By Mary Murphy (WPIX 11)
December 4, 2012
Orthodox Jewish women hissed from the back of the courtroom, as the first defense witness took the stand in the case of a 54-year old counselor charged with sexually abusing a young student in Williamsburg, starting in early 2008, when she was just 12.
“May you stumble on your words, with a pox on your head,” seethed one woman from the Satmar Hasidic community of Williamsburg, where the young accuser once attended school. One of the supervising principals of Bais Rachel School, BenZion Feurewerger, testified that the girl–in 6th grade–started dressing immodestly.
The girl, now 17, was ultimately sent for counseling and testified last week that Nechemya Weberman turned therapy sessions in his home office into opportunities to sexually molest her, over a three year period.
Rabbi Feurewerger acknowledged that the girl got good grades in school. Among her offenses: not buttoning the top button on a blouse and asking questions about the thick tights ultra-Orthodox Hasidic girls are required to wear. “She has to follow the rules: dress like everybody and behave like everybody,” the principal testified.
Outside court, the accuser’s cousin, Miriam Schwartz, responded to the teenager being called a “whore” by an upstate Hasidic grand rebbe. “They just don’t want to believe it, so it’s just a way of putting down the victim,” Schwartz said. The teen testified that she believed her father and Weberman acted together to have a former boyfriend arrested for statutory rape. The charges were later dropped.
Some Orthodox Jewish men who support the accuser laughed in the back of the courtroom, when the principal denied there was a “modesty committee” in Williamsburg that forces women to stay in line with the strict rules of their community.
The defendant, Nechemya Weberman, is expected on the witness stand at some point on Wednesday.
The teen’s supporters were planning a rally in Williamsburg Tuesday night, to denounce witness intimidation in this case. The teen’s photo was even snapped on the witness stand and posted online.
Abe Rubinstein, whose son testified against a different Orthodox man last year, told PIX 11: “We know what’s going on behind the scenes in the community. Rabbis are molesting kids in the community and the kids are afraid to come out.”