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Angry Over Lack of Reform in Haisidic Community, Advocates for Child Sexual Abuse Victims Refuse to Meet with Brooklyn DA

Sep 6, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

Angry at his purported inaction to address the conspiracy of silence that often protects child sexual abusers in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, advocates for victims have postponed a meeting with Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes. According to a report from the New York Daily News, some activists contend that barring any drastic policy changes by Hynes, there is simply "no point in going." 

As we've reported in the past, Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox Jews have long been encouraged by their leaders to take allegations of sexual misconduct to rabbis before they make reports to secular authorities.  Those who do dare to report child abuse to authorities often find themselves the target harassment and retribution from others in the community.  As a result, child sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community often goes unpunished, leaving abusers free to prey on other children.

In 2009, Hynes instituted a program called Kol Tzedek (Voice of Justice) aimed at helping more victims in the ultra-Orthodox community come forward about abuse.  But the program has become controversial because prosecutors don’t publicize the names of the accused.   Hynes, who critics have accused of ignoring certain sex abuse cases in order to garner political support from some powerful Hasidic rabbis, claims that keeping the names of the accused secret is necessary in order to protect the identities of underage victims.

According to The New York Daily News, advocates for child abuse victims are angry over that policy, a well as what they say is Hynes' refusal to educate yeshivas, or take action against rabbis and other community officials who harass and intimidate victims.

Hynes met with victims’ advocates in June to hear their concerns, and promised to hold additional monthly gatherings.  But several activists were angered at the lack of concrete reforms so far.  Among other things, they wanted prominent Haisidic rabbis to attend the meetings, but Hynes balked at the suggestion, the Daily News said. According to a report from the website, Failed Messiah, some activists were also angered that a staff member with the New York Jewish Federation leaked news of the meeting against the will of the advocates immediately after it ended.  Reportedly, that individual is close to at least one member of Hynes' staff.

All of this prompted some, including Mark Appel, founder of Voice of Justice, and Asher Lipner, another activist, to say they would not attend the next scheduled gathering. Survivors for Justice, a prominent advocacy organization for victims of abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community didn’t attend the June meeting with Hynes, and said it won't attend the second, according to Failed Messiah.   As a result, the second meeting with Hynes has been cancelled.

"Since he has to appease the rabbis in Brooklyn he should send all the Jewish cases to Staten Island,” Appel  told the Daily News.  According to Failed Messiah, Appel was referencing the decision to appoint a special prosecutor from Staten Island to investigate alleged criminal wrongdoing by Brooklyn’s powerful Democratic Party leader Assemblyman Vito Lopez.  Lopez, like the Brooklyn rabbis, is politically close to Hynes.

Some activists have expressed hope that the meetings with Hynes will eventually go forward.

"We intend to continue these meetings," Joel Engleman, who leads the group of advocates, told the Daily News.

Hynes office, however, is denying that any animosity on the part of advocates caused the cancellation of the gathering.  Instead, the DAs office is asserting that the meeting postponement was the result of a "scheduling conflict."

“It's an ongoing process,” Hynes' spokesperson, Jerry Schmetterer, told the Daily News. “We are all happy on this end to continue.”

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