Thirty seven-year Yosef Kolko, who was a teacher at Yeshiva Orchos Chaim in Lakewood, faces trial on the charge that he molested an eleven-year-old boy for approximately a year. The father of the boy, a respected rav of a shul in Lakewood, first filed the complaint in July 2009.
According to the Asbury Park Press, before he did that he went to a beit din set up by Rabbi Matisyahu Solomon, Mashgiach of Bais Medrash Govoha. The beit din sent Kolko to Gavriel Fagin, an orthodox social worker in private practice who specializes in sex abuse.
I have learned that Fagin is a very popular go-to-guy in the hasidic and yeshivish worlds. He is used both to interrogate suspects to determine if they are abusers and to treat them. He seems to do this on behalf of ultra orthodox communities who are trying to deal with credible allegations but do not want to go to the police.
The beit din required Kolko to sign a release so they could get reports from Fagin. In the end, the beit din disbanded and the father went to the police. As reported elsewhere, the father, a respected rav, was subjected to horrendous pressure and public attacks. Rabbi Yisrael Belsky publicly took the side of those harassing the father. Eventually the family moved out of Lakewood. But the family has stuck to their guns about going forward with the prosecution.
All this came to light when Kolko’s lawyer sparred with Senior Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Laura N. Pierro about whether Gavriel Fagin could be forced to testify about his work with Kolko.
What in the world was the Lakewood Beit Din thinking? They felt the allegations were credible (yesh raglayim l’davar) or they would not have bothered with a referral and a demand that he sign a release of information to the beit din. If so, how could a therapist alone protect other kids in the community. Were they planning to hire a 24/7/365 mashgiach temimimi (supervisor)? I doubt it, but I will bet that they assured folks, “We are keeping an eye on him.”
THIS PARAGRAPH IS AN UPDATE (9:45 am) It seems to me that the beit din in Lakewood violated the New Jersey statutes which require reporting by “Any person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to child abuse or neglect or acts of child abuse” (Ann. Stat. § 9:6-8.10/ pp 35-36). While most states specify the professions that are mandated reporters, New Jersey and Wyoming do not. Every competent citizen in New Jersey is a mandated reporter. This is just like the torah according to which any adult is obliged to act so as not to “stand by idly on his friend’s blood.”
Lakewood likes to think of itself as the “holy city” because it has an oversized Bais Medrash Govoha still coasting on the reputation of its illustrious founder, Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l. Someone in Lakewood must be censoring their texts. Why else would they violate the biblical commandment “Do not stand by on the blood of your neighbor” by letting molesters continue to operate. On the other hand, Lakewood is zealous about lashon horah and the honor of the Rabbis. They are especially zealous about censorship. They went all out in signing onto the ban on Vos Iz Neias (VIN). I can’t blame them. VIN was the last haredi media outlet with a substantial readership still reporting on sex abuse. Lakewood’s rabbinical leadership is fooling itself. No amount of censorship will dampen the rising communal resentment about sex abuse and corruption. Lakewood is a company town, just as Egypt was a large piggy bank to be looted by Mubarak’s family and their associates. Lakewood will have it’s Cairo moment because even if commercial outlets dependent on advertisers can be pressured, independent bloggers are beyond their reach.
BTW, some things don’t change. In 2002 Stefan Colmer was referred to a sex offender program at Ohel. But it was a voluntary referral. At the time he had not been reported to either the police or protective services. Colmer decided to drop out and Ohel never told anyone. So Colmer got to molest many more kids because rabbonim decided to use their own ineffective methods for controlling him. Colmer even managed to move to Passaic, NJ after becoming persona non grata in Flatbush. After being forced out of Passaic he went to Israel and used the name David Cohen. In Nov 2007 Colmer became the first American extradited under a revamped treaty with Israel.
Hat Tip: D and The Nudnik for pointing out Jersey law that everyone is a mandated reporter