Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Family in Kolko civil suit subjected to psychological pressure to drop abuse case against Flatbush yeshiva.

 As Pressure On Hynes Builds, New Revelations Of Rabbis’ Intimidation

 by Hella Winston Special To The Jewish Week

The already distraught mother had reached the end of her rope.

She and her husband, parents of a now 13-year-old boy who they allege was sexually molested by his Brooklyn yeshiva teacher, were doing the unthinkable in the borough’s ultra-Orthodox community: bucking a system stacked heavily against them and pursuing a civil lawsuit against the Flatbush school that employed the teacher, Rabbi Yehuda Kolko.

The system was pushing back, with a vengeance.

A prominent Brooklyn rabbi and Yaakov Applegrad, an administrator at Yeshiva Torah Temimah, the school parents were suing, asked the parents to a meeting — without their lawyer. After pleading with the couple to drop the suit, Applegrad and the rabbi turned up the heat and played the card they hoped would resonate powerfully with religious Jews: they compared the parents to Nazis for attempting to “bankrupt” the yeshiva. The Nazis, they said, destroyed the yeshiva in Europe built before the war by the father of Rabbi Lipa Margulies, Torah Temimah’s founder and dean. Now, the two suggested, the parents were doing the same with their lawsuit. (It is not clear that Rabbi Margulies’ father actually had a yeshiva in Europe).

The tactic worked. At a second meeting five days later, the husband, feeling “agitated … outnumbered and overwhelmed with terrible emotions,” and with his wife in tears, signed “under great duress” a document to end the lawsuit.

The couple quickly withdrew their agreement, and their lawsuit is going forward. But this episode — and others described by a second family suing the same yeshiva — highlights the particular perils facing haredi families who would attempt to hold yeshivas or other institutions civilly responsible for child molestation.

These revelations, recounted in a sworn affidavit submitted last year to the Brooklyn district attorney, come amid growing public pressure on the DA, Charles Hynes, to crack down on the intimidation of sex abuse victims by rabbis and other, often powerful, members of the community. A New York Times editorial Sunday chastised Hynes for helping to perpetuate a culture that protects abusers, not victims.

And the revelations come as calls mount from politicians, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayor Ed Koch, for Hynes to end his special treatment of Orthodox sex offenders and to prosecute rabbis who obstruct justice. Koch, in an opinion piece he wrote on Newsmax.com, went so far as to call on the governor to appoint a special prosecutor to handle these cases if Hynes fails to change his approach. Hynes, who refuses to make public the names of indicted or convicted Orthodox molesters, has argued that releasing these names could potentially identify abuse victims because of what he has characterized as the “unique” nature of the “tight-knit” Orthodox community.

The DA did not file any charges regarding the pressure on the family — something the family’s attorney at the time, Michael Dowd, acknowledged would have been unlikely, given that these actions, within the context of a civil suit, do not rise to the level of a crime. However, the DA was given this information, according to Dowd, “to just show the kind of atmosphere in the community that makes it so difficult for [haredi abuse victims and their families]” to seek justice and redress for their children.

Fordham law professor James A. Cohen, an expert in witness tampering, agrees with Dowd in this case, noting, however, that if there were any actual threats made to the family, the conduct would have been criminal. Nonetheless, Cohen added, “I think it’s inexcusable that Jews behave like this.”

In 2008, Rabbi Kolko, who was facing felony charges of touching two first graders in their genital areas, was allowed to plead to the reduced charges of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor. Rabbi Kolko was sentenced to three years’ probation. The two families who brought the criminal charges are suing Yeshiva Torah Temimah, where the abuse allegedly occurred.

To date, these have been the only viable civil suits brought by members of the haredi community in connection with child sexual abuse allegations. Ultimately, the father in the above case rejected the yeshiva’s settlement offer — the terms of which are not disclosed in the affidavit — because he “believed [the school] had knowingly allowed a dangerous pedophile to teach little children for decades and … had caused irreparable harm to my son.” He thus wanted to “take this case to trial and let the court decide what was right.”

The Jewish Week’s calls to Torah Temimah’s Applegrad and the other rabbi involved were not returned.

Allegations of abuse have dogged Rabbi Kolko for decades, and a letter issued in 2006 by the late Rabbi Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg and posted exclusively in March on the blog FailedMessiah.com, indicates that Rabbi Kolko was investigated for these allegations by rabbis in 1985 and found innocent. At least four other alleged victims of Rabbi Kolko have come forward since 2005, but their alleged abuse took place after both the criminal and civil statutes of limitations had passed.

