us that a treated pedophile has a sixty percent rate of recidivism. This places the pedophile squarely in the category of a rodeph and as such we have a duty to our community to expose him so that potential victims are aware of this clear and present danger. Sex Offender Registries exist for a reason. Namely, the law and medical science recognize that these people are incapable of controlling themselves. You may be impressed by a heartfelt and tearful confession coupled with a commitment to never again succumb to temptation, ("teshuva"). However, you will not be present when this pedophile succumbs to his overwhelming urges and destroys another poor innocent life. Respectfully, you do not have the right to ignore universally accepted medical knowledge and take innocent children's lives into your hands for the sake of a pedophile's "dignity."
Indeed, your strategy of not acting until the pedophile has been proved 100 percent guilty and using the Torah as your guide to protect our mosdos is not new. As will be shown below this very same strategy was followed by many other rabbonim with disastrous results. Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv puts it best while writing about this very issue. Rabbi Elyashiv quotes the Rashba who writes in his Responsa, III no. 393, "...Because if you will adjudicate based only on the laws established by the Torah, society will be destroyed..." (emphasis added).
Yes, we do need to stop "the terrible assault" and "immunize against a plague" of "insidious poison seeping in." It is our duty to teach our children to "rise in their defense" and of course we must "give them the ammunition to fight back when they are attacked." You and I differ only in our opinion of where the threat lies. You maintain with an impressive fervor that the threat lies with disrespectful bloggers. I respectfully disagree and see the threat to be that deadly minority of rabbeim who are morally corrupt and are destroying our children.
In your speech you alluded to the case of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a rebbe in Yeshiva Torah Temimah for over thirty-eight years. You express indignation that this one example of a pedophile that "slips through the fingers" is being used as an illustration of how Klal Yisroel behaves. Rabbi Salomon; unfortunately one is as one does. As such, this is who we are as a community today. Tragically, the story as depicted by the secular media in all its gory detail is but the tip of the iceberg.
The below bullet point history is general and merely touches upon events of the past forty years. If you want more details, I suggest you confer with Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, who was employed by Kolko in Camp Ma-Na-Vu and will surely share his knowledge of events with you. Remind Rabbi Wachsman of his expression of remorse to his friends for not having informed his uncle, Rabbi Shloime Klein, of Kolko's predilection for young boys when Rabbi Klein was embroiled in a difficult din torah with Kolko and Rabbi Lipa Geldwirth in or around 1990.A Partial Biography of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko & Rabbi Lipa Margulies
· 1967 – While working as Dormitory Counselor at Yeshivas Mir, Rabbi Yehuda Kolko calls a student (name withheld) out of his dormitory room and begins discussing matters of a sexual nature with him while rubbing up against him in an aroused state. This abuse continues for the remainder of the school year and into the summer season at Camp Agudah. This student is now a distinguished Manhattan attorney living happily with his partner in New York City and insists that his lifestyle choice has absolutely nothing to do with his abuse by Kolko.
· 1969 thru 1971 - Rabbi Yehuda Kolko begins abusing Dovid Framowitz in Yeshiva Torah Vodaas of Flatbush (now known as Yeshiva Torah Temimah) and Camp Agudah, the details of which abuse are now public knowledge. Mr. Framowitz, a grandfather living in Eretz Yisroel, has not gone a day since being abused without reliving the unspeakable agony he suffered at Kolko's hands.
· 1972 - Rabbi Yehuda Kolko sexually abuses two young campers (names withheld at the request of the victims) in Camp Agudah who complain to their counselor. Their counselor reports the complaint to Rabbi Simcha Kaufman. The abuse of these two boys cease for the remainder of that summer. Rabbi Simcha Kaufman is a co-worker of Kolko in Yeshiva Torah Temimah (more on Kaufman below) and was a co-worker of Kolko in Camp Agudah until 1976 when Kolko voluntarily left Camp Agudah after he co-founded Camp Ma-Na-Vu with Rabbi Lipa Geldwirth, another co-worker of his at Yeshiva Torah Temimah.
· 1977 – Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, employed as a rebbe in Yeshiva Torah Temimah in the morning, is employed in the afternoons by Yeshiva Karlin Stolin as Secular Studies Principal. During the course of his short tenure in Yeshiva Karlin Stolin numerous complaints are lodged by both students and parents (names withheld at the request of the victims) accusing Kolko of sexually abusing boys in the yeshiva. Rabbi Shmuel Dishon asks Kolko to leave the employ of the yeshiva.
