By Fern Sidman (The Jewish Voice)
July 4, 2012
In the early 1980s along a tree-lined street in Boro Park, troubled youths sought counseling in the basement office of a Gerrer Chasidic man, who purported to have credentials as both a rabbi and a Columbia University-trained psychologist. His voice could also be heard each week on a local call-in radio talk show; in which he offered professional guidance on a variety of psychological issues to his Orthodox Jewish listeners. His name is Avrohom Mondrowitz, and he is neither a rabbi nor a psychologist, but a compulsive pedophile who fled to Israel in 1984, to escape criminal proceedings.
Mondrowitz was charged with molesting five boys while masquerading as their therapist and mentor, but according to a detailed history of the case that appeared in the book entitled, «Tempest in the Temple: Jewish Communities and Child Sex Scandals», edited by Amy Neustein, it is believed that he had at least 100 victims. Having been labeled as one of the most notorious child sexual abuse cases ever in Brooklyn, Mondrowitz, now 64, is still a free man living in Israel, and has denied the charges. In 2010, evidence emerged that indicated that Mondrowitz was still treating adolescent boys in Israel as recently as 2006.
The initial attempts to launch extradition proceedings against Mondrowitz in the mid-1980s were made by former Brooklyn District Attorney, Elizabeth Holtzman, but her efforts failed after authorities in Israel ruled that the U.S./Israeli extradition treaty did not cover the particular offense of which Mondrowitz is accused.
Since taking office in 1990, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has insisted that his office has worked assiduously towards a Mondrowitz extradition and asserts that he was instrumental in having the treaty amended in 2007. It was then that an Israeli court ordered that Mondrowitz be returned to Brooklyn to face criminal charges, but according to a United States Justice Department report, in 2010, the Israeli Supreme Court reversed the lower court›s decision on the grounds that the long delay in changing the terms of the treaty had created a «substantive violation» of Mondrowitz›s right to a fair trial.
Michael Lesher, a New Jersey author and attorney who represents several of Mondrowitz›s accusers, says that recently disclosed documents from Mr. Hynes›s office case doubt on Hynes›s accounts of his role in the case and suggests that the Brooklyn DA and his staff have paid little attention to it over the years.
According to a report in the New York Times, Mr. Lesher said that subsequent to a protracted court battle, he obtained 103 pages of files on the case from the DA›s office, under the state›s Freedom of Information Law. «There isn›t a single e-mail, a single letter, a single memo, either originating from the DA›s office or addressed to it, that so much as mentions any attempt by the DA to seek a change in the extradition treaty,» he said. «It›s just inconceivable that such important negotiation on such a detailed issue could have taken place and not left a trace in the documentary record,» Mr. Lesher added.
Advocacy groups representing victims of child sexual abuse have long been critical of Mr. Hynes, claiming that he regularly panders to politically connected Orthodox rabbis, who promulgate the notion that such crimes should be dealt with exclusively by rabbinic authorities and not be brought before secular courts.
In 2009, Mr. Hynes said on a syndicated radio show that is popular amongst Orthodox Jewish listeners, that the chief of his sex crimes bureau, Rhonnie Jaus, «convinced the State Department to bring the case to the Israeli government to change the extradition treaty.» In an e-mail to the New York Times last week, Mr. Hynes reiterated his position, but a spokeswoman for the State Department said information that would confirm Mr. Hynes›s claims was not readily available and further research would have to be conducted.
Ms. Jaus, who has been chief of the sex crimes bureau at the Brooklyn DA›s office since 1992, said she did not become involved in the Mondrowitz case since 2000, when she received an alert from the State Department saying that Mondrowitz was attempting to return to the United States. In an interview with the New York Times, Ms. Jaus said that the documents released to Mr. Lesher did not contain the full scope of the case. She noted that more than 280 pages in the file were withheld and in a letter to Mr. Lesher, the DA›s office said that the pages that were not provided to him consisted mainly of internal agency documents, such as memos between staff members.
Mr. Lesher maintains that the documents that he does have in his possession do not even provide a scintilla of evidence indicating that Ms. Jaus or anyone in the DA›s office tried to lobby Israeli or American authorities to modify the extradition rules.
When pressed to provide precise information on her efforts to lobby for treaty changes, Ms. Jaus said that her office placed occasional calls to the Justice Department to check on negotiation status over the treaty; with the first call placed in 2000 to review the case history and were followed by another call in 2003 and two more calls in 2006.
After several articles appeared last month in the New York Times that scrutinized Mr. Hynes›s office and raised questions concerning his handling of sexual abuse cases in Orthodox communities, Mr. Hynes defended his record but issued a promise to push for legislation that would compel rabbis to report abuse to local authorities. He also said that a task force would be established to prevent witness intimidation which has been an impediment in the investigation of many sexual abuse cases in the community.
Avrohom Mondrowitz, who falsely represented himself as a rabbi and a psychologist, and who is accused of abusing dozens of children over the years, fled to Israel, and efforts to extradite him back to the U.S. to stand trial have been a complete failure.