By Nik Bonopartis (Newsday)
August 17, 2012
A convicted sex offender was arrested on trespassing charges Thursday after police say he entered a boys' dormitory in a Sullivan County sleepaway camp, sparking fear and outrage in New York's close-knit Orthodox Jewish community.
Yoel Oberlander, 32, of Monsey, turned himself in to State Police on Thursday, eight days after he allegedly slipped into a bunkhouse at Camp Shalva in South Fallsburg, where 13- and 14-year-old boys were sleeping, cops said.
Oberlander, an employee of kosher food company Golden Taste in Monsey, was delivering milk to the camp in the early morning hours of Aug. 8, and surveillance video shows him walking around by himself in the Orthodox all-boys camp. He was charged with second-degree trespassing, a misdemeanor, and posted $5,500 bail at Sullivan County Jail.
Those at the camp were also given an order of protection that prohibits Oberlander from returning there or contacting any residents of the property.
A State Police investigator said there are no additional charges pending.
Despite that, some members of the community say they're outraged. The fear and reaction among community members stems from Oberlander's criminal history.
He was convicted in 2002 of second-degree sexual abuse after forcing himself on an 11-year-old girl, state records show. Oberlander, who did not know the victim before the attack, was sentenced to six months of probation but avoided jail time.
In 2005, thousands of families in Ramapo received a warning and a photo of Oberlander when the convicted sex offender moved to Monsey.
"Why does a food supply company send a registered sex offender on a route that includes summer camps?" asked Ben Hirsch, president of advocacy group Survivors for Justice.
Hirsch said he has spoken to parents of children in the camp and served as a liaison between the Orthodox community and State Police investigators.
Parents and camp leaders told Hirsch that the children said in Yiddish that Oberlander tickled their feet, but "these kids do not have language for any sexual activity," Hirsch said.
Survivors For Justice, after hearing about the alleged incident a day after it occurred, reported it to police, who then followed up with adults at Camp Shalva, Hirsch said.
Attempts to reach Oberlander and managers at Golden Taste Friday morning were unsuccessful.