Lakewood Yeshiva Teacher Sex-assault Trial Begins

By Kathleen Hopkins (Asbury Park Press)
May 8, 2013

Opening arguments just concluded in the much-anticipated trial of a Yeshiva teacher from Lakewood accused of sexually abusing a boy he met at a summer camp where he worked as a counselor.

Yosef Kolko, 39, of Geffen Drive, is on trial before state Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson in Toms River.

The trial is expected to lift the shroud of secrecy surrounding rabbinical councils to which allegations of sexual abuse within the Orthodox community had traditionally been brought.

Kolko is accused of sexually abusing a boy he met while working as a counselor at Yachad, a summer camp at the Yeshiva Bais Hatorah School on Swarthmore Avenue in Lakewood. The boy has accused Kolko of molesting him between September of 2007 and February of 2009, when he was between 11 and 12 years old.

Kolko also was a teacher at Yeshiva Orchos Chaim in Lakewood. He is charged with aggravated sexual assault, attempted aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and child endangerment.

The boy and his father first brought the allegations of abuse to a rabbinical council known as the Beis Din. The council enlisted a social worker to determine the legitimacy of the charges. But when Kolko quickly discontinued therapy sessions after first opening up about the molestation, the boy and his father broke with religious traditions and brought their complaints to the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office. As a result, they were chastised and ostracized by some members of their Orthodox Jewish community, and pressured by others to drop the charges.

Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said he lauds the victim and his family for putting their trust in his office to bring the case to justice.

Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Laura Pierro will present the state’s case. New York attorney Michael F. Bachner will defend Kolko.

Kolko remains free on $125,000 bail. If he is convicted of all of the charges, he could face up to 60 years in prison.