Daughter Accuses NY Rabbi Father of Sex Abuse

By Tom Hays
March 2, 2009,0,5432855.story

NEW YORK - The daughter of an ultra-orthodox Jewish rabbi tearfully testified Monday how her father molested her for the first time at age 9, starting a pattern of abuse that prosecutors say lasted several years.

Afterward, "I felt alone, scared and confused," the woman, now 27, told a jury at her father's sex abuse trial.

The testimony was part of an unusual scene in federal court in Brooklyn, where the rabbi, Israel Weingarten, has chosen to represent himself and could end up cross-examining his own daughter.

In a rambling opening statement, the jailed Weingarten said he had been falsely accused by a daughter who rebelled against a strict upbringing, and suggested that a neighbor was the actual abuser. He also asked jurors not to judge him by his conservative black clothing, comparing it to that worn by George Washington.

"I'm not that different when it comes to our forefathers who were fighting for freedom," he said.

Weingarten, 59, a member of the Satmar community in upstate Monroe, N.Y., was arrested last year on charges he traveled outside the country to have sex with a minor. Prosecutors have said that if convicted, he faces up to 210 months in prison under sentencing guidelines.

The daughter, the second of eight children, first told the FBI in 2003 that she was victimized while living with her family in Hasidic communities in Belgium, and on trips to England and Israel.

"For at least seven years, the defendant sexually abused his daughter on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis," court papers said. "He moved her to different countries in order to continue the abuse and to escape any threat he would be apprehended as word of his abuse began to spread."

The daughter took the stand as the government's first witness wearing an orange scarf and pants suit, and with her hair down _ a mainstream look she said Weingarten forbade while growing up. She claimed her father had told that wearing red, orange or purple was wrong because it "reminds you of a woman's period."

She testified he first violated her one Sunday night after dinner, when he called her into his bedroom.

The daughter was to resume testifying on Tuesday.


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