Torah Umesorah’s Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Levin wrote a letter proclaiming the innocence of fired Miami yeshiva teacher R. Yisroel Bodkins. Levin made a big deal of the fact that one accuser was not able to get a prosecution decision from an out-of-state unit, beholden to the scandal-plagued Camp Dora Golding.
However in due course Torah Umesorah was aware of three other accusers according to askan Rabbi Ronnie Greenwald. He was brought into the case to produce a private settlement.
His compromise involved Bodkins agreeing to never work again as a teacher in a regular yeshiva. He was instead allowed to work as a tutor. I know it sounds crazy but that was the deal. Everyone was also pledged to silence.
I confirmed Ronnie Greenwald’s awareness of 3 other credible accusations when I emailed him about it on April 14, 2015, shortly before he spoke at a Jewish Community Watch (JCW) event in Monsey. I specifically asked: “Do you agree with R. Avrohom Chaim Levin’s letter about Bodkins to R. Janowski?”
He wrote back the next day (April 15): “i did call rabbi avraham chaim levine regarding his letter. he was not aware, however, that there were 3 others that made the same claims, and at that time only knew of one person.”
Ronnie is a tactful man who has negotiated at the highest level. In fact he participated in negotiations with the Soviet government for the release of Prisoner of Zion, Natan Sharansky. Reading between the lines it is clear that he was convinced that there were a total of four victims alleging abuse by Bodkins, but he was letting a “godol,” R. AC Levin, off the hook by saying that R. Levin only found out about it after he sent out his letter.
Mr. Eli Verschleiser, founder of the anti-abuse education program, Magenu, is much more emphatic. In a private communication he informed me that he got involved as a concerned Jew and privately paid for an investigation. His own contact with heart-broken mothers and the results of his privately funded investigation disturbed him. He is convinced that Bodkins is a very sick man who will always be dangerous and should never again be allowed anywhere near children. He is disappointed that in spite of his efforts, Bodkins was protected to the extent of being allowed to continue as a tutor.
Rabbi Levin owes an apology to the victim whose claims he disparaged in his letter. Dovid Hamelech and Yehuda Hatzadik admitted they were wrong and our tradition honors their honest admission. But alas, as we know, being daas torah means never having to say you’re sorry.
This scandalous aspect of the cover up is one of the reasons I feel it especially important to correct the record and publicize Bodkin’s molesting record. It is a matter of justice and a matter of protecting those who use him as a tutor or group leader. He must not be given any opportunity to groom new victims. He now also works with seniors but that gives him respectability and access to kids passing through Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro’s North Miami beach synagogue.
The Ad Kan blog bravely led the way in putting Bodkins up on its Wall of Shame. Ad Kan weathered a lawsuit and won. At this point there is no realistic possibility of another suit. I publicized Ad Kan’s success a year ago. I have since learned that the court forced Bodkins (or more likely his backers) to pay Ad Kan’s legal costs.
A year ago I urged Jewish Community Watch to add Bodkins to its Wall of Shame. JCW has a special responsibility having raised this case at a Miami event. JCW exec, Meyer Seewald, without naming Bodkins referred to him unmistakebly to his audience when he said
There was a case in the community…of three boys…[where a young person came forward]… so this won’t happen to other children. This young man was tormented by people in this community… How can 18 rabbis write a letter without speaking to this young man and the two other boys.
He was of course speaking of the well known letter signed by 18 rabbis defending Bodkins which was widely distributed (see image at right).
JCW leaders Meyer Seewald and Eli Nash repeatedly assure victims ‘come to us and we will have your back and will fight your abusers.’
They owe that much and more to the first victim to come forward publicly and to speak about bodkins at a JCW event.
A year has passed since Ad Kan’s legal victory. Now it is time for JCW to do for this victim and other Bodkins victims what it did so well for Sima Yarmush, the victim in LA whose story they championed. Her abuser, Sholom Levitansky, was never named at the event but he was put on their wall of shame. It is time for JCW to do the same for public hazard Yisroel Bodkins.