Friday, January 15, 1971

Case of Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg

Case of Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg
(AKA: Sidney Isaac Goldenberg, Sidney I. Goldenberg)

Brooklyn, NY
Coney Island, NY
Rabbi - Congregation B'nai Israel, Petaluma, CA
Rabbinical Student - Tifereth Yisrael Rabbinical Yeshiva, Sayville, NY
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Teacher - Seaford, NY
Cantor - Seaford Jewish Center, Seaford, NY
Resided - Wantagh, NY
Cantor - Jewish Center of Bay Shore, Bay Shore, NY
Math Teacher - Douglas MacArthur High School, Levittown, NY
Student - Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY

Convicted sex offender.  Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg had a twenty-seven year  history of allegations of molesting girls, prior to him spending any time in prison.  Many people were aware of his predatorial  past, yet most just looked away, even when those victimized complained.  By the time Goldenberg was imprisoned in 1997, he had allegedly abused girls in a Levittown public high school and at least three conservative Jewish congregations.

The first recorded complaint made against Sidney Goldenberg came in 1971, when a senior girl at Gen. Douglas MacArthur High School in Levittown, NY accused him of making an inappropriate sexual comment. The school district referred Goldenberg for a psychiatric evaluation and placed a reprimand in his file.

Sidney Goldenberg grew up in Brooklyn, the child of Russian immigrants. After obtaining his bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College in 1959, he quickly landed a job in the growing Levittown school district.

Please note there are several people who go by the name of Sidney Goldberg.

In 1975, a MacArthur student baby-sitting Goldenberg's children complained that he made inappropriate sexual advances while driving her home.  Because the school system believed he was an excellent teacher they kept him on.

In 1976another female student disclosed that   discussing her failing geometry grade, Goldenberg grabbed her shirt (a tube top)  and pulled it down to expose her breasts. Afterward, she said, he promised to raise her grade from 50 to 60.  The girl's mother called police.  It was at that time he was first taken into custody.  Goldenberg was charged with a Class B misdemeanor — sexual abuse.  The court records in the 1976 criminal case file are sealed, needless to say the case's outcome is unclear. 

In 1977, after exhausting his leave time, Goldenberg resigned. But the school district agreed to one concession, according to records. It would tell prospective employers who inquired that Goldenberg had resigned to pursue "another career goal." It was at this time he secured a postion as a cantor at the Seaford Jewish Center.   He was also providing both private and group bat mitzvah lessons to 12-year-old girls at times in the basement of his home.

In 1979, his students started complaining to their parents about Goldenberg's behavior. 

In 1985, six-years after the first allegations were made to the administration at the Seaford Jewish Center to take any action regarding the allegations of clergy sexual abuse.  It was around that time that his former employer disclosed Goldenberg's past history to the Seaford Jewish Center's administration.  

Around 1986, Goldenberg was hired by the  Jewish Centre of Bay Shore as a cantor. It was around this same time that Goldenberg began studying at the Tifereth Yisrael Rabbinical Yeshiva in Sayville so he could be ordained as a rabbi, so that he could become the leader the Bay Shore synagogue.  

In 1996, Rabbi Steven Rosenberg, says he never heard any complaints when Goldenberg was at his temple in the early and mid 1990s and recommended he be ordained and also helped him to secure his position at the Petaluma, CA synagogue in which he molested a 12-year-old girl.


Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.

Table of Contents:

  1. Rabbi accused of molesting child may withdraw his not-guilty plea (02/07/1997)
  2. Petaluma rabbi pleads no contest to charges of sexual misconduct  (02/21/1997)
  3. California rabbi gets three-year sentence  (04/09/1997)
  4. Former Petaluma rabbi gets 3 years for molesting a child  (04/11/1997)

  1. Rabbi's Odyssey Reflects Struggle on Sexual Abuse - Jews Begin to Confront Silence That Hid Clergy's Misdeeds  (02/02/2003)
  2. Jewish Community Grapples With Sex Abuse  (05/26/2003)
  3. A List Of Clues Ignored - Rabbi Had A Record Of Sexual Abuse: Many Looked The Other Way (05/27/2003)


  1. New York State Sex Offender Registry (11/06/2014)


Rabbi accused of molesting child may withdraw his not-guilty plea
By Ronnie Caplane 
Jewish Bulletin - February 7, 1997

Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg, the Petaluma spiritual leader who allegedly molested a 12-year-old girl, is expected to withdraw his not-guilty plea later this month.

"There is a reasonable possibility that [Goldenberg] will enter a plea of guilty or no contest on Feb. 18" to charges of lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor, said Stephen Gallenson, Goldenberg's attorney, on Tuesday.

If the plea is to be changed, that will take place Tuesday, Feb. 18.

"He [Goldenberg] has no desire to put the [alleged] victim through a trial, and he has no desire to put himself through a trial," added Gallenson.

A change of plea means Goldenberg would avoid going to trial, and would face sentencing. He could receive a maximum eight years in prison or a minimum of probation.

Goldenberg's attorney spoke after Tuesday's postponement of a preliminary hearing on the charges at Santa Rosa Municipal Court. Such a hearing is held to determine if there's sufficient evidence for a trial.

Goldenberg, 58, accompanied by his adult son, attended the hearing, as did the alleged victim -- a 12-year-old bat mitzvah student of the rabbi's -- and members of her family. Members of Congregation B'nai Israel, where Goldenberg had a pulpit until resigning recently in the wake of the charges, also attended.

Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Gary Medvigy was scheduled to deliver testimony from the alleged victim and the rabbi's arresting officer but, at the request of Goldenberg's attorney, the hearing was continued to Thursday, Feb. 20.

Goldenberg was charged in December with one count of lewd acts with a child, and two counts of annoying a child. The girl, who was being tutored by the rabbi, alleged the incidents took place between September and until his arrest Dec. 16 .

