Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Case of Sholom Eichler

New York Post July 3, 2012

Survivor/Activist Chaim Levin
An Orthodox Jewish gay activist and blogger sued his cousin yesterday for allegedly preying on him for several years at a synagogue and at the relative’s home.

Chaim Levin, raised ultra-Orthodox, contends in a Brooklyn Supreme Court civil lawsuit that he was the victim of sexual abuse by Sholom Eichler, whose family owns a prominent Judaica store.

Levin claims in court papers that Eichler assaulted him on a weekly basis from 1996 to 1999, starting when he was 6 years old.

The suit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, says most of the abuse occurred at the home of Eichler and his parents, as well as at a synagogue to which both families belonged.

The suit comes as sex-abuse cases involving Brooklyn ultra-Orthodox Jews continue to make headlines, with prosecutors blaming pressure from the community for keeping victims from coming forward.

Eichler, who did not return calls, works for his family-run business.

Levin said he took his allegations to prosecutors last year, but no action was taken.

A spokesman for the Brooklyn DA’s Office said he could not confirm that.


Orthodox Activist Sues Over Alleged Abuse

By Simi Lampert

Forward - July 03, 2012

Eichler's Judaica Store, Brooklyn, NY
Orthodox gay activist Chaim Levin is reportedly suing a cousin for abusing him over a period of three years, starting when he was just six years old.

Levin charges that his cousin Sholom Eichler, whose family owns a famed Brooklyn Judaica store, molested him in a synagogue and at Eichler’s home, the New York Post reported.

The lawsuit began July 2 in a Brooklyn court, the paper said.

Neither Eichler, who works for the store, nor his family could be reached for comment.

Levin claims he took his allegations to prosecutors last year, but no action was taken against Eichler. A spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office said he could not confirm that claim, the paper said.


Gay Activist Accuses Orthodox Jewish Cousin of Childhood Sexual Abuse

QueerTY - July 4, 2012

Activist/Survivor - Chaim Levin

Gay Jewish blogger Chaim Levin, 22, has filed suit in Brooklyn against his cousin, Sholom Eichler, accusing the older relative of molesting him over a three year period starting in 1996, when Levin was just 6.  In the complaint, Levin claims the abuse occurred at the Eichler home, as well as at a synagogue both families were members of.

Eichler, who is in his late 20s, now works as a website manager for his family’s Judaica store.

Levin, who was raised in Crown Heights Hasidic community, runs the blog, Gotta Give ‘Em Hope, and has spoken openly about his horrifying experiences with Jewish reparative-therapy groups. He claims he went to authorities to file criminal charges against Eichler last year but that nothing was done.

Several cases of abuse and molestation among Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jews have made headlines in recent years, owing in part to the fact that the close-knit religious community is so mistrustful of outsiders. Some leaders have even demanded that a victim must speak to their rabbi before going public with accusations.

Below, Levin and other openly gay Jews raised in Orthodox families speak about their experiences in an It Gets Better video.


When I Lost Hope: Levin v. Eichler
By Chaim Levin
Gotta give'em hope (blog) - November 19, 2012

Early this past July, I filed a lawsuit against Sholom Eichler, a first cousin who sexually abused me for four years starting when I was 6. From the day the abuse began until last year, I hadn’t felt confident, strong or ready to attempt to pursue justice and hold Eichler accountable for what he did to me. I was afraid. The people I counted on to protect and help me when I was young only fed that fear, allowing it to grow. I had confided in my school principal, Rabbi Lustig of Oholei Torah, when I was 14 and the years of secret pain were too much to bear alone. Rabbi Lustig advised my parents not to create “a family fight” by confronting Eichler or his parents and strongly urged them not to say anything. Consequently, Eichler remained a welcome presence in my parents’ home for the rest of my youth, and my family celebrated his wedding despite knowing that he brutally abused and molested me for four years of my childhood four years that I’ll never get back, four years that I live with everyday of my life.

It’s been difficult. And, forgiving my family and the caregivers who betrayed me is no easy thing. Yet, I am grateful to most of my immediate family members for their support that, although it came late, did still come.I have been lucky to have the unwavering support of my parents and siblings throughout the journey the past few years has taken me on. My parents stand proudly behind me and support me in the work that I do the cause I believe in and live for. They accept me completely as I am; my orientation is just another inherent aspect little different from the color of my eyes or my skin tone. Everyday, I hear from people whose families reject them, sometimes even disowning them, just because they’re gay. I had truly believed and feared that my family would never come around, but I was wrong. They have arrived, and I couldn’t be more proud to call them my family, my blood. They have been there for me as I have tried to pursue justice. 

