By Michael Lesher (NY Post)
December 11, 2011
In 1985, Avrohom Mondrowitz — a Hasidic “therapist” working in Brooklyn — was indicted for abusing five young boys. Police suspected he abused well over 100 more.Mondrowitz fled to Israel, where he remains a free man to this day.
Although nearly all of his alleged victims were children from ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn, not one of them joined his few non-Jewish alleged victims in testifying before the grand jury that indicted him. Efforts to extradite Mondrowitz to face his accusers in a Brooklyn court have been unsuccessful.
Today, thank heaven, things seem to be changing.
According to Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, child sex-abuse cases now being pressed in the Orthodox Jewish community reflect over 100 victims, and many of these families have been encouraged by local rabbis to work with police and prosecutors.
Heartening as this is, it’s clear we still have obstacles to tackle.
Parents of abused Jewish children shun the police not because they’re indifferent to their children’s needs. When they hesitate to report a sex crime, it’s generally because they’re afraid of retaliation from community leaders. The DA must address that fear — and the very real problems of rabbinic and institutional intimidation that lie behind it.
Just take a look at the current Ami Magazine, a popular Orthodox Jewish publication. In this week’s issue, its editor at large, Rabbi Avi Shafran, smears as virtual anti-Semites those who criticize how the Orthodox handle sex-abuse cases.
So, yes, reports of Orthodox victims cooperating with the DA make for encouraging news. But we’ll know we’re on the right track when victims who come forward — and their advocates — don’t face friction from rabbis or from powerful institutions in Orthodox Brooklyn.
The Talmud says the divine light of truth brings healing to the innocent but is painful to evildoers. The only people who will be hurt by shining a light on child-sex crimes in the Orthodox community will be those trying to conceal them. Victims can only gain.
Michael Lesher is a writer and lawyer, and a contributor to “Tempest in the Temple: Jewish Communities & Child Sex Scandals” (Brandeis University Press).