· 1977 on – Eyewitness testimony and accusations of sexual abuse by Rabbi Yehuda Kolko of students at Yeshiva Torah Temimah and Camp Ma-Na-Vu reach a crescendo which culminates in several businessmen approaching Rabbi Lipa Margulies in 1984 and offering to fund a retirement package for Rabbi Yehuda Kolko provided he seeks employment away from children. Rabbi Lipa Margulies steadfastly refuses to accept the offer and suggests that those parents who disagree with his decision remove their children from his Yeshiva Torah Temimah.
· 1981 – Rabbi Yehuda Kolko sexually abuses a twelve year old student of Yeshiva Torah Temimah (name withheld at the request of the victim.) This victim publicizes the abuse and acts out, vandalizing Kolko's home and car. Rabbi Lipa Margulies calls this victim's father and warns him that if this activity does not stop his other children would be expelled from yeshiva and the safety of his family could not be guaranteed. This victim is subsequently referred to Avrohom Mondrowitz for counseling.
· 1984 – As instructed by Rabbi Avigdor Miller, an askan calls for a meeting which takes place at the home of Rabbi Yakov Perlow (the Novominsker) and is attended by Rabbi Avrohom Pam, Rabbi Elya Svei, Rabbi Chaim Dov Keller, Rabbi Aharon Schechter, Rabbi Moshe Scheinerman, Rabbi Shia Fishman and Rabbi Yankel Bender. At this meeting, chaired by Rabbi Perlow, the askan discusses what is transpiring to innocent boys at the hands of Rabbi pedophiles and requests that Torah Umesorah and the rabbonim issue a statement calling for their removal from chinuch. Rabbi Svei informs this askan that Torah Umesorah has consulted their attorneys who advised that for Torah Umesorah to admit knowledge of such abuse would subject Torah Umesorah, its staff, all its member schools and their staff to liability for not having reported their knowledge to the authorities earlier. Accordingly, Rabbi Elya Svei informs the askan, neither he nor Torah Umesorah will do anything about this problem.
· 1984 thru 1985 – At directed by Rabbi Avrohom Pam an askan approaches Rabbi Moshe Scheinerman and the two meet with Rabbi Shia (Joshua) Fishman in the office of Torah Umesorah. Both Scheinerman and Fishman neglect to inform this askan that Fishman had been instructed by Torah Umesorah's lawyer to do nothing about this issue. Rabbi Fishman requests the names of Kolko's victims and promises absolute confidentiality. Names are provided to Rabbi Fishman who begins his own investigation of the allegations. He meets with and speaks with several victims who pour their hearts out to him after he guarantees them confidentiality. Rabbi Shia Fishman promptly discloses all he has learned to Rabbi Lipa Margulies who in turn publicly disparages and discredits each and every one of those boys who were brave enough to step forward.
· 1985 – A follow up meeting takes place at the home of Rabbi Simcha Kaufman and includes Rabbi Kaufman, Rabbi Lipa Margulies, Rabbi Shia Fishman, an askan and an eyewitness. The eyewitness recounts his personal knowledge of Rabbi Kolko's sexual abuse of boys and discusses the information he had gleaned from others. Rabbi Lipa Margulies insists that the charges are all fabrications and attacks the reputations of everyone involved in seeking the removal of Kolko from his Yeshiva Torah Temimah. Rabbi Shia Fishman subsequently informs anyone who asks that he can not deal with this issue as he is old (50 at the time) and will lose his job if he pursues this matter.
· 1985 – Rabbi Moshe Scheinerman is offered a lucrative and prestigious position as rav of a shul (a position he holds to this day) and is told that he must cease and desist from his actions against Yeshiva Torah Temimah rabbeim (his own words) which he promptly does. Scheinerman abandons ship explaining that it is not appropriate for a rabbi of his stature to deal with these matters. Rabbi Yehoshua Leiman takes over.
· 1985 - Rabbi Yehoshua Leiman and others continue their quest for a solution and convene a bais din for this purpose. This bais din, consisting of Rabbi Menashe Klein, Rabbi Yechezkel Roth, Rabbi Aharon Stein, Rabbi Moshe Stern and Rabbi Chaim Yankel Tauber, is scheduled to hear testimony for two days after which they will rule on how to proceed. This panel meets and hears testimony for one day. Shortly thereafter, Rabbi Moshe Stern states that he is unable to participate in any more sessions and this bais din is disbanded without further explanation. In a private conversation with one of the askanim, Rabbi Stern disclosed that he had been approached by Rabbi Lipa Margulies which resulted in the discontinuance of the din torah.
