London Haredim slam TV exposé on sexual abuse in community
Leadership claims Channel 4 documentary distorts rabbis’ response to allegations of misconduct against children
By Miriam Shaviv February 1, 2013, 12:29 am
LONDON — London’s Haredi leadership has hit back at a television program claiming that the community covers up child sex abuse, saying the show “has done nothing to assist, and may have damaged, the chances of bringing abusers to justice.”
The program, “Britain’s Hidden Child Abuse,” aired on Channel 4 on Wednesday and alleged that rabbis in the Orthodox community forbid or discourage alleged victims of pedophilia from going to the secular authorities. It showed secretly filmed footage of two Haredi rabbis approached for advice by a former member of the community, who alleged that he had been sexually abused as a child.
One, Ephraim Padwa, the head of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, explicitly forbade him from going to the police. The other, religious judge Osher Westheim of the Manchester Beth Din, or religious court, said he was personally investigating allegations that a teacher at a local Jewish school was a pedophile, and claimed to have succeeded in getting some perpetrators to pay compensation to their victims — including, once, £5,000 ($7,900). He said that going to the authorities was permissible.
A spokesman for the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, an umbrella organization for Orthodox institutions in London, told The Times of Israel that the program’s credibility was undermined by its reliance on anonymous sources. These included a rabbi whose face was not shown, who claimed that a young family had been driven out of its community after reporting abuse to authorities, and two young men who claimed to have taken the law into their own hands by attacking alleged perpetrators after their complaints of abuse were ignored by the rabbis.
“Channel 4 chose to use an anonymous ‘rabbi,’ an unidentified group of thuggish vigilantes, a young man whose claims cannot be verified and two specific cases that Channel 4 knew full well to have been investigated thoroughly by the local authorities and dropped without action to imply that our community does not take its responsibilities seriously,” the spokesman said.
“Our community does not need Channel 4 to remind us of our duty and responsibility to protect our children. They are our future, and we do all we can to protect them from these unspeakable crimes.
“For a number of years, we have worked with the local authorities and, where appropriate, the police, and we have robust procedures in place within all our schools. Let us now hope that Channel 4′s attempt to defame us does not discourage victims from coming forward to seek the help and guidance of our Child Protection Services.”
Channel 4 did not respond to questions posed by The Times of Israel. However, its press office said the program was watched by nearly 750,000 viewers, an audience it described as “very positive for an investigation of such a sensitive nature airing at 10:30 p.m.”
About 40,000 of the UK’s approximately 280,000 Jews are Haredi. Unlike in New York, the issue of child sex abuse in the Orthodox world received little airing in London before Wednesday night, and it was unclear how the program would affect the community’s treatment of the problem. In the days before the show aired, the Union released a statement to affiliated rabbis and educators announcing the formation of a child protection committee composed of people with relevant training.
According to the document, written in Hebrew, the rabbis “recognize that there are certain times when it is correct and necessary to call the police,” and the committee “will consult with the rabbis to determine the proper course of action in each case.”
The initial response to the Channel 4 program has been difficult to gauge, but it seems to have been welcomed by both Jewish and non-Jewish commenters online, who reacted with horror to the allegation that sex crimes were covered up.
One expert on British Haredim, Yaakov Wise of the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester, criticized the program for a lack of nuance, saying it did not sufficiently explore reasons the community is reluctant to report cases to the police, or the evolution of its attitudes about abuse and secular law enforcement.
“It did not get to the root of the real issue — the increasing alienation of the Haredi community in Britain,” he said.
When Wise worked for the borough council in London’s Stamford Hill district in the 1980s, he said, he was involved in several cases of child abuse. The rabbi who then headed the Union, Yosef Tzvi Dunner, instructed him to go immediately to the police.
Since then, he said, the community has grown more reluctant to involve the authorities.
“There has been a change in personalities and in the community,” he said. “Stamford Hill has become less attached to modernity, and more enclosed and alienated [from contemporary Britain].”
“The problem is that people seem to view the modern British police force in the same way they looked at the Tzarist police in the 19th century. They don’t trust them to be sensitive enough.”
He added, however, that while Padwa is “very influential,” there were diverse attitudes toward reporting sexual crimes in the Orthodox world, and the program presented an unfairly monolithic view.
Asked what the long-term impact of the program might be, he predicted there would be none.
“Most Haredim don’t have televisions and didn’t see it,” he said. “It will be a nine-day wonder.”
Brooklyn Religious School Worker Accused of Sexually Abusing Boys
By Shimon Prokupecz | Thursday, Jan 31, 2013 | Updated 2:00 PM EST
A 33-year-old employee at a Brooklyn religious school was arrested early Thursday for allegedly sexually abusing three teenage boys over the last 10 months, police said.
Yoel Malik, who police say was a former teacher and part owner of the now-closed Borough Park school the victims attended, was charged with 12 counts of sexual abuse, four counts of criminal sexual act, 11 counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one count of forcible touching.
