It’s not just Ireland, it’s not just Saudi Arabia, it’s not just Pakistan. It’s New York City, too. The New York Times sets the scene.
The abuse began when the girl was 12 years old, prosecutors in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn said on Monday. She was sent to a prominent man in her ultra-Orthodox Jewish community for counseling, and prosecutors said the man sexually molested her over the next three years.
But lawyers defending the man, Nechemya Weberman, 54, of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, told a far different story during the opening arguments of his trial. The girl, a defense lawyer told the jury, had hatched the sordid tale of abuse as an act of revenge against Mr. Weberman and against a religious community she found stifling and rulebound.
Community community community. “Her ultra-Orthodox Jewish community” – meaning, the one she was born into and could not escape. It’s more a prison than a “community.”
Both the prosecution and the defense informed the jury that the Satmar Hasidic community, to which Mr. Weberman and the girl belonged, was so rigid that questions from a young girl about something as simple as the proper length of a skirt could lead to mandatory counseling, and even expulsion from school. The accuser in this case, both sides said, was just that kind of girl: a free spirit whose questioning and challenges to authority landed her in trouble.
“She was going off the path,” said Kevin O’Donnell, an assistant district attorney. “She was being a little bit different.” In response, Mr. O’Donnell said, she was branded a “heretic” by her Satmar girls’ school, the United Talmudical Academy in Williamsburg, and her parents were required to send her to therapy.
There it is again – the community to which they both “belonged” – that sounds cozy, but it’s more like being drafted. And how can her parents be “required” to send her to “therapy”? Required by whom? On whose authority? And what do you mean “therapy”? Weberman is not a therapist.
Dressed in the traditional long black coat and white shirt of the Satmar Hasidim, Mr. Weberman testified that he had first begun counseling his accuser in 2008, not in 2007, as she had claimed. He testified that he billed $150 an hour to see her, and also charged her family $1,500 for a trip upstate that he took alone with her. He denied that anything untoward had happened.
The parents were “required” to send her to him, and he charged them $150 an hour, but he’s not a therapist. Not a bad racket, from his point of view, even without the sex.
Beyond the details of the accuser’s case, the testimony also shed light into the way the Satmar Hasidic community enforces its strict religious rules. Ms. Gluck testified that masked men from the religious modesty committee, based in Monroe, N.Y., had come into her bedroom at night when she was 15 or 16 years old to take away a cellphone that she was not permitted to have. The same committee, Mr. Weberman testified, regularly referred young boys and girls to him for counseling.
Mr. Weberman testified that as an unlicensed counselor, he was not obligated to report allegations of child abuse to secular authorities, nor was he legally bound to respect the privacy of the young people he was counseling. As a result, he shared information given to him by the teenagers with their parents and schools, he said.
The New York Jewish Week goes deeper.
…many people with ties to the chasidic community believe there is something even more important about the Weberman case — namely, what it exposes about the larger communal role played by chasidic “modesty committees” in communities like Williamsburg, Borough Park and Kiryas Joel. These groups — to which, sources say, Weberman was connected — originated years ago to guard the “purity” of the community by enforcing strict dress and behavior codes that characterize the insular chasidic lifestyle. But, insiders say, the tactics of these self-appointed, freelance modesty patrols have evolved from public shaming to extortion and threats.
The narrative to emerge from the trial testimony so far is that a chasidic girl, perceived as “acting out” by the standards of her chasidic school and family — defying the community’s dress code, communicating with boys, asking questions about the existence of God — was sent to Weberman for therapy. She was 12 at the time, and the move apparently came at her school’s insistence and under threat of expulsion.
So that’s what “required” means. It’s not quite as savage as the Magdalen laundries, but it’s not a million miles away, either.
According to Yerachmiel Lopin, who blogs at FrumFollies and has been reporting on the case for two years, “UTA was in effect, extorting money for Weberman. I strongly suspect they kept some of it. Given widespread rumors about his sexual misconduct, Satmar was in effect pimping its girls to Weberman, adding insult to injury by making the victim pay to be victimized.”
And pimping its girls to Weberman as punishment for growing up and developing their own ideas. That’s the “community.”
H/t No Light.