Steven Pruzansky’s Letter on Behalf of Child Molester, Evan Zauder

Evan served as our Youth Director with great distinction. He was beloved by our children and parents alike……

I cannot help believe that the charges herein reflect aberrational conduct on Evan’s part…..

Having worked together with Evan for two years, seeing his sensitivity, thoughtfulness and acts of kindness first hand, and knowing of his good character that render the charges herein atypical of his true nature, I would respectfully urge the Court to… sentence Evan to [the] statutory minimum.

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

Above are some excerpts from a letter written by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky to help a convicted child molester, Evan Zauder. But first some context.

Steven Pruzansky is the rabbi of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, an 800-member, modern orthodox synagogue in Teaneck, New Jersey. In two successive postings on his blog (here and here) he derided the claim that there is a serious problem of rape on college campuses. Instead, he insists it is a byproduct of a promiscuous culture where women who are disappointed with their relationships proceed to contrive rape charges.

In a long essay decrying the claim that there is a “rape culture” which rationalizes rape, he has very few words for decrying rape. But just to seem like he is on side of angels he does write, “Certainly, one is too many, but few of these claims involve the old-fashioned and execrable assault by a stranger in some dark alley.”

But of course he balances that statement with great sympathy for the victim of false accusations: “To be falsely accused of rape is also an abominable crime that is an unimaginable nightmare for which the lying complainant deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The bulk of his essay is the claim that most of those accused of rape on campus are the victims of false accusations.

In practice, Steven has great sympathy for the perpetrators of sex crimes, at least real ones that he knows personally, like Evan Zauder, his synagogue’s youth director between 2008 and 2010.

As posted in 2014 on this blog by David Cheifetz:

Evan Zauder

Evan Zauder

In 2012, Zauder was arrested for possessing child pornography, and was subsequently found by the US Government to have distributed child pornography as well. He was also found to have engaged in illicit sexual relationships with underage males that involved graphic discussion, mutual masturbation, and oral sex.

Once caught, Zauder pleaded guilty to his crimes. As stated in a press release issued by the FBI on January 22, 2013,

Evan Zauder, a former sixth-grade teacher at a private school in New Jersey, pled guilty in Manhattan federal court to charges of using the Internet to entice a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity and to receipt, distribution, and possession of child pornography.

The sentencing document offers graphic disturbing details:

Pursuant to the May 1, 2012 search warrant and a subsequent search warrant, agents recovered from Zauder’s apartment, among other items, two Macintosh laptop computers and a Memorex DVD belonging to Zauder. As set forth in detail in the PSR, forensic examination subsequently revealed hundreds of images and videos of child pornography on these devices, and revealed that Zauder had used Skype file transfer to receive and transmit multiple images and videos of child pornography, including child pornography involving prepubescent minors and child pornography containing sadistic or masochistic material. See PSR ¶¶ 17-19. …

One of the minors who has been identified, Minor-1, engaged in a Skype text chat with Zauder on or about April 14, 2011, in which Zauder asked Minor-1 if he wanted to meet in person with Zauder. PSR ¶ 20. Zauder and Minor-1 met in a car in a park in New Jersey, and Zauder received oral sex from Minor-1. PSR ¶ 20. In a text chat with a third party two weeks after the encounter with Minor-1, Zauder described convincing Minor-1 to perform oral sex on him. PSR ¶ 21.”

(Note: The above public link has been inconsistently available. However, all documentation cited is available on the PACER System of the United States Courts System, Docket Number 12-CR-659)

scales of justice and childNow we return to what Pruzansky wrote to mitigate the sentence (see Zauder Sentencing Letters, Exhibit 34, page 24):

I write as Rabbi… where Evan Zauder was employed as our youth director for two years……

Evan served as our Youth Director with great distinction. He was beloved by our children and parents alike……

I cannot help believe that the charges herein reflect aberrational conduct on Evan’s part…..

