Friday, May 17, 1991

Case of Jonathan Rosenthal

Case of Jonathan Rosenthal

Community Police Liason Officer - (Stamford Hill), London, England

Acquitted of sexually assaulting a few children, after a jury used ancient common law right, deciding evidence wasn't strong enough.

A community police liaison officer, Jonathan Rosenthal, 40, of Riverside Road was charged with three charges of indecently assaulting the girl and one similar offence against the boy. The alleged assaults began in 1986 when the woman's son was seven and her daughter one and a half. The 41-year-old community police liaison officer Jonathan Rosenthal, of Riverside Road, Stamford Hill, was acquitted of indecently assaulting the children after the jury used an ancient common law right to decide the Crown's evidence was not strong enough.

NOTE: Jonathan Rosenthal is a common name, the individual on this page was born around 1951 in Great Britain.

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. Child case men can be named (05/17/1991)
  2. Mother 'Was Offered Money to Stop Children's Evidence' (05/22/1991)
  3. Child abuse hidden by Jewish sect, court told (05/22/1991)
  4. Repression 'led to abuse' (06/14/1991)
  5. Jury Told of 'Hole' in Child Sex Prosecution (06/25/1991)
  6. 'Immature' Student Gets Six Months For Assault On Girl, 5 (06/26/1991)
  7. Abuse Case Teenager Freed (08/02/1991)
  8. Family of sex abuse victim driven from home by mob (08/02/1991)
  9. Family menaced by 'a community trapped in past  (08/03/1991)
  10. Jewish code of silence hushes scandals (08/04/1991)
  11. Jewish leader tells community to welcome back ostracised family  (08/09/1991)
  12. Jewish sex abuse family 'hunted'  (08/11/1991)
  13. A law unto themselves (08/11/1991)

Related Cases:
  1. Case of Phillip "Eli" Cohen

Articles Missing - If you have access to any of the following articles about Eli Cohen and Jonathan Rosenbthal, please send them to The Awareness Center, Inc.
  1. Press Association, May 16, 1991, Thursday, LAW COURT NEWS, 342 words
  2. The Guardian (London), May 23, 1991, 334 words, Mother 'was offered blood money'
  3. The Guardian (London), August 3, 1991, 309 words, Youth 'repressed by sect' freed
  4. The Times, August 12, 1991, Monday, Home news, 152 words, Jewish couple get police protection, Quentin Cowdry

Child case men can be named
The Independent (London) - May 17, 1991

A CROWN Court judge's order banning the Press from naming two men accused of sex offences against children was set aside as unlawful by the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Three judges held that the Children and Young Persons Act could properly be used to protect young victims of assault from being identified, but could not be extended to hide the identities of accused adults.

The decision was a victory for Caroline Godwin, a news agency journalist, who challenged the ruling made by Judge Laurie at Southwark Crown Court last month. Her appeal was supported by The Daily Telegraph, Mirror Group Newspapers, Associated Newspapers, and Newspaper Publishing plc, publishers of The Independent. The decision lifted the embargo on naming Phillip Eli Cohen and Jonathan Rosenthal, both of Riverside Road, Stamford Hill, north London. They are on trial at Southwark accused of indecency against a young boy and girl.

Their lawyers had urged that naming the pair could lead to the children being identified because they all lived in a close-knit Jewish community.

Lord Justice Glidewell, sitting in London with Mr Justice Popplewell and Mr Justice May, said the trial judge was rightly concerned to act in the interests of the children. But section 39 of the Act, on which he based his ruling, did not, as a matter of law, embrace or envisage the non-naming of defendants.

The trial judge himself conceded that he would welcome the Court of Appeal's guidance.

Lord Justice Glidewell, in a general observation, said: ''Our combined experience is that judges frequently give advice which the media representatives invariably respect.''

Miss Godwin, who conducted her own case in court, had told the judges that Judge Laurie's ruling had ''set a dangerous precedent''.

Told that she could recover her costs from public funds, Miss Godwin thanked the judges but emphasised that it was the principle that was important. The newspaper groups were also allowed costs from public funds.


Mother 'Was Offered Money to Stop Children's Evidence'
Press Association - May 22, 1991, Wednesday

A mother from a strict Jewish community told a court today she was offered hundreds of thousands of pounds to stop her young children giving evidence against two men accused of abusing them. The woman, who cannot be named because it would identify her children, said it would have been "blood money". She rejected an allegation that she negotiated with members of her community who did not want her to go to the police. 

The mother told Southwark Crown Court: "I have been personally offered money to go away. "I say to people that, even if I was offered a million pounds, we would not go away." When it was suggested she had negotiated a £250,000 fee for keeping her children out of court, the woman said: "No. It would be blood money for the children's suffering." 

Student Philip Eli Cohen, 18, of Riverside Road, Stamford Hill, north-east London, denies one charge of buggery and 13 charges of indecently assaulting the woman's 12-year-old son, and four offences of indecently assaulting her six-year-old daughter. Community police liaison officer Jonathan Rosenthal, 40, also of Riverside Road, denies three charges of indecently assaulting the girl and one similar offence against the boy. The alleged assaults began in 1986, when the boy was seven and the girl one-and-a-half. 

The court has been told Rosenthal comes from a famous Jewish family and that his father was a highly esteemed scholar and headmaster. Rosenthal is the member of the community who liases with the police whenever an Orthodox Jew is in trouble. 

The mother told the court she had been "excommunicated" by other orthodox Jews and alleged a rabbi had told one of her brothers to lie in court to protect Rosenthal. She described Rosenthal as a "dangerous paedophile who nearly murdered little babies" and accused him of torturing and almost drowning her daughter. Barrister Jonathan Goldberg, defending Rosenthal, accused the mother of telling a pack of lies. He put it to her that she was hated by her community and had been guilty of hysterical exaggeration throughout her life. The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.


