Child sexual abuse in New York City religious institutions
Child sexual abuse in New York City religious institutions has presaged or echoed that which has occurred and emerged elsewhere in the United States and Europe. The child sexual abuse cases documented here, so far, reach back to the 1970s but have mostly come to light since 1990.
This is a listing, and account, of notable cases; it is not necessarily a complete listing for New York City:
- 1 Two 2011 basketball-program cases
- 2 Brooklyn and Queens
- 3 Manhattan
- 4 See also
- 5 References
Two 2011 basketball-program cases
Two cases in 2011 – those of Bob Oliva and Ernie Lorch – have both centered in highly ranked NYC youth basketball programs sponsored by churches of different denominations. Both cases have also moved to a criminal stage due to actions which have been alleged to, or admitted to, have happened in Massachusetts. As with many abuse cases, the fairly recent accusations addressed events which happened many years ago. However, Massachusetts law froze the statute of limitations when the victims left that state and allowed the cases, thence, to be brought many years later. In the open case – Lorch's – the statute of limitations provision is being challenged in court.
Brooklyn and Queens
Bob Oliva, Christ The King Regional High School and Catholic Youth Organization
In early 2011, long-time basketball coach at Christ The King Regional High School Bob Oliva was accused of two cases of child sexual abuse. He pled guilty under a plea deal to one of them, brought in Massachusetts on behalf of former player. Oliva cannot coach any longer and he will have to wear a monitoring device to track his movements while he serves five years' probation. The victim in the Massachusetts case was molested during a trip to Massachusetts in 1976 when he was 14. Oliva was a friend of his family. A news report a year after the conviction said that the abuse victim in the case had been "deeply moved by the number of people who offered him support when Oliva and Christ the King officials were dismissing him as a shakedown artist. 'I realized I have real friends'", he said. "Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol Ball hugged [him] and told him it was one of the greatest victim statement's she's ever heard," the report added.
In a related action, the victim in the Massachusetts case has a NY civil action for $20 million against Oliva. In February, 2012, the Queens judge refused an Oliva motion to dismiss the case so trial was expected later in the year. In December 2012, it was reported that Oliva's probation officer reminded him not to attend when Christ the King competed in the Chick-Fil-A Classic in South Carolina – where Oliva now lives – or any other high school competition. At the time, an Oliva friend told the reporter that Oliva had completed sex offender treatment.
In 2012, Weberman, a Satmar Hasidic leader in Brooklyn, was convicted on 59 counts of having sex with a girl sent to him for counseling. The girl was in "trouble at her Satmar school because [she] fought modesty rules. It was the school that ordered the girl to continue counseling with Weberman, 54, or be kicked out", the local CBS affiliate reported during the course of the trial. The girl was 12 years old in 2007 when the abuse started and it continued through 2010, often occurring in Weberman's locked office. During the therapy sessions that were arranged to help the girl become more religious, he engaged in various sexual acts with the girl and acted out pornographic scenes.
After the conviction, with Weberman facing up to 117 years in jail, the Satmar community reacted with a number of actions targeting the victim's family and their businesses as well as setting a goal of a $1 million legal-appeal fund. Radio host Zev Brenner, whose Talkline "caters to Orthodox Jews, said he already lost one sponsor, and is fighting to keep others ... because he interviewed Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes [on air] about the case". During the trial, Satmar Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum had described Weberman’s accuser as a “zona,” or “whore”. Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes criticized Teitelbaum, expressing his disappointment with Teitelbaum's remarks and calling them slanderous.
Separately, "longtime anti-sex abuse blogger Nathan (Nuchem) Rosenberg filed a complaint against Meilech Schnitzler — who ultimately surrendered — for splashing bleach in his eye. The blogger [had] accused Schnitzler’s father of being a pedophile", the Daily News also reported. Rosenberg "runs a hotline and has a website that provide[s] information, in Yiddish, for protecting children from sexual abuse. ... The vast majority of the rabbis of the Williamsburg community backed Weberman from the time of his arrest, and many in the community still support him despite the conviction. Rosenberg, however, sat through the entire Weberman trial to show support for the victim", according to an article in The Jewish Press.
