Orthodox Abuse Suspects Get Exemption

Agudath Israel Opposes Brooklyn Prosecutors' Refusal to Identify

By Paul Berger

Published April 24, 2012, issue of May 04, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

This is an updated version of a story that first appeared on forward.com earlier this week.

Orthodox Jews convicted of or charged with child sex abuse in Brooklyn should have their identities protected because of the community’s “tight-knit and insular” nature, prosecutors claim in a response to The Forward’s request for information about the cases.

No Names of Orthodox: Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes says the ‘tight-knit’ nature of the Orthodox community makes it impossible to disclose the identities of abuse suspects without also identifying their victims.
Kings County District Attorney's Office
No Names of Orthodox: Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes says the ‘tight-knit’ nature of the Orthodox community makes it impossible to disclose the identities of abuse suspects without also identifying their victims.

Rejecting the request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office stated that Orthodox Jews deserve a blanket exemption from the usual public disclosure rules.

Brooklyn prosecutors, working in the office of District Attorney Charles Hynes, claimed that Orthodox Jews are “unique” in that releasing the names of suspects would allow others in the community to identify their victims.

“The circumstances here are unique,” Assistant District Attorney Morgan Dennehy wrote in an April 16 letter to the Forward. “Because all of the requested defendant names relate to Hasidic men who are alleged to have committed sex crimes against Hasidic victims within a very tight-knit and insular Brooklyn community, there is a significant danger that the disclosure of the defendants’ names would lead members of that community to discern the identities of the victims.”

The policy quickly came under fire from community groups, children’s advocates and legal experts.

Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox umbrella group that usually supports Hynes’s approach to combating abuse in the community, came out against the decision to claim a blanket exemption.

Rabbi David Zwiebel, who is Agudath’s executive vice president and a legal expert, said that a policy of withholding names of perpetrators should not be “across the board” in any community, according to Agudath spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran.

Instead, Zwiebel believes that the release of defendants’ names should be evaluated on “a case-by-case basis,” Shafran said.

Although Brooklyn District Attorney Hynes has long resisted requests to identify Orthodox sex suspects, the letter is believed to represent the first time his office spelled out why it specifically singled them out for preferential treatment.

Dennehy cited the state’s civil rights laws in denying the Forward’s request for the names of 85 Orthodox Jews arrested on sex charges during the past three years. The Forward made its request in December 2011 after prosecutors announced that scores of Orthodox Jews had been charged under a special program designed to encourage the community to come forward with information.

He did not explain whether prosecutors had concluded that there was anything specific about each of the 85 suspects that might make it possible for others to determine the identity of the victim from the identity of the suspect.

He also did not explain whether such a blanket exemption might be granted to other similarly “tight-knit” communities in the borough. And there were no details about what criteria prosecutors would use to determine whether a particular group should be granted such preferential status.’


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.