Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes Presses to Expose Sex Abuse in Jewish Community

By Simone Weichselbaum
New York Daily News
April 2, 2009

The Brooklyn district attorney's office is planning a new crackdown on sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where victims have hid their shame for decades.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes will announce Project Kol Tzedek - Hebrew for "Voice of Justice" - on Wednesday.

The first-ever team of prosecutors, counselors, religious leaders and Jewish social agencies will work to encourage young victims to name their attackers.

Sexual abuse in the city's Hasidic enclaves has gone largely unreported. Victims say they fear the shame of the attack and condemnation for revealing secrets to secular authorities.

But the culture has begun to change, officials said.

"Over the last several months, there has been a lot of articles in the newspaper," said Sex Crimes Bureau Chief Rhonnie Jaus.

"It has helped people in the community come forward, and we are starting to see more cases."

Since October, the Daily News has reported on five cases of men in Hasidic neighborhoods charged with sexually abusing children, ranging in age from 7 to 15.

The DA's office now has 19 cases involving accused molesters from Borough Park, Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Flatbush, officials said.

"This is the highest amount that I have ever seen," Jaus said.

Under Project Kol Tzedek, prosecutors will visit yeshivas and synagogues, and the DA will open a hotline and host meetings with victims interested in coming forward.

Organizers have lined up major partners, including the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, and Tikvah at Ohel.

Despite the progress, some participants asked not to be identified, afraid of being shunned for working with authorities.

"The community as a whole doesn't deal well with the severity of this problem," said one agency executive who is quietly working with the DA's office. "In order for victims to feel comfortable, we feel we should remain under the radar."



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