By Simone Weichselbaum (NY Daily News)
June 20, 2010
A 29-year-old Borough Park man went to cops last week saying that Rabbi Baruch Lebovits fondled him in a ritual bath, known as a mikvah, when he was just a teen.
Several more men have reached out to police to share stories of sexual abuse at the hands of Lebovits, sources said.
"What he is charged with is the tip of the iceberg," said one law enforcement source.
Lebovits was sentenced in April to 10 to 32 years in prison for sex assaults on a 16-year-old boy - a stunning turn in the life of a cantor who led popular religious services in Brooklyn and upstate.
The conviction appears to have drawn out other men who now say Lebovits victimized them for years, cops said.
Even if they are true, the new allegations would have happened too long ago to be prosecuted.
But Lebovits, who is in prison, still has plenty of legal troubles.
On Wednesday, a Brooklyn judge is supposed to decide whether two additional sex-abuse cases against the rabbi can continue: an 18-year-old man told cops that Lebovits attacked him in a car two years ago; and a 22-year-old man said Lebovits abused him starting when he was 12 , and continued until he was 16.
"He is a grand-molester," said the father of the victim whose testimony led to the April conviction. "He is in his 50s and he is still molesting kids."
His name has been linked with other high-profile incidents in the tight-knit Hasidic community.
After Borough Park newlywed Motty Borger killed himself in November, a newspaper report - citing an unnamed source - claimed the 24-year-old man had said he was molested by Lebovits.
"Totally not true," said the groom's dad, Shmuel Borger.
"When a Hasidic man gets indicted, he will lose the case. That's how the system is. They want to make an example out of [Lebovits] to the community. That's what they did," Borger said.
In May, 28-year-old Meir Dascalowitz of Williamsburg was charged with molesting a 12-year-old boy in a mikvah. Police said Dascalowitz told cops that he had been abused by Lebovits as a teen.
Still, Lebovits has hordes of supporters. Court hearings are packed with men who support him. Lebovits, a cantor at Borough Park's Munkatch synagogue, sang at upstate Jewish concerts, where he gained a large fan base among religious men.
"Anybody who is going through pain and suffering should be supported," said Mordechai Mandelbaum, 57, founder of the kosher soup kitchen nonprofit Masbia and a familiar fixture in the courtroom during Lebovits' trial in March.
"The allegations didn't seem to hold water. And I don't trust the secular court is the place to find justice," Mandelbaum said.
His stance is common in his community.
"They are rallying behind Lebovits because their feeling is this problem should be dealt in religious court, not secular court," said defense attorney Israel Fried, who represents many Hasidim, including Dascalowitz.
Lebovits' family has put their faith in the secular courts in at least one area - they are hoping he wins an appeal of his conviction.
The family "hopes the truth will come out in the justice system," said Lebovits' 42-year-old son, Chaim.