A New York state assemblyman says he will publicly confront Orthodox institutions that fail to rid themselves of accused sex offenders.
Democrat Dov Hikind, an Orthodox Jew who represents largely Orthodox neighborhoods of Brooklyn in the New York State Assembly, announced on his radio program Saturday night that he would go after sex offenders who remain in positions where they have access to children.
“Those who are abusing our children, those who are in classrooms who are involved in abusing our children, doing inappropriate things, I’m coming after you,” Hikind said. “I’m telling you right now. I am coming after you in every single way. If you have a problem and you’re in a classroom, quit. Quit before we announce your name publicly.”
On the program, Hikind interviewed a Chasidic mother whose son claimed he was abused by the principal of “the largest” Chasidic yeshiva in Williamsburg, a Brooklyn neighborhood populated mainly by members of the Satmar sect.
Hikind said rumors were circulating that the principal was planning to return to the school in September and vowed he would not stand by if he did.
“Let me tell you this,” Hikind told JTA. “If there is a pedophile in the school, and we talk to the school and we bring it to the school with information, and at the end of the day they refuse to deal with it, I will hold more than one press conference.”
Hikind also said he had assigned staffers in his office to work on this issue, though he wouldn’t elaborate on how he plans to pursue it.
Fervently Orthodox communities have been beset by several high-profile cases of sexual abuse in recent years. Orthodox leaders have drawn criticism from victims and their advocates who claim they are unresponsive to allegations of molestation and are more interested in resolving the situation quietly, or not at all.
In one of the best known cases, Rabbi Yehuda Kolko is alleged to have abused numerous boys while a teacher at a Brooklyn yeshiva. In March, two Miami attorneys filed a $10 million lawsuit against the yeshiva, Yeshiva-Mesivta Torah Temimah. The suit named the school’s administrator, Rabbi Lipa Margulies, as a defendant, alleging he knew of Kolko’s activities and did not act to protect students.
Several other lawsuits are also pending against the yeshiva, and the Brooklyn district attorney is pursuing a criminal complaint against Kolko.