NEW YORK (JTA) — An administrator at a prestigious Jewish middle school in New York City was arrested for production of child pornography.
In an email to the school community on Monday, the principal of SAR Academy in the Riverdale section of the Bronx informed parents that Rabbi Jonathan Skolnick, the associate principal of Judaic studies, was arrested late Friday night. The email said that the school, formally the Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy, had reason to believe that students there may have been victims of Skolnick.
“I know that this is an extremely difficult message to read and process on many levels,” Rabbi Binyamin Krauss wrote. “It is shocking to know that someone who we have trusted with our children has been accused of harming them. Despite the practices in place to protect our children, we are not immune to breaches such as the one that seems to have taken place at SAR.”
SAR has fired Skolnick, who was at the Modern Orthodox school for 14 months. The school is cooperating fully with the FBI. Beyond the claim of “production of pornography” and a mention of “inappropriate photos,” the email did not contain more detail.
From 2012 to 2018, Skolnick worked at the Yeshivah of Flatbush, an Orthodox day school in Brooklyn. Raymond Harari, the head of school, and Jeffrey Rothman, the school’s executive director, wrote in an email to the school community Monday that they are “not aware of any inappropriate behavior” on Skolnick’s part while he was at the school. They asked that anyone with allegations of misconduct contact the school and the FBI.
Last year, SAR commissioned a report about its previous employment of a teacher who abused at least a dozen students at the school, according to the report. Stanley Rosenfeld, now 84, who has admitted to abusing hundreds of boys throughout his lifetime, worked as an assistant principal at SAR in the 1970s and also taught English there a decade later. The school commissioned the investigation in January, soon after learning of the allegations against Rosenfeld.
“We strive to create a learning environment in which students feel comfortable coming forward with concerns or reports of misbehavior of any kind,” Krauss wrote to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last year following the release of the report. “Nothing is more important than the safety of our students. If we were to learn of a report of abuse, we would work quickly to begin an investigation and ensure, throughout the process, that students are safe.”
Krauss wrote in his email Monday that the school’s administration will be discussing the arrest with students in the middle school on Tuesday, as well as students now in ninth grade who were under Skolnick’s authority last year. The school also encouraged parents to discuss the situation with their kids, and administrators are making themselves available to speak with parents on Tuesday and in the coming days.
SAR instituted a sexual harassment policy in 2014 that requires reporting credible allegations of sexual misconduct to law enforcement, as well as guidelines for reporting allegations within the school and investigating them.