B'nai Israel, a 100-family synagogue in Petaluma, hired Goldenberg from New York to take on his first pulpit last September.

There are no other known victims at B'nai Israel, prosecutors said, but they have alleged that four women who were students of Goldenberg's in New York were victimized by him in similar acts of misconduct.

Prosecutors said those women contacted the Petaluma Police Department after learning of the Petaluma case.

Although Goldenberg was ordained by Tifereth Yisrael Rabbinic Yeshiva of Long Island only four years ago, he was a cantor and Hebrew teacher for years before, and began his career as a public school teacher in Levittown, N.Y.

Medvigy declined to say whether he knew of any prior criminal or disciplinary action against Goldenberg in connection with past allegations.

Although California lacks jurisdiction to prosecute the New York cases, the women's testimony could be introduced to prove a pattern of misconduct by the defendant.

Medvigy said New York authorities were investigating these cases but he didn't know whether they would lead to any formal charges. Since the cases date back many years, he added, the statute of limitations may have expired on them.

The earlier alleged incidents, which date from the early 1970s through 1985, involved inappropriate statements by Goldenberg, but none allege any actual physical contact, Gallenson said.

In the Petaluma case, Goldenberg was alleged to have taken the girl into his office, made lewd remarks, touched her breasts, and asked that she put her hands in his pockets.

Goldenberg resigned from B'nai Israel Jan. 11, after he was put on paid leave in the wake of his Dec. 16 arrest.

The case has shaken the congregation, but Medvigy said members had "rallied behind the victim and her family."

B'nai Israel's board president, Regina Wilson Seppa, added that "we're pulling together. We have a strong congregation with people who are very committed to the congregation and to each other."

If Goldenberg does not change his not-guilty plea, Medvigy said, he would like to try the case soon so the alleged victim can put the incident behind her.

According to Gallenson, resolving the case quickly is in Goldenberg's best interests.

The case is taking a tremendous emotional toll on Goldenberg and his family as well, Gallenson said. Goldenberg's wife, Selma, had been taken to the hospital with chest pains, he added, and it's believed the condition was stress-related.


Petaluma rabbi pleads no contest to charges of sexual misconduct
by Ronnie Caplane
Jewish Bulletin Correspondent - February 21, 1997

The Petaluma rabbi accused of sexually molesting a bat mitzvah student has pleaded no contest to the charge and faces up to eight years in prison.

Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg, formerly of Petaluma's Congregation B'nai Israel, entered his plea at Santa Rosa Municipal Court Tuesday to a felony charge of lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor under the age of 14.

The sexual misconduct allegedly took place over several months late last year while Goldenberg was tutoring the victim, a 12-year-old girl, for her bat mitzvah.

Police said Goldenberg, 58, took the girl into his office, made lewd remarks, touched her breasts and asked that she put her hands into his pockets.

According to Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Gary Medvigy, a plea of no contest is the legal equivalent of a guilty plea.

The rabbi pleaded no contest "just to make himself feel better," Medvigy reported.

The rabbi's attorney, Stephen Gallenson, did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

Two misdemeanor counts of annoying a child will be dropped as part of Goldenberg's plea bargain, Medvigy said.

Goldenberg, who originally had pleaded not guilty, will return to the court Tuesday, Feb. 25, when a psychiatrist or psychologist will be appointed to evaluate him and a date will be set for sentencing. He could receive a minimum of probation, a maximum of an eight-year prison term.

Medvigy said the actual sentencing will not take place for another four to six weeks.

During that time, the Sonoma County court's probation department will review the psychologist's report, talk to the victim and her family, and investigate the case before recommending a sentence to the judge.

One factor that will be considered is whether the defendant has a history of sexual abuse involving minors, Medvigy said.

Several women from New York have contacted the Santa Rosa district attorney's office claiming to have been molested by Goldenberg while they were teenagers, Medvigy said. Their calls came amid national media attention to the case.

Goldenberg taught high school in Levittown, Long Island, and was a lay educator and cantor at several synagogues on Long Island.

Medvigy said his office has reports about 10 women, six of whom either made statements to his office or spoke to him. The other reports came from family members who refused to disclose the whereabouts of the alleged victims.

"The first victim we know of is from 27 years ago when [Goldenberg] was a high school teacher," Medvigy said.

Such cases can't be prosecuted in New York now because the statute of limitations has expired.

"Some [prior incidents] are more egregious than what we have here," Medvigy added. "The process began with dirty talking. There are allegations of serious sex acts. [With] those who didn't complain, [Goldenberg] seemed to go as far as he could."

According to Medvigy, complaints were made at the time, but no disciplinary action was taken. Goldenberg was either moved into a job where he was not working with adolescent girls or he was allowed to resign and subsequent employers were not told of the past misconduct.

"I think things are changing in the world," said Medvigy. "If we had the mentality back then [that] we have now, [Goldenberg] would have been stopped."

Although Goldenberg hasn't taught in the Levittown schools since the early '70s, he still holds New York teaching credentials. However, Peter Sherman of the New York State Teachers Certification Office expects action will be taken against Goldenberg's credentials in light of the Petaluma case.

Goldenberg, however, cannot be stripped of his rabbinic ordination.

"One cannot lift an ordination," said Joel Meyers, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the national organization of Conservative rabbis. "It's like a degree."
Goldenberg was ordained four years ago by Tifereth Yisrael Rabbinical Yeshiva of Long Island, an independent seminary. For several years before that, he ran a small computer company. Medvigy said there are no indications of any complaints against Goldenberg during that time.

Last summer, Goldenberg was hired by B'nai Israel, a small, Conservative congregation of about 100 families. It was his first employment in California.

Meyers said the Rabbinical Assembly takes misconduct of its members seriously, but Goldenberg is not a member. The organization, thererefore, lacks jurisdiction to take disciplinary action.

"Congregations that employ rabbis who are not under the jurisdiction of a rabbinical organization run certain risks," Meyers said.

