Hasidic Jews Vent Concerns On Handling Of Sex Abuse Cases

By Michael Herzenberg (NY1 News)
June 11, 2012

Brooklyn resident Mordechi Feinstein says a Rabbi sexually abused him when he was 15 years old. The now 19-year-old came to Sunday's forum in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Crown Heights with a message for his abuser.

"Shame on you but also I would say you picked the wrong guy in essence the community would say you picked the right guy because thank God I had the strength to be able to come forward," Feinstein said.

Strength was applauded at the forum, but attendees and panelists worry that some in the ultra-Orthodox community figure out the identity of victims based on the identity of the accused and persecute them. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes compared it to the mob.

"Abusers are benefited by silence. That's true when victims have been silenced by the level of intimidation and threats I have not seen since the mafia," Hynes said.

Panelists say that's what going on in Nechemya Weberman's case. The Associated Press reports people have called his accuser, a school girl, a slut while others have spat on her family.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands rallied around Weberman's supporters last month as he raised money for his defense.

He says he is innocent.

Many want allegations of abuse dealt with internally, and that rabbis should address them first: An idea that was criticized at Sunday's forum.

"What makes anybody think and I'm a rabbi that rabbinic training can help to tell if the child is telling the truth. How absurd," said Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University.

Mordechai says in court he found some closure by hearing his abuser admit that he endangered the welfare of a child.

DA Hynes says his recent success in prosecuting these crimes in this community comes, in part, from preventing the persecution of victims. He says by not publicizing the names of the accused it prevents people from finding and persecuting the victims. However, many say they want the accused outed.