by Tina Kelley (NY Times)
November 16, 2007
Prosecutors in Brooklyn said yesterday they were pursuing the extradition of a man who fled to Israel more than 20 years ago after being accused of molesting young boys.
The man, Avrohom Mondrowitz, 59, was indicted in 1985 on eight counts of child abuse and five counts of sodomy involving four boys ages 9 to 15. He left for Israel before he could be arrested.
Michael Lesher, a lawyer for six other men who said they had been molested by Mr. Mondrowitz, said that Mr. Mondrowitz was believed to have sexually assaulted boys while posing as an educator or psychological counselor in Borough Park, Brooklyn.
Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, said that Mr. Hynes's office had asked the State Department to extradite Mr. Mondrowitz.
Mr. Hynes's predecessor, Elizabeth Holtzman, requested Mr. Mondrowitz's extradition in 1985, but at the time the offenses did not qualify as grounds for extradition under Israeli law, according to a memo written by federal officials and obtained by Mr. Lesher. Mr. Schmetterer said that in January a new extradition treaty went into effect that allowed the request.
A State Department spokeswoman referred questions about the status of the request to the Justice Department. A spokeswoman there, Jaclyn Lesch, said the department did not comment on extradition matters.
Messages left for Mr. Mondrowitz on his cellphone and at his home in Israel were not immediately returned.
Amy Neustein, an author who is editing a book on rabbis and pedophilia, who has researched Mr. Mondrowitz's case, said that Mr. Mondrowitz claimed to have a degree in psychology from a New York university but that the university stated in writing that he had never been a student there. She said that he also posed as a rabbi, but that his credentials were from a nonexistent rabbinical school.
Mr. Lesher said that the case was particularly troubling because Mr. Mondrowitz belonged to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect whose members were reluctant to report his offenses to secular authorities.
Rabbi Mark Dratch, who operates the Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse-Free Environment, a nonprofit organization in New York, said, "Social pressure in the community had a real stifling effect, a silencing effect, not to cooperate with the investigation." He said that such pressure allowed Mr. Mondrowitz "to continue his activities for a while and escape the jurisdiction."
In a statement provided by Mr. Lesher, a man who said he had been one of Mr. Mondrowitz's victims said: "It's now over 20 years and nothing has been done! I know the pain and torture that I go through on a daily basis."
The man, whose name Mr. Lesher did not release to protect his privacy, added, "Knowing that this monster is still out there among children just adds insult to injury."
Mr. Lesher said he hoped that the case against Mr. Mondrowitz, if resolved, could help prevent future molestations.
"I want it to be an example of what it looks like when you do try to sweep something under the rug, and 23 years later it comes back from the dead," he said. He added, "Had we looked at this kind of case differently to begin with, and said, 'Let's go to the police and stop this man as soon as we can,' how many of these men wouldn't be victims at all?