(JTA) — A rabbi in Teaneck, N.J. was arrested on charges of molesting two Israeli boys who had stayed at his home.
Rabbi Uzi Rivlin, 63, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in New Jersey state Superior Court in Hackensack to two counts of aggravated criminal sexual contact and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. He was arrested Tuesday at his Teaneck, N.J., home.
Rivlin had hosted the two 13-year-old boys in his home as part of a program he founded that brings disadvantaged Israeli children to the United States for the summer. One boy stayed at his home in the summer of 2010 and one in 2009. The boys reported the abuse to Israeli police once they returned home.
The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Sex Crimes Unit, the Teaneck Police and the FBI were involved in the investigation, according to reports. The probe is continuing to determine if any other boys were molested.
Rivlin is being held in jail after being unable to raise the $175,000 bail. He was required to surrender his Israeli passport to the court; he said he does not have an American passport.
The rabbi’s attorney, Howard Simmons, said Rivlin is "perplexed and upset" by the accusations, The Record of Hackensack reported Wednesday.
"It was a complete, utter shock to him," the paper quoted Simmons as saying after Rivlin was charged in court. "He just doesn’t understand why these children would make these allegations.
Rivlin founded the Scholarship Fund for the Advancement of Children in Israel, in which the disadvantaged children become pen pals with children from Rivlin’s religious school classes at Temple B’nai Abraham in Tarrytown, N.Y., according to the New Jersey Jewish Standard. The children then visit the homes of their pen pals or other hosts for the summer. The rabbi had arranged for several of the children to have bar and bat mitzvahs at New Jersey synagogues.
The rabbi’s wife and daughter also teach in the religious school. Rivlin suffered a stroke several months ago.