B'nai Israel is not a member of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the organization of Conservative synagogues, said Rabbi Jerome Epstein of United Synagogues, which helps its member synagogues check out rabbis.

B'nai Israel "isn't a member of any association, so they had no one to help them check this through," he said. "The congregation hired someone who is a freelancer."

Goldenberg resigned from B'nai Israel Jan. 11 after being put on paid leave in the wake of his Dec. 16 arrest.

Medvigy praised B'nai Israel for its handling of the situation.

"It's a testament to the community," Medvigy said. "They are really rallying and pulling together."

Copyright Notice (c) 1997, San Francisco Jewish Community Publications Inc., dba Jewish Bulletin of Northern California. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced in any form without permission.


California rabbi gets three-year sentence
United Press International - April 9, 1997

SANTA ROSA, Calif., April 9 -- Former Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg of Petaluma has been sentenced in a Santa Rosa courtroom to three years in state prison for fondling a 12-year-old girl during religious studies last year. The Press-Democrat newspaper reports today (Wednesday) that Superior Court Judge Mark Tansil indicated he was leaning toward probation, but may have changed his mind after Goldenberg made a half-hearted apology. Goldenberg apologized to the girl and her family, then talked about his family and tragic events in his life, saying he was not a stalker or predator. ''It's happened only when I'm alone with them in private,'' Goldenberg said. ''I've never committed a crime other than in a one-to-one situation.'' The comment angered the deputy district attorney, who then demanded the maximum prison term of nine years. The 58-year-old former religious leader resigned his position as rabbi with Congregation B'nai Israel in January after the girl's complaints reached New York, where Goldenberg worked as a Cantor, and reports of similar offenses dating back 27 years surfaced. Goldenberg admitted Tuesday to touching the 12-year-old girl's breast during religious studies between last September and December. He previously pleaded no contest to a charge of committing a lewd and lascivious act with a child under 14. The judge said Goldenberg is required to register as a child molester as soon as he is released from prison on parole. ---

Former Petaluma rabbi gets 3 years for molesting a child
By Ronnie Caplane
Jewish Bulletin - April 11, 1997

Sidney Isaac Goldenberg, former rabbi of Petaluma's Congregation B'nai Israel, was sentenced to three years in state prison Tuesday for sexually molesting a 12-year-old student during private bat mitzvah tutoring sessions.
Judge Mark Tansil of the Santa Rosa Superior Court issued the sentence following an emotional hearing, during which the victim and her family called for a stiff sentence and Goldenberg asked for leniency.
A superior court probation department report recommended Goldenberg be sentenced to probation and one year in the Sonoma County Jail.
"I was very vulnerable," the girl told the court. "He took advantage of me. I'm going through some very difficult changes. He ruined a lot of people's lives. My friends are suffering."
The girl also told the court she delayed telling anyone about the molestation for fear no one would believe her. She cried as she spoke, as did many of her friends and relatives who filled the courtroom.
Goldenberg, 58, was hired in August by the 100-family Conservative Petaluma congregation. He was arrested in December and charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor under the age of 14, a felony.
The misconduct, which occurred over several months, involved making lewd remarks to the girl, touching her breasts and asking her to put her hands in his pocket.
Goldenberg pled no contest to the charges in February. A plea of no contest is equivalent to a guilty plea, said Gary Medvigy, Santa Rosa deputy district attorney .
The girl's mother lauded her child's courage in speaking out. "My daughter is a hero," she said. "She became the voice for [Goldenberg's] prior victims."
Several women from New York, who learned of the Petaluma case through news reports, told the Santa Rose district attorney's office and the Petaluma Police Department that Goldenberg had made inappropriate sexual advances toward them when they were adolescents.
According to Medvigy, the earliest complaint dates back 27 years.
Although Goldenberg was charged in connection with one of these incidents, in 1976, Medvigy does not know if Goldenberg was convicted because the record has been sealed.
"We tell our kids there are consequences for everything," the girl's mother said. "I want [Goldsenberg] to be punished for what he's been doing for the past 27 years."
Before moving to Petaluma, Goldenberg was a public school teacher and then a cantor, lay educator and rabbi at various synagogues in New York.
Goldenberg's attorney, Stephen Gallenson asked the judge to follow the recommendation of the probation department.
"He is essentially a good man who has a problem," Gallenson said.
The defense has submitted many letters praising Goldenberg as a teacher and rabbi. "He has taught hundreds and hundreds of kids and has had positive experiences with most of them," Gallenson added.
Gallenson argued that Goldenberg is not a danger to society since he will no longer be able to get a position as a rabbi or cantor and therefore will not have access to adolescent girls.
He also said Goldenberg needs psychiatric treatment, which he will not receive in prison.
"[Goldenberg] is in his own private hell," said Gallenson, pointing out that Goldenberg, his wife and children have suffered since the arrest. "Sending him to prison will not do any good."
Yet Medvigy argued that this case is particularly heinous because as a teacher and rabbi, Goldenberg violated a sacred trust.
He also said the psychiatric examination, done at the request of the probation department, indicates Goldenberg neither accepts full responsibility nor understands the seriousness of his acts, and may commit the same crime again.
"If he walks out of this courtroom and if there's one more victim, then the criminal justice system has failed," said Medvigy.
"This is a difficult case to sentence, but this man needs to go to prison to protect our children and to satisfy our community."
Perhaps the most compelling statement for a more severe penalty came from Goldenberg himself.
Goldenberg acknowledged the past complaints of sexual misconduct against him but said they only arose when he was in a one-to-one situation with an extroverted adolescent girl.
He said stress triggers the conduct, echoing the findings of the psychiatric report. Although Goldenberg sounded slightly nervous, he spoke dispassionately.
"I apologize if I caused any harm," he said. "I'm starting to understand what the problem is and I can handle it."
Goldenberg described his problem as delayed adolescence. He also said prison would be detrimental to his health.
Judge Tansil acknowledged the case was particularly difficult because Goldenberg is not a typical defendant and has no prior record.
But the judge imposed the three-year state prison term, based on several factors, including: the defendant's breach of trust, his apparent failure to understand the seriousness of his crime, the belief that Goldenberg is not a good candidate for rehabilitation and the desire to send a message that this kind of conduct will not be tolerated.
The maximum term possible is nine years. Medvigy said Goldenberg will be eligible for parole in 18 months. When he gets out of prison, he must register as a sex offender wherever he lives.
Goldenberg was taken into custody immediately after sentencing.
After the hearing, the girl, who had appeared nervous and upset throughout the day, smiled.