Child abuse hidden by Jewish sect, court told
The Independent (London) - May 22, 1991

A MOTHER claimed in court yesterday that her strict Jewish community protected child abusers.

The woman, whose two young children allegedly suffered sexual abuse from two men, said her community knew she was telling the truth but would never admit it. The woman, a member of a religious sect in Stamford Hill, north London, denied at Southwark Crown Court that she had embarked on a ''hysterical crusade''.

A student, Philip Eli Cohen, 18, of Riverside Road, Stamford Hill, denies one charge of buggery and 13 charges of indecently assaulting a boy and four offences of indecently assaulting a girl.

A community police liaison officer, Jonathan Rosenthal, 40, also of Riverside Road, denies three charges of indecently assaulting the girl and one similar offence against the boy. The alleged assaults began in 1986 when the woman's son was seven and her daughter one and a half.

Cross-examined by Jonathan Goldberg QC, for Mr Rosenthal, the mother denied members of her community had turned against her because they believed she had ''coerced and rehearsed'' her children to lie about his client.

The trial was adjourned until today.


Repression 'led to abuse'
The Guardian (London) - June 14, 1991

A TEENAGER facing child abuse charges yesterday told a jury how his repressive upbringing in a strict Jewish household led to him indecently touching a young girl.

Student Phillip Eli Cohen, aged 18, said he felt guilty about twice touching the girl, aged 5, but that he had 'pent-up feelings' he had not been allowed to express.

Such was his ignorance of sex he thought the touching was not as bad as masturbation, which he had been told was 'worse than murder'. Mr Cohen, of Stamford Hill, north London, is accused along with Jonathan Rosenthal, aged 41, also of Stamford Hill, of abusing the girl and her brother over four years.

He denies three counts of indecently assaulting her as well as one count of buggery and 13 counts of indecent assault against the boy.

Mr Rosenthal denies three counts of indecently assaulting the girl and one of indecently assaulting the boy.

Mr Cohen told the jury at Southwark crown court that virtually all his knowledge of sexual matters came from an 18th-century theological text which described masturbation as 'worse than murder'.

In the lead-up to the alleged incidents with the girl, Mr Cohen said he was becoming increasingly confused.

'I had these building-up feelings, these pent-up feelings. I wasn't allowed to express them. Or if I did it was the most wicked thing.'

In January last year, he was in the children's house and the girl was running around in a short nightdress with no underpants. He asked her to play a game and during the course of it indecently assaulted her.

'I stopped immediately after that and I felt very guilty about it. I read some psalms,' he said. 'I didn't mean to hurt her.'

Some days later, he was in the house again and touched the girl in exactly the same way.
'I didn't mean to hurt her and I thought she didn't find it wrong. I knew it was wrong but I thought it was a lot less bad than masturbation.'

The girl eventually complained to her mother and Mr Cohen wrote a letter to her trying to explain his 'evil inclinations'.

The trial continues.

Jury Told of 'Hole' in Child Sex Prosecution
By Melvyn Howe
Press Association - June 25, 1991, Tuesday

The jury in the trial of a member of a strict Jewish community facing child sex charges was told today that a "substantial hole" had already been blown in the prosecution's case. Allegations that student Phillip Eli Cohen carried out a four-year catalogue of sadistic sex attacks against a young boy and the boy's younger sister rested on the children's uncorroborated evidence, said defence counsel Ann Curnow, QC. The jury's decision last week to use an "ancient" common-law right to acquit community police liaison officer Jonathan Rosenthal of indecently assaulting the children had shown it would not be right to convict Cohen on their evidence. Cohen, 18, of Riverside Road, Stamford Hill, north London, denies nine charges of indecently assaulting the boy and three similar offences involving the girl in the trial at Southwark Crown Court. Miss Curnow said her client should be cleared of all charges, with the exception of one involving the girl as he had admitted "touching" her on the two occasions covered by the charge. "Your verdicts in relation to Jonathan Rosenthal must mean that a very substantial hole has been blown in the bedrock, the foundation, of the Crown's case because in the end ... this case depends entirely on those children," she said. In her final address to the jury, Miss Curnow said the trial had "proceeded for all its length without a scintilla of corroboration at all of either child." Turning to the five days of evidence from the children's mother, Miss Curnow said: "She lied and she lied and she lied again and she didn't care whom she lied about." She had "revelled" in the attention the case brought her and had enjoyed the "feeling of power" she had over Cohen and his former co-defendant. It would never be known to what extent she had "coached" the children in their allegations, but they must have been "infected" by her exaggeration and lies. The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.


'Immature' Students Get Six Months For Assault On Girl, 5
By Melvyn Howe, Press Association
Press Association - July 26, 1991, Friday

A shy teenage member of a strict Jewish community was sentenced to six months youth custody today for indecently assaulting a five-year-old girl. Student Phillip Eli Cohen, 18, who blamed his behaviour on "evil impulses" and repressive upbringing, looked stunned as Judge Robin Laurie told him he "richly deserved" a custodial sentence. While he accepted that Cohen, of Riverside Road, Stamford Hill, north London, was immature and not street-wise, he was an intelligent young man with an "element of brass if not metal in his character". "Anyone can see that these assaults have done enormous damage," said the judge. He told Cohen, a member of the orthodox Yekers community, that one of the most serious aspects of the case was the effect it would have on the girl. "In my judgment, this offence is so grave that a non-custodial sentence cannot be justified." He added: "It is high time in my view that you paid the penalty that any other young man in the same circumstances would be expected to pay, which in my view, you richly deserve." Cohen was convicted of the offence four weeks ago after a two-month trial at Southwark Crown Court. He was cleared of three other offences of indecently assaulting the girl as well as 13 allegations of indecency and one of buggery against the girl's older brother. When the trial opened, the prosecution claimed Cohen had subjected the two children to years of sadistic sexual abuse. John Hilton QC, prosecuting, alleged Cohen had "indulged his sexual fantasies" by abusing the children and dressing up in their mother's clothes during evening sex sessions while the parents were out. The children made numerous allegations in court against him, but defence counsel Ann Curnow QC maintained their evidence had been orchestrated by their mother and could not be relied upon. The court was told the family also had a long history of psychiatric difficulties. After learning that her daughter had been sexually molested, the mother wrote to Cohen threatening to kill him if he came near her children again. Cohen wrote back apologising for his actions, saying he had succumbed to evil impulses.

