After Neuberger case, a new voice for victims

By Danny Jacobs (Daily Record)
February 3, 2015    

The day after I wrote about the hearing where a prominent Baltimore lawyer received probation before judgment on charges he assaulted a member of the catering staff at his office holiday party, I received an email with the subject line “Isaac Neuberger.”

“Mr. Jacobs,” the email began, “We don’t know each other but I am the person who Isaac Neuberger assaulted.”

His name was Josh and he wanted to talk.

I remember calling Josh in December 2013, when news first broke about the charges against Neuberger. He seemed surprised someone was calling him but said he did not want to talk about the case or the incident.

Since then, Josh told me last week, there were highs and lows as the case played out in the legal system and reverberated throughout Baltimore’s Orthodox Jewish community, of which he is a part.  Neuberger’s father, the late Rabbi Herman N. Neuberger, was president of Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Pikesville for 60 years until his death in 2005. Neuberger’s brother, Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger, succeeded their father as president.

“People thought I was making this up, that I was trying to get money,” Josh said.

Among the comments heard: “Are you sure you want to do that? He’s a powerful guy.”

(Josh, it should be noted, told me he would have no problem with publishing his last name but that his parents and family were concerned for their safety.)

Josh said he had hoped for a stronger punishment against Neuberger but that he “understands the limits of the legal system.”

While the case is over, Josh said it has left its mark on his identity — and his advocacy work has just begun.

“I really feel now this sense of responsibility in some way,” he said. “The victims need a voice. These sort of things have been kept quiet for so long.”

As in many religions, the issue of sexual abuse is a highly-charged one in Baltimore’s Orthodox Jewish community. It has also been the subject of a documentary featuring Phil Jacobs, the former editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times (and no relation), who has received both praise and scorn for his reporting on the topic. (Josh, incidentally, also shared his story with Jacobs.)

Josh said he has heard people express more concernabout “tarnishing someone’s reputation” than with protecting the victims.

“A lot of things are swept under the rug,” he said. “To me, that is unacceptable.”

Which is why he has stepped forward and started talking.

“I shouldn’t be ashamed to use my name,” he said. “It should be him ashamed to have his name out there.”