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Williamsburg is at the center of the latest sex abuse scandal to rock the ultra-Orthodox community. In May, more than 1,000 men gathered for a fundraiser for Nechemya Weberman, an unlicensed therapist accused of abusing a young female patient over several years. The event highlighted critics’ claims that the ultra-Orthodox community rallies around alleged perpetrators while shunning victims.
The following month, Hynes ordered the arrests of four ultra-Orthodox men on charges that they tried to coerce the victim to recant. The most serious charges were leveled against Abraham Rubin, a businessman accused of offering the victim and her boyfriend $500,000 to withdraw her accusation and flee to Israel.
Hynes has long been accused of going soft on Brooklyn’s various ultra-Orthodox communities to secure the support of their bloc-voting constituents.
“In New York, electoral politics is a retail business and candidates have to garner one vote at a time,” said David Pollock, associate executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. “The Orthodox community is one of the few places where candidates can attract votes wholesale because people can rely on endorsement by key leaders [that] can really influence votes.”
But Hynes’s apparent crackdown on ultra-Orthodox abusers, along with tough talk in which he accused the community of being worse than organized crime in its intimidation of victims, has alienated some sections of the community.
A political operative in Williamsburg, who did not wish to be named because it could damage his career, said the arrests, particularly of Rubin, an “admired leader,” severely damaged Hynes’s popularity among Williamsburg Jews. “It certainly seemed as if he was playing politics with the indictment and trying to cover a flank,” the operative said, “that he had not been hard enough on the Hasidim.”
Whether George’s even tougher stance — to name those accused or convicted of abuse — will push ultra-Orthodox voters back into Hynes’s camp remains to be seen. George thinks not. “This is not an Orthodox issue,” he said, “this is a crime issue.”
George grew up on a predominantly Italian-American block in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn. Neighborhood kids used to call him “Gandhi” because of his Indian heritage.