NEW YORK –– Nuchem Rosenberg meets with us in a kosher restaurant Manhattan near the Williamsburg Bridge. He dare not meet us on the other side.
Since the beginning of the new millennium, Rabbi Rosenberg's war against widespread pedophilia (in the hasidic world) began, particularly in religious schools and ritual baths, called mikvah. Rosenberg is a tall man dressed in black and white, with an unruly, gray beard. He has receives death threats, and on one occasion even shot, when a bullet grazed his forehead.
"The attack took place shortly after conviction of Nechemya Weberman, who was a prominent ultra-orthodox Jew, who worked as an unlicensed school psychologist. Back in January, 2013, Weberman was sentenced to 103 years prison, for abusing 12-year-old girl who came to him for spiritual counseling.
According to Rosenberg, the case against Weberman was just one of the many symptoms that his campaign to end sexual abuse in his community is starting to work. But also showed that the religious leaders of the insulated community is still cohesive enough that they prefer to pay expensive lawyers to protect alleged sex offenders, instead of helping the victims. Rosenberg describes a mafia like system in which rabbis make money on pedophilia. Community members are told to go to their local rabbi, when they suspect there's a pedophile, instead of going to the police so that way charges are not pressed against them. Instead the alleged offender is pushed to pay compensation, often in excess of $100,000 to the rabbi.
Due to statute of limitation issues, criminal charges and civil suits will become outdate. Instead of the criminal justice system being involved, members of an internal religious police get involved, whose task is to defend morality of the hasidic lifestyle.
The money collected from the alleged offender goes to the rabbis and not to the victim, with whom are threatened into silence.
"It 's all about money. My goal is to destroyed their business and their reputation. That is why I was excluded by a council of 38 rabbis, of which 11 are known as top pediophile, "
Rosenberg will save boys like Joel Engelman. The now 28-year-old youngest member of a family of seven children, left religion and moved away from Williamsburg eight years ago. Engelman was sexually abused by the inspector his school . Shame and guilt caused him to be quiet, until he was 18 years old, when told his parents about the abuse. In particular, received support from his mother. When he age of 22 complained to school. When he negotiated to get the pedophile teacher removed from his school. "But only for two months. As I turned 23 years old, and my case was barred under the laws of the state of New York, and then he was rehired . So I was disappointed and regret that I did not go to the police," says Engelman . "I know for sure that he has abused other children . But it is not unusual that he has not been convicted. I believe it's only 1 per cent of sexual predators are convicted in closed communities, where community leaders will make do everything possible to avoid sex offender from being reported to the police.'
While Engelman is convinced that the ultra-Orthodox Jews still lags far behind for other religious communities in the fight against pedophilia, describes Rabbi Rosenberg scandals in the Catholic church as a catalyst for the information about the problem.
Several cases in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community are reported. Today, the police and the media about the problem maintains pressure on the rabbis. Although Rosenberg has created a hotline , which is heard by thousands of listeners.
"It is slow, but we winner. We receive 3 to 4 new complaints per month. Over 20 pedophile has been convicted in the past year and a half, at least hundred other defendants are waiting their judgment , "he said.
There are no precise statistics on the extent problem in the ultra-orthodox world, but according to the psychotherapist Vicki Polin shows all the science that figures similar to those of the rest of the society.
"Pedophilia has no religion. It is not much different among ultra-Orthodox Jews than in the Catholic Church, amongst Mormons, Amish or any other faith based group, "says Vicki Polin .
Polin established The Awareness Center 15 years ago, to focus on pedophilia in Jewish Communities. The organization's website includes a sex offender registry of alleged and convicted sex offenders, which includes names and photographs.
As a non-practicing Jew, Polin often is blamed for spread anti-Semitism with her work. It is of course a risk , she recognizes, but it can not be a reason for to close your eyes . "I lived within the ultra-orthodox Jewish community of Baltimore for just under 10 years, where there was also a huge problem with sexual abuse.
Because of the nature of my work, I was threatened, people spit on me, spat on me and once had someone brake into my office to steal files, along with having death threats.
For nearly a two year period, approximately every six months, I was involved in serious car accident. In the end I realized it was just too dangerous, so four years ago I moved back home to Chicago, " she says.
Sexual abuse leaves a wake of suicide and drug use among victims. Many are turning their backs to religion, because the price of making accusations is an enormous.
Rosenberg says that quietly, more and more rabbis are supporting.
The RCA (Rabbinical Council of America), the world's largest organization of Orthodox rabbis , has called on all Jews to cooperate with police in cases of sexual abuse .
The problem is that they do not have influence on the hasidic rabbis in Williamsburg. Rabbi David Zwiebel, vice president of the ultra-Orthodox organization Agudath Israel of America, says the problem taken seriously and that rules have been tightened for schools and camps. In a written response he must accompany a declaration with guidance as to when ultra-orthodox Jews can go to the police.
"Where there is reason to believe that a child has been abused, it must be reported to the authorities," says that in the guideline, but with an addition of, that in the end, it is up to the rabbis to define "a good reason". "It is a total nonsense. They destroy our religion and distorts Torah are in the same way as Islamists distort the Koran," corresponds Nuchem Rosenberg .
When Abe Weiss first told his father about the repeated rapes as a boy, the response was a slap and a message to never talk about it again. It was the worst day of Abe's life. He knew that he was alone, and that nobody would protect him.
"I was 12 years old, the oldest of seven children and went in a ultra-Orthodox school in Williamsburg.
I was often beatings of my teacher and I thought that he probably knew best. Physical punishment was normal in my school, and I had certainly earned it," says Abe Weiss.
"But one day he took me into the school's boiler room, took off our trousers down, on both himself and me and began raping me. When he was finished, he went back to class."
I was repeatedly assaulted six to seven times during the rest of that school year.
As an adult, Abe Weiss discovered that the teacher still taught little boys, so he asked for a meeting with the chief rabbi of New Square, and shared his abuse history.
"He is a shaigetz," replied rabbi (a derogatory word for a non- jew), "get him out of here."
Abe Weiss turned his back on his Judaism, he left his family and moved to New Jersey. He is now 39-years-old and has not had any contact with his family over 20 years.
"Sexual assault on children is a huge problem in Williamsburg and far worse than the statistics", says Weiss. "The majority of my friends were abused but no one in the our community talking about it."
There has been little improvements, yet still there are no background checks made on teachers or others who have contact with children, needless to say sex offenders have free rein. "
Girlfriend committed suicide
But it was so overwhelming that he himself attempted to commit suicide.
"I have several friends who have tried to commit suicide, or who are now dead. They could not live with what has happened, and the Community supports sex offenders instead of victim."
Tragedy struck again Abe Weiss on September 27, 2013, when his girlfriend, Deborah Tambor , committed suicide. Tambor grew up in the ultra-Orthodox New Square, which is located in northern New York.
The cult-like Jewish village is one of the most closed societies in the United States . Women and men use separate sidewalks, and women are ordered not to drive cars, by order of the chief rabbi.
According to Abe Weiss, Deborah was sexually abused by one of her uncles, but the matter was hushed up .
Tambor was married and had two children, but when she later divorced , she was denied access to his children, and that's what struck her out.
When Abe Weiss and 40 others former members of the ultra-orthodox sect met up to the funeral, they were rejected. In shame that it was a suicide, buried family Deborah in a cemetery far from the village.
"People in this community live in a reign of terror, where the children victims, this is also for this same reason the abuse can continue. To leave this community means you will loose custody of your children", says Abe Weiss.
Headed by rabbis, which many retains an old prohibition of "mesirah" that specify that a jew not allowed to go to non-Jewish authority.
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