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Conspiracy of Silence: Sexual Abuse & Pedophilia at Flagship Ultra-Orthodox Yeshivah

Jewish-Israel Teachers at Hasidic school accused of sexually abusing students Four of the defendants (Photo Gilad Morag)

A lawsuit filed last week against the Ponevezh Yeshivah in Bnei Brak, the leading Israeli Ultra-Orthodox (haredi) yeshivah, reveals serious crimes that have been transpiring for several years. According to the statement of claim, a yeshivah student was sexually assaulting students in a violent manner and photographing them in the nude in a secret location within the yeshivah.

The victims appealed to a new organization called Din ve’Cheshbon that was formed recently by members of the haredi community in order to fight the silencing of sexual harassment within the community. The events were investigated thoroughly, and a civil suit was subsequently filed against the yeshivah, two of its rabbis and the offender. The lawsuit states recorded evidence as proof of admission by the defendant of his actions against the plaintiff. In addition, a complaint was also filed with the police.

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According to the lawsuit, the story, which began three years ago, reveals incidents of serious physical, emotional and sexual abuse against a 16-year-old minor, including violence and humiliation. In addition, the offender exploited the minor by fostering a situation of deep emotional dependency and using this to violate him sexually contrary to his will and consent, as well as beat, threaten and humiliate the minor before allowing him to leave the room.

The prosecution likewise revealed an additional offense of creating and collecting pedophile material. “In many of the events detailed [in the statement of claim], the defendant would sit on top of the plaintiff and photograph himself. The defendant would store the nude photographs of the plaintiff in his personal computer, along with nude pictures of other youngsters, which in effect holds the defendant responsible for a computer collection of child abuse images.”

In addition to the offender in question, two of the yeshivah’s rabbis are being charged with criminal violations for failing to report the incidents. When the minor turned to the first rabbi, “Defendant 3 listened to the plaintiff’s words, calmed him down and left without following up on the matter.” When the plaintiff asked to meet with the second rabbi, the rabbi told him that “He believed that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss what the defendant had done to him after hearing about the severity of the defendant’s actions committed on the plaintiff. During this conversation, defendant 2 told the plaintiff that it had been known for some time that the defendant was a danger to the students, but that they did not know how severe his actions were.”

The statement of claim indicates that, “Although defendants 2 and 3 recently admitted to the plaintiff that they are aware of the danger posed by the defendant, the defendant continues to live in the yeshivah, and it is reasonable to assume that even now he continues to harm there. ”

To substantiate the allegations, the plaintiff presents proof. “It should now be noted that all the defendants recently confirmed to the plaintiff that the events described above did indeed occur, and that the plaintiff has the recordings which confirm this admission, and therefore the defendants’ confessions must be regarded as a confession.”

Nachman Rosenberg, who represents private haredi donors behind Din ve’Cheshbon, states that: “It is time to recognize that the “silencers” of sexual abuse are far more dangerous than the predators themselves. These institutional cover-ups directly endanger hundreds and thousands of innocent children simultaneously. Din ve’Cheshbon represents a paradigm shift in the haredi community by targeting the root of this horrific epidemic, by punishing institutions or individuals who neglect the safety of their students and turn a blind eye on sexual abuse.”



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