Secrecy on Trial in Kolko Case

Asbury Park Press
May 6, 2013

There should be a medal for the Lakewood family that is seeking justice for their son in the courts, despite being ostracized by some in the Orthodox Jewish community to which they belong. Their courage should inspire others to break the thick wall of silence within that community.

The trial of Yosef Kolko, a counselor at a summer camp at a yeshiva in Lakewood charged with sexually assaulting a boy who was 11 and 12 years old at the time of the incidents, could begin as early as this week.

When the boy said he had been molested, between September 2007 and February 2009, his family sought justice from a local rabbinical court. The council did nothing. So the family went to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office for help. Kolko was charged with aggravated sexual assault, attempted aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and child endangerment.

Some in the Lakewood Orthodox community believe that going to secular authorities is treasonous, if not blasphemous. Those beliefs have intimidated the families of abuse victims in Lakewood for too long. Concern inside and outside the Orthodox community over the lack of sex crime reporting in Orthodox neighborhoods has been bubbling for years.

In the aftermath of going to the authorities, the boy and his family were ostracized by their community. Some even embarked on a campaign to get the boy and his father to drop the criminal charges. And a flier was circulated in Lakewood saying the boy’s father made a “mockery” of the Torah and committed a “terrible deed” by going to the secular authorities. The family withstood the barrage and forged ahead.

The attempt on the part of some in the Orthodox community to keep the sordid details in-house are a betrayal of both the faith they profess and of the principals of the nation in which they have the freedom to practice that faith.

The God of the Hebrew scriptures time and again champions justice, even beyond holy ritual. As the prophet Amos thundered in the book that bears his name: “... let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” That same Hebrew scripture, in Ecclesiastes, says that nothing is secret: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the Lakewood Orthodox the right to worship and pursue their faith — up to the point where that pursuit harms or infringes on the rights of others.

We hope that the bravery of this family can break down the walls of fear and reprisals from a community that should support the victims of child sexual abuse above all else. If other families stand up for their children, so much the better for the people of Lakewood, Orthodox Judaism and justice itself.