$1M fund to fight sex abuse in Orthodox Jewish communities hasn't been used

By Simone Weichselbaum (NY Daily News)
March 11, 2010

None of the nearly $1 million set aside to tackle sex abuse in New York's ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities has been spent, even as another program set up to help scrambles for cash.

The state has earmarked $950,000 since April 2009 to fund Assemblyman Dov Hikind's plans to teach Hasidic Jews to speak up against child molestation.

But the money sits untouched as Hikind figures out the details of Shomrei Yeldainu - Hebrew for "Guardians of our Children" - the Daily News has learned.

"You have to develop something that is done correctly working with the rabbis and leaders," said Hikind (D-Brooklyn).

The $950,000 was included in the 2009 state budget for the Office of Family and Children's Services, said Matt Anderson, a budget spokesman for Gov. Paterson.

It's the first time the state has funded a sex abuse program geared toward helping a specific ethnic group.

"Apparently, the Hasidim will only go to the Hasidim for help," said Edward Borges, an FCS spokesman.

While Hikind's program waits to spend its vast funding, another is making do with much less. Project Kol Tzedek - Hebrew for "Voice of Justice" - is up and running on a relative shoestring budget.

Kol Tzedek was created in April 2009 within the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office Sex Crimes Bureau.

A $40,000 grant from Altria Group Inc., a cigarette company, pays the salary of the program's sole orthodox Jewish social worker.

Nearly 100 people have called the hotline and more than 30 ultra-Orthodox Jewish men have been arrested, including 16 who have been charged with felony crimes.

This adds to the workload of the already overburdened team of 18 prosecutors in the Brooklyn Sex Crimes unit, said Bureau Chief Rhonnie Jaus.

There's no money for more staffers.

"We work from our own budget," said Jaus. "That is all the resources we have."