Rabbi's Odyssey Reflects Struggle on Sexual Abuse - Jews Begin to Confront Silence That Hid Clergy's Misdeeds
By Alan Cooperman - Washington Post Staff Writer
Washington Post - Sunday, February 2, 2003; Page A17
During his 30-year career, Sidney I. Goldenberg taught math in the New York schools, served as cantor at two synagogues on Long Island and became the rabbi of a Jewish congregation in California. He was a respected teacher, a man of learning -- and a child molester.
Before he was convicted and sent to prison in 1997 for sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl during bat mitzvah lessons, there had been numerous complaints against him. But each time allegations arose, he moved to a new community, leaving a trail of whispers and shattered lives.
Prosecutors, alleged victims and their families say Goldenberg was able to move from job to job because of a wall of silence and shame around sexual abuse in the Jewish community -- a wall that some believe is finally coming down, thanks to the scandal over sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests.
"In the past it was covered up, just like in the Catholic Church," said Vicki Polin, an art therapist in Baltimore who is forming an association of Jewish survivors of childhood sexual abuse. "Survivors' stories were discounted. They were told they were lying. Their parents would go to the proper authorities within the Jewish community and nothing was done."
While Catholicism has been hardest hit, almost every major religion in the United States has grappled with cases of child sexual abuse by clergy. Protestant and Jewish leaders assert that their problems are much smaller than those of the Catholic Church, with its celibate priesthood and global hierarchy. But they are moving nonetheless to shore up their disciplinary procedures, prevention programs and insurance policies.
In recent years, for example, the Episcopal Church has revised its disciplinary code and extended its internal statute of limitations to encourage victims of abuse to come forward, while the Presbyterian Church (USA) has eliminated its time limit on such complaints. The United Methodist Church recommends that two unrelated adults be present with any child or group of children.
The reasons are clear: Lawyers who have specialized in suing Catholic dioceses are turning their sights on other religious groups, including Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. Liability insurance costs are rising for synagogues as well as churches. State legislatures are requiring clergy of all faiths to report allegations of child sexual abuse.
"I don't think pedophilia has a religion," said Na'ama Yehuda, a speech pathologist in New York who is co-founder, with Polin, of the Awareness Center, an organization for Jewish survivors of childhood trauma.
The center's Web site ( lists more than 30 Jewish officials who have been accused of child sexual abuse. They include the late Shlomo Carlebach, a renowned Hasidic rabbi; Baruch Lanner, an Orthodox rabbi who was convicted last year of molesting two teenage girls; and Jerrold Levy, a Reform rabbi imprisoned for sex crimes involving teenage boys.
Goldenberg's story -- pieced together from court documents and interviews with prosecutors, alleged victims and their families -- is a particularly well-documented example of how some Jewish and Protestant clergy, like some priests, have relied on children's shame, parents' trust and other adults' disbelief to keep their misconduct hidden for years.
His trail through four communities in two states resembles the movement of pedophile priests from parish to parish. But there are significant differences.
Unlike the priests, who were transferred by superiors, Goldenberg moved on his own volition. The families of some of his alleged victims, all teenage girls, believe that their complaints were ignored or hushed up. But none has sued.
"In the Catholic Church, the issue was the cover-up by the church hierarchy. Here, it's the community, not the hierarchy. It's the whole community not wanting to admit trouble in our midst," said Yosef Blau, an Orthodox rabbi at New York's Yeshiva University who counsels victims of sexual abuse.
Goldenberg arrived in California in 1996 with glowing recommendations. Leaders of Congregation B'nai Israel, a small Conservative synagogue in the farming town of Petaluma, say they checked the 58-year-old rabbi's references, and no one hinted at any improprieties.
The rabbinate, however, was Goldenberg's second career. He had been ordained a year earlier at an independent Orthodox seminary, Tifereth Yisrael in Sayville, N.Y. Before that, he was a public school teacher and a cantor, or prayer singer, at synagogues on Long Island. And there had long been trouble.
In 1971, the superintendent of schools in Levittown, N.Y., reprimanded Goldenberg and sent him for a psychiatric evaluation after he allegedly made suggestive remarks to a high school student.
In 1976, school records show, he was arrested after another student complained that he had exposed her breasts. The charge was dropped when he resigned, and a lawyer for Goldenberg sent school officials a letter suggesting that they should not mention the incident if they received requests for references.
Goldenberg went to work as a part-time cantor and teacher at the Seaford Jewish Center on Long Island. In 1985, a member of that congregation, Donald Novitt, complained that Goldenberg had made sexual comments to his daughter during a lesson for her bat mitzvah, the coming-of-age ceremony for Jewish 13-year-olds.
"My first move was to call the rabbi," Novitt recalls. "I said, 'Rabbi, I have something to tell you that's about Cantor Goldenberg.' He said, 'I know what you're going to tell me. We've had complaints before.' "
The rabbi, Esor Ben-Sorek, later told police in California that he had received three complaints from 12-year-olds tutored by the cantor. Goldenberg "apologized, said that he was aware of his problem and would seek help, and I then informed him that he would no longer be able to offer religious instruction to girls in the religious school," Ben-Sorek wrote to California investigators.
One of Goldenberg's accusers, now in her thirties, is still angry about the synagogue's response.
"They did not fire him, they did not really do anything. Nobody ever apologized to me. I had my bat mitzvah and he was there -- he was the cantor who sang in front of my whole family," she said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "When I think back about that, I can't believe it."
Another alleged victim, Robin Patrusky, 37, said Goldenberg "spoiled my innocence" but that "I was too shy, too scared to say anything." "It has affected all my relationships to this day," she added.
Goldenberg soon moved to the Jewish Center of Bay Shore, another Long Island synagogue, where he was cantor from 1990 to 1996. Its former rabbi, Steven Rosenberg, wrote a letter to the California court saying he was unaware of any allegations before Goldenberg left for California. But he said he later learned that several girls had complained to parents or teachers about suggestive remarks and inappropriate touching by the cantor.
The complaints never reached him, Rosenberg said, because the parents and teachers were trying to protect their children from embarrassment, did not want Goldenberg to be fired or "could not believe that Cantor Goldenberg would have done such a thing."
In December 1996, Goldenberg was arrested by the Petaluma Police Department for molesting a teenager at Congregation B'nai Israel. Over a four-month period, the girl said, Goldenberg made lewd remarks, touched her breasts, had her lift her shirt, exposed his undershorts and coaxed her to reach into his front pockets for coins.
The arrest "really split the congregation here, because he was an extremely popular rabbi, and very few people believed this young girl," said the prosecutor, Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Gary A. Medvigy.
As news of the arrest hit the media, however, 10 women in New York alleged that Goldenberg had abused them in similar ways, usually beginning with dirty talk and progressing to fondling but not intercourse, Medvigy said.
Facing mounting allegations, Goldenberg pleaded no contest to a single charge of lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor. He was sentenced in April 1997 to three years in state prison. Although he was released on parole in 1999, he could not be located for this article.
The manager of a Santa Rosa, Calif., apartment complex where he lived in 2002 said he moved out a month ago. His attorney, Stephen M. Gallenson, said he did not know Goldenberg's whereabouts. His wife, reached by telephone in New York, said he was in another state and that she did not know when, or if, she would hear from him. His name did not turn up in an online search of sex offenders' registries, computerized public records and telephone listings around the country.
Wherever he is, Goldenberg can still call himself a rabbi, because Jewish authorities say ordination is like an academic degree -- once conferred, it cannot be revoked. However, officials of the major Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbinical associations said he would not be eligible for membership and doubted that he could find work as a rabbi.
Jeff Zaret, president of Congregation B'nai Israel, said it has hired a female rabbi and made a rule that teachers should not meet alone behind closed doors with children.
"Everyone here took it seriously," he said. "They weren't going to sweep it under the rug and make it somebody else's problem."

Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

Jewish Community Grapples With Sex Abuse
By Stephanie Saul - Staff Writer
Newsday - May 26, 2003

This is the first in a three-part series.

Camp Mogen Avraham
It was the sound of ripping cloth, they said, that woke them up.

On an August night in the Catskills, with summer camp almost over, the boys had fallen asleep in their bunkhouse, exhausted from play and religious study. Only minutes later, they would later testify in court, the noise awakened them. Then came mysterious movements in the dark cabin. The campers lay still. Why was a human figure hovering over the bed of a 10-year-old Woodmere boy?

The terrified boy blurted out his allegation to a camp counselor almost a day later: Someone, he said, had torn open the seat of his pajamas and sexually abused him.

The boy's parents were called to camp more than a day later, but police were not notified.

"We all concurred that considering the trauma that would possibly result from further action, it would be best not to take any additional action," according to the camp's notes, later filed in court in a civil suit. A state Department of Health sanitarian later found that the camp violated state regulations by not reporting the accusation.

Police learned of the allegations two months later, alerted by a psychologist who was treating the boy. The boy's mother later told a state official she felt pressured to remain silent, according to state health department records. After all, the alleged abuser and the camp officials were revered religious leaders.

The accused was eventually acquitted by a judge, who said "contradictory and sometimes retracting statements" left him unclear about what happened. The camp suggests that the alleged incident was fabricated.

After more than a year of charges and disclosures concerning sexual abuse of young people by Catholic priests, the story may sound familiar. But the camp, Mogen Avraham, is a popular summer retreat in Bethel for Orthodox Jewish children. And the accused was not a priest, but a teaching rabbi from Forest Hills.

The alleged 1998 incident at Camp Mogen Avraham is just one in a growing dossier of allegations that rabbis, cantors and other Jewish religious leaders have abused children and teenagers in their care, a Newsday investigation has found.

In sheer numbers, the problem is unlikely to rival the Catholic Church's, since priests outnumber rabbis by roughly nine to one. While there is no data on the number of clergy with sexual disorders, experts say that, anecdotally, the problem does not seem as severe in the rabbinate as in the priesthood, even in relative terms.

Even so, some rabbis call the sexual abuse allegations a "crisis," and religious organizations are grappling with ways to handle it.

Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC
"We have a huge problem on our hands, a problem that is just beginning to be addressed in religious circles," Vicki Polin, a psychotherapist, said in recent testimony to the Maryland legislature.

Polin, who is Jewish and calls herself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, runs The Awareness Center, a Baltimore-based clearinghouse that tracks sexual abuse allegations against Jewish religious leaders. The center's Web site lists about 40 alleged cases of abuse involving rabbis and cantors. As with the Catholic scandals, Jewish victims say they still struggle years, even decades, later with this betrayal of trust.
Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg
"I can honestly say that he ruined not only my Bas-Mitzvah, but my faith in Judaism," wrote one woman, now 30, referring to Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg. In a letter to California prosecutors, the woman said Goldenberg, then a cantor, made lewd comments and rubbed her thigh in her parents' home in Seaford in 1985. At the time, he was supposed to be helping her prepare for her bat mitzvah, the joyous and solemn religious celebration when a Jewish girl turns 13.