In evidence Cohen, who said he prayed several times a day, admitted he had twice indecently assaulted the girl after seeing her running around in a nightie. A repressive upbringing in a strict Jewish household led him to assault her. Miss Curnow urged the judge to show mercy and not pass a custodial sentence on Cohen, who had already paid a "very heavy penalty" for what he had done. His health had suffered and he had felt "suicidal" during the trial. His A level studies had been affected and his plans for a law career had been made virtually impossible. Miss Curnow told the judge Cohen had changed during the "anxious and terrible" 18 months since the offence. He was now much more mature and "genuinely remorseful". After the case, Cohen's solicitor Martin Zeidman said he was planning to appeal against the sentence.

During the trial, 41-year-old community police liaison officer Jonathan Rosenthal, also of Riverside Road, Stamford Hill, was acquitted of indecently assaulting the children after the jury used an ancient common law right to decide the Crown's evidence was not strong enough.


by Geoff Frost
Press Association  - August 2, 1991, Friday

A student who blamed his repressive upbringing in a strict Jewish community for an indecency offence against a little girl won his freedom from a six-month youth custody sentence today. The sentence passed last Friday on Philip Eli Cohen, 18, from the North London Yekers community, was understandable, said Mr Justice Pill in the Court of Appeal. But the impact of a long trial on other charges, of which he was cleared, and a short period in custody was sufficient punishment, said the judge, sitting with Lord Justice Watkins and Mr Justice Rose. "We feel enough is enough." Cohen, of Riverside Road, Stamford Hill, jailed by Judge Robin Laurie at Southwark Crown Court for indecently assaulting a five-year-old girl, was put on probation for 12 months. Mr Justice Pill said Cohen, a trusted child minder for another family in the community, touched the girl under her nightie while her older brother was absent. Cohen had always admitted the assault, but following allegations made by both children to their mother he had to undergo a two-month trial, along with Jonathan Rosenthal, 41, on numerous indecency charges. The children gave evidence on video and behind a screen in court. Rosenthal, a senior figure in the community, and Cohen were acquitted of all those charges. At the trial, the court was told that Cohen's repressive upbringing in the orthodox community had led to his having no outlet for normal adolescent urges. Sex was a taboo subject in the sect. The trial judge accepted Cohen's remorse and the "long and harrowing" wait he endured before being dealt with for the admitted indecent assault, which took place in January last year. The judge also recognised that Cohen's education would be interrupted by detention and that character evidence given for him by his rabbi was impressive. But Cohen "richly deserved" custody, he said. Cohen's counsel, Miss Ann Curnow QC, told the appeal judges that a custodial sentence was not necessary. She added that Cohen was deeply ashamed and embarrassed over the "lurid" publicity given to the case by the tabloid press. Mr Justice Pill said: "We criticise the judge in no way for imposing a custodial sentence. However we feel able today to approach the case in a somewhat differentway."


Family of sex abuse victim driven from home by mob
The Guardian (London) - August 2, 1991

A JEWISH family from Stamford Hill, north London, whose six-year-old daughter was sexually abused by a teenager from their religious community, are now at a secret address after their home was besieged by a mob.

The family went into hiding after a crowd of orthodox Jews marched at midnight to their house and threw bricks while shouting 'Informers'. Phillip Eli Cohen, aged 18, of Stamford Hill, was sentenced at Southwark crown court last Friday to six months youth custody for indecently assaulting the girl when she was five.

Police revealed last night that the family had suffered an 18-month ordeal of hostility.

Police said that between 100 and 200 protesters threw missiles at the family's home last Saturday night.

The family had moved home five times in the past year under the pressure of hostility.

The family's 12-year-old son has spent four months in hospital suffering post-traumatic stress, and the father, mother and daughter are all now receiving psychiatric therapy.

At the trial, Mr Cohen admitted one indecent assault, but was cleared of three charges of assault on the girl, and of 13 charges of indecency and one of buggery against her brother.
His co-defendent, Jonathan Rosenthal, aged 41, also of Stamford Hill, was found not guilty of indecently assaulting the two children.


Family menaced by 'a community trapped in past'
A man's conviction for sexually abusing a young girl has divided Orthodox Jews. The girl's family have been called 'informers'. Steve Boggan reports
By Steve Boggan
The Independent (London) - August 3, 1991

AN ORTHODOX Jewish couple whose daughter was sexually abused by a member of their community have been moved to a police safe house after being attacked by a mob for ''informing'' on the abuser.

More than 100 Jews wielding bricks, iron bars and CS gas canisters surrounded the family's London home hours after the sentencing last Friday of Phillip Eli Cohen, 18, who admitted indecently assaulting the five-year-old girl.

The Court of Appeal yesterday reduced Cohen's initial sentence of six months' youth custody to a year's probation, prompting the girl's father to say: ''Perhaps now they will leave us alone.''

Cohen was acquitted at Southwark Crown Court several weeks ago of three other offences of indecently assaulting the girl and of 13 allegations of indecency and one of buggery against her brother, then aged 11. He blamed his behaviour on ''evil impulses'' and a repressive upbringing in the Yekers community of Stamford Hill, north London, but he was supported by many in the community who believed he should have been helped and punished without police involvement.

