My known contact with Orthodox child sex predators began when I was 12 years old and has continued ever since. I personally know at least a dozen men involved in the Orthodox community who are child molesters, rapists, pornographers and sex offenders. Rabbis and Orthodox institutions throughout the world know about the individuals below. However, they do not publicly share with parents and employers what they know about these individuals.
This is my story.
When I was 12 years old, I sometimes played on Saturday afternoons in a deserted wing of Beth Tefiloh Synagogue in Baltimore with a man who was 20 years old. I never understood why a 20 year-old man would want to play for hours with a 12 year-old boy.
The man was Cantor Stuart Friedman and he was later convicted on Federal child pornography charges and spent 15 months in a Federal penitentiary. He is a Maryland registered sex offender and lives in the Orthodox area of Baltimore, MD.
In the mid-1970’s when I was 15, I met the famous Jewish singer and songwriter, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (now deceased), at the home of a prominent rabbi in Miami Beach, FL. Carlebach touched every woman in the room before he would speak to the assembled group of 20-30 people. I was very surprised to see a rabbi (of all people) do this because there are strict laws that prohibit Jewish men from touching any woman who isn’t their wife or immediate family member, which these women were not.
Some time ago, I Googled “Shlomo Carlebach sex abuse”. The first hit is an article from Lillith Magazine in which numerous women publicly allege that Carlebach sexually abused them. There are numerous other women that can found in a Google search who also allege that Carlebach sexually abused them, many of them when they were minors.
Despite so many public allegations against Carlebach, many synagogues around the world nevertheless have prayer services named in honor of him. (My own synagogue, Boca Raton Synagogue, has a Carlebach minyan.) Books have been written praising him and there is even a Broadway play that lauds Carlebach. It’s an astonishing slap in the face to all of the many women who have alleged over many decades that Carlebach sexually abused them.
When I was 18, I traveled 3,000 miles from my home to attend a yeshiva (Jewish seminary) called Kerem in Santa Clara, California run by Rabbi Matis Weinberg.
I was told by a friend who was there that it was a wonderful seminary full of warm, caring, dedicated rabbis and teachers. What I found instead was a cult. It was so horrific that by my third day there I feared that if I didn’t leave immediately, my life would be in danger. That afternoon, Rabbi Weinberg entered my dorm room when no one else was present and started touching me while I was on my bed. I screamed at him until he left.
The next morning I got on a bus and traveled to Yeshiva University of Los Angeles. I stayed at Y.U.L.A. for about a month and a half and tried to resume my religious studies but was unable to after what happened to me at Kerem. While I was at Y.U.L.A., I told the head rabbi what Matis did to me and that he was destroying the lives of many boys. The rabbi didn’t seem to care. When I told my dorm roommate what happened to me, he told me that he, too, had been to Kerem and left for similar reasons.
He told me that we weren’t the only ones.
Numerous individuals who alleged that Weinberg molested them went to a New York Bet Din (court of Jewish law) run by Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky to sanction Weinberg. The Bet Din found the allegations credible but did nothing. They instead referred the alleged victims to an Israeli Bet Din for justice.
The head of that Israeli Bet Din, Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch, dismissed the case because he refused to hear testimony from any victim alleging abuse that occurred more than 2 years prior to the hearing. All of the complainants, it turns out, alleged abuse that occurred more than 2 years prior to the hearing.
Jewish law does not recognize a statute of limitations for any crime. Judaism never absolves an individual of responsibility for criminal actions due to an arbitrary passage of time. Rabbi Shternbuch’s dismissal of the case based on his fabricated 2 year statute of limitations is a disgrace, but standard operating procedure for Orthodox courts of law who are frequently viewed by victims as nothing more than kangaroo courts. Rabbi Kaminetsky of the New York Bet Din, when told that the Israel Bet Din dismissed the case, expressed surprise since there is no such thing as a statute of limitations in Jewish law.
