By Larry Yudelson (New Jersey Jewish Standard)
December 14, 2011
Both the Torah Academy of Bergen County, in Teaneck, and the Jewish Educational Center, in Elizabeth, sent out letters informing their parent bodies that they had recently been informed of the incidents of sexual contact with the teacher, who is female. The incidents had occurred prior to this year.
The schools indicated that they immediately contacted the police, who opened investigations.
Here is the letter sent by Rabbi Yosef Adler, of the Torah Academy:
Several weeks ago, a TABC student confided in a TABC teacher that last year he and another TABC teacher (who for independent reasons left the employ of TABC at the end of last year) had inappropriate sexual contact. The current TABC teacher immediately conveyed the report to me. After communicating with the TABC's student's family, I reported the matter to the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office. An investigation is underway; no formal charges have been made.
TABC has zero tolerance for this type of behavior by adults. Our priorities are the welfare and safety of our students and the community at large. At the time that I became aware of the allegations, I informed our Executive Board. TABC is committed to responding to this situation fully and thoroughly . We are consulting with Mr. Hillel Sternstein, a social worker who is the Clinical Supervisor Coordinator for the Ohel RESPECT Program.
In light of these circumstances, TABC will offer support for our faculty, students and parents. For our faculty, we will reiterate what is an appropriate relationship with a student. For our students, we have and will continue to talk to them about relationships, boundaries and personal safety. For our parents, we will schedule a meeting to offer guidance how to facilitate these discussions at home.
As the law enforcement investigation continues, we ask that all inquiries regarding this matter -- both those that you might have and those that you might receive -- be referred to me. Should you have any knowledge directly relevant to the investigation, please contact Natasha Labon of the Office of Institutional Abuse at 973-977-4066 ext. 217
These are very disturbing allegations. We will use the situation as a teaching opportunity for the TABC community - for our students, our faculty, and our parent body.
Rabbi Yosef Adler
Here is the letter from the Jewish Educational Center:
Dear JEC Faculty, Staff and Parents,
In our need to be transparent in today's confusing world, we regret to inform you that the police are investigating a former JEC teacher on allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with students in two schools, including JEC. The teacher left our employ of her own volition a few years ago.
We first became aware of the allegations regarding a JEC student when an alumnus called us on December 1. We notified the police of the allegation as is our moral and legal obligation. At this stage there is only an investigation; no formal charges have been made.
At no time before December 1 were we aware of any allegations of any improper relationships or actions by this former teacher with any JEC students. We had not previously received any reports of improper behavior, and there were no other indications that would have raised even the slightest concern. While we do not yet know all the facts, it does appear that these alleged acts of sexual misconduct by this former teacher with JEC students occurred off campus.
Your children's safety is our greatest concern. It always has been and will continue to always be. Our actions in this situation are guided by this overarching principle.
This is a very painful time for all of us. Processing the information and its implications will take time. We have retained the service of Dr. Yitzchak Schecter, director of the Center for Applied Psychology of Bikur Cholim Partners in Health, to guide us in training our staff and in preparing presentations for parents and, on an age appropriate level, for students. In addition, Dr. Schecter will continue to consult with us as we progress through this trying period. We will announce a schedule of presentations, and a description of those sessions, for both students and parents in the coming days. Parents will have the opportunity to opt their children out of these meetings if that is their choice.
Please understand that the investigation is not in our hands. The Elizabeth police department is handling the local investigation. We have given them a complete accounting of all information we have, and for obvious reasons that information confidential. We will continue to cooperate with the investigation in every way we can.
Painful as this situation is, it is an opportunity for us to come together as a community, to give strength to those who need it and to offer support to each other. Working together, we will be able to face this most challenging episode.
Very truly yours,
Rabbi Eliyahu D Teitz