Cohen's co-defendant, Jonathan Rosenthal, 41, also from Stamford Hill, was cleared of indecently assaulting the children.

Within hours of Cohen's sentencing, dozens marched on the home of the girl's family, who cannot be named, chanting ''get out of town'' and ''moiser'', which is Yiddish for informer.
Last night the girl's father said: ''We have been treated as both victims and criminals since the affair began in January 1990. There are people who think it is more important to keep the matter quiet and within the community than to safeguard my children from a sexual abuser.

''It reached a peak hours after the sentencing of Cohen. At about 6.45pm, a brick came through the window. The police came and an inspector sat with me while the mob gathered outside. My wife had gone to the house of a friend who was looking after our daughter away from the trouble, but her car broke down on the way back and she was spotted by about 35 people from our community.

''They surrounded the car and began hitting it with bricks but she used the car phone to call me and the inspector got a patrol car round there to save her.

''They took her to Stoke Newington police station for her own protection and later, at about 1.30am, the police warned me I had better get out of our house.

''I grabbed a bag and spent the night at the police station. While I was away, they smashed a window and threw eggs at the house.

''I find it amazing that this can happen to a family whose daughter has been abused. It's unbelievable. I would say that it couldn't happen in twentieth-century England, except that my community isn't living here and now; they are stuck in eighteenth-century eastern Europe.''

His wife said: ''The horror that so much injustice and anarchy can exist in this day and age is beyond belief. It has been like being transported back to the Middle Ages. We don't just feel we have been victimised by the community; we also feel we have been failed by the judicial system. It has been like living in a nightmare.''

Since the family made their allegations against Cohen, they have been subjected to a campaign of abuse and forced to move house five times. The girl has spent three months as an in-patient and one month as an out-patient at Great Ormond Street Hospital. She, her mother and father are receiving psychiatric help.

The boy spent four months in hospital suffering from post-traumatic stress.

A senior police officer close to the inquiry said: ''The family have been treated appallingly. They have been through hell from day one and it isn't over yet. We felt we had to move them for their own safety. We still fear for their safety.''

The Stamford Hill home of Martin Braun, whose family is caring for the girl, has also been attacked. Mr Braun said: ''I am outraged, disgusted and ashamed that this is happening in our community. The people who attacked the family are no better than mad dogs. I told them that if they supported a child abuser, then they were of the nature of child abusers.

''When I heard the family had a brick through their window, it reminded me of my father when he was my age in Austria. He got a brick through the window in the anschluss. They took away his wife and children and gassed them. Now Jews are smashing each other's windows.''


Jewish code of silence hushes scandas
By David Rose 
The Observer - August 4 1991

IN YIDDISH the word is mosser, informer: a word used to describe the ancient evils of folk-memory, the betrayal of communities to the pogrom-happy authorities of tsarist Russia or medieval Europe. In the secretive world of north London's ultra-orthodox Jews, shaken to its foundations last week by separate scandals of sexual abuse and fraud, messira, the act of informing, remains the worst of all crimes.

'People believe a person labelled as a mosser has forfeited the right to life; he can be killed,' said Martin Braun, a member of one of the Hasidic orthodox sects who lives in their heartland, Stamford Hill.

'To understand what is going on you have to realise we are not working to logic, but to certain special codes. The comparison with the omerta, the Mafia code of silence, is not inappropriate. 'Something has gone crooked. We have lost our soul, we have lost our sense of reason. A lethal element has crept in: an arrogance and a total disregard for facts.'

Superficially, there is no connection between the two scandals. The first appeared to have ended on Friday when the Court of Appeal quashed the six-month youth custody sentence imposed on Philip Eli Cohen, 18, convicted the previous week of sexually abusing a five-year-old girl from another ultra-orthodox family. According to the court, the impact of his long trial (he was cleared of other sexual offences) and brief period of custody was sufficient punishment.

The second is only just beginning. In ultra-orthodoxy's version of the BCCI collapse, David Rubin, the son of the Rebbe of Sassow, the living saint who is rabbi and leader to the Sassower Hasidic sect, has disappeared owing up to pounds 150 million invested by fellow Hasidim, attracted to what seems to have been little better than a pyramid-selling confidence trick.

The deep-seated loathing for messira has characterised the ultra-orthodox response in both cases. Not one of the hundreds of families who have lost fortunes with the flight of Mr Rubin has gone to the police, or agreed to co-operate with an inquiry initiated by the Bank of England. Only one person, Louis Kestenbaum, has even issued a civil writ, and he is from New York, an outsider although also an Hasidic.

In the case of Philip Cohen, the ancient codes reached an altogether uglier pitch last weekend. On Saturday afternoon, while the Sabbath was still being observed, someone threw a brick through the window of the home of the family of the victim, now aged six. Mr Braun, a friend, suggested the girl might be better off spending the night with his family in case of further trouble.

That night, a mob of more than 100 people from Hasidic sects gathered outside the girl's house, armed with metal bars. They shouted abuse, threatened violence, and tried to smash Mr Braun's car when he attempted to come to the family's rescue. Stamford Hill echoed to their chant: 'Mosser, mosser, mosser.' In a bizarre touch noted by eyewitnesses, they maintained the rigid gender separation enforced in orthodox synagogues: the men chanted and threatened on one side of the street, the women on the other.

On Sunday, the family went into hiding, but another demonstration in which the mob detonated portable CS gas canisters took place outside the home of Mr Braun. All last week, he said, his telephone rang with death threats.

After the demonstration, he added, a Hasidic rabbi came to see him. 'He sat there and told me with a cold, smiling face that the little girl did not matter, the child of such a mother. Meaning simply that she, the mother, had gone to the police.'

If no one has complained about Mr Rubin to the authorities, and some of his investors are so rich as to barely notice their losses, others have been ruined. Sources in the Hasidic community speak of men who remortgaged their family homes, attracted by promises of rates of return on investment in Mr Rubin's company, David Rubin Associates, which seem to have swelled and fluctuated with his mood: five, 10 or 15 per cent per month.

