Tag: Yeshiva Sexual Abuse

Officials at Orthodox Day School SAR Academy Knew of Sexual Abuse of Twelve Students

A report to the Board of Trustees at SAR Academy, a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school in the Bronx, reveals that school official knew of sexual abuse allegations against assistant principal and teacher Stanley Rosenfed.  Rosenfeld is reported to have abused at least a dozen of the school’s students.

Stanley Rosenfeld, now 84 years old, is a convicted sex offender and has admitted to molesting hundreds of boys throughout his life, including at SAR, according to the report.  Rosenfeld would abuse young boys from SAR by inviting them to his home for Shabbat, where they would sleep over for one or two nights. At night, he would hover over their beds and fondle their genitals or other parts of their bodies. Some former students said Rosenfeld would stop the abuse after boys made it clear that it made them uncomfortable. Others reported laying motionless until the ordeal ended. Former students said the abuse caused them emotional suffering.

“One former student explained that during the night, he awoke to Rosenfeld’s hands on the former student’s penis inside the former student’s pajama bottoms, that Rosenfeld quickly removed them and then justified his presence in the twinbedded room where the boys were sleeping by saying that he heard the former student make a noise and wanted to check on him,” the report said.

The report also says that former students remember feeling as if Rosenfeld had drugged them while sleeping at his house. During those sleepovers, the report says, former students remember Rosenfeld urging them to wrestle with him while both he and the student were in their underwear. Rosenfeld would use the wrestling as a way to molest the boys. He also molested boys on the weekend retreat he would hold after they graduated from the eighth grade.

Rosenfeld, according to the report, also would abuse boys while at school, in addition to molesting at least one girl there. He asked a student to sit on his lap, where he fondled him, and also drew close to students or would corner them in public spaces before molesting them. In addition, the report says he physically abused students, slamming them against the wall and, in one case, grabbing a student’s face and putting it in the snow.

“Some of these students also reported that they heard their classmates talk about Rosenfeld and comment that they had also been touched or fondled by him and heard others more generally joke with one another about Rosenfeld’s fondling of boys,” the report says.

The report found that at least one faculty member alerted the principal at the time, Rabbi Sheldon Chwat, that she had seen Rosenfeld touch a boy’s groin in a school office. In addition, the investigation found that two parents of former students may have told SAR administrators about Rosenfeld’s misconduct, though no parents reported that directly to the investigators. Chwat left the school in 1983 and died in 2014.

It is unclear whether Rosenfeld left the school in 1977 due to these reports. But someone the report identifies as a “senior member” of SAR recalls Chwat saying that Rosenfeld was leaving because he was “the kind of person that has a proclivity or interest in students” and “not the person who should be with kids full time.”

Regardless, Rosenfeld was rehired to teach sixth-grade language arts part time in 1986 for one year. SAR’s assistant principal at the time, Rabbi Joel Cohn, asked the principal at the time, Rabbi Yonah Fuld, if there were any concerns regarding Rosenfeld. Cohn recalled that Fuld, who had been an associate principal while Rosenfeld was employed at SAR, eventually said “for a short amount of time, I think it’s OK.”

Fuld does not recall that exchange, nor does he recall Rosenfeld returning to teach at the school, the report says. It is unclear whether the administrators who hired Rosenfeld in 1986 knew of the abuse allegations. Fuld no longer works at the school and now lives in Israel.

In addition to its findings on Rosenfeld, the report found that Rabbi Sheldon Schwartz, a Judaics teacher, acted inappropriately with at least four students during the 1970s. The report said Schwartz would wrestle with boys and also draw uncomfortably close with students and have them sit on his lap.

Schwartz, according to the report, also would act as an enabler for Rosenfeld’s abuse, urging students to stay with Rosenfeld for Shabbat while frequently staying there himself as well. Two former students said they separately told Schwartz that Rosenfeld had abused them — one following a Shabbat and the other immediately after the abuse occurred.

In both cases, the former students recall Schwartz telling them that the experience was a dream. In the latter case, Schwartz played board games with the student to calm him down.  Schwartz taught at SAR until January, when he was suspended pending the investigation. He was later fired and is now suing SAR for wrongful termination.

Report Sheds Light on Widespread Problem of Sexual Abuse in Orthodox Jewish Communities

Religious communities are often protective of their own. Sharing the same beliefs, customs and traditions makes the bond between members of religious communities even stronger than your average community. Looking up to the same religious leaders generation after generation can help form tight-knit communities. While it is beneficial in most cases, certain situations can work against bringing people together.

When authority figures cross the line and commit unthinkable acts of sexual abuse, coming forward to report them can divide a community. Some will support the alleged suspect and accuse the victim of lying. Others will back the victim and push to get the leader removed from the community. Some will not voice their opinion at all.

An article from Newsweek about a Hasidic Rabbi’s alleged long-term child sexual abuse spanning multiple states delves into the broader issue of the “widespread belief that reporting abuse to secular authorities constitutes heresy.” Out of fear for tarnishing their family name and causing havoc for their children who might attend the same schools, victims of childhood sexual abuse sometimes refuse to speak out.  In certain cases, member of a tight-knit religious community may be reluctant to come forward out of fear of retaliation or causing harm to the community.  Without acting in a timely manner, however, the statute of limitations could pass, resulting in suspects walking free or additional children be subjected to abuse.

Incidents such as this are a reminder that sexual abuse occurs in all communities regardless of religious faith and we must be vigilant in the supervision and protection of our children at all times.  Furthermore, protecting the reputation of a community should never be a higher priority than protecting the safety of a child.

Attorney Adam Horowitz is experienced in filing lawsuits nationwide on behalf of victims of sex assault in orthodox Jewish communities.  You can reach Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com or call our law firm at (954) 641-2100.