By Andre Tartar (New York Magazine)
December 11, 2011
Earlier this summer, the Hasidic community in Borough Park was ripped asunder by one of the most gruesome murders imaginable — a young Jewish boy smothered and disemboweled. The murderer may have been a troubled outcast, as Matthew Shaer describes in last week's New York, but he was still one of their own — a chilling reality check. Now, the Brooklyn District Attorney's office has revealed the results of a three-year investigation into sexual abuse in the borough's Orthodox Jewish community that is downright seismic: 85 sexual predators arrested and 117 victims identified, according to the Post.
Front and center in the investigation, it seems, is one Andrew Goodman, a 27-year-old adopted as a child into an Orthodox Jewish family, who had spent the past several years working with nonprofits for at-risk youths and mentally disabled adults, where his responsibilities included helping residents go to the bathroom and shower. He faces a 144-count indictment stemming from two victims in Flatbush — next door to Borough Park — who claim to have been sexually abused by Goodman during their early teens. But the number of his victims is likely much higher. After being released on bail in summer of 2010, following his arrest, the community was witness, either via videotape or visit from the Shromrim patrol, to three separate occasions when Goodman had young boys in his house (where he lives with his mother and sister): four the first time, three the second, and one the third.
So far, about 38 cases in the Brooklyn D.A.'s Project Kol Tzedek — which the Post translates as Hebrew for "voice of justice" (find a tip sheet with helpline information here) — have been closed, with just under two thirds resulting in the perps walking free. Many pleaded to lesser changes, with the Post claiming that some got off mostly scot-free because "victims or their parents backed out under community pressure." Of the fourteen or so who were handed jail sentences, the longest sentence may be up to twenty years. While difficult days of introspection are surely ahead for Brooklyn's insular Orthodox enclaves, growing awareness of such crimes and rabbis' willingness to seek out secular help are essential for the community to protect its most vulnerable even while preserving its oldest and most cherished traditions.