NY Yeshiva Sued Over 'Sexual Abuse'

by Michal Lando (The Jerusalem Post)
April 2, 2008

A Brooklyn yeshiva and its head administrator are being sued for $10 million over alleged sexual abuse by a rabbi who taught there for several decades.

The lawsuit is the fifth to be filed against Yeshiva Torah Temimah and administrator Lipa Margulies alleging sexual abuse by Rabbi Yudi Kolko.

Kolko was arrested for a second time in September for allegedly molesting a boy at the yeshiva, and then released on bail.

He was previously charged with four counts of sexual abuse, including two felony counts, and with endangering the welfare of a child.

The latest case involves the alleged sexual abuse of a minor, identified as John Doe No. 6, who was enrolled at Torah Temimah between the ages of 11 and 13.

Lawyers say he was sexually abused by Kolko on a number of occasions at several locations, including inside the rabbi's car, and at the yeshiva in his office at the yeshiva and in the basement.

According to the lawsuit, John Doe says that often, when Kolko would press himself up against him in a sexual manner, he would ask, "Does it hurt?"

Attorneys Adam Horowitz and Michael Dowd allege that Margulies knew of allegations that Rabbi Kolko was sexually abusing boys at Torah Temimah years before John Doe No. 6 was a student there.

"Despite the fact that Rabbi Margulies knew of allegations that Rabbi Kolko was sexually abusing children and was unfit to be a Rabbi or teacher at Torah Temimah, he took no action to protect the young male students at his school and continued to give Rabbi Kolko unfettered access to young children," the lawyers said in a press release.

The alleged abuse dates back to the 1980s, and the lawsuit claims Margulies engaged in "tactics of intimidation, threats and coercion and misrepresentations" over years with the "intent of squelching any complaints."

"In this case, our contention is that there were countless instances of notice to Rabbi Margulies about the conduct of Kolko," Dowd said. "His response has been threatening people who made complaints."

Such cases could be compared to recent allegations against the Catholic Church, said Jeffrey Herman, a lawyer involved in previous lawsuits filed against the yeshiva.

"It's similar in the sense of an insular community where these things, unfortunately, allegations that have been around for a long time, never made it to the judicial court system outside the community," Herman said.

What was different in the yeshiva case, according to Herman, was the lack of an "institutional" cover-up.

"This is one yeshiva, which has no connection to other Jewish institutions," he said.

The attorney for Yeshiva Torah Temimah, Avraham Moskowitz, told The Jerusalem Post he had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

In the past, Moskowitz has denied all allegations against the yeshiva. Regarding an earlier lawsuit in 2006, Moskowitz told JTA that the yeshiva "adamantly denies the allegations in the complaints and is sure that when the cases are over, the yeshiva will be vindicated."