There was pressure to invest more than any ordinary family could afford: Mr Rubin refused investments of less than pounds 250,000, helping smaller fish to form syndicates in which all sank together.

The Observer understands that one victim of the collapse tried to kill himself by drowning last week. He was found face down, almost dead, in the Golders Green mikvah, a ritual bath used by ultra-orthodox women to purify themselves after a period, and by worshippers before the Sabbath.

Those who knew Mr Rubin say his business became big only in the latter days of the 1980s boom. Previously, he had cashed in on the holy status of his father in a more direct fashion: charging pounds 500 to bring one of the more popular Hasidic rabbis to a family's home.

At first he seems to have honoured his promises of glittering returns, partly through the bogus import-export game known as parallel trading. Using front companies in Zaire and Nigeria, he obtained huge discounts on commodities and finished goods for export to Africa which were then resold sometimes date-expired and repackaged in Britain.

His first investors were members of the Sassower sect led by his father, the least-isolated of the ultra-orthodox groups. However, as business burgeoned, Mr Rubin began to be pressed by other sects, including the Satmars of Stamford Hill, many of them vastly wealthy. Soon, as in classical pyramid selling, new business funds were being used to finance the 'interest' payable to older depositors.

Accounts differ as to the immediate cause of Mr Rubin's disappearing act. According to papers filed in Mr Kestenbaum's legal action, he confronted Rubin nine days ago in Amsterdam and demanded the return of a six-figure loan made in March with the promised speedy return of pounds 75,000. Other sources speak of links between foreign investors in Mr Rubin's company and organised crime, and of death threats; there is also a report of New York investors demanding pounds 13m.

Neither the scale of the fraud, nor the exact course of events is likely to be established precisely: no one wants to be the mosser against even a man who has brought penury to hundreds. 'The shtiebel (small synagogue) run by Rubin's father has a reputation for charity,' one source said yesterday. 'Now the community is going to need it, but it's also a way of keeping things self-contained.'


Jewish leader tells community to welcome back ostracised family
The Guardian (London) - August 9, 1991

THE leader of a north London community of orthodox Jews has called for 'love and reconciliation' toward a family threatened by members of the community after being involved in a child abuse prosecution.

In a notice posted in Hebrew in local synagogues, Rabbi Henoch Padwa condemned mob violence and commanded Stamford Hill's Hasidic Jews to welcome back the family. The family went into hiding after a 100-strong crowd, shouting 'moiser' (Yiddish for informer), gathered outside its home and threw bricks.

The rabbi's edict came after Phillip Eli Cohen, aged 18, of Stamford Hill, was freed by the Appeal Court last Friday. He had been found guilty of abusing a child from the family and given six months' youth custody, but the court changed this to a year's probation, on the grounds that he had suffered enough from the trial publicity.

Rabbi Padwa, the leader of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, said in his statement: 'I condemn all acts of intimidation and violence which have been perpetrated against the family. I urge everyone to desist from this mode of behaviour in future, and all efforts to be employed to help them reintegrate in the community with love and reconciliation.'

The abused girl's father said in response: 'We welcome this and we hope the whole community listens to the words of the leader.'


Jewish sex abuse family 'hunted"
By Steve Boggan
The Independent (London), August 11, 1991

PRIVATE detectives may be trying to locate a safe house in which the strictly orthodox Jewish parents of two sexually abused children have taken refuge.

The couple went into hiding on the advice of police after a section of their community staged a riot outside their home and accused them of being moisers, the Yiddish word for informants.

The riot took place two weeks ago after Eli Cohen, 18, who admitted indecently assaulting the couple's five-year-old daughter, appealed successfully to have a six-month prison sentence reduced to 12 months' probation. He was supported by a vociferous section of the community in Stamford Hill, north London, which considers that the involvement of police breached the convention that a Jew shall not inform on another Jew.

Intelligence was passed to the police after the riot indicating that two private eyes had been commissioned to locate the safe house in which the couple and their daughter, now aged six, were placed. Their 12-year-old son is being cared for at another secret location. The family cannot be named for legal reasons.

The information has been treated seriously because of the belief among a minority ultra-right-wing section of the community that mesiroh, the act of informing, has been committed by the parents, particularly the mother. She fears a death sentence has been passed on her.

A community worker said the intelligence passed to police is thought to have included the name of a local, non-orthodox Jewish man charged with finding the family. But all attempts to trace the man had failed.

The community worker said: ''We may simply be dealing with rumour, but the police have had to take the warning seriously because of the violence that has been displayed . . . ''

About 250 people surrounded the family's house during the riot, throwing eggs and stones.

The mother of the children, aged 35, was returning from a friend's house when her car broke down at the height of the riot. Her car was surrounded and attacked by about 35 people before she was rescued by police. ''I think they'd have killed me if the police had not arrived,'' she said.


A law unto themselves
1991 The Independent (London) - August 11, 1991

THE FIGURE in front of the car gradually froze and started to tremble as small knots of people spotted her and began pointing. Outside her front door, next to the smashed living-room window, she stepped over the dried remains of the eggs that had been thrown at her husband.

''Please wait,'' she said. ''Don't let them get me.''

In the neat, tree-lined north London street, curtains began to twitch. Women came out of houses with their children, leering at the woman and whispering to each other. Back inside the car, she stared at the floor and gripped the papers she had fetched from the house. Refusing to return the angry looks, she gave nervous, erratic directions, missing turnings less than 200 yards from her home.

After several U-turns, we emerged from the tight ball of streets that comprises Stamford Hill and she began to breathe more steadily. There was a little smile and she wound down her window.

