Orthodox Jewish Community Struggles With Abuse Allegations

The person he accuses of molesting him was convicted in 2006 of unrelated charges of trying to contact a child over the Internet for sex. He was sentenced to 262 months in prison.

When he was a student in the Midwest, Weissberg says a school administrator allowed him to make phone calls from the administrator's room. One day, Weissberg says, the administrator showed him a pornographic magazine and asked Weissberg to masturbate in front of him.

Similar instances continued for several months, Weissberg says, until he tape recorded the man offering him money to masturbate in front of him.

When he took the tape to the head of the yeshiva, "He said 'If I hear a word of this from anyone I will make your life miserable.' And he took the tape away," Weissberg claims.

The administrator and the school's head rabbi did not return repeated calls for comment.

Weissberg, now 27, says he left school at 15 and returned to Baltimore feeling isolated and depressed. He says his parents were heartened when a family friend began spending time with him.

Weissberg says the friend, a lawyer, invited Weissberg to his apartment to watch a movie. After watching "Fargo," the lawyer suggested watching another movie, and put on a porn film, Weissberg says. "I started screaming, I freaked out," he said.

Weissberg says when he told his rabbi what had happened, the rabbi said he would look into it, but later responded that the lawyer had denied the allegations.

"He was someone I respect and a man of God. For me to have to sit there and tell him that, to no avail, it was a big slap in the face," he said. "I was ignored completely."

He says eventually the lawyer was asked to take a lie detector test and, when he admitted what had happened, he was asked to leave the Baltimore Orthodox community. No criminal charges were ever filed.

The rabbi, Moshe Heinemann, said he did not recall the lawyer admitting what had happened or asking him to leave the community. He declined to discuss the allegations further. Several other Baltimore rabbis declined to discuss the issue of sexual abuse.

"It was really shoved under the rug and ignored. I'm resentful for all that," Weissberg said. "It's something that people always think it's not going to happen to my kid. We don't want to hear about it.

"Unfortunately, we live in a society where there are a lot of sick people," Weissberg said. "Just because you're Jewish doesn't mean you're excluded from that. It's a fact of life of the world we're living in."

Engelman says that after Reichman was reinstated, the school's religious leaders then tried to minimize what had happened. He claims the school told his mother that since the touching was on the outside of Engelman's clothes, it was not a big deal.

Niederman said the school had investigated the allegations and was satisfied that they were not true.

"One would have to be sick in his mind to willingly keep somebody in the school that they know or believe that he committed a crime against children," the rabbi said.

For Engelman, that's not enough.

"Here's a guy who epitomized piety and respect," Engelman said. "It really shocked me. It turned my way of looking at people upside down."

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7376057. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7376057. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7376057.
Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...