NY Times Covers The Harassment Of Victims Of Child Sex Abuse In The Haredi Community: Six Years Late

By Failed Messiah blog
May 10, 2012

The New York Times has finally published the first part of its report on child sex abuse in the Brooklyn haredi community.

The piece is an overview, focusing primarily on harassment of victims and families of victims, and it relies heavily on reporting done by The Jewish Week and by blogs. But in typical New York Times arrogance, it doesn't credit any of those sources for the work they did.

You can see how arrogant the Times is from this quote from today's article:

Awareness of child sexual abuse is increasing in the ultra-Orthodox community. Since 2008, hundreds of adult abuse survivors have told their stories, mostly anonymously, on blogs and radio call-in shows, and to victims' advocates. Rabbi-vetted books like "Let's Stay Safe," aimed at teaching children what to do if they are inappropriately touched, are selling well.

The response by communal authorities, however, has been uneven....

But blogs, like UOJ, started dealing with this issue in 2005, not 2008, and the big breakthrough came when New York Magazine did its exposé, On The Rabbi's Knee, about notorious child sex abuser Rabbi Yehuda Kolko in 2006.

But the Times did not want to mention or credit New York Magazine or let its readers know that the Times is, essentially, six years late to the story. And it certainly did not want to acknowledge what UOJ or I or others did to push the story and keep it alive while the Times hibernated.

So the Times just started the clock a couple years later and made that inconvenient truth disappear.

The Times has this quote from the D.A.'s lead sex crimes prosecutor, Rhonnie Jaus:

...In Brooklyn, of the 51 molesting cases involving the ultra-Orthodox community that the district attorney's office says it has closed since 2009, nine were dismissed because the victims backed out. Others ended with plea deals because the victims' families were fearful.

"People aren't recanting, but they don't want to go forward," said Rhonnie Jaus, a sex crimes prosecutor in Brooklyn. "We've heard some of our victims have been thrown out of schools, that the person is shunned from the synagogue. There's a lot of pressure."...

But the Times doesn't ask Jaus about the cases where victims were offered money to back away from charges or the cases where the intimidation rose to a criminal level. And the Times doesn't ask Jaus why none of those cases appear to have been prosecuted. Odd.

The Times also makes Chabad look better than it really is:

In Crown Heights, where the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement has its headquarters, there has been more significant change. In July 2011, a religious court declared that the traditional prohibition against mesirah did not apply in cases with evidence of abuse. "One is forbidden to remain silent in such situations," said the ruling, signed by two of the court's three judges.

Since then, five molesting cases have been brought from the neighborhood — "as many sexual abuse-related arrests and reports as there had been in the past 20 years," said Eliyahu Federman, a lawyer who helps victims in Crown Heights, citing public information.

Mordechai Feinstein, 19, helped prompt the ruling by telling the Crown Heights religious court that he had been touched inappropriately at age 15 by Rabbi Moshe F. Keller, a Lubavitcher who ran a foundation for at-risk youth and whom Mr. Feinstein had considered his spiritual mentor.

Last week, Rabbi Keller was sentenced in Criminal Court to three years' probation for endangering the welfare of a child. And Mr. Feinstein, who is no longer religious, is starting a campaign to encourage more abuse victims to come forward. He is working with two prominent civil rights attorneys, Norman Siegel and Herbert Teitelbaum, who are asking lawyers to provide free assistance to abuse victims frustrated by their dealings with prosecutors....

Some of those five cases, including Keller's, were already public before that meeting with the beis din's rabbis.

More importantly, the Times ignores the absolute and utter silence of the leaders of the Chabad movement worldwide – Rabbi Yehuda Krinsly, Rabbi Avrahm Shemtov and Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, who have not told hasidim to call police when child sex abuse happens.

Worse yet, these three rabbis have been utterly silent about the massive child sex abuse scandal rocking their Australian branch and the alleged decades long coverups of this child sex abuse by the late head of Chabad in Australia, Rabbi Yitchok Dovid Groner.

But the Times skillfully avoids mentioning any of that.

There are, quite literally, several dozen child sex abusers in Crown Heights or closely linked to it, the product of decades of refusing to report them to police. I was just told of another Crown Heights pedophile this week, a young woman from a connected Chabad family who allegedly sexually abuses girls.

Giving Chabad credit for good it hasn't done helps no one. The truth will eventually come out. But when it does, it will be accompanied by lurid headlines depicting decades of coverups and neglect from Chabad leadership. And many more kids will have been hurt than otherwise would have been true if Chabad leadership had done the right, honest and ethical thing to begin with.

And you'd think the Times, with a team of reporters working on this story for months, might have reported it.

All this said, it's still good the Times did this report. Thousands of people will read it, and it will be that much harder for anyone to act as if these crimes and their coverups didn't happen.

The second part of the Times series, which focuses on the Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes, is due out Friday.