Having worked together with Evan for two years, seeing his sensitivity, thoughtfulness and acts of kindness first hand, and knowing of his good character that render the charges herein atypical of his true nature, I would respectfully urge the Court to… sentence Evan to [the] statutory minimum.

So at the end of the day, Pruzansky says a false accuser “deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” But if his youth director is guilty of multiple acts of child pornography and child molesting, he deserves the “statutory minimum.”

Steven Pruzansky Evan Zauder Sentencing Letter

 

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37 thoughts on “Steven Pruzansky’s Letter on Behalf of Child Molester, Evan Zauder

  1. Once it is proven that someone is a child molester,there is not aberrational behavior; it is dangerous behavior. I pray that the children of the person who wrote the letter and all the children this “person” had contact with, are safe. The letter writer is delusional and in denial. That is so so dangerous. WAKE UP. IF, and I mean IF, this was the perpetrator’s first time, the behavior is now acted out and is experienced. The chances that he will not want his drugs again (children sex) is almost nil. This is so so so dangerous! Castration is the ONLY answer along with seclusion, etc.

    • Michele,
      While I totally agree that castration should be a sine qua non, it must be recognized that abusers have hands and mouths controlled by their brains (sic) and also can be very sophisticated in obtaining hormones or other chemicals to reverse some of the loss. Sexual molesters are compulsive offenders, and recidivism rates are very high be it post prison or post castration.
      Solution? Well, I am a hawk, and I have some very non-popular non PC ideas parallel to some of my ideas re terrorists, a zero tolerance rule.
      Molesters, as terrorists, will strike again.

      • I highly doubt castration is likely to be effective in most cases and it is in any event a legal non-starter under current constitutional standards for cruel and unusual punishment.

        • Don’t know what “constitutional standards” you are relying upon,
          but the current administration has, or is in process of, destroying first and second amendments among others, “‘our” constitution is being destroyed as we speak, so why not add something logical, like disempowering molesters and terrorists, one strike and you are out, zero tolerance,
          no second chance. In Israel terrorists get traded 1000 to 1. what a shonda, destroying future Jewish lives,
          Well, molesters and terrorists will all strike again,
          It is incumbent upon us to prevent this in every possible way, to paralyze them, in whatever most efficacious way,
          No second chances. The abusers will take note,
          the terrorists won’t, but the approach still should be zero tolerance, one knife attack and you are permanently out of the game, however,
          a slow boat to eritrea or any of the 57 predominately muslim countries,
          As opposed to the terrorists, whose raison d’etre is to kill as many non-muslims as possible, or apostates, the molesters might, i emphasize, might, be affected by strong possible consequences, albeit their compulsive needs, just hypothesizing here….
          If theoretically the next zauder knew, that he would not only lose his gonads, but also be locked up with no chance of parole ever, that might possibly be a disincentive for most, barring the most compulsive, and they can be disposed of in this country which has no constitution any more,
          Something positive might ensue from that horrific situation, (except for the far left radicals who desire to destroy our constitution),

          • There is a lot of tough talk, as if there are no consequences. So the US went nuts on sending people to jail (unless they were financial criminals). Are we any better off, or have we just ruined too many lives and wasted money that could have been spent pouring concrete for bridges instead of jails. For the sake of being tough on sex crimes we put too many wrong people on the sex registry. It includes men caught urinating in public. This reduces the credibility of the sex registry.

            The US went wild on torture in Iraq at Abu Ghraib. It made life more dangerous for the US in Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world.

            Recently an israeli soldier did what you want, shot and killed an already incapacitated knife attacker. Till that murder, the footage was good for Israel’s image. Afterwards, you got your wish and Israel’s image took a nasty beating.

            Sex offenders get sympathy if the legislators and courts go nuts and draconian. Moreover, instead of extreme approaches, i favor looking at Norway as a country with shorter sentences, better rehabilitation/probation, and much lower recidivism. I am more interested in having more sex criminals prosecuted than having the few get longer sentences.