Goldenberg was convicted in 1997 of abusing a 12-year-old California bat mitzvah student, after investigators uncovered a 27-year trail of complaints by girls against him. He served three years and is now living on Coney Island, according to police.

Like the Goldenberg case, the abuse allegations tend to have common elements, including some familiar from the Catholic scandals:

Children and in some cases parents are reluctant to accuse respected clergymen. When they do, they are often disbelieved, dismissed, even derided.
"You have to understand the extent to which the guys in the school looked up to [the rabbi]," says one man, now 38, who says he was abused as a teenager by a rabbi now teaching in Israel. "He was beyond question."

And another rabbi recalls dismissing several girls' complaints against Goldenberg as "some giggly thing."
Rabbi Yosef Blau
Religious authorities fail to report abuse charges to the police. Among strictly observant Orthodox Jews, this tendency is bolstered by the ancient doctrine of mesira, which prohibits Jews from informing on other Jews to secular authorities, a legacy of centuries of oppression of Jews in many countries.

When religious leaders try to investigate cases and prevent abusers from having contact with children, their efforts often fail. "Few rabbis have any training in recognizing abuse, and the rabbinical courts have no investigative arm," says Rabbi Yosef Blau, the spiritual counselor to students at Yeshiva University.
Rabbi Dr. Avrohom Mondrowitz
Alleged abusers continue to operate freely by moving among congregations, states, even countries. Avrohom Mondrowitz, a self-styled rabbi who once had a popular radio show in Brooklyn, is living openly and teaching in a Jerusalem college although he is wanted on charges of sexually abusing four Brooklyn boys, aged 10 to 16. If he ever returns to the United States, he will be arrested, according to the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes.

Rabbi Baruch Lanner
Many of the alleged abusers were popular, even charismatic leaders, who were thought to be particularly good in relating to young people. Rabbi Baruch Lanner, convicted last year of endangering the welfare of two girls at a New Jersey yeshiva, sidestepped abuse allegations for years, in part because of his reputation as a dynamic figure in an Orthodox youth program.

Rabbi Hershel Billet
Unlike the Catholic Church, Jewish authority is not centralized, but various groups within the branches of Judaism have begun to strengthen anti-abuse policies for their members.

At its annual meeting, which starts today in Rye, the Rabbinical Council of America, an organization of 1,100 Orthodox rabbis, features programs on curbing abuse, including one entitled "Rabbinic Behavior: Confronting a Crisis of Accountability."

"We're trying to establish that inappropriate behavior is inexcusable," said Rabbi Hershel Billet, president of the organization and rabbi at Young Israel of Woodmere.

Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, a psychotherapist who is also the Orthodox Union's executive vice president, said he hopes the rabbinical council will make a firm commitment during the meeting "to develop a real, real tight program" combating sexual abuse.

The rabbinical council is expected to discuss ways to adjudicate abuse allegations against its members, with penalties that include ouster.

Rabbi Israel Kestenbaum at home prior to his arrest
Sources within the organization say that the impetus for the panel's work includes old abuse allegations against Rabbi Ephraim Bryks of Kew Gardens Hills, which he has repeatedly denied, and the recent arrest of Rabbi Israel Kestenbaum of Highland Park, N.J.

Kestenbaum, a chaplaincy leader for the New York Board of Rabbis, was charged in February with endangering the welfare of a minor after allegedly discussing sex with an undercover police officer posing as a teenage girl in a chat room called "I Love Older Men." Kestenbaum has pleaded not guilty.

Rabbi Ephraim Bryks
Rabbis concerned about sex abuse say accusations against a rabbi are often handled quietly, or not at all. Accused rabbis go on hiatus briefly, then revive their ministries in other congregations, even other countries in the far-flung Diaspora.

Rabbi Matis Weinberg
One of those was Rabbi Matis Weinberg. Accused of sexually abusing students at his California yeshiva two decades ago, he is said to have agreed to leave teaching. But Weinberg resurrected his teaching career in Israel. When Yeshiva University in Manhattan recently unearthed the allegations against Weinberg, the New York school severed its ties to the Jerusalem college where Weinberg had lectured until recently.

Weinberg has never been charged with a crime and has denied the former students' allegations. Through a friend, he declined to discuss the charges with Newsday.

The allegations against Weinberg have been widely reported in the Jewish press and have helped bring the issue to the fore in recent months.

Like the Orthodox rabbis' council, representatives of other branches of Judaism say they are taking steps to combat sexual abuse.

Rabbi Jerome Epstein
"I would rather this not become an epidemic and I think what we need to do is take affirmative steps to guide people before they make mistakes," said Rabbi Jerome Epstein of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the lay arm of the Conservative movement. Epstein said the group's committee on congregational standards is currently working on a "best practices" document.
Rabbi Steven Rosenberg
Rabbi Steven Rosenberg of McAllen, Texas, formerly the leader of the Jewish Center of Bay Shore, said his Conservative congregation already has adopted such rules.

"If I have a bat mitzvah in my office, the door is never closed," said Rosenberg, who also tells his 23 religion school teachers "they are not allowed to touch students, not a pat, not a hug."

"It is very important for me for my congregants to know: That kind of behavior -- we will not tolerate it," said Rosenberg.
Rosenberg was sensitized by the case against Sidney Goldenberg, the former cantor, who had worked at the Bay Shore synagogue before moving to California.

Rabbi Paul Menitoff
Many rabbis say their groups would always notify police about abuse although their rules usually do not spell this out. Such notification was one of the remedies embraced by Roman Catholic bishops in the priest abuse scandal. And Reform rabbis are in the process of revising their ethics code to include such a requirement, according to Rabbi Paul Menitoff, executive vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

The National Conference of Synagogue Youth, an Orthodox group, does have a policy requiring that police be notified, an outgrowth of its scandal involving Lanner, a longtime youth leader with the group.

