Sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has long been hidden. Victims who came forward were intimidated into silence; their families were shunned; cases were dropped for a lack of cooperation.Perhaps even more significant than the Brooklyn DA managing to crack the ultra-orthodox Omertà (code of silence) in order to get a conviction, but that he also issued an informal warning against any further harassment of the victim or her family by the community.
But on Monday, a State Supreme Court jury in Brooklyn delivered a stunning victory to prosecutors and victims’ advocates, convicting a 54-year-old unlicensed therapist who is a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidic community of Williamsburg of repeatedly sexually abusing a young girl who had been sent to him for help.
“The veil of secrecy has been lifted,” said Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney. “The wall that has existed in parts of these communities has now been broken through. And as far as I’m concerned, it is very clear to me that it is only going to get better for people who are victimized in these various communities.”
The case against the therapist, Nechemya Weberman, was a significant milestone for Mr. Hynes, whose office has been criticized for not acting aggressively enough against sexual abusers in the borough’s large and politically connected ultra-Orthodox community.
The verdict represented the first time Mr. Hynes’ office has won a conviction of a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidic community of Williamsburg for child sexual abuse.
The case also offered a glimpse of the Satmar community’s shadowy efforts to enforce rigid codes of behavior — particularly for young girls — by allowing so-called modesty committees to intimidate girls for wearing revealing clothing or using cellphones, and requiring parents to send children judged to be breaking rules to religious counselors, many of whom are not licensed and charge high fees.
BTW, the halacha (Jewish law) is clear here: It is required that these allegations be taken to civil courts, because a Beit Din (religious court) has no authority beyond moral persuasion in the US.