Teaneck Rabbi 'Perplexed' by Molestation Case, Attorney Says

By Kibret Markos (NorthJersey.com)
August 18, 2011

A 63-year-old Teaneck rabbi is "perplexed and upset" by accusations that he had sexual contact with two 13-year-old boys at his home, his lawyer said Wednesday.

"It was a complete, utter shock to him," defense attorney Howard Simmons said shortly after Rabbi Uzi Rivlin formally was charged with criminal sexual contact and child endangerment at a brief hearing in Superior Court in Hackensack.

"He just doesn't understand why these children would make these allegations," Simmons said.

Rivlin, who authorities said is a teacher at the Congregation Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, N.Y., was brought to court Wednesday in shackles and an orange jail suit, a day after police arrested him at his home.

He did not seem to understand when Judge Donald Venezia asked him if he had a U.S. passport, and replied with a "no" after Simmons repeated the question for him.

Rivlin was ordered to surrender his Israeli passport, which he did Wednesday. He is also prohibited from having contact with children if he posts his $175,000 bail.

The two boys were brought to the United States from Israel through a scholarship fund that Rivlin helped set up for disadvantaged children and victims of terrorism.

Israeli students travel to the United States under the program, where they stay with a host family and attend summer camp. One of the boys stayed at Rivlin's home in the summer of 2009, and the other stayed there last year, authorities said.

After returning to Israel, however, the two boys complained separately to Israeli authorities that Rivlin touched them in a sexual manner, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said in a press release Tuesday.

Israeli police took statements from the boys and notified the FBI, which then notified Teaneck police and the Prosecutor's Office, Molinelli said.

Simmons said Rivlin, who is married and has grown children, has lived in the United States for 20 years and has been running the program for several years. He has brought "many, many children" from Israel under the program, he said.

The two accusers stayed at Rivlin's home for short periods while they were waiting to attend camp, Simmons said.

Rivlin is charged with two counts of child endangerment and two counts of aggravated criminal sexual contact. The endangerment charges each carry up to 10 years in prison upon conviction.

The case will now be presented to a grand jury for indictment. Simmons said prosecutors will have no case unless they transport the alleged victims from Israel and have them testify before a grand jury.