An educator convicted of molesting a child and accused of molesting at least three others worked at a Jewish school in New York for longer than the school initially reported, the Forward has learned.
SAR Academy, a prestigious Modern Orthodox day school, sent a letter to parents in January stating that Stanley Rosenfeld was their assistant principal for General Studies in the 1970s. They added that Rosenfeld pled no contest to charges of child molestation in Rhode Island in 2001 “with no known connection to SAR.”
A woman who was a middle school student at SAR from 1985 to 1987 told the Forward that Rosenfeld was her English teacher. She shared pictures from her 1987 yearbook that show Rosenfeld in the yearbook’s “Faculty” section.
“It’s just the facts,” said the woman, who requested anonymity. “He was there. It’s not a question.”
SAR, in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx, was the first of three Jewish schools in the New York City area to alert its alumni and parents in January that Rosenfeld had worked at their institutions. The Ramaz School, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and Westchester Day School, in Mamaroneck, also sent e-mails to their communities about Rosenfeld. SAR and Ramaz announced investigations by outside firms into Rosenfeld’s tenures at the school. Westchester Day School encouraged people with knowledge of any alleged misconduct by Rosenfeld during his time at the school to contact Mamaroneck law enforcement.
Rabbi Benjamin Krauss, the principle of SAR Academy, confirmed that Rosenfeld worked at SAR as a teacher in the 1980s. He said that the school did not know in January about Rosenfeld’s time at SAR in the 1980s because its investigation was not underway yet.
“We sent out the information that we knew,” Krauss said. “We obviously missed that. All of the details, exactly when he was here, were part of the scope of the investigation.”
Investigations of misconduct that occurred decades ago are often fraught, and details like employment records can be hard to pin down, according to Fran Sepler, a private consultant who advises companies on how to conduct workplace investigations.
“One of the things you never want to do is fault an organization for correcting an error,” Sepler said.
Krauss declined to say when the school found out about Rosenfeld’s time as a teacher there in the 1980s, or give the exact dates of Rosenfeld’s employment at SAR. Ramaz, in its January email, said that Rosenfeld was an administrator there in the 1972-1973 school year. Rabbi Joshua Lookstein, the head of Westchester Day School, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We’re doing this [investigation] because we want to do the right thing,” Krauss said. “It came to our attention that people on our institutional watch were hurt, and that’s something we need to understand fully.”
Rosenfeld worked consecutively at the three schools: first at Westchester, then at Ramaz, and finally at SAR. Rosenfeld later became the cantor and eventually the spiritual leader at a Conservative synagogue in Warwick, RI, where he also did bar and bat mitzvah tutoring.
In 2001 he was convicted on two counts of second-degree child molestation, on charges that he molested a 12-year-old boy he was tutoring at the Warwick synagogue in 1999. He was given a ten-year suspended sentence and probation, and was flagged as a high-risk offender. Rosenfeld, now 84, lives in an assisted living facility in Providence, Rhode Island.
Andrew Blumenthal, 51, an SAR alumnus, told the Forward earlier this month that Rosenfeld tried to molest him at his apartment in Riverdale in 1980, during a sleepover. He said that Rosenfeld was not employed at SAR throughout the time he was a student there in the early 1980s. However, he said that an SAR teacher brought him to Rosenfeld’s apartment and stayed over that night. Blumenthal said the SAR teacher did not try to molest him at any point.
The SAR alumna who said Rosenfeld was her teacher in the mid-1980s said she only learned about his history of molesting children in the mid-2000s, after his conviction in Rhode Island. She said that there were no rumors that she can remember of any possible misconduct while he was her teacher. The alumna’s mother also told the Forward that she remembered that Rosenfeld was her daughter’s English teacher.
The alumna said that she did not get along with Rosenfeld, for reasons she said she can’t remember now. She said her children now attend SAR, and that she thought failing to report Rosenfeld’s time as a teacher at the school in the 1980s was an honest mistake by SAR.
“I don’t feel like they were covering up for any reason,” she said. “I trust them to be an honest institution. It’s tough to deal with the implications of having employed a convicted pedophile.”
Krauss said that SAR has sent its initial January email to over a thousand people, including current parents and alumni, including those that attended SAR when Rosenfeld was a teacher there in the 1980s.
Organizations investigating a past employee for misconduct that learn there are more potential victims should try and contact those people, Sepler said.
“The idea is that as soon as you know that there may have been contact with kids during that time, it is important to do additional outreach,” said Sepler, who does not have direct knowledge of the Rosenfeld case. Sepler said that the outreach could be semi-private, such as sending an email to school alumni from the relevant period.
Krauss said that SAR hopes to have completed the investigation by the end of August. SAR’s first day of school is September 5.