By Paul Berger (Jewish Daily Forward)
July 11, 2012
After years criticizing Brooklyn’s district attorney, a group of advocates for victims of childhood sexual abuse has joined a new committee set up by Charles Hynes to collaborate on combating such abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community.
The advocates, who include longtime community activists Asher Lipner, Mark Appel and Joel Engelman, met with Hynes and several of his colleagues for about two hours on July 9.
Rhonnie Jaus, the head of Hynes’s sex crimes division, said the meeting was designed to open up lines of communication between the D.A.’s office and some of his staunchest critics.
“It was very positive,” Jaus said. “Everybody felt we made progress.”
Hynes has been assailed from all sides in recent months for his handling of abuse cases in the ultra-Orthodox community.
He has publicly distanced himself from the ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization Agudath Israel of America in the wake of claims that he tacitly accepted the group’s policy that members of the Orthodox community must first get permission from a rabbi before taking a suspected case of sexual abuse to secular authorities for investigation. In May, Hynes set up a task force to combat witness intimidation, which is said to be widespread in sexual abuse cases within some Brooklyn Orthodox communities.
Nevertheless, many observers still question several of Hynes’s policies, particularly his insistence on maintaining the anonymity of ultra-Orthodox perpetrators of abuse.
Engelman said the July 9 meeting focused not on policy but on working together to better serve victims and their families. “We haven’t had this opportunity before and we hope something can come of it,” he said.