By Ben Yakas (Gothamist)
January 20, 2012
This week, Nechemya Weberman—the ultra-Orthodox Jewish counselor who was found guilty of sexually abusing a teen girl in Brooklyn starting when she was 12—will finally be sentenced. Weberman, 54, was found guilty of 59 counts of sexual abuse after a long trial that included illegal courtroom photos, bleach attacks, and damning testimonies. Now, the News reports that Weberman allegedly sexually abused at least 10 more teens and married women who he counseled.
The News says the stories of the other woman who were allegedly abused by him matches up with that of the now 17-year-old woman who testified against him in court for four harrowing days in November. That woman had been forced by her school to meet with Weberman, who is not a licensed therapist, for counseling after she started questioning the strict rules of her ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Satmar sect.
Other women, who told the News they were sexually abused by Weberman, said they were too afraid of retribution from the community to speak out. He allegedly told one young victim, “That ‘I learned Kabbalah and we were a couple in another incarnation,’ ” said a friend of the woman. Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, who runs a Jewish youth program, said he had heard stories like that before from young women who had been sent to meet with Weberman: “The intimate acts he was performing were intended as a form of repentance for sins committed in their previous lifetimes,” said Horowitz.
But even after the trial started, none of these alleged victims would testify: “It’s a common occurrence in cases we deal with,” said Kevin O’Donnell, the lead prosecutor in the case. “Kids can compartmentalize, justify, somehow live with their own abuse and most of them think it’s happening to them only and nobody else.” Prosecutors stated in court that they were aware of four married women and two underaged girls who Weberman touched inappropriately; the News claims they found at least four more.
“It’s very difficult to go with only one victim. We always want to have more than one victim,” said Rhonnie Jaus, chief of the sex crimes division at the Brooklyn district attorney’s office. “And when you know there are more out there, it is hard, very hard...but you do the best you can.”
Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes is happy enough that they were able to get one victim to testify though. "Few people are as confident and as intelligent and as clear-thinking as this heroic, young woman," Hynes wrote in a piece for the News today. "She said it very forcefully: 'He was like a God.'" He called it a landmark case, and hopes it serves as a wake up call for the community:
In the case of this victim, some in her community did not try to kill her body, but they tried to kill her soul. This child was brutalized for years. I hope the verdict and sentence sends a very clear and unmistakable message to people in certain parts of the Orthodox community — it is time to start protecting victims rather than defendants.