            As you know, I worked hard to support the vigorous prosecution of Nechemya Weberman. He truly earned every year of the 103-year sentence meted out to him. Yet at the time I wrote, kids in Williamsburg would be safer if 103 sex offenders got one year sentences instead of one man getting a sentence of 103 years.

            All exercises of state power carry a price. Letting justifiable anger govern that allocation may be psychologically satisfying but is not the best way to make kids safer.

      • Chashdan, well said. I am not PC either! However, we have to find ideas to work in the confines of the law (Halacha and American law.) This is difficult. Something must be done, though! Maybe a good start would be to punish a rabbi who hides such a person and have ramifications for them if they are proven to have harbored, hidden, lied for, etc. such a person?! Just thinking out loud.

    • Michele,
      Just as a postscript, it is remarkable as in “worthy of noting” that the leniency letter writers automatically consider the pernicious sexual abuse side of the perpetrator as “aberrational” , and the nice friendly perp who sucks in his victims as the “real” personality.
      The level of stupidity of the “leniency letter writers” is astounding! Psychologists and Rabbis alike,
      One might be tempted to excuse the extraordinary poor judgment of a rabbi re behavior, i,e, will the real “chaim” please stand up? as lack of intelligence, re human behavior,
      but that paltry excuse, which i throw out there just as a possible hypothesis, but completely totally reject,
      is completely and totally dangerous and horrific when put forward by a psychologist. To be blinded by what they view as the “real person” vs the “aberrational” side, is wrought with corruption, or such poor judgment that one would be required to examine years of the professional being used and quoted as THE expert on the inyan.
      Is it possible that the extraordinarily poor judgement was “honest” albeit horrifically wrong?
      As after an autopsy, how do we judge those who acted so atrociously, can we honestly posit the possibility that these extremely well known professionals could have been so wrong?
      If so, then all of their prior patients etc, were treated by a charlatan, or an idiot?
      I reject the possibility that the experts were paid off, corrupted, although perhaps I should not,
      So, for future thought, how did a Pelcovitz come to decide that the friendly smiling Zauder was the “real” Zauder, and that the sexual offender was the “aberrational” side of Zauder???
      Is this not an issue that should have troubled him long and deeply before deciding which half was the aberrational half?
      DO NORMAL MALES, due to a momentary slip, lapse into sexual molestation, child pornography, due to a momentary slip? a momentary “aberration”?
      Does Pelcovitz “hanechbad” have any documentation to even suggest that that hypothesis could be valid, ever, ever, at any time for any perp?????
      And agav, while waiting trial, I, per my memory, believe that Zauder continued his dual sexual violations, WHILE AWAITING trial/sentencing,
      And still, Herr Pelcovitz, never recanted. Never.
      Caveat Emptor.

      • He indeed was out of control. After his arrest, as a condition of being out on bail, the feds installed monitoring software on his computer. He proceeded to use his monitored computer to arrange meetings for sex with teen boys.

        Pelcovitz, under extraordinary pressure by the YU administration issued a very lame apology.

  2. No one should request leniency for a sexual abuser – they are criminals in the strongest sense of the world. No matter how nice they are – of course they are really nice sweet individuals how do you think they bring in the victims. Should leniency be set for all the children and families that are suffering because of them, they have to attempt to move forward and live by a life if being a victim, the families have to deal with what was done to them.

    I am speaking from knowing this – I am living it, it breaks a family up and destroys the victim and the family. No matter the abuser and what they did, they deserve the maximum sentence possible for there crimes, with no leniency or being placed on patrol for good behavior.

    A person – who attempts to “sugar coat” sexual abuse – and cover-up and help the criminal – they themselves are just as guilty for it.

    The only way the abuse can stop is if the Communities make it stop – and speak out against it – the Rabbi’s have to acknowledge that this is going on and support for the victims and families have to be provided for – not the victim.

