Nechemya Weberman and His Devoted Wife

Being Married to Jailed 'Devil of Williamsburg'

Day in Court: Chaya Weberman follows her husband into the courtroom during his trial in Brooklyn last year.
Flickr
Day in Court: Chaya Weberman follows her husband into the courtroom during his trial in Brooklyn last year.

By Allison Yarrow

Published August 06, 2013, issue of August 09, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

When Nechemya Weberman was found guilty and was sentenced to 103 years in prison for repeatedly raping a girl who he was supposed to be counseling, most thought the grisly tale was over. This was a record sentence for a Hasidic man convicted in a Brooklyn courtroom. The counselor had fallen, and his cloistered Satmar community — a shtetl in the shadow of the world’s hipster capital, Williamsburg Brooklyn — had cracked open, revealing secrets.

The victim, a minor whose identity is protected by the court, made headlines for withstanding four days of brutal testimony. Both Weberman’s defense and the prosecution later agreed that she was the best witness they had ever seen. Press coverage praised her courage and resolve in combating not just her abuser, but also her own community, which, rather than supporting her, united to raise funds for Weberman’s legal fees.

Even Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum, the dynastic community leader, outrageously asked, “Is our sister to be like a whore?” The tale seemed well cast and clear cut: heroine, villain, justice.

Covering the case for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, I saw Nechemya Weberman’s wife, Chaya Weberman, in court every day. It became clear that this was a story of not one woman, but two: the traditional heroine — the victim, now a young and beautiful newlywed — and the wife who stood beside her husband as shame cloaked all he touched. I wanted to know that woman.

In court, where the seating was gender segregated like at a religious wedding, the victim’s supporters wore expensive wigs and big jewels, announcing an Orthodoxy that was more modern, while Weberman’s small female faction dressed in funeral black with Old World hats attached to somber wigs. They didn’t smile. Who could blame them?

My eyes met Chaya Weberman’s while waiting for our bags to be searched by court police. Each day she sat beside her husband in the gallery before proceedings began. She was often with a daughter, or with her husband’s sister, women who stared coldly and wouldn’t return hellos. Looking calm and grim, Chaya Weberman nodded in recognition.

After Nechemya Weberman had been shipped to prison in upstate New York, I called his wife again and again, learning more about her and her husband and their 10 children each time, asking repeatedly when we could meet.

She told me that she and her husband had first met, like most Satmar couples, under the gaze of their parents. She liked him from the start, thought him kind and imagined they could make a life together. I told her I remembered first meeting the man who would become my husband, the first Jew I’d ever dated, and thinking the same thing.


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!
  • 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?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • 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.