· 1985 – Upon the dissolution of the above bais din, Rabbi Lipa Margulies retains Rabbi Pinchus Scheinberg to convene a second bais din for the purpose of clearing Rabbi Yehuda Kolko's name. Rabbi Lipa Margulies then drafts Rabbi Friedman (the Tenka Rav) and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Brown to serve on Rabbi Scheinberg's bais din. Prior to convening the bais din, Rabbi Pinchus Scheinberg speaks with several of Kolko's victims and asks them to describe what Kolko has done to them. Upon hearing the allegations Rabbi Scheinberg informs the boys that in the eyes of halacha they had not been molested. Rabbi Scheinberg also calls the askanim and tells them to cease and desist in their attempts to remove Kolko from chinuch. Rabbi Avigdor Miller disagrees and instructs the askanim in no uncertain terms to do whatever must be done to protect children from Kolko. Rabbi Pinchus Scheinberg convenes the bais din and takes the position that Rabbi Kolko has a chezkas kashrus absent any testimony by two adult witnesses to any single event. Rabbi Friedman takes the position that in light of the persistent rumors Rabbi Kolko must be kept away from children. Rabbi Brown ultimately concedes that there is no halachic evidence against Kolko and the din torah is concluded. Rabbi Lipa Margulies insists that he has a psak from this bais din but to this day has refused to produce it. Regardless, it is of note that no victims testified before this bais din.
· 1987 – Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, having groomed a former first grade student of his for years, begins systematically sexually abusing this boy (name withheld at the request of the victim) both in and out of the Yeshiva Torah Temimah building. When this boy complains to Rabbi Lipa Margulies that his grades are slipping because Kolko is removing him from class almost daily, Margulies responds by slapping the boy across the face and throwing him out of his office. This young man is now living down south where he is on leave of absence from the U.S. Army.
· 2001 – Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, takes a young Yeshiva Torah Temimah student under his wing (name withheld at the request of the victim) and begins removing him from class for "special projects." These special projects include the boy being sexually molested by Kolko in the basement of the yeshiva, in Rabbi Kolko's car and in Rabbi Kolko's private office, which Rabbi Lipa Margulies has conveniently equipped with its own private bathroom. This young man is currently in therapy and hopes to be able to recover enough to be able to get married and start a family.
· 2005 – Dovid Framowitz, after years of searching on the internet, chances upon a post written by a blogger calling himself "Un-Orthodox Jew" which makes reference to Rabbi Lipa Margulies harboring Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a known pedophile, in his Yeshiva Torah Temimah. Dovid begins communicating with this blogger via e-mail who in turn posts Dovid's story on his blog. Over the course of several months other victims of Kolko begin to step forward with their stories.
· January 2006 – Several askonim decide that this four decade long chillul hashem must stop and approach both Rabbi Yehuda Kolko and Rabbi Lipa Margulies with a demand that Kolko be removed from Yeshiva Torah Temimah and Camp Silver Lake and further commit to spending the rest of his life in treatment and away from children. Both Kolko and Margulies refuse.
· February 2006 – A letter is drafted informing the public that Rabbi Yehuda Kolko is a dangerous pedophile and that Rabbi Lipa Margulies continues to employ him despite his knowledge of this fact. Copies of this draft letter are delivered to Kolko and Margulies. Both Kolko and Margulies are offered the opportunity to deal quietly with the issue and are informed that if they continue to refuse, the letter would be mass mailed to the entire community. Kolko responds by stating that "the matter has been taken care of" and Margulies responds by asking if anyone "thinks Kolko is still a threat" and declares "if anyone does not like the way I run my yeshiva let them not send their children to my yeshiva." They refuse to comply and the letter is sent out in a mass mailing.
· February 2006 – Eli Greenwald, a graduate of Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Temimah, son of one of the founders of the yeshiva and a parent in the yeshiva receives the letter and spends a few days investigating the matter. He calls Rabbi Yaakov Applegrad, the yeshiva's Administrator, and requests a meeting of the Vaad Ha'horim in order to address this serious issue. Rabbi Applegrad informs him that there will be no meeting as the allegations are false and that he and Rabbi Margulies have the matter under control. Mr. Greenwald called Rabbi Lipa Margulies and makes the same request of him. Rabbi Margulies responds by shouting at him.