It was the first time she had been home since a mob of 250 people had turned up outside the house, showering it with bricks and eggs and accusing her of being a police informer. ''You never get used to the pointing,'' she said. ''They think I'm evil.''

Five minutes later she said goodbye and joined her husband for the journey to their new home, to the police safe house in which they have taken refuge having committed the crime their community will not forgive: reporting that their children had been sexually abused.

IT BEGAN at the end of a normal day in January 1990. Anne and Daniel Wiseman (not their real names) had put their children, Debbie, then aged five, and Thomas, 10, to bed. They had been concerned for some time about their children's behaviour; the youngsters, particularly Thomas, had become withdrawn and wilful, but visits to several doctors had failed to find the source of their apparent depression.

The visits, seeking diagnoses and second opinions, had been frustrating for the family. Anne had become worried about small bruises, marks that could have been burns or blistered weals. She was accused of being over-anxious, of smothering the children and of being neurotic.

Compared with other strictly orthodox Jews, theirs was a small family; it is normal for couples to have at least four children. The suspicion was that she was disappointed at not having more babies and so was channelling all her love and frustration into the process of worrying over Debbie and Thomas.

 Invariably, she would be told there was nothing wrong with her children. Come back if the marks haven't gone in two or three days, the doctors said. And the marks went away.

On 30 January, Debbie went into her parents' bedroom shortly before 3am. She was restless and moaning and told Anne she had earache. Her mother allowed her into bed for a cuddle, but the child continued to moan. Then she uttered the words that would change their lives.

''Mummy,'' she said. ''It hurts the way it does when Eli puts his fingers inside me.''

''I froze when she said those words,'' said Anne. ''Eli was our babysitter - Eli Cohen. I didn't know what to do. I didn't tell my husband straight away; I didn't know where to start. I asked Debbie more questions, but she went rigid and she'd only say, 'Ask Thomas.'

''I sat up all night worrying. At about six o'clock, Debbie woke again and said: 'Did you ask Thomas?' She got up and went into his room and I heard him shout: 'Why did you tell them?'

''He was in a terrible rage with Debbie. He was frightened. After my husband left for prayers, I asked Thomas what had happened and eventually he told me.''

The children's allegations related to offences of touching genitals. Anne was horrified. The telling seemed a relief to the children, but it also frightened them. At one point, Debbie said she had done a ''big avero'' - a sin - and she would die for it.

''What do you do when your children say these things? Where do you start?'' Anne said. She broke the news to Daniel and discussions began with a local rabbi. Initially, as is customary, the couple wanted the matter to be handled within the community; they wanted Eli, then 17, to be sent to another family outside Stamford Hill.

But first they wrote a note to the youth, in a sealed envelope, warning him not to go near their children. His response was quick and shocking.

He wrote a letter of his own in which he said Debbie often became lonely when her parents went out and would ask to play ''mummies and daddies or schools''. During these games he said he realised he was being tempted by ''evil intentions.''

''Please understand that there are two sides to most people; their intellect and their emotional,'' he wrote. ''Normally my intellect wins through, but my emotional has balanced out my intellect.

''Please forgive me for I realise what I have done is wicked and illegible in your eyes . . .'' He concluded in a post-script that ''before a few weeks ago I had always been a good babysitter . . .''

THERE ARE more than 1,500 strictly orthodox Jewish families in Stamford Hill, a once-grand area of London straddling the A10 about five miles north of the City.

It is a complex community made up of dozens of orthodox sects and sub-sects adhering rigidly to the word of the Talmud and the Torah, or Old Testament. The most obvious sign of their difference is their clothing. The Hasidic men dress in black with long frock coats and wide-brimmed hats. They are bearded, often shave their heads to leave earlocks tumbling from their temples and, on the Sabbath, they wear stockings and breeches, flowing silk coats and extravagant fur hats.

Slight variations in dress are important to those within the community. The size of a brim or the colour of stockings may be significant in tracing the ancestry of the wearer to some eastern European town or shtetl.

The women keep their hair covered or wear wigs. Some are shaven beneath the wigs, others retain their own hair. For many, particularly Hasidic sects, Yiddish is regarded as a first language.

The sexes are segregated early on, with boys attending a yeshivah, or school, from about the age of 14 to gain a strictly orthodox education. Men see their role in life as one of constant learning. Intellect and knowledge are as much prized in shidduchim, arranged marriages (which are the norm), as material wealth and position. Touching between sexes is proscribed, except for husband and wife.

Within the Stamford Hill area, there are Hasidic and non-Hasidic sects. The differences relate mainly to the location of ancestors and to the rebbe, ecclesiastical leaders, whose word they follow. Among the Hasidic sects are the Lubavitch, Bobov, Sassow, Square, Satmar, Gur and Belz. Ancestry among the non-Hasidic sects can be traced to Germany, Austria, Poland, Lithuania and Russia. Opinions differ in the community, but it is thought the Yekers sect, originating from Germany, has been most involved in the current dispute and has enjoyed support from some Hasidim.

Singling out a sect is made more difficult by the fact that some within the community argue about their own identity. One husband and wife disagreed about their origins when I questioned them. The female said she was Yekers - the husband disagreed. He said he was Litvish, of east European origin - but the wife told him he was being ridiculous.

THE WISEMANS continued to try to resolve the abuse problem within the community, but they knew it was important to have their children examined by a doctor in the light of their allegations.

A meeting of three rabbis proved inconclusive. Two of them proposed that Eli Cohen should be sent away for three years, but (according to another rabbi, who would not be named) the third, Rabbi Aaron Dovid Dunner, of the synagogue attended by Cohen, vetoed the suggestion.

That left the Wisemans in a dilemma. They wanted the matter to be dealt with by the Rabbinical Court, by the local judges, or dayanim, who normally resolve disputes, but they say they were ignored. ''We tried seven rabbis, but they all said they weren't interested,'' Daniel said. ''They refused to treat the situation seriously or even admit this sort of thing could happen in our community. One said it was our own fault for having a male babysitter.''