  3. Anyone who does something to someone else that destroys the other’s life deserves to be punished to the full extent of the law; this would apply to the abusers and to people who accuse someone of abuse knowing it is false. In both cases the victims life is ruined.

    • Yes. But the critical issue is that Pruzansky is outrageousy claiming that almost all claims of rape by college students are false. I would add that anyone who discredits most rape allegations is harming many, many more victims/survivors. we need to take allegations seriously. No one is saying that every last one is true, just that most of them are. Denying that reality is an important feature of the culture that helps to tolerate rape.

      • Apparently, one in four college women are raped (https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/221153.pdf), as quoted by our current administration. That would make college campuses a very dangerous place. The South Bronx or Downtown Detroit would appear to be a much safer space than any college campus. Perhaps, ‘since most of these allegations are true’ I should consider adding a personal security detail to the expenses of my daughter’s college.

        • I don’t know the exact numbers off hand. But it is a hidden epidemic. Most adult rape victims, like most child sex abuse victims, never file formal complaints, and may go through life hiding it from most others. Ask yourself, as a male, how easy a time would you have talking to others about being raped. Not easy. I totally believe in reporting all crimes to the police. I have conducted the mental experiment of being raped and having to report it and testify at a trial. It filled me with horror. If god forbid I should be raped I hope I will have the courage of my convictions and report it.

          As for the numbers, I believe they are lower but not trivial. It gets into complicated problems of survey methods and official records for things people don’t like reporting. but quiblling about the numbers of rapes is like letting someone say the holocaust was exagerated and it was only 100,000 rather than six million. Same difference morally and as a disaster. Quibbling about numbers smells of denialism.

          • As both my parents were in Auscwicz, the appropriate ‘metaphor’ here would be like the Nazi’s killing 24 million Jews (Although, speaking of abuse, the Muslims have far surpassed that number just in the last 200 years).

            Yerachmi’el, I am not minimizing the trauma, let alone the pain of those abused. On the other hand, with some women, a mere touch on the shoulder to say ‘excuse me’, can result in an unexpected tantrum; an unrequited kiss is not rape, but if she is mad enough….as you see, unwanted verbal advances are extremely common- and normal!- as long as 99.999% of us grow up (and those fewer wise men who refrain from doing so in the first place) and take any response other than ‘yes’, as a ‘no’.
            While annoying and disgusting, the classic whistling of the construction workers is not rape. If a woman is offended (many want to jail these guys as they are afraid of rape although no advances are made) she may be treading on free speech issues. She then should respond – and this is usually public- that she feels threatened. It is not rape- but it is reported as such or ‘attempted’ rape.
            Pick up lines at a bar or frat house party are not rape. Touching on the shoulder is not assault (outside of a burn unit ICU) -punching to dislocate the joint-is.

            The only good thing that comes out of flawed studies like those is that I can advise otherwise adventuresome teenagers at our shul, that any complaints from a coed in college (except at YU!!!) can result in their summary expulsion and ruination of their desired careers.

            While Rabbi Pruzansky may have had only pleasant relations with this young man, your arguments are hard to deny. There is someone who cannot control himself behind closed doors.

            Keep up the good work.

            H

            • I have yet to encounter a woman who equated obnoxious, boundary-intruding behavior with rape. I am sure one exists out there. But it is not fair to generalize about the issue from a few unrepresentative cases. Yes, these things get them angry. And yes, there is a relationship to rape culture. I am guessing that most people who wolf whistle, and pat shoulders or butts are not rapists. But they message the rapists among them that boundary violations are alright.

              For most women, it is not just obnoxious. It is threatening. Because most women live their lives aware of the threat of rape and taking precautions to avoid it. That is not the experience of most males. I walk on streets without plotting how to avoid rape. Women don’t. I choose to take taxis vs subways or busses on the basis of convenience and cost, not even considering a taxi a better way to avoid rape. I don’t decide between doing things at day vs at night on the basis of rape threats. Lucky for me. But women are entitled to the same level security. When life is less safe, intrustions become more than annoyances.