In that case, a religious court called a bet din concluded in 1989 that the most serious charges against Lanner were unfounded, clearing the way for his continued youth work. Last year, more than a dozen years later, he was convicted in New Jersey on abuse-related charges.

Orthodox Jews frequently rely on the batei din, but Blau, a member of the Lanner bet din, has become an outspoken critic of the religious court system.

For one thing, he said, judges in the religious courts often know the accused, making fair decisions difficult. In addition, he said that perjury before a bet din is rarely punished.

Appearing in February before dozens of students in the main study hall at Yeshiva University, Blau and the two other members of the Lanner bet din issued an extraordinary public apology for their role in allowing Lanner to continue unchecked for so many years.
"We must do everything in our power to protect potential victims from abuse," the apology said. "This includes reporting accusations of abuse to Jewish and, at times, to secular authorities."

Such a secular-reporting requirement is controversial among some Orthodox groups, partly because it appears to run counter to the doctrine called mesira.

In ancient times, one who violated the doctrine and reported a fellow Jew to secular authorities could be killed on sight. Today, the punishment is generally ostracism in the community.

The vast majority of rabbis agree that mesira is overridden when there is imminent danger to possible future victims, but Blau says the taboo remains, particularly among the most traditional Orthodox.

Civil authorities who seek to act against rabbinic abuse often become frustrated by the reluctance of witnesses to testify.

Prosecutors in Sullivan County complained during the case that their witnesses faced pressure when they tried to prosecute Yaakov Weiner, the teaching rabbi acquitted in the Mogen Avraham case.

"It was a bitter pill for me," remembers Tom Cawley, the former Sullivan County assistant district attorney who prosecuted the Mogen Avraham case. "They sent their kid to camp up here in Bethel and thought he'd be taken care of. Someone was taken care of, all right, but it wasn't him."

Weiner, who has taught in several yeshivas throughout the metropolitan area, consistently denied the charges. Attempts to reach him through one of his lawyers were unsuccessful.
The boy's mother and father, a rabbi himself, would not discuss the case with Newsday. But camp and State Health Department records filed in court indicate that the parents were not told of the alleged abuse until nearly 48 hours after the boy spoke of it, while the 36-year-old Weiner's father, a rabbi well-known in the Queens Orthodox community, was notified sooner.

Contacted recently, the camp's current executive director, Moshe Wein, defended the camp's handling of the accusation, saying, "There's no evidence to indicate that an incident took place." He added, "This may be one of those cases in which a child lied."
Lawyers for Weiner at his bench trial made much of contradictions in the boy's statements. But the most confusing testimony came from the alleged victim's bunkmates.

One of the boys reversed his story between the time he spoke to police and the trial several months later, Cawley said in court.

"We believe that there was pressure placed on the victim and children's families to get them not to testify," said Sullivan County District Attorney Stephen Lungen in a recent telephone interview. "There was a child who could have substantiated what was said, and that family would not cooperate."
The entire matter left Sullivan County Judge Frank Labuda confused.

"It is clear in the evening hours of August 8 and the morning of August 9, two years ago, something happened at bunk 3 Gimel bunk... " he said in his January 2000 ruling. But Labuda concluded that trial testimony "does not create a clear picture for this court of exactly what happened in Gimel bunk nor who did it."
He found Weiner not guilty.

A List Of Clues Ignored - Rabbi Had A Record Of Sex Abuse:  Many Looked The Other Way
By Stephanie Saul 
Newsday - May 27, 2003

Second in a series.

All along his 27-year trail of abuse, many knew about Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg's problem. But most of them looked the other way, even when the children complained.

By the time he was imprisoned in 1997, Goldenberg had allegedly abused girls in a Levittown public high school and at least three Jewish congregations.

Yet even as the allegations against him mounted, he seemed to grow in prestige, surviving a Long Island arrest in 1976 to rise from teacher to cantor to rabbi.

The complaints first came in 1971 when he was a Levittown math teacher. They continued when he was a cantor in Seaford and Bay Shore. They ended in a small California congregation, his first post as a rabbi, when he pleaded no contest to committing a lewd and lascivious act.

At a sentencing hearing in 1997, Goldenberg apologized but begged the court to spare him prison.
"I know it's a bad thing to do," he said. "I crossed the bounds. I realize it, but I did not do it intentionally. It's only when I'm alone that it happens."

Goldenberg, now 64, argued that he was not a threat to children in general, only to the students he taught.

"I've worked since I'm 21 years old with children," he said, "but I've never committed a crime with a child outside of a tutoring, one-on-one situation in my life."

Nontheless he was sentenced to three years.

Last October, California authorities notified New York police that Goldenberg was living in a Coney Island apartment. Efforts to reach him there were unsuccessful.

Hundreds of pages of records in Goldenberg's case, as well as interviews with former students, reveal that Goldenberg's superiors ignored warning signs. Even when confronted with solid complaints, they failed to act aggressively to stop the abuse. At one temple, Goldenberg was allowed to serve as cantor at the bat mitzvah services of girls who had already accused him of sexually abusing them — a fact that troubles the girls, now grown women, to this day.

"I can honestly say that he ruined not only my Bas-Mitzvah, but my faith in Judaism," wrote one woman, now 30, who took Hebrew lessons from Goldenberg in 1985 at her parents' Seaford home.
The conspiracy of silence sometimes included the victims' families, as well. Embarrassed and confused, parents feared reporting the allegations. Their reticence allowed Goldenberg to abuse the next girl and the next. In all, more than 10 have come forward to tell of Goldenberg's past abuse to police and prosecutors. Others have decided to remain quiet, confiding only in their rabbis.

Sidney Goldenberg grew up in Brooklyn, the child of Russian immigrants. After obtaining his bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College in 1959, he quickly landed a job in the growing Levittown school district.