The family grew more desperate but were deterred from calling in the police by the convention that a Jew must never inform on another Jew. They would become moisers, or informers, worthless in the community and, in the eyes of fanatics, deserving of death.

Anne attempted to issue deadlines for Eli Cohen to be moved out of the community, but they came and went. At last, reluctantly, she referred the matter to the police. But, as it turned out, they would have been consulted anyway. The doctor who examined the children had already reported the case to Haringey Social Services Department, and the Southgate police child protection team in North London had been alerted.

From this point onwards, the hatred began to grow. Now the family were moisers, and there were those in the community who expected them to pay.

SOCIAL workers and police who interviewed Debbie and Thomas were beginning to piece together a picture of abuse when, in April, Debbie named a second man who, she claimed, visited the family home while her parents were out.

In several statements, and later at Southwark Crown Court, she and Thomas named Eli Cohen and Jonathan Rosenthal, 41, a police community liaison officer and the son of an eminent Jewish scholar. Rosenthal was later acquitted of all the charges against him, three of indecently assaulting the boy and one of assaulting the girl. Cohen admitted twice sexually assaulting Debbie but was cleared of three other counts of indecently assaulting her, and of 13 counts of indecent assault and one of buggery against her brother.

ANNE WISEMAN is a forceful, 35-year-old woman who can be abrasive in matters concerning her children. The court hearings, in which she often pointlessly argued with defence counsel, were to show that she could let her emotions run away with her. She had made enemies by accusing other children of hurting Thomas in the playground brawls to which he ascribed his cuts and bruises. Now feelings against her and her family began to run higher.

The older man the children had named was a highly respected member of their community; people found it inconceivable that he could have been involved. His innocence - like Cohen's, where he pleaded not guilty - was later proved.

While police, social workers and doctors who examined the children were satisfied that someone outside the home had abused them, some members of the community decided the children's story must have been invention.

That was when the harassment began.

It started with hate mail to Anne and Daniel and continued with death threats to members of her family. The community began to take sides - but precious few sided with the people they regarded as moisers. ''Many people we considered friends ostracised us,'' Anne said. ''Some shops refused to serve me. It was astonishing. I'd walk down the street with Debbie, and other mothers would run out of their houses and drag their children in. Women would pinch their noses and hold their heads in the air as I walked past. Several walked up to Debbie and said she was an evil liar.''

''We felt as if we were the criminals, not the victims,'' Daniel added. ''I imagine this is how some rape victims feel.''

Rumours began circulating in the community to the effect that Anne had been receiving psychiatric help for several years. In fact, she did receive some counselling to enable her to lose weight because she had been upset that she did not conceive a second child after Thomas. After one consultation, she lost several stones and later gave birth to Debbie.

Other rumours suggested Anne had ''coached'' her children into making their allegations - a possibility rejected by all the agencies concerned because of the complexity of the statements. Much capital was made later, in court, of the fact that the family had a video recorder - which is frowned upon - and the children may possibly have watched films the community regarded as pornographic and violent.

A list of films rented, which was disputed by the family, included Death Wish, Mary Poppins, ET, Out of Africa, the Witches of Eastwick and Nuts, which was considered particularly significant as its star, Barbra Streisand, admits that she has behavioural problems because she was abused as a child. The family denied taking out other, soft porn films, and pointed out that one film was said to have been taken out on the Sabbath, a day when walking to a video shop, carrying money and watching films would all have been anathema.

One of the people who helped to orchestrate opposition to the family agreed to speak anonymously. He said: ''The mother rubbished the community and anyone who stood up to her. Did you know the family have undergone psychiatric treatment since 1982?

''She's known for fabricating stories. She's a sick woman. The story is fabricated from beginning to end. People have been very angry at the things she said. It is all obviously a lie.

''I can only compare this with sticking a drawing pin into someone's shin, then that person pulls out a gun and starts shooting people. Do you feel sorry for the person with the pin in the shin, or the people who were shot?

''Touching a girl indecently is a crime, but the crime this mother has committed is much more serious. She fabricated evidence to have Cohen put away for a long time.''

And then he said: ''Have you considered that the mother and father might have done it?''

Hinda Style, an independent counsellor and one of the social workers in the case, and herself a Jew, said: ''That is an appalling suggestion and is absolutely untrue. I sat in on case conferences with all the agencies. The children were abused by people from outside the home.''

This week, social workers at Haringey sent personal letters to the children offering them support. One, to Debbie, from Jean Croot, who handled her case, says: ''I and the other people I work with all believe you and Thomas were sexually abused. It was very brave of you both to be able to tell people. This has helped your parents to make sure you'll be safer in the future.''

Officers of the police child protection team are known to be satisfied that the children were subjected to outside abuse. And a medical report seen by The Independent on Sunday indicates abuse had taken place.

But the harassment continued, and broadened in its effects. Debbie was refused a place on a summer day-camp. A rumour was circulated that Daniel's business was being investigated by the fraud squad - a claim denied by the police - and the locks on shutters outside his office were superglued. Anyone who expressed support for the family was threatened or vilified. One woman, who was seen walking with Anne, received a phone call asking why she was out with ''a prostitute''.

Members of the family living in other countries have not escaped the affair. The arranged marriage of a nephew in Israel was called off. A close relative who lives abroad (his whereabouts cannot be given) said: ''I have had to explain to some people here what has happened. Those who'd like to twist events have a lot of influence over here.''

On 16 November last year, a full page advertisement appeared in the Jewish Chronicle reminding the Orthodox Jewish community to adhere to judicial procedures laid down in the Torah. It concluded: ''In the event of a member of the community not using these procedures, tradition has stated that they, and those who assist them, could possibly be ostracised from the community.''

