We have previously discussed the harassment and abuse of families in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods who have accused religious figures of sexual abuse. Like Catholic and other Christian communities, the Jewish community is facing its own scandal over the response to these allegations. This ongoing controversy is at the heart of a case in New Jersey where a leading counselor and Rabbi stands accused of molesting a 12-year-old boy — and members of the Orthodox community are accused of a campaign of harassment against the boy and his family for going to the police.
After the boy went into therapy, he told his father of the alleged abuse that he experienced at a Jewish camp by his counselor, Yosef Kolko. Kolko is a former yeshiva teacher on trial now for the alleged abuse.
Kolko, 39, is accused of abusing the boy at age 11 in 2007 at a religious summer camp in Lakewood. The boy says that the rabbi engaged in molestation and oral sex in various locations including an empty classroom, a storage room, Kolko’s car and the basement of a synagogue.
What is interesting about the case is the reaction of the father and then the community. The father was told by his son that he was sexually abused, but instead of going to the police he went to a group of rabbis to take action even though such rabbis could not imprison him or order corporal punishment. The father waited for months as the rabbis did little. He was also willing to send his kid back to the same camp. It was only after he discovered that Kolko was going to continue his work at the camp that he took additional steps. The father admits that he wanted to leave the matter in the hands of the rabbis and not report to police that his son had been allegedly sexually assaulted. I find that truly extraordinary since any action that the rabbis took would not deprive Kolko of his freedom. It is the ultimate triumph of faith for a father to refuse to go to police even when he believes that his son was raped. Both the father and Kolko went to the home of a prominent Lakewood rabbi. The father wanted the matter submitted to a rabbinical court rather than to inform police of an alleged sexual predator working with children.
The father however said that it was clear that the rabbis had not acted. He then said that he felt he had to act in July 2009. That is two years after the alleged sexual abuse so for two years he allowed someone he believed to be a sexual predator walk around free because he preferred to use rabbinical courts.
After he went to Ocean County prosecutors, however, community members denounced him and posted signs against the family. Even the father still admits reluctance in going to the police, saying “[g]oing to law enforcement is not, at this time, common within the Orthodox Jewish community. Even when it’s necessary it’s considered unusual.”
A flyer in their community denounced them of a “terrible deed” by speaking to non-Jewish officials. We have seen this abuse in other cases in the Orthodox community. However, it is the hold of faith on the father that is most striking to me in this case. To wait two years to speak with police is astonishing for a father who believes that his son was sexually assaulted. It is also interesting to see that no lawsuit has been filed against the Jewish leaders who took no action and also did not report the matter to the police. The similarity to the allegations against the Catholic Church is striking.
As for those responsible for the flyers, I cannot imagine how even profound faith could lead someone to denounce the possible victim of child abuse for simply going to police.
26 thoughts on “New Jersey Sexual Assault Case Highlights Abuse Of Alleged Victims In The Orthodox Jewish Community”
Hawkeye, you raise good points, and yes, the underlying human tendency to place institutional protectionism above the rights of the individual is evident in a broad variety of crimes and abuses.
The core–but heinous–principle that is at work here is as follows:
The betrayal of the group is socially considered to be a greater sin than the correction or even exposure of a wrong to an individual.
The Code of Omertà is not limited by any means to The Outfit. Omertà implies “the categorical prohibition of cooperation with state authorities or reliance on its services, even when one has been victim of a crime.”
See Letizia Paoli, Mafia Brotherhoods, p. 109.
Read this and shake your head as much as I… And say what!!!!
In very rare circumstances, certain major media shows have addressed such issues as child molestation, and in a surprisingly thoughtful and intelligent manner. One such show was an episode called “The Bicycle Shop,” written by Blake Hunter, for the series “Diff’rent Strokes.” Although this show did not directly address the much more difficult and controversial institutional protectionism issue, as I’ve framed it, the show does effectively depict how predators gain the trust of children and how they help to ensure the silence of their child victims. Most important, the show suggests what children and parents should do under the circumstances. Writer Blake Hunter has clearly done his research here. The casting of veteran comic actor Gordon Jump to play the out-of-character role of the predator was an inspired one, as he was well known to have previously played characters that children already found likeable. Part 1 is shown below, and Part 2 is available at the same site:
I’m totally dismayed that no one has raised the point that sexual predatory behavior upon children is NEVER A ONE TIME EVENT. Over the span of time that this predator was allowed access by virtue of his position within the group, how many more victims are out there? Time will tell. I have a personal interest in institutional insulation of deviance and the processes through which this occurs. Adding this “event” to my data base. Also want to mention that there is a similar “trend” in institutions of higher education when rape is reported by women to administrative officials. Numerous cases in the news of late in which these victims end up not reporting to law enforcement, with academic officials doing the “sweep it under the rug routine” through their own “investigative process”, solely for the benefit of their “public reputation”. I continue to advise parents who are sending their female kids off to higher education, should they encounter this type of deviant conduct (whether by professor/staff/date, etc), go to the police first to report and then to administrative officials. This helps in avoiding the deviant act itself being “closeted”, bringing perpetrators to Justice.
I understand that given the conscious or unconscious anti-religion slant of Mr. Turley and those of this message board that whenever such child molestation stories involving religious groups are publicized, the gut reaction to the religious group’s cover-up response is to blame the religion, or the particular sect of the religion. In this particular case, an Orthodox Jewish Community is the subject group; and in others it may be the Catholic Church; and in still others it may be some Islamic group.
Whereas everyone here sees the commonality as “religion,” I see the commonality as much broader, “groups” or “institutions” themselves. I think it is a natural human tendency of ALL groups and institutions to have a protectionist response to instances of child molestation that arise.
Penn State is not a religious institution, but the response of the leaders of that institution to allegations of child molestation was to go into a cover-up mode of action, as the Jerry Sandusky case made all too clear.
The Boy Scouts of America is not a religious group, yet they too have sought to cover-up cases of child molestation within their group.
This distinct human tendency can even be observed at the family level of “group.”
Think about it.
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