Orthodox Jewish Community Struggles With Abuse Allegations

A lawyer for the yeshiva said the school would not comment on pending litigation.

Reichman "has been a teacher and principal at that school for decades," Laufer said. "The parent body highly values his services as an educator and they compete among themselves for the opportunity to have their children be in Rabbi Reichmans's class."

Rabbi David Niederman, the head of the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, said claims of widespread abuse in the Orthodox community are "nonsense."

"Are there cases where people dont abide by the law? Yes, no question. We are all human. As humans, we have temptations of various sorts. No community is immune to that," he said.

"But we would not and don't tolerate any type of criminality. If a person abuses your child today, he will abuse my child tomorrow or my grandchild. We take that very seriously," he said. "We put our children first. Nobody in his right mind will try to protect somebody who committed a crime. It will turn against you."

Though Hikind and some rabbis have recently been willing to take on the issue, alleged victims say there is still tremendous pressure to keep quiet. Several said community leaders were skeptical of their claims, and said they were told that they and their relatives would never be able to find someone to marry them and that they would become outcasts in their tight-knit communities.

One prominent rabbi, speaking on the condition of anomynity, questioned whether abuse allegations were true.

"If there's a family fight, a dispute in the family, it could start with verbal abuse. What happens next? You know and I know, it becomes 'he raped me,' or whatever," the rabbi said. "If you're telling me there are allegations of abuse, I don't know what 'allegations' really means."

Engelman, now a graphic designer, says he has lost jobs because he spoke publicly about Reichman.

Hikind says nearly all the alleged victims who have contacted him said they were afraid to speak publicly or to prosecutors. He will not publicly release names of alleged perpetrators, though he says he turns over information to prosecutors.

Alleged Victims Say Told Not to Report Abuse to Police

"They are willing to protect the community at the expense of the children," said a woman who claims she was abused by her father, a rabbi, and who asked to be identified only by her first name, Nanette. The woman's father did not return repeated messages seeking comment.

She said that when she began discussing the accusations against her father, her rabbi said if she continued to speak about it publicly, no other Orthodox Jews would be willing to marry any of her siblings. She says her family refused to speak with her.

"My sister told me until I stop the slander, she can't be my sister," she said.

"One of the things they say is when people speak out like this it causes desecration of God's name," she said. "But the real desecration to God is that they are willing to protect the community at the expense of the children."

Tamir Weissberg says he was abused by three Orthodox men over the course of several years.

The first time was at summer camp when he was in the fifth grade, when he said the adult son of the camp director invited him and several other boys into his tent one night and fondled them. He says he never told anyone until years later.

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