Reporters from the Chronicle traced the advertisement - which had been ''considerably shortened and watered down . . . on rabbinical and legal advice'' - to the office of Ben-Zion Dunner, a financier, the nephew of Aaron Dovid Dunner, the rabbi who vetoed the proposal to send Cohen out of the community. He refused to say why the advertisement, believed to have cost several thousand pounds, was placed or whether it related to the Wiseman case. Rabbi Dunner refuses to comment. The Chronicle has since decided to reject similar advertisements.

DURING the period of harassment - which has now lasted more than a year - the family has been forced to move five times. Anne and Daniel now accept that there is little chance of their children being able to make marriages with other strictly orthodox Jews.

Last year, Thomas spent three months in Great Ormond Street Hospital suffering from post-traumatic stress, but he appeared to be making a good recovery in time to attend the strictly orthodox Jewish school which he hadbeen accepted by several months earlier. That school, which cannot be named for legal reasons, asked for a report on his condition from Dr Bryan Lask, the consultant psychiatrist who was caring for Thomas. After reading the report, the governors were satisfied Thomas would make a good pupil. After all, despite the rumours that he was an insecure, neurotic child, he had been elected head boy by the pupils of his previous school.

The new term was due to start on 5 September. On 2 September the school withdrew Thomas's place. The governors offered nine reasons for rejecting the boy. Among them, they said: ''Many parents had expressed very strong opposition to (Thomas's) admission, apparently fearing that it would have a harmful effect on their own children if he were to relate to them his apparent knowledge of sexual matters and his alleged sordid experiences.''

Another added: ''It was feared that allegations of sexual abuse might be made against teachers or other boys in the school.'' And reason number six read: ''Substantial and possibly crucial financial support might be lost if Thomas were admitted.''

After intervention by Rabbi H Padwa, the chief justice of the Rabbinical Court, the school finally agreed to admit Thomas, provided Daniel and Anne agreed to nine crushing conditions. Among them, the boy would have to leave home (at the age of 11) and live with a family near the school. He would not be allowed to stay with his family at holidays or weekends.Anne and Daniel would be forbidden to have any contact with the staff or governors of the school. The school retained ''absolute freedom of action'' to eject him. Reluctantly, the parents signed the agreement.

''We had to,'' Daniel said. ''Thomas was home from hospital, and for the first few days of term he was getting up and dressing in his new uniform ready to go. We didn't have the heart to tell him the place had been withdrawn, so we told him he wasn't well enough to go and sent him back to bed. But we couldn't do that for ever.''

Inevitably, although Thomas liked his school, he missed his family, and his condition deteriorated. Haringey Social Services Department, with the parents' approval, made him a ward of court, thereby preventing the school from enforcing its conditions. The school objected and, in a series of cases that went to the Court of Appeal, it was decided the courts could not order it to take Thomas. He was ejected from the school shortly afterwards.

TWO WEEKS ago, when Eli Cohen was sentenced to six months' youth custody (later reduced to 12 months' probation by the Court of Appeal), the family were subjected to a riot outside their home. More than 250 people emerged at motzei shabbos, the ending of the Sabbath, and gathered outside chanting ''Get out of town!'' and, predictably, ''Moisers!''

A brick came through the window. Large numbers of police arrived as eggs were thrown and CS gas canisters let off. Wearily, Daniel says: ''It was very frightening.''

Hinda Style, the independent counsellor, went to offer her support when Daniel called her. They were concerned because Anne had gone to a friend's house to take some nightclothes for Debbie, who, they thought, would be safer out of the way.

''On the way back,'' Mrs Style says, ''Anne called us on the car phone. She had broken down and a mob of about 35 people had spotted her and surrounded the car. It was awful. Daniel has an open phone that we could all hear, andwe heard people hitting the car, trying to smash the windows to get to Anne.

''It was horrible. We could hear Anne screaming as it was happening. The police got there in time and rescued her, but she believes - and I can't really disagree - that they would have killed her if they'd got into the car.'' That was when they were put into a police safe house.

There are signs that the community is turning around. Martin Braun, whose family was caring for Debbie on the night of the riot, said:''I was ashamed at what my community has done. My father got a brick through his window when he was my age in Austria. That was the Anschluss. They took away his wife and children and gassed them.

''What has happened to this family is disgusting, shameful, abhorrent. But I think the people who did it will come round and, in time, see what they have done. This is not the way we behave; it is totally contrary to the teachings of Judaism, to love, understand, support. They will wake up and find they have been in a dream, and they will be ashamed.''

There was a ray of hope earlier this week when Rabbi H Padwa, the most authoritative voice in the community, issued a notice condemning ''all acts of intimidation and violence that have been perpetrated against the Wiseman family.'' But that was not his last word. On Thursday he joined six other rabbis in a statement rejecting all allegations of abuse and describing the couple as ''irresponsible people'' who ''wished to degrade and deride the holy people of Israel''.

Daniel Wiseman said: ''This effectively tells the community we have lied throughout the case, and it fails to recognise the harassment we have been subjected to.''

FOR THE Wisemans, life goes on. Thomas is being given private tuition at a secret location. After the court proceedings, the parents found no other strictly orthodox Jewish school in England would take him. He is said to be ''happy and thriving''. Debbie's condition is improving. She still receives counselling, as do Anne and Daniel, but this week she was happy and cheerful. Daniel and Anne are broke. Most of Daniel's business clients stood by him, but the cost of moving five times and running two houses (one remains unsold) has taken a toll.

Unless things improve, they may leave the area. ''But we are Orthodox Jews,'' Daniel said. ''This is our life. We'll have to live within a community, and everyone will know who we are before we get there.''

''I never understood what happiness was,'' Anne said. ''But now I know, and it's so simple. Happiness is the ability to gather up your children and take them inside your own home, knowing that when you close the front door, you're safe.''



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