By Michael Herzenberg (NY1 News)
May 16, 2012
Controversy in the Hasidic Jewish community spilled into the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Wednesday as demonstrators protested a fundraiser for a rabbi accused of sex crimes.
Dozens of angered protesters stood outside a Wednesday fundraiser for Rabbi Nechemya Weberman, 53, who awaits trial on charges he sexually abused a teenage girl.
Police arrested the rabbi last year and the girl reportedly told police the abuse started when she was 12.
The protesters said there are many victims of abuse hiding in the Hasidic Jewish community, and they accuse Weberman of harming more victims in Brooklyn and upstate.
"These are all mostly victims, mothers of victims who were molested in our community," said one demonstrator.
"In Rockland County there's four victims, in Orange County there's three victims. Williamsburg, Borough Park, there's a lot of victims," said another.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Hasidic Jews filed in and out a fundraiser Wednesday night designed to raise money Weberman. Some donors said they wanted to help Weberman's criminal defense.
"I came to give money to help Mr. Weberman defend himself," said one man who gave $300 but says he does not know Weberman.
"We know him for good for years, he's a very nice gentleman, helped all the time, all the people," said another donor. "Somebody just took advantage of him that didn't like him."
Outside the fundraiser, police struggled to maintain order at the protest and arrested two demonstrators.
One woman at the demonstration, Pearl Engelman, said her son was molested by a teacher, and she knows another victim of Weberman who has not come forward.
"Unfortunately, we believe in turning the victim into a villain and the molester is protected, advocated for, supported and it's a very sad situation," said Engelman. "I'm hoping that the community will learn something from what's happening here tonight."
Weberman's attorney, George Farkas, said the charges and the allegations from protesters are false.
"Why don't we wait until we get to court instead of rumors, instead of listening to people who do not know the facts, who don't know the evidence and who are really speaking out of the side of their ear?"
Weberman's trial is set to begin on June 14.