Police said the alleged abuse occurred between May 2012 and January, and that the victims and the suspect knew each other.
Police launched an investigation after an anonymous tip to their sex crimes hotline alleged Malik took a 16-year-old boy to a Brooklyn motel and had sex with him, law enforcement sources say. Those sources said police received additional information during their investigation that the suspect was allegedly involved in other sexual encounters with underage boys.
Four victims have been identified; they are all former students of the school, which authorities believe closed for financial reasons. Sources familiar with the case say investigators believe more victims are likely to come forward.
Sources say some of the most serious allegations came from at least two victims who told police they had sex with Malik on several occasions at Brooklyn motels, inside his car and at a Brooklyn synagogue. One of the boys told police Malik would drive him and another boy home after school and went into the backseat with him on one occasion to have sex, law enforcement sources said.
Police have surveillance video from one Washington Avenue motel where Malik allegedly brought a boy for sex Jan. 18. Law enforcement sources say he rented the room for at least seven hours.
Police plan to extend their investigation to upstate Monticello, where some of the alleged sexual encounters were also reported to have taken place, law enforcement sources said.
Law enforcement sources say Malik admitted to detectives that he had encounters with the boys, but denied having sex with them or giving them alcohol and cigarettes. He also allegedly told detectives the victims made sexual advances toward him, but he refused.
Law enforcement sources also said Malik made statements to detectives indicating he was a victim of sexual abuse when he was 12. Information on an attorney for Malik wasn't immediately available.
The accusations come amid mounting pressure to report allegations of abuse within Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the largest outside Israel, and were reported barely a week after Nechemya Weberman, a respected religious counselor in the same sect, was sentenced to 103 years in prison for sexually abusing a girl.
Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York
פאליציי זעצט איין יואלי מאליק פון ישיבת אור המאיר
אויף באשולדיגונג אין מאכן משכב זכור מיט א בחור'ל
און פרובירען עס אויך צו טוהן מיט נאך בחורים
Police arrested Yoeli Malik of Yeshivah Ohr
For allegedly sodomizing Aa student
And attempting to do it to two or three others
|Malik sits on the tractor|
איך האב היינט (מיטוואך) מיטאג צייט ערהאלטען א טעלעפאן רוף פון איינעם וואס האט נישט געוואלט ארויסגעבן זיין נאמען, ער האט מיר געזאגט אז יואלי מאליק וואס זיין ישיבה "אור המאיר" איז שוין פארשפארט א שטיק צייט איז ארעסטירט געווארען דורך די פאליציי, וואס דער רופער האט עס צו זיי אריינגערופען. ער האט מיר אויך געזאגט אז עס זענען פאראנען 8 בחורים וואס באקלאגען זיך אז מאליק האט זיי מאלעסטעט, אבער נאר 4 פון זיי ווילען "פרעסן טשארדזעס", וויבאלד עס איז ליידער לעצטענס דא אסאך ארבעט, ווייל די חזרים הערן נישט אויף און די אנגע'חזר'טע הייבן אן ארויסצוקומען פון די לעכער, האב איך נישט געקענט באלד מעלדען דערוועגען ווייל איך האב פריער געדארפט חוקר ודורש זיין צו עס איז טאקע אמת. וואס איך בין געוואר געווארען איז,אז דער וואס האט גערופען איז נישט קיין אנדערער ווי משה פינטער וואס איז אליינס נישט קיין גרויסער צדיק, וואס ער איז געווען דער אדמיניסטראטאר פון דער ישיבה, און וואס מיט א צייט צוריק האט מען צוליב עהם געצווינגען דעם יואלי מאליק צו פארשפארען די ישיבה, ווייל אזא אונטערוועלטניק ווי פינטער טאר זיך נישט דרייען נעבען בחורים, זעט אויס אז אומאפיציעל איז דער חלק המאלעסטינג פון דער ישיבה נאכאלץ אנגעגאנגען. און אז די גנבים צוקריגען זיך ווערט לעבעדיג אין שטאט.
לויט ווי איך הער זיצט ער נאך אצינדער.
Today (Wednesday) about noontime, I received a call from a person that did not want to give me his name, that Yoeli Malik whos yeshiva Ohr Hameir is closed already for awhile was arrested by the police thank to his calling the sex crimes unit. He also told me, that there are eight boys that Malik molested, that only four of them are willing to press charges. Since unfortunately there is lately an abundance of molesters, and the victims are starting to come out of hiding, I am overworked and lack time, It took me some time to investigate the report. What I learned is, that the caller was none other than Moshe (Joel) Pinter, who is no saint himself, and who was the administrator of the yeshivah, that because of him Malik was forced to close down since such a person should not be near teenagers. It seems however that the molesting department was still functioning big time, and as the thieves stared fighting, it became lively in town.
According to the latest information he is still in police custody.