The first recorded complaint about him came in 1971, when a senior girl at Gen. Douglas MacArthur High School in Levittown accused him of making an inappropriate sexual comment. The school district referred Goldenberg for a psychiatric evaluation and placed a reprimand in his file, school records show.

Then in 1975, a MacArthur student baby-sitting Goldenberg's children complained that he made inappropriate sexual advances while driving her home.

"While there may be mitigating factors in viewing this occurrence, it is the second such major indiscretion in recent years which you have committed in relating to individual students," the MacArthur High School principal wrote in a March 1975 memo to Goldenberg.

The memo added: "Your fine record of performance as a teacher is considered and appreciated." Goldenberg kept his job.

The following year, a girl said that while discussing her failing geometry grade, Goldenberg grabbed her tube top and pulled it down to expose her breasts. Afterward, she said, he promised to raise her grade from 50 to 60.

The girl's mother called police. Goldenberg was taken into custody as he left school that day and charged with a Class B misdemeanor — sexual abuse, according to school documents obtained by Newsday. Court records in the 1976 criminal case file are sealed, so the case's outcome is unclear. But the criminal charge had pushed the Levittown School District over its limit, and officials there told Goldenberg not to report to work.

In 1977, after exhausting his leave time, Goldenberg resigned. But the school district agreed to one concession, according to records. It would tell prospective employers who inquired that Goldenberg had resigned to pursue "another career goal."

Goldenberg already had that career goal in mind: He secured work as a cantor at the Seaford Jewish Center. In addition, he gave private and group bat mitzvah lessons to 12-year-old girls, sometimes in the basement of his Wantagh home.

By 1979, bat mitzvah candidates were complaining to their parents about him.

"During these lessons, Sidney Goldenberg's behavior was inappropriate for any adult, especially a religious man," one former Seaford student wrote later in a letter to police. She said Goldenberg told dirty jokes, used foul language and inappropriately touched the girls.

"I think about this man to this day," said the woman, now 36.

It wasn't until 1985, however, that the Seaford temple took action against its cantor. It was prompted by complaints from the furious father of one of Goldenberg's Seaford bat mitzvah students. The father even taped a conversation with Goldenberg in which the cantor admitted he had behaved improperly.
The girl's complaint brought her derision, she later recalled.

"It was humiliating," she said in a letter to California prosecutors. "I was twelve, almost thirteen, and a bunch of people knew. I received a great deal of hostility from members of the congregation, and some of the boys in my class made fun of me for telling."

But the Seaford temple's Rabbi Esor Ben-Sorek admitted that he had heard such complaints about Goldenberg before, the father said.

In a recent interview, Ben-Sorek said he had heard several complaints about Goldenberg before taking them seriously, at first dismissing them as "some giggly thing."

"When I heard it from two or three other students, we called parents together and prohibited him from teaching any girls whatsoever," said Ben-Sorek.

Ben-Sorek said he had also contacted Levittown school officials, who confided to him about Goldenberg's history. When confronted, Goldenberg admitted he had a problem, Ben-Sorek said. But the Seaford temple did not dismiss Goldenberg.

Instead, they allowed him to remain as cantor and to teach bar mitzvah classes to boys, only.

Within a year, Ben-Sorek recalls, Goldenberg left of his own volition. He found a job as cantor at the Jewish Centre of Bay Shore.

He also began studies that would prepare him for his next step, attending the Tifereth Yisrael Rabbinical Yeshiva in Sayville. His goal: to become a rabbi. The leader of the Bay Shore congregation, Rabbi Steven Rosenberg, says he never heard any complaints when Goldenberg was at his temple in the early and mid 1990s.

But files in Goldenberg's case indicate that members of the congregation had heard allegations that the cantor initiated dirty conversations with children; that he rubbed his crotch while winking at girls; that he placed his hand on a girl's thigh.

According to a letter Rosenberg filed in court in 1997, parents of the girls later said they were afraid to report Goldenberg — fearful of embarrassing the rabbi; fearful that he would fire Goldenberg; fearful that their children would be somehow harmed by the disclosures; and, in one case, disbelieving that the cantor could have done such a thing.

Rosenberg said he was still unaware of the complaints in 1996 when he recommended the newly ordained Goldenberg for a job — pulpit rabbi and spiritual leader of a congregation in Petaluma, Calif.
In September 1996, Goldenberg acquired a new class of private bat mitzvah students, including an outgoing 12-year-old Petaluma girl.

By December, the girl's parents and friends had noticed a change in her. She had grown quiet and reserved and seemed to be manufacturing excuses to skip bat mitzvah classes, according to court files and interviews.

Finally she confided in a friend.

Rabbi Goldenberg had asked her to expose her breasts, touched her breasts and manipulated his crotch, she said, according to government files in the case. One time, he looked down her pants.

The girl's friend encouraged her to tell a school counselor and her parents, who filed a police complaint.
"Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg took away from me what I had ... " the girl later testified about the breach of trust. "I was very vulnerable and he took advantage of me about that. I am going through some very difficult changes right now."

Goldenberg initially denied the allegations, claiming the police were taking the word of one girl against him.

But when his arrest was reported in USA Today, a Seaford woman read the story on an airplane trip. She happened to be the wife of the furious father who had tape-recorded Goldenberg nearly 20 years earlier. The father still had the tape. The family contacted California police.

An investigation led them to Levittown, Seaford, and Bay Shore, retracing Goldenberg's 27-year trail of abuse.

As the evidence against him mounted, Goldenberg withdrew his not guilty plea and entered a plea of no contest to one felony charge.

A psychiatrist warned his sentencing judge: "Although Mr. Goldenberg states that he cannot imagine a situation where this would happen again, he has said this before, and I cannot assure the court that this would not happen again."


New York State Sex Offender Registry 
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services - November 6, 2013

click on image to enlarge


Some of the information on The Awareness Center's web pages may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.

We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

For more information go to: . If you wish to use copyrighted material from this update for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." –– Margaret Mead