· February 17, 2006 – Eli Greenwald is served with a hazmana issued by Rabbi Yisroel Belsky calling him to a din torah to answer the charge of hotzoas shem rah allegedly committed against Rabbi Yehuda Kolko. Mr. Greenwald responds on February 21, 2006, that he will appear for a din torah before the Bais Din of America. To this day there has been no reply to Mr. Greenwald's response by either Kolko or Rabbi Yisroel Belsky.
· February 2006 – An askan meets with Rabbi Yaakov Perlow and pleads with him to get involved in this matter. Rabbi Perlow refuses on the basis of his being a yuchid and this being a tzibur matter. After being pressed further Rabbi Perlow takes his final stand that this is a Flatbush matter and as he is a Boro Park rabbi it would be unseemly for him to get involved in this matter.
· March 2006 – Rabbi Lipa Margulies reaches a standstill agreement with the askonim by committing to appear before a panel consisting of two rabbonim and one frum lawyer, all three of whom had been chosen by him. Rabbi Lipa Margulies reneges on his promise to appear before this panel.
· March 23, 2006 – A hazmana to a din torah is sent to Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, Rabbi Lipa Margulies and Yeshiva Torah Temimah summoning them to a din torah before the Bais Din of Mechon L'Hoyroa or a bais din of ZBLA. The hazmana is ignored by all the defendants.
· March 30, 2006 – A second hazmana to a din torah is sent to Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, Rabbi Lipa Margulies and Yeshiva Torah Temimah summoning them to a din torah before the Bais Din of Mechon L'Hoyroa or a bais din of ZBLA. By fax sent on April 5, 2006, Rabbi Lipa Margulies responds to this hazmana stating he will not appear for a din torah "without a prior determination of the charges against Rabbi Kolko." Rabbi Kolko continues to ignore the hazmanas.
· April 6, 2006 – A third hazmana to a din torah is sent to Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, Rabbi Lipa Margulies and Yeshiva Torah Temimah summoning them to a din torah before the Bais Din of Mechon L'Hoyroa or a bais din of ZBLA. By fax sent on April 10, 2006, Rabbi Lipa Margulies responds to this hazmana by stating "the Hazmonah that you sent to us was not a valid Hazmonah." Rabbi Kolko does not respond at all. It is of note that Rabbi Yehuda Kolko is still teaching in Yeshiva Torah Temimah while these exchanges are taking place.
· May 4, 2006 – A lawsuit is filed in United States District Court: Eastern District of New York, naming Rabbi Yehuda Kolko; Yeshiva & Mesivta Torah Temimah, Inc. and Camp Agudah as defendants. Rabbi Yehuda Kolko remains in the classrooms of Yeshiva Torah Temimah.
· May 5, 2006 – Rabbi Simcha Kaufman approaches Dovid Framowitz and with tears in his eyes tells him that if only he had known what Rabbi Kolko was doing to him he would have put a stop to it. Of interest was Rabbi Simcha Kaufman's complete denial of any prior knowledge of any accusation before Dovid Framowitz brought his lawsuit. Rabbi Simcha Kaufman pleads with Dovid to withdraw his lawsuit lest he hurt Rabbi Lipa Margulies and the Yeshiva.
· May 10, 2006 – After being approached for comment on several occasions by Robert Kolker, a reporter for New York Magazine, and with a 5:00 printing deadline looming, Rabbi Lipa Margulies issues a statement through his attorney at 4:30 PM. Beginning with a proclamation that Yeshiva Torah Temimah is the preeminent yeshiva in the world followed by an absolute denial of all the allegations, the statement concludes with an announcement that Rabbi Kolko has agreed to a "leave of absence" pending resolution of this matter. Despite this claim, Rabbi Yehuda Kolko remains in the classrooms of Yeshiva Torah Temimah.
· May 12, 2006 – A second lawsuit is filed in United States District Court: Eastern District of New York naming Rabbi Yehuda Kolko; Yeshiva & Mesivta Torah Temimah, Inc. as defendants. Still, Rabbi Yehuda Kolko remains in the classrooms of Yeshiva Torah Temimah.
