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Brooklyn religious school rabbi suspected of sex abuse

Nchemya Weberman, left, a religious counselor in New York City’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community, sits next to his lawyer George Farkas in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Jan. 22. Weberman was sentenced to 103 years in prison for molesting a girl who came to him with questions about her faith. AP photo by Bebeto Matthews

Associated Press

A rabbi at a religious school in Borough Park is suspected of sexually abusing students, a law enforcement official said Wednesday.

The accusations come amid mounting pressure to report allegations of abuse within the insular, secretive community ultra-Orthodox Jewish, the largest outside Israel, and were reported barely a week after a respected religious counselor in the same sect was sentenced to 103 years in prison for sexually abusing a girl. Both cases come from within the Satmar Hasidic sect, the official said.

The 33-year-old man was taken into custody after reports he may have brought two students to motels for sexual liaisons, said the official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the case and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. A third encounter was reported in a car. The official said the victims were all teenage boys, ages 14 to 16, and the encounters took place between March of last year and last week.

The school has been closed amid financial disputes with the family that runs it and has been described as a small, private establishment for at-risk kids. It's not clear how long it has been closed

The allegations arose through an anonymous tip to a confidential hotline. The man, part of the family that ran the school, is being held and charges are pending.

It is has been difficult to prosecute cases of abuse in the ultra-Orthodox communities in Borough Park and Williamsburg. Families are encouraged to speak to their rabbis instead of going to secular authorities, and when they do go to police or prosecutors, they are often harassed or shunned. In the case of Nechemya Weberman, convicted last month of sustained sexual abuse, the accuser testified that her family was threatened and harassed.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who has dismissed rumors that he overlooked crimes in the community because he is too cozy with powerful rabbis, has set up a hotline specifically for victims of sex abuse. He has implored victims to come forward and promises support for them if they do.

Brooklyn is home to more than 250,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews.

January 30, 2013 - 8:49pm


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