Before filing a lawsuit against Eichler, I attempted to envision the different scenarios that might result, but I was not prepared for what ensued. Many people sympathized with Eichler and recast the traumatic abuse as just “two kids fooling around,” others called the lawsuit a ploy for attention, and some even had the audacity simply to feed into the denial all too commonly surrounding abuse, dismissing what had happened to me with assertion that Eichler is “family man” incapable of the horrific crimes he committed against me, my body and my mind. It had taken years for me to regain some sort of wholeness with which I could try to move forward, and the negative reactions to the lawsuit challenged that.  

And, I lost hope. I had to take a step back. I had lost my way. I have spent the last few months trying to figure out my place, where I belong and what I want to do in the future. I have also done as much I can to begin to heal from the childhood trauma that I endured. I had lost the confidence that was so hard to build. I lost my drive. I was disappointed and angry with many people; it was truly horrifying for me to hear anyone try defending the likes of Eichler despite what was known. So many people were focused on “Jewish gay activist sues cousin for sexual abuse” that the story was lost. It was a headline that told them all that they thought they needed to know. It was a headline that allowed them to conclude that the abuse I experienced at the hands of Eichler must have been consensual despite his being six years older because I proudly identify as a gay man and had not told anyone while the abuse occurred. It was a headline that allowed people to continue to ignore abuse and to blame and dismiss survivors. The misguided conclusions people made about me and what had happened to me were far from reality; still, they were a source of pain.

While I don’t feel the need to defend my choice in taking actions against someone that hurt me, I do think it’s important to address some matters before other abuse survivors’ motives are questioned and they are harmed in the process. Eichler may have been a minor at the time of the abuse, but I was a child; I couldn’t consent, and I didn’t have a choice. Eichler exploited my vulnerability in feeling different and inferior, which made me a perfect target for a predator. He once told me that he had to be mean to me in public so that no one caught on to “our” secret. Eichler sexually, physically and mentally abused me. He devised elaborate strategies to isolate and intimidate me and to lure me away to commit unspeakable acts. Even after Eichler sodomized me with a pen when he became frustrated with my small, unaccommodating, fragile, eight year old anatomy, I was still too afraid to tell anyone. Like many other survivors, I was afraid and ashamed. That was why I kept it a secret for as long as I did, but when I was more able to understand what had happened I reached out for help. 

My principal, family and community’s reaction are examples of what fed and continues to feed the pernicious silence that creates an environment conducive to abuse and that revictimizes survivors. I reached out again to my former principal upon retaining my lawyers, but he refused to cooperate, claiming that it was against Jewish law for him to get involved in any capacity. Rabbi Lustig knew what was at stake when he refused to cooperate less than a year ago, when abuse was no longer taboo and most rabbis called for everyone to help survivors achieve justice. Given Rabbi Lustig’s past and the history with running Oholei Torah for which he has not been held accountable, I cannot be too shocked by the way he continues to handle matters. My family, on the other hand, were there for me when I needed them this time, and it means so much to me. It’s been a long and painful road in finding some middle ground with my family. Instead of ignoring it and pretending like nothing happened as they had for too long, they were ready and willing to do whatever it took to bring justice and closure for me in any capacity necessary. 

Justice and closure have been hard coming. Eichler and his family refuse to face the limelight. Neither he nor his family have publicly commented on the charges. There were those who thought he deserved his day in court; well, he got it, but he chose to not to use it. Eichler did not even file a response to the complaint against him, and a default judgment has been requested. And, it appears that his response to the default judgement against him will be immigrating to Israel. 

I used to wish I could just escape from the past.Today, I think differently. Today, I want to move forward. I know that if I had missed the opportunity to pursue some justice as I decided after my 23rd birthday this past May, it would have been all the more difficult to move forward with my life, still burdened with a conflicted conscious and consuming secret. Now the secret is out, Eichler is exposed, and other children may be safer and other survivors find it easier to come forward. I am unapologetically proud of my choice to file a suit against Eichler for the damage he caused me. Now, I stand prouder and stronger, ready to move forward with my future while being mindful of the evils of the past. While they might be in my past, they continue to be a source of struggle for me and are a present reality for far too many people. The case was brought to court, but that does not mean it’s over; sadly, these battles are never over. Nonetheless, I am relieved to be in a better place in my life to do the things I hope and plan on doing; these include continuing to be an outspoken, unashamed survivor and an unapologetic critic of those who continue to feed toxic and dangerous environments in which abuse is covered up, and, most importantly, to put an end to the deafening silence that has handicapped so many of us. 