· May 15, 2006 – "On the Rabbi's Knees – Do the Orthodox Jews Have a Catholic Priest Problem" a feature article in New York Magazine, a publication with a circulation of three million, is published. Within days of the publication of the article and after thirty-eight years of committing unspeakable acts of perversion in Yeshiva Torah Temimah, Kolko leaves the classrooms of Yeshiva Torah Temimah. It was only after the magazine hit the newsstands that Margulies succumbed to pressure and removed Kolko from the classrooms of Yeshiva Torah Temimah.
· July 2006 – Over the vocal protest of many residents and with the help of his friend Rabbi Yaakov Applegrad, Rabbi Yehuda Kolko takes up summer residence at a home in Regency Estates in the Catskills. Despite the claim that Kolko was on a leave of absence from Yeshiva Torah Temimah, he continues working for Camp Silver Lake, Yeshiva Torah Temimah's summer home. In addition, Kolko initiates and organizes a multi-camp excursion to Lake Compounce, a water park located in Connecticut, where he is seen frolicking with young boys in bathing suits. A secular media outcry ensues resulting in Kolko being banned from the park by its non-Jewish management. Astonishingly, in August Kolko organizes a second trip to Lake Compounce, which is attended by the same frum boy's camps who participated in the July trip.
The above is but a sampling of the cases I am aware of. One need not be a great lamden to realize that I am aware of only a small percentage of Kolko's abuse victims. As rachmonim bnai rachmonim, it is unbearable to grasp the stunning extent of this catastrophe.
To all who decry the "chillul hashem" the New York Magazine article resulted in, I say; embarrassing, yes. Chillul hashem, absolutely not! Indeed, it is ironic that this very article which has been condemned by many rabbonim is what got you and them to belatedly acknowledge Kolko's guilt. Apparently a mere forty years of koila d'lo posuk was not enough. Were the lawsuits and the magazine article the chillul hashem? No! The decades long chillul hashem is that of Margulies's and Kolko's actions coupled with the many decades of improper action and inaction by our rabbonim and organizations. Their chillul hashem was somewhat offset by the recent kiddush hashem of the action taken by a few askonim. They, who had the courage to do what had to be done to protect our children from the acts of monsters and the cowardice of our rabbonim. All this I say with the utmost respect and reverence.
I lay no blame at your doorstep for the above; you come from another part of the world, did not participate in and have no first hand knowledge of these events. I merely ask you to understand the world of pain and destruction that Rabbi Yehuda Kolko and his enablers; with a special note of distinction going to Rabbi Lipa Margulies; have left in their wake. I respectfully question your judgment in showing respect and support for Rabbi Lipa Margulies without having done a thorough investigation of his history. Surely, l'man yishmeu v'yirahu, a man such as Lipa Margulies must be publicly vilified; not cholila v'chas publicly honored by someone of your esteem.
I respectfully submit that despite the focus of your speech, this issue has nothing to do with an obnoxious blogger or kovod haTorah. No reasonable adult takes this blogger's inane ravings as anything but. That he fell into this issue and "b'mokom she'ain ish" he chose to "hishtadail lehios ish" and participate in pushing it forward, is a sad commentary on the egregious failures of our leadership. Rather, the issue is the still unanswered question of where our leaders were all these decades while Rabbi Yehuda Kolko and Rabbi Lipa Margulies were savaging our children. I ask with the utmost respect and humility; how can you stand in front of us in good faith and turn this into an issue of kovod hatorah? I ask that you hear the constant cries of anguish laden souls destroyed by chronic inaction coupled with a misguided concern for the "dignity" of rabbeim who molest.
This is not a tale of something that somehow "slips through the fingers" but rather only one of many glaring examples of what occurs in a community whose leaders are unwilling to deal with an issue that sits under a spotlight for four decades and engulfs the souls of countless innocent children. Hashem yerachaim.
As parents we have every right to expect that accusations of sexual abuse by a rebbe be first verified post haste and then publicized so that we may protect our children from this predator and make informed decisions about where to send our children to yeshiva. In the face of pikuach nefesh; cries of kovod haTorah, chillul hashem and loshon harah have no relevance. To resort to such cries is simply am ha'haretzes and violates the precept not to be a merachaim al ha'achzoir. The issue all of us need to address, lay people and rabbonim alike, is why nothing was done for so many decades and what lessons we can learn from our past mistakes to prevent future catastrophes of this nature.