Reacting to the conviction, author Judy Brown wrote of a lifetime, from age nine, of hearing about child sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox world and seeing word of it suppressed. Brown under the pseudonym Eishes Chayil wrote the novel Hush (2010) on the subject. Like the novel, her December 2012 account was "based on true events, but her characters’ names and identities have been changed; some are composites, comprising several real-life people".
Other cases include:
- In 2012, Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi Moshe Keller was sentenced to three years' probation for inappropriately touching a 15-year-old boy in 2009.
- On December 3, 2012, Emanuel Yegutkin, the former principal of Elite High School, a yeshiva high school for Russian-American Jews, was found guilty of sexually abusing three underage brothers over the course of more than a decade. The victims were not enrolled in Yegutkin's yeshiva. Yegutkin was charged with a variety of sexual crimes, and was found guilty of all 75 counts. On February 7, 2013 Yegutkin was sentenced to 55 years in prison for his crimes.
Bruce Ritter, Covenant House
Father Bruce Ritter, founder of Covenant House in New York City, was forced to resign in 1990 after accusations that he had engaged in financial improprieties and had engaged in sexual relations with several youth in the care of the charity.
Ernie Lorch, Riverside Hawks and NYC Metro Hawks
Ernie Lorch, a Middlebury College basketball player, was from 1961 the founding coach of the Riverside Hawks youth basketball team sponsored by the Riverside Church. The church is interdenominational (American Baptist and United Church of Christ) and located on the Upper West Side. Lorch resigned after charges of child sexual abuse were leveled and District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau began investigating in 2002.
Under the "frozen statute of limitations" provision, Lorch was arrested by a fugitive task force in 2010 at a convalescent home in Ardsley, New York, said U.S. Marshal Daniel Spellacy in Springfield, Mass. Lorch was "accused of sexually abusing the then-17-year-old victim when his Riverside Hawks team traveled from Manhattan to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst for a tournament between March 1977 and April 1978. Lorch also tried to rape the player, the indictment said." As of March, 2011, Lorch's attorney was asserting his client suffered from dementia and diabetes and was wheelchair-bound; and the lawyer was effecting other efforts to prevent extradition, including habeas corpus and a challenge to the "frozen statute of limitations" provision.
Several New York men told the Daily News after the 2010 arrest "that they had been paid into the millions of dollars to remain silent about alleged abuse".
Yeshiva University high school
In December 2012, the President of the Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva University apologized over allegations that two rabbis at the college’s high school campus abused boys there in the late 1970s and early ’80s. A later December report in The Forward focused on one Yeshiva University High School for Boys official, Rabbi George Finkelstein, and spoke "to 14 men who sa[id] that Finkelstein abused them while he was employed at [YUHSB] ... from 1968 to 1995". The report also concluded that YU and the governing Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America had known about accusations against Finkelstein for a decade or longer. In addition, "[f]rom the mid 1980s until today ... Y.U. officials and RCA rabbis have dismissed claims or kept them quiet" as Finkelstein went on to be dean of a Florida day school and then to the Jerusalem Great Synagogue. In July 2013, Chancellor Norman Lamm announced his retirement after more than 60 years at the University, and apologized for not responding more assertively when students at Yeshiva University High School for Boys said that two rabbis there had sexually abused them.
- Zengerle, Jason, "The Sins of the Coach", New York magazine, March 20, 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
- O'Keeffe, Michael, "One year after Bob Oliva pleaded guilty to sex-abuse charges, victim recalls finding strength to face abuser in court", New York Daily News, April 4, 2012. The Victim Statement – "Oliva, Bob - Impact Statement.pdf" – linked to via docs.google. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
- O'Keeffe, Michael, "Judge rejects Oliva's motion to dismiss suit", New York Daily News, February 15, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
- O'Keeffe, Michael, "Disgraced ex Christ the King coach Bob Oliva barred from attending Chick-Fil-A Classic", New York Daily News, December 18, 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-28.