              I urge male readers to conduct this mental experiment: imagine you lost your confidence about not being raped. Imagine being arrested and thrown into jail with no friends and not being muscular and ready to fight anyone. Imagine being thrown into a large cell and someone starts whisting at you and the next guy says, “we got ourselves a new fish.” and the third guy laughs and says, “check out his buns- sweet!”. Then the forth guy makes kissy faces and says, “sweetie, you gonna make a good bitch for me, real good.” Speaking for myself– In that situation I would really flinch when someone touched my shoulder. Yet the same touch outside leaves me indifferent or annoyed but not threatened.

              Something does not have to be rape to be threatening and to evoke associations with rape.

  4. Thank you, Harold, for putting these numbers in perspective. The fact that there was a general acceptance of statistics which purported to say 25% of women will be raped during their college career says volumes about critical thinking skills in society today.

    It is becoming clear that whatever ‘study’ reported such findings was hopelessly flawed, probably by defining ‘rape’ in a way that included nearly every sexual act that occurred (consensual or not). This is not to defend rape, or Rabbi Pruzansky (I have not read his article which created the uproar), but merely to bring the prevalence of sexual crimes back to reality.

  5. Unfortunately, Rabbi Pruzansky’s support for Zauder — in which he was joined by many other Orthodox Jews — was not exceptional. As I documented in my book, Rabbi Israel Weingarten (now serving a 30-year sentence in federal prison for repeatedly raping his daughter, the abuse beginning when she was ten years old) also received extensive written support from rabbis and other community members during his sentencing hearing. Written testimonials from the community also vilified the victim — who was accused of lying and promiscuity (!) — and smeared Weingarten’s ex-wife, who backed the victim, with charges of mental illness, child abuse and other crimes. The same pattern has been repeated in far too many cases.

    If Pruzansky’s kind words for Zauder had been motivated entirely by compassion, I wouldn’t fault them. But as his columns show, Pruzansky’s generosity is far too selective to be set down to the workings of a soft heart. And when compassion for a perpetrator comes packaged together with venom aimed at victims, we all know what to think. Pruzansky’s bigotry and spitefulness would be bad enough without being hidden behind a mask of piety. But the bigot who wears Judaism as a mask pollutes the mask too.

    • The big difference between this case and the Weingarten case is that Weingarten was Haredi, and Chasiddish Haredi (Ultra-Haredi) and the Chassidish Haredi as a matter of principle defend child molesters and anyone accused of a crime. They do not believe that a frum person should go to jail for any crime committed. It is part of their belief system and was demonstrated widely with the Weberman case.

      Zauder and Pruzansky are supposedly Modern Orthodox. The Modern Orthodox pride themselves on following the laws of this country. The Modern Orthodox supposedly believe that “Dinah D’Malchusa Dinah” (the laws of the country we live in should be treated equal to Torah law) applies to them. The Modern Orthodox pride themselves on being different than the Haredi who publically defend their members who lie, cheat and steal from the government, and who molest and rape their children.

      What Pruzansky demonstrates with his letters is that clearly, the Modern Orthodox are no different than the Haredim, or the Chassidish Hareidim when it comes to child molesters. That’s too bad, for many reasons. But perhaps the reason that would most motivate those reading this blog post to protest Pruzansky’s actions is that it will send more frum kids “Off The Derech” when they smell the hypocrisy and moral deficiency. If you are a member of his shul, think about how your kids will interpret this move by your “Morah D’Asra” (rabbi of the congregation). Because no matter what you tell them or how you spin it, they see and hear beyond what is said. They see the actions. And Pruzansky’s actions here speak volumes. Do you really want him teaching your kids that Halachic Observance = A Broken Moral Compass? Because that is the lesson. That is what they will see here, even if you are in denial of it.