A few years ago, I Googled “Matis Weinberg sex abuse”. I was stunned to see how many allegations there were that Weinberg was a sex offender. A rabbi who worked for Weinberg told me that he believed that Weinberg molested between one and two dozen boys around the time I was at Kerem in 1981. Kerem closed and Weinberg moved to Jerusalem. A victim’s advocate in Israel told me that she was informed that Weinberg had molested South African boys. This is in addition to other allegations that he molested American boys in Jerusalem.
Yeshiva University had a study abroad program in Israel in which it would send its students to a Jerusalem yeshiva called Derech Eitz Chaim. Matis Weinberg was an occasional teacher there, one of his sons is a rabbi who teaches there and the head of the yeshiva was a former student of Weinberg’s. According to numerous articles in the Jewish media, Yeshiva University shut down the program in 2003 because of the many reports it had received of Weinberg’s highly inappropriate behavior towards Yeshiva University students.
1) “Yeshiva University said it was terminating its association with the Jerusalem school because of “compelling evidence” of a history of alleged sexual abuse by Weinberg and cult-like behavior toward his students.”
The Jewish Forward 8-22-03
2) “Throughout the past four weeks, YU administrators on the Joint Israel Committee have ascertained that the rabbi, under whose influence and tutelage DEC operates, has a longtime record of allegedly exhibiting exceedingly inappropriate behavior with his students. “What he has allegedly done,” one close source said, “is inconceivably shocking.”
The Yeshiva University Commentator 3-6-03
3) “YU, in turn, is expected to drop its counter suit that claimed Derech Etz Chaim “utterly refused to protect” its students from Rabbi Weinberg. Charges about Rabbi Weinberg’s behavior, dating back more than 20 years and including an alleged incident from 2003, first came to light last year, and were taken up by a bet din (religious court) in Brooklyn.
“Speaking to journalists, students described Weinberg over the years kissing their cheeks and necks “making these noises that one would make if eating something delicious or making love to a woman,” nibbling on their ears, and “embracing guys for longer than what would be considered a friendship hug,” according to alleged victims who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“One told how Weinberg had called him into his room and started unbuttoning his shirt, kissing his chest, unbuttoning his pants and fondling him. Another told how Weinberg had come into his dorm room and hugged him, and then put his hand inside his robe and fondled him.
“Weinberg has denied any kind of abuse, but has admitted that he once slapped a boy wearing braces in the mouth so hard that it drew blood, while the whole student body looked on. He also acknowledged that he had once extinguished a burnt cigarette in the palm of a student’s hand.”
The Jewish Week 5-7-04
When I saw the news reports about Weinberg and Yeshiva University in 2003, I wrote an email to the President of Yeshiva University, Richard Joel, informing him of the damage that Weinberg had done to me and other Orthodox men. Despite me (and I believe others) telling Yeshiva University about Weinberg 22 years earlier, Y.U. still sent its students to a yeshiva where Weinberg had access to them. I asked Joel to contact me about Weinberg. He never did.
I am not aware of anyone in a Jewish leadership position, including Yeshiva University, that publicly warns the thousands of parents who send their children every year to study in Israel about Weinberg. This is despite rabbis and Orthodox institutions on 3 continents being aware of allegations about him going back decades.
When I was 19, I worked as a lifeguard at the Pineview Hotel in the Catskills. It was a kosher hotel that has since closed. One Friday afternoon, a bus full of teenagers arrived for an Orthodox youth group weekend retreat. The rabbi from the group saw me in the lobby, introduced himself to me and immediately started touching me – a lot. Within minutes, he had his arm wrapped tightly around my shoulder as he walked me outside to an isolated part of the hotel grounds.
He was a total stranger who started asking me a series of extremely inappropriate sexual questions that made me panic. I got away from him. There is no doubt in my mind that he would have molested me if I hadn’t left. There is also no doubt in my mind that he worked as an Orthodox youth group leader so he could have unsupervised access to young Orthodox boys.
