Silence of the Lam

Accused of sexually abusing young boys, a Brooklyn rabbi lit for Israel 22 years ago. Now one alleged victim wants him brought back for trial.

Aaron Twerski, the dean of Hofstra Law School and a former council member, describes Hynes's relationship to the Orthodox community as "quite positive." He explains, "Hynes is a presence in the community. He's been responsive."

But Hynes has bumped up against the community before. The most dramatic example came in 1999, when the D.A.'s office charged a prominent Hasidic rabbi named Bernard Freilich with witness tampering and intimidation for allegedly making death threats against an Orthodox woman who was to testify in a sex-abuse case. The community reacted with fury, organizing demonstrations, accusing Hynes of anti-Semitism. Freilich wound up acquitted at a 2000 trial.

Lesher says the D.A. has a habit of backing down from prosecutions that Orthodox rabbinical leaders would rather handle themselves. He has researched two instances where the D.A. initiated criminal proceedings against accused Hasidic abusers, only to let them fizzle. In each, he notes, "it was community opposition that spelled the difference."

Out of the shadows: Abe asked the Brooklyn D.A. to reopen the case against Rabbi Mondrowitz.
photo:tacy Kranitz
Out of the shadows: Abe asked the Brooklyn D.A. to reopen the case against Rabbi Mondrowitz.

With Mondrowitz, the Orthodox community hasn't exactly clamored for justice. No one dared talk publicly about the scandal when it broke. Catalfumo says rabbis refused to answer questions, parents refused to file complaints. Even those who wanted to see Mondrowitz punished—or dead—wouldn't cooperate with authorities, the detective says, for fear their kids would become tainted by a trial.

Catalfumo doubts the D.A. would do anything to upset the Orthodox community today, and he doubts the community would want to revisit the case. "Let's face it, I don't think they're interested in seeing this surface again," he says. Indeed, Orthodox rabbis and politicians who remember the Mondrowitz case declined to talk about it with the Voice. One Borough Park resident with ties to the same Hasidic sect as Mondrowitz offered this opinion: "Once a case has been put to sleep, it's best to leave it alone."

Twerski, of Hofstra, advocates "zero tolerance" in the community for sexual abuse. But when told about the newly vocal Mondrowitz victim and his desire to reopen the case, Twerski replies, "I don't know what to say about that. That's an old, old case and I'm not going to comment on it."

Jaus, for her part, bristles at the suggestion of special treatment. In 2000, her bureau got word from State officials that Mondrowitz was returning to the States. It contacted the original four victims. It had D.C. police ready to arrest him. He never showed up.

"If we heard this information again, we'd do the same thing," she states.

Those words offer little consolation to Abe. Sitting in the dining room at his attorney's suburban home, Abe hunches over the table, his arms across his chest, his eyes on his Blackberry, as he relays what he told prosecutors on June 7. How Mondrowitz had begun molesting him during a counseling session one day, and wound up making it routine. How the psychologist had even invited him upstairs, and fondled him there.

Abe had hoped his testimony would inspire Hynes to push for extradition, he says. "I came away with the realization that my experience is a footnote in a case the D.A. won't do anything about."

At least, Abe believes, not without incentive. So on June 24, he contacted an anonymous blogger known as Un-Orthodox Jew, who has posted controversial diatribes about sexual abuse and cover-up in the Hasidic world. Abe posted his own entry, writing:

"MONDROWITZ ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! Has anyone contacted you as being a victim of Avrohom Mondrowitz? . . . There is renewed interest in this case & . . . I am trying to find out if other victims have also recently come forward so that we can pool our resources & pressure the DA's office."

So far, he's received little response, though two Orthodox Jewish men who claim to be victims of Mondrowitz have contacted the Voice, expressing a desire to bring him back.

To Abe, it all seems so upside down—the way Hynes didn't push for extradition in 1993, the way he won't now. That his alleged abuser can live in Israel, his whereabouts known, yet run around scot-free, seems almost as bad as the abuse.

As Abe confides, "That makes it seem like a big slap in the face by the D.A."

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