The two intense meetings described above were not the only instances in which the families of these boys, and those connected to them, have been subjected to psychological pressure, intimidation and threats.

As the New York Post first reported in February, the DA was also made aware that members of the other family suing Torah Temimah had been plagued by threatening anonymous phones calls urging them to drop the suit.

In an affidavit provided to the DA, the father of this victim recounts receiving a phone call in which “an unidentified male voice said, ‘You better back off or you’ll suffer the consequences.’” When he checked the Caller ID on his phone and called the number, a “phone system answered the call automatically and identified the location as Yeshivah Torah Temimah.”

The father also describes a “barrage of harassing and threatening phone calls” by unidentified callers “requesting that I drop this lawsuit” and threatening to “publicly humiliate and name” his son and shun him at his “neighborhood’s synagogues.”

The father also writes that the lawyer for Torah Temimah, Avi Moskowitz, asked his son’s therapist to persuade him and his wife to “drop this case” so as not to bankrupt the yeshiva. The details of this are recounted in a separate affidavit signed by the therapist......


Yeshiva Torah Temimah - Brooklyn, New York


Smokescreen cover up gathering said...

Read the background to the upcoming anti-Internet gathering on May 20, 2012 in Hamodia

Charedi Anti- Internet Inquisitor said...

Meet the "Leib Tropper" of the new American Charedi anti-internet movement!

The latest English Mishpacha magazine, (17 Iyar 5772 | May 9, 2012), pages 60 to 68, has a very revealing and an important "interview" with "Rabbi Nechemiah Gottlieb" (son of BT parents, Rabbi Professor Dovid Gottlieb, the BT lecturer at Ohr Somayach), and who is the right hand man of Rabbi Matisyahu Salamon, and who now heads the so-called self-named Lakewood-based "Technology Awareness Group" ("TAG") that is the key organization putting together and promoting the upcoming anti-Internet "asifa" at Citi Field, on May 20, 2012.

Seems that every Inquisition needs its "inquisitors" and "grand-inquisitors" and this new Charedi anti-Internet crusade is not different.

What Leib Tropper was to EJF, Nechemiah Gottlieb is to TAG (Technology Awareness Group) that uses the "Jewish name" and expresses its will under the grandiose name of "Ichud HaKehillos LeTohar Hamachane" ("unification of/unified [Torah] communities for the purity/purification of the [Torah] camp/base")!

Just as Tropper wanted to "raise the standards" and bring all conversions under a higher authority (his), likewise Gottlieb wants to impose higher standards on how Jews should the Internet.

And Just as Tropper led EJF "with the support of and in the name of all the gedolim" (with some exceptions), Gottlieb leads his TAG "with the support of and in the name of all the gedolim" (with some exceptions).

Just as Tropper had Reuven Feinstein as his lead "gadol" to back him up, likewise Gottlieb has Matisyahu Salomon to back him up.

Just as Tropper had delusions of grandeur and suffered from obvious megalomania, so does Gottlieb suffer from delusions and grandiosity.

Just as Tropper had big money backing him up, likewise Gottlieb has lots of money behind him to back up his acts and plans to the tune of millions (so far his financial backers are keeping a low profile, but names are starting to come out. It could well be that controversial Charedi philanthropist Eli Kleinman is one key backer as he backs all causes coming out of Lakewood.)

Gear up for more interesting times!

Anonymous said...

Search "Necehmia Gotlieb" and "Bais Hatorah" for the facts surrounding him. He was ousted from Bais Hatorah after his own teachers striked against him for two weeks in 2008. He was discharged and replaced in 2009 before the school shut down. He was known for harsh and cruel practices within the school. He suspended children if parents didnt follow his ideas to the extreme.
The scandals in lakewood were under his eyes and on his clock.
He chose not to follow the Roshei Yeshivos opinion, and was eventually dismissed. Why do they now back him?
Shame on Gedolei Yisroel, for following him blindly.

Anonymous said...

Who is the un-named rabbi in the story who worked with applegrad to intimidate?

Anonymous said...

Whether in the Kolko Case or the case of his nephew in Lakewood, all it takes is a REAL District Attorney to throw the book at the witness tamperers and make a korban. The rest of the wimps-turned-bullies who like to threaten cherems and school expulsion will run away - fast.

Such a korban will be a rayach nichoach laHashem.

Anonymous said...

Who is the un-named rabbi in the story who worked with applegrad to intimidate? - AVREMEL SCHORR