Sholom Eichler Now Residing in Kfar Chabad, Israel
December 31, 2012

After being served papers regarding a civil suit againt him, Sholom Eichler fled the United States and is now residing in Kfar Chabad, Israel.


Eichler's Ad -  Celebrate Passover 2013 in Style
PR URGENT - March 3, 2013


Cousin Of Haredi MK Arrested For Child Sexual Abuse
By Shmyra Rosenberg
Failed Messiah Blog - March 21, 2013

Shlomo Eichler is the man on the right
Sholom Eichler was arrested about an hour ago in Kfar Chabad for allegedly molesting one of his cousins.

Chaim Levin writes via email:
Sholom Eichler was just arrested here in Israel because the last time he molested me was here in Israel.…He was arrested about an hour ago in Kfar Chabad and is being brought to Jerusalem as we speak. There are two charges against him…Sexual abuse of a minor/family member [and]…sodomy of a minor/family member.

He moved to Kfar Chabad after I sued him civilly in New York (he ignored the lawsuit and I was awarded a default judgment). The crime was committed in Jerusalem and so the hearing will be here.…


Sholom Eichler arrested in Israel on sex abuse charges
By Vicki PolinExaminer - March 22, 2013

On March 21, 2013 Sholom Eichler was arrested in Israel on charges of molesting his younger cousin over a three year period starting in 1996. The abuse began when the child victim was only 6-years of age. According to Queerty, an online newpaper, Chaim Levin stated he was abused in both Sholom Eichler’s home and also at a local synagogue.

Back in 2012, Eichler ignored a civil suit in which the alleged survivor was awarded a default judgement. It was at that time Sholom Eichler fled the united states and took up residency in Kfar Chabad, Israel.
View slideshow: Sholom Eichler

Eichler’s family is well known internationally in the orthodox Jewish world for the family owned Judaica Gift and book store Eichler's, which is located in Flatbush (Brooklyn), NY. Sholom Eichler works for the family business as the Website Manager and Programmer.

Eichler attended Yeshiva High School in Pittsburg, PA and Touro College in Jerusalem, Israel. In 2002, Sholom Eichler worked as the office manager at Camp Gan Israel in Montreal, Quebec.

If you or anyone you know was abused by Sholom Eichler, please contact Irwin Zalkin at The Zalkin Law Firm at: 800-724-3235.


Chasing the Devil - Sholom Eichler in Shackles
By Chaim Levin
Gotta give'em hope (Blog) - March 24, 2013

Sholom Eichler was arrested on March 21st near Kfar Chabad for sexually abusing me as a child. I had already filed a civil lawsuit against him in New York and he ignored the lawsuit and fled to Israel with his family. The result of that lawsuit is still pending, I was awarded a default judgment against him and will hopefully know the amount of that judgment by this coming Monday, March 25th.

As I’ve written previously on my Facebook page and have told many people as well, the last place that Sholom Eichler molested me was when our families were visiting Israel together on a family trip while we were staying at the [then Hilton] David Citadel hotel. The details of that incident, along with many of the other incidents remain clear as day in my mind; I even remember the room number that he abused me in while we were in Jerusalem.

After ignoring the civil lawsuit against him in New York Sholom Eichler and his family fled to Israel because of the default judgment that I was granted against him. Unfortunately for Eichler, the criminal statute of limitations are much broader and severe in Israel, and so I spent the past few months researching my options before deciding to press criminal charges against him. It pains me greatly to know that there are so many sex offenders out there whose victims have the ability to bring them to justice but are too afraid to do so because of community or family pressure, or because they don’t feel strong enough. For 7 seven years I was frightened by the prospect of forcing Sholom Eichler into a courtroom or even confronting him, and it is thanks to the support of many great survivors, advocates, friends and family who showed me that it’s possible to pursue justice despite the staggering intimidation that many victims face once reporting their crime and/or going public especially when coming from more religious communities.