When I was in my mid-20’s, I started a kosher catering business in the Washington, D.C. area. I was a member of Kesher Israel Synagogue in Georgetown. My rabbi was Rabbi Barry Freundel, (now frequently called “the mikva voyeur rabbi”).
He is currently serving a 6 1/2 year prison term after having been caught secretly videotaping 150 women over the course of several years while they were undressing in the Jewish ritual bath.
I frequently bought kosher food supplies for my catering business from different kosher stores in Baltimore, where my commissary was based. Some of these stores were Seven Mile Market and Wasserman and Lemberger (under the rabbinic kosher supervision of Baltimore’s Star-K organization). They were both managed at various times by a man named Israel Shapiro.
He is a Maryland registered sex offender who was convicted of molesting boys while giving them Bar Mitzvah lessons.
The synagogue that I used as a commissary was Liberty Jewish Center. Its long-time former rabbi was Rabbi Jacob Max (now deceased), who was convicted of molesting a woman at a funeral home, of all places. According to The Baltimore Sun who covered the story, 5 additional women alleged to the Sun that Max molested them, also.
One of my biggest catering customers was the Washington Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values, later called Panim. They would bring to Washington, D.C. thousands of Jewish high school students every year from across the country for 4-day leadership conferences held throughout the year.
It was run by Rabbi David Kaye, who would later be caught on NBC Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” program crossing state lines trying to have sex with someone he thought was a 13 year-old boy.
Rabbi Kaye was sentenced to 6 years in prison.
I moved to Boca Raton, Florida where I had a neighbor who lived on my street named Rick Andron.
He was a founder of Boca Raton Synagogue where I am a member. BRS is one of the largest modern Orthodox synagogues in the Southeastern U.S.
(In the 1980’s, BRS was briefly headed by Rabbi Marc Gafni, the subject of a New York Times article who has publicly admitted to having sex with a 13 year-old girl.)
Rick Andron was a highly visible and honored member of BRS until he was named in a $380 million lawsuit against Yeshiva University. Three plaintiffs alleged that Andron molested them. The lawsuit was dismissed on statute of limitations grounds. BRS said that Andron resigned his membership the day after the lawsuit became public and that Andron promised to never attend another BRS function again.
Shortly afterwards, Andron was welcomed by Rabbi Eliyahu Rabovsky into the Young Israel of Boca Raton, another Orthodox synagogue about a mile away. Paul Berger of The Jewish Forward, who wrote extensively about Yeshiva University and Andron, claimed that an additional 7 men alleged to him that Andron also molested them.
In the summer of 2015, Andron moved to Tirosh Street in the Gefen neighborhood of Efrat, Israel, where I lived for 2 years. To my knowledge, no Florida rabbi warned the rabbi or leaders of Efrat that Andron was moving into their neighborhood. I called the office of Efrat’s head rabbi, Shlomo Riskin, to inform him that Andron was moving to Efrat. I told Rabbi Riskin’s secretary what I knew about Andron and asked Rabbi Riskin to call me about him. He never did.
In May 2015, the New York Times wrote a long article about Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, the rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center for several decades. According to the article, Rosenblatt was known for taking young men and boys to a sauna to have lengthy discussions with both of them completely naked. This went on for decades and persisted even though Rosenblatt was apparently warned to stop this activity. In March 2016, Rabbi Rosenblatt resigned.
“The desire is for him to remain in the community and remain accessible to those in the congregation who wish to use his services,” Koplow (Rosenblatt’s attorney) told The Jewish Week.
As a life member of RJC, the rabbi may be called on by individuals to officiate at lifecycle events or deliver a shiur (lecture).
His current contract will convert into a retirement package, with payments spread out over time until 2032, and the house he and his family have been living in, owned by the shul and valued at approximately $800,000, will be given over to him. In all, the cost to the congregation of replacing the final years and obligations of Rabbi Rosenblatt’s contract, which was to end in August 2018, is between $2.1 and $2.2 million, Koplow said.”
The Jewish Week, 3/10/16
Rabbi Rosenblatt and I grew up on the same street. I have known him since I was 7 years old.