By Allison Yarrow / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, September 1, 2013, 4:15 AM
Last November, Nechemya Weberman, pillar of his community and unlicensed counselor of wayward children, swore to a standing-room-only Brooklyn courtroom that he had only been trying to save the life of the girl who’d once called him “Daddy,” who was now accusing him of raping her for years, beginning when she was 12 years old and in sixth grade.
Many observers thought he looked smug as he testified, and why wouldn’t he? With the vehement backing of most of the tightly knit, deeply insular Satmar Hasidic Jewish community in Williamsburg, the 54-year-old former driver for its spiritual leader, the Grand Rebbe Moses Teitelbaum, felt he could get away with anything.
After all, he always had.
She wasn’t their concern. She’d gone outside of the family.
Mirroring groups from the Catholic church to Penn staters, Satmars attacked the victim, more concerned with protecting itself from the outside world than with the evil within.
Some of Weberman’s supporters conceded that he may have sexually abused children, but were nonetheless more concerned with the indignity of one of their own facing a jury they saw not as peers but as a collection of anti-Semites and (some irony here) sexual deviants, and the prospect of one of their own ending up in a state prison, cut off from the community.
Because its members vote in blocs, as their spiritual leaders instruct, the group has outsized sway in election years — and could prove crucial in the current races for mayor and Brooklyn district attorney. Despite keeping the outside world at arm’s length, with a separate language, culture and dress code, their votes have helped convince elected officials to subsidize separate services, from ambulances to patrol groups to schools. Even criminal matters among Satmars are often adjudicated by rabbis rather than the state.
See, Satmar is a family — of parents, daughters, sons, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws, each belonging to the whole. Descending from Hungarian and Romanian Jews who fled their villages mostly during and after the Holocaust, they now live as a group in Brooklyn, close by but culturally cut off from their Latino, African American, Caribbean and hipster neighbors in Williamsburg. (A second Satmar community lives upstate in Kiryas Joel, the village with America’s highest poverty rate.) ..............
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