The Israeli justice system operates quite differently than what I was familiar with in regards to how sexual abuse cases are handled in the US. After I received confirmation on Thursday morning that Eichler was arrested, the police requested that I be on “standby” for when they would call me. I thought they would ask me to ID Eichler or something, but what came next was very unexpected. I was brought into a fairly small room with three police interrogators, one of them a translator, and was directed to sit in a seat right across from Sholom Eichler where he was sitting with shackles on his feet.

The main interrogator read Eichler his right to remain silent and warned him that anything he said would be used against him. I was still absorbing the fact that I was sitting right in front of the monster who took so much away from me, the monster that caused so much damage that no amount of therapy will ever undo, but within two minutes I was able to gain my bearings. According to legal experts in Israel, this process is called “eimut” (confrontation) and is used by interrogators to observe the body language between the victim and the accused. I was instructed to look at Eichler and tell him what he did to me, they were adamant that I describe every incident in detail and not hold back on anything. It was at that moment that I looked at the monster in the eyes and told him exactly what he did to me, where he did it and the painful and sensitive details of the times he abused me.

This “confrontation” was sort of like a court proceeding, after I gave my opening statement Eichler was given a chance to respond to what I said, and without an ounce of shame or remorse he attempted to deny everything that I claimed he had done to me. With every word he spoke, with every lie he told I felt my blood boiling to the point where I thought I was going to explode, but although he was lying, his body language was telling a very different story. He was completely unhinged and was shaking non stop, he sounded like he was on the brink of tears and his attempts to discredit what I was saying were clearly not working. One of the things I confronted him about was about a meeting that he and I had five years ago before he got married in which he apologized to me for what he had done to me. I looked at him and said “how dare you sit right in front of me and call me a liar? How do you live with yourself knowing what you did despite the fact that not only did you apologize to me but also admitted your crimes against me to my older brother and my mother as well?”. Eichler admitted to meeting me five years ago, (something he denied until now) and said “I didn’t apologize for what I did to you, I apologized for how you were feeling”.

I pressed further and recounted in vivid detail how Eichler used to wait on his parents’ porch that was just across the street of my school for when I would be walking home from school so that he can lure me inside to commit those unspeakable acts. I also recounted the times that he abused me in the synagogue that our families attended, in my parents’ house, upstate at the bungalow colony that our families both attended during the summer, and of course, one of the most brutal incidents, the last time, in that hotel in Jerusalem on the fifth floor. Eichler had the audacity to attempt and accuse my older brothers of actually abusing me; and when asked by the interrogators why I would make such claims against him he said that he was the “perfect target”. I responded to that by saying that if i was looking for a “perfect target” I would have gone after one of his older brothers which would have ensured that one of them would be sitting in American prison today because they would’ve been well within the criminal statute of limitations within the American justice system.

Those twenty minutes felt like hours and most of the exact details are quite blurred in my head at this point, but luckily it was all on the record and will surely be used to prove his guilt in criminal court. What I remember was the feeling of empowerment I felt when I looked at this evil excuse for a man in the eye and told him exactly what he had done to me and the look on his face, the expression of guilt and shame, feelings that I felt for far too long because of what he had done to me; the tables had finally turned and for the first time in thirteen years Sholom Eichler finally had to answer for his heinous crimes. After leaving that room, I felt nothing but strength and a certain of closure. As painful and emotional as that confrontation was for me, it reminded me that pursuing justice is one of the most important things that a person could do in his or her life.

Eichler was released on bail the next day, the exact amount is still unknown to me but I hope to find out soon, and it is my sincere hope that he will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I hope that others will learn by example that while at certain points the prospect of facing their abuser might seem impossible but the truth is that with the right amount of support, therapy, and healing facing one’s abuser IS possible and the power that abusers enjoy over their victims (the way Eichler had power over me) diminish over time.

Aside from knowing that it was my obligation to make sure that Eichler answer for his crimes and that I exercise every single legal option that was available to me in order to do so, I hope that by pressing criminal and civil charges against my abuser a better precedent will be set in the future for those struggling with the decision of if and how they should take action against those who stole part of their innocence, part of their soul. I know that by being so public about my past and about what was done to me is giving a voice to so many who feel like theirs was taken from them, something I once felt all the time. I’ve been publicly shamed on more than one occasion; anonymous emails and tweets from people who don’t even have the courage to use their real names remind me the importance of this journey and only empower me even more to pursue justice. Those voices of hate and negativity fade and the voices of my family, friends and every single person who supported me and encouraged me echo loudly for me and for the world to hear, to you all, I am thankful, I wouldn’t be here without you.

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