Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Back to Opinion

The Brooklyn D.A. Stonewalls

Three weeks ago, the Forward published a story about the dramatic increase in arrests of Orthodox men for child sexual abuse in Brooklyn. The figure that the Forward published — 89 men arrested and charged between October 2009 and October 2011 — was given to this newspaper during two separate conversations with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s spokesman Jerry Schmetterer in early November. When the Forward asked for written confirmation, Schmetterer responded by e-mail: “We are not prepared to discuss this at this time. Perhaps towards the end of November.”

Well, November has come and gone and District Attorney Charles Hynes’s office continues to avoid confirming the number or to answer related questions.

The Forward has requested the names of the 89 Orthodox men who were arrested and the crimes they were charged with. It has also asked the DA to explain the reason behind the startling rise in arrests.

During the previous two years — October 2007 to October 2009 — the DA arrested and charged 26 Orthodox men with sexual abuse. At the time, a D.A. spokesman said these arrests included “some cases” that involved adult victims. Prior to that, the frequency of arrests was much lower.

So what has precipitated this spike? Are more victims coming forward voluntarily? Is the DA’s much-vaunted Kol Tzedek hotline for Orthodox victims working? Is this a bottom-up phenomenon, with everyday Haredim speaking out? Or is it top-down, with more rabbinic leaders encouraging victims to consult secular law enforcement?

We called Schmetterer a few times over the past couple of weeks and four times on November 30. The following day, we sent an email with a list of questions.

We have received no response.

We also received no response to questions about a recent report on the Failed Messiah blog, which claimed that the District Attorney has approved a reporting system for ultra-Orthodox abuse victims that allows rabbis to act as “gatekeepers for child sex abuse allegations.”

We wanted to know whether the report, which claimed that the D.A. allows rabbis to act as go-betweens shuttling between victims and law enforcement officials so that the two sides need never meet, is true. If so, we asked, does it violate New York State’s mandatory reporting laws? Schmetterer did not respond.

In the meantime, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the New York Post have republished the figure of 89 arrests. Doubtless, like the Forward, they contacted the DA’s office to verify the number. But apparently they have received no response either.

Why?

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.