Rabbi Arraigned for Allegedly Molesting Boys

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday August 31, 2009

An Upstate New York rabbi is accused of molesting two boys.

The rabbi, Yaakov Weiss, who teaches in Albany, appeared in court to answer to charges that he had inappropriate sexual contact with two of his male students, both 13 years old, according to an Aug. 26 article posted at Fox23News.com.

Weiss, 29, was accompanied by his wife. One of the couples' three children also accompanied Weiss to court, the article said.

Another Aug. 26 article on the case was published at Albany newspaper the Times-Union, and said that the rabbi allegedly struck and kicked one of the boys, and urged the other to deny that anything untoward had taken place.

"Just say nothing happened," both articles reported the rabbi allegedly told one 13-year-old.

The Times-Union article said that Weiss was accused of having improper sexual contact with the boys in a ritual bathing pool called a mikveh. One boy was allegedly assaulted in June of 2007, and the other later that same year.

Weiss, who opened the Chabad of Colonie and the Chabad Hebrew School, defended himself in an email sent to the Time-Union in 2008 by claiming that the charges were baseless and the story of the sexual molestation a fabrication "generated by an individual who has been antagonistic toward Chabad of Colonie from its inception and continues to be envious of continued success."

Weiss, the article said, wrote that the accusations were "his way of getting rid of us."

The Fox News article quoted Weiss' lawyer, Arnold Proskin, who said that Weiss had hundreds of supporters.

"Public support is absolutely outstanding," claimed Proskin.

Added the attorney, "This is just something that makes the hair on the back of your neck tingle and I'm not saying it as a joke.

"It just bothers me greatly," Proskin went on. "It bothers a lot of people and we're defending this matter."

Proskin also suggested that the case going before the Albany County grand jury was a matter of publicity on the part of the prosecution.

"There's no advantage," Proskin said.

But the District Attorney for Albany County, David Soares, was cited in the Fox News article as explaining that the grand jury was presented with the case as a result of the special victims unit's involvement.

Said Soares, "We prefer to try our cases in a court of law and not in the media."

Exposemolesters, a Web site dedicated to tracking media reports of alleged child molesters, covered the story, along with allegations that a Brooklyn rabbi had molested three young victims over the course of several decades.

Rabbi Yehuda Kolko was accused of assaulting a boy--now a man in his 30s--as well as two young boys more recently. His lawyer, Jeffrey Schwartz, was quoted as saying, "In 21 years of trying criminal cases, both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, I have never seen a case so weak."

Schwartz pointed out that the rabbi had passed to lie detector tests in which he claimed innocence.

The site also posted text about Rabbi Avrohom Mondrowitz, another rabbi accused of child molestation, who fled Brooklyn for Israel more than 20 years ago when he was first accused.

Those cases were also referenced in an Oct. 2, 2008 Jewish Daily Forward article about alleged sexual abuse of children in the Jewish religious community.

That article said that Jewish leaders had begun taking a closer look at alleged instances of child abuse at the hands of Jewish clerics.

The article noted that New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind of Brooklyn had claimed that child molestation was occurring in the ultra-Orthodox community, an extremely anti-gay faction of Judaism.

Hikind said that that he had heard "an avalanche" of stories about child molestation over the course of only a couple of months, leading him to determine that he should create a list of alleged molesters that he would make generally accessible.

Hikind also said that the ultra-Orthodox community was liable to end up unwittingly harboring child molesters out of a wish to pursue religious, rather than secular, means of obtaining justice.

The article quoted Hikind as saying, "If you're a child molester, the best community to come to is [a community with many ultra-Orthodox such as] Borough Park, Flatbush, Lakewood or Monroe.

"Your chances of being arrested are much smaller because people don't press charges."

Agudath Israel of America's director of government affairs, David Zwiebel, was also cited in the article; said Zwiebel,
"Until not terribly long ago, the issue [of child molestation by Jewish rabbis] was very much in the shadows."

Added Zwiebel, "Sometimes they were dealt with correctly and sometimes incorrectly, but the severity of the problem and the possible magnitude were really things that most people, including myself, just didn't understand."

Zwiebel opined that the Jewish community had finally begun to address the problem in the wake of the global pedophile priest scandal that sent shock waves through the Catholic Church.

More recently, the New York Post reported on April 2 that Charles Hynes, the DA for Brooklyn, had unveiled a new push to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual assault among Orthodox Jews.

"Sexual abuse is not only a horrific nightmare for the victims, but an agonizing experience for their parents," the article quoted Hynes as saying.

The DA cited an increased flow of sexual-abuse cases out of the Orthodox community in recent years. The office currently has 19 pending cases.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.