- Yaniv, Oren, "Victim in sex abuse trial of prominent Orthodox leader Nechemya Weberman: 'I wanted to die rather than live with myself'", New York Daily News, November 27, 2012.
- "Hasidic Man Found Guilty of Sexually Abusing Girl", New York Times, December 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-10.
- "Jury finds Nechemya Weberman, Satmar Hasidic leader, guilty of molesting girl", New York Daily News, December 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-10.
- "After Nechemya Weberman, Hasidic Satmar sect considers ... a different way to deal" with the problem of sex abuse, New York Daily News, December 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-10.
- Cornell, Irene, "Brooklyn Orthodox Leader’s Sex Abuse Trial Resumes; Accuser’s Mother Takes Stand", WCBS 880, December 3, 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-11.
- Otterman, Sharon (2013-01-22). "Hasidic Therapist Sentenced to 103 Years in Sexual Abuse Case". New York Times. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
- Talkline with Zev Brenner, Dec. 4, 2012 podcast available at the bottom of this article, starting with the 7m 50s mark.
- Weichselbaum, Simone, and Oren Yaniv, "Satmar sect's sick revenge as pervert's posse bullies family of teen sex-abuse victim", New York Daily News, December 13/14, 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- Lowenthal Marcus, Lori, "Chemicals Thrown in Face of Williamsburg Rabbi Who Supports Sex Abuse Victims", The Jewish Press, December 12th, 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- Brown, Judy, (Eishes Chayil), "'Ub-u-sive': Spelling Out Abuse After Nechemya Weberman's Conviction", The Forward, December 20, 2012. Via Yerachmiel Lopin's Frum Follies blog. Retrieved 2012-12-25.
- Otterman, Sharon (22 January 2013). "Hasidic Therapist Sentenced to 103 Years in Sexual Abuse Case". New York Times.
- "Counselor’s Penalty for Child Sexual Abuse Is Halved, to 50 Years", New York Times, February 9, 2013.
- Otterman, Sharon; Rivera, Ray (2012-05-09). "Ultra-Orthodox Shun Their Own for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse". The New York Times.
- nytimes.com, 2012/12/04.
- nytimes.com, 2013/02/08.
- Wosh, Peter J., Covenant House: Journey of a Faith-Based Charity, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8122-3831-1.
- Toperoff, Sam, "A Pillar And Backboard Of The Riverside Church", Sports Illustrated, December 22, 1986. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
- O'Keeffe, Michael, "Controversial Ernie Lorch leaves Riverside Church scrambling to salvage its once-proud hoop program", New York Daily News, April 25, 2004. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
- "Prominent NY youth coach arrested", Associated Press via ESPN, updated November 4, 2010 4:20 PM EST. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
- O'Keeffe, Michael, "Founder of Riverside Church hoops, Ernest Lorch, indicted on sex abuse charges, avoids extradition", New York Daily News, March 02, 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
- "Riverside AAU czar Ernie Lorch dies", New York State Sportswriters blog, May 16, 2012. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
- O'Keeffe, Michael, "Lorch escapes extradition on sex abuse charges", New York Daily News, November 18, 2011. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
- Blau, Reuven, and Rachel Monahan, "Yeshiva University president apologizes for '70s and '80s molest allegations", New York Daily News, December 13, 2012.
- Yee, Vivian (2012-12-14). "Report of '80s Sexual Abuse Rattles Yeshiva Campus". New York Times.
- Berger, Paul, (Jane Eisner, ed.), "Yeshiva Officials, Rabbis Knew of Alleged Abuse", The Forward, December 20, 2012 (issue of December 28, 2012). Via Yerachmiel Lopin's Frum Follies blog. Retrieved 2012-12-25.
- Kaminer, Ariel (2013-07-01). "In a Letter Announcing His Retirement, Yeshiva University Chancellor Apologizes for Sexual Abuse Scandal". New York Times.