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Another Sex Abuse Case Sending Shock Waves Through Brooklyn's Ultra Orthodox Community

Jun 11, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

The trial of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish counselor accused of sexually abusing a young girl begins later this week and it is sharply dividing the largely secretive community.

According to an AP report, Nechemya Weberman stands accused of sexually molesting a young girl sent to him because she had been asking “theological questions” and Weberman, who often counseled other young people at schools he was affiliated with, was considered a good person to get people back on their “spiritual path.”

The girl, who’s now 17, first met Weberman when she was 12 and says she was forced to perform sexual acts with him for several years during their ongoing counseling sessions. The abuse, she claims, caused her young life to spiral further out-of-control, being removed from school and constantly struggling with behavioral issues.

In the ultra-Orthodox community however, sexual abuse is a taboo subject and this is just the latest example of how old religious tradition and culture collides with more a more worldly view. When sexual abuse against children is suspected, members of this community, located mostly in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, are encouraged to first report it to a rabbi. The rabbi is then to investigate the claims and make judgements as they deem necessary. Taking allegations to civil authorities is not encouraged.

However, frustrated with the lack of justice being realized from the religious path to dealing with these allegations has forced more people in the community to turn to civil authorities but that may be causing even more trouble for them.

AP reports the family of the young girl accusing Weberman of years of abuse has been ostracized from the community. On the street, they’ve been taunted and spat upon. The Hasidic Jewish press has proclaimed Weberman innocent prior to the trial and fundraisers have been conducted to pay for his legal bills in fighting the civil charges against him.

In Brooklyn, the local District Attorney Charles Hynes is also facing increasing pressure to bring more members of the ultra-Orthodox community to justice and to identify those who’ve been accused of crimes. He’s been accused of bowing to the pressure from inside the religious community to keep names of those accused out of the public eye.

Some have also accused Hynes of ignoring some cases, the exact same problem that exists inside the community, where elders are believed and respected much more than younger people. Hynes is also accused of being “too cozy” with the most powerful rabbis in the community and is hesitant to bring charges against anyone in the church.

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