      • I really resent that! I belong to a Chabad community (what you would consider “Chareidi”) and child molesters are NOT shielded and protected here. Without going into cases, we have called the authorities on certain persons and banned them from any of the grounds. There are communities that are more strict and less strict that protect these monsters; sometimes out of naivite’ and sometimes out of stupidity and stubborness; some maybe because they are equally as guilty.

        • I am sorry but chabad as a community has an uneven record. Some are turned in. Some sluchim such as the one in albany or rabbi Simon in Teaneck are terrific in dealing with abuse. But many, probably most chabad abusers are protected. Amongst those protected are Levitansky of LA, who molested Sima Yarmush (something she talked about in her video for JCW), Mendy Tevel of LA (who I wrote about on Frum Follies), several teachers as the main chabad boys school, oholei Torah (as described in the Newsweek cover article) and many others. I urge you not to get complacent about the safety of children in the chabad community. Way too many are at danger because of cover ups.

          • As a survivor myself (not Charidi perpetrator – rather a Beth Jacob person), I never discount anyone or anything ever – Chabad or other – male or female! But you are wrong to point to Chabad and not other groups (Jewish and non-Jewish).

            • I have never said chabad was unique. I was replying to someone who rejected the idea that there were coverups in Chabad. Had she rejected the claim that there were cover ups in the modern orthodox world I would have countered with modern orthodox examples.

            • Yerachmiel, then on that point (cover up happens in ALL groups across the board). Wish it were not, but it is. Sad. Scary. I personally know of several instances where things were covered up and it is disgusting. So many hurt because of perverted people and ashamed leaders that think covering it up and denying it will make it go away. In other words, because of ego/yetzer harah! This goes for the perpetrators and the leaders who cover it up and deny.

        • Michele,
          Re: treatment of abusers in Chabad communities:
          I have some knowledge of a variety of chabad communities. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the level of ethics varies tremendously from one to another. There are many that uphold high standards. And the opposite likewise,
          That is equally or perhaps even more true, when it comes to financial shenanigans. (the polite term).
          A bit off-topic, but I believe that part of the distinction flows from the birthplace of the Rabbi,
          US born, or Russian born, l’dugma. But we have no more czars in the US. (albeit some would contest that).

      • Seriously? makes an interesting point. Obviously, there are ideological differences between those parts of the Orthodox community that identify themselves as “Modern” or “haredi” — and those differences may be reflected in the way their communities address child sex abuse allegations.

        But in the end the differences seem less important than the similarities — another point I try to argue in my book. It may be that the rationalizations for defending Rabbi Mordechai Elon (and blaming his accusers) had a more sophisticated patina when articulated by members of his Modern Orthodox community; but ultimately his supporters followed the same path of denial that Weberman’s cheering section did. And ultimately, I think, for the same reasons.

        And it was Herschel Schachter, not a Hasidic rebbe, who stressed that all child abuse allegations against Orthodox Jews must be screened “by experts in Jewish law” (i.e., Orthodox rabbis) and never accepted at face value, because a child’s report might cause a rabbi or a teacher to be sent to prison where ‘they can put you in a cell together with a shvartzer, with a…black Muslim who wants to kill all the Jews.” Again, the language may not be exactly that of a Satmar Hasid (the latter might skip the reference to black Muslims and just assume that ALL non-Jewish prisoners pose a lethal threat to any Hasidic inmate), but ultimately the message is the same. And I think those Orthodox Jews who affiliate with the more “modern” wing of Orthodoxy are fooling themselves if they imagine that they’ve escaped, even partly, the toxic web of ideas that have given us decades of sex abuse cover-ups.

        Pruzansky’s logic is rooted in an us-vs.-them dichotomy in which some people are always going to be favored (Jews over non-Jews, rabbis over lay people, adults over children, men over women) and anything that threatens to disrupt those hierarchies is going to be stigmatized if it can’t be ignored or concealed. And I’m afraid that sort of thinking isn’t found only among Hasidim.

  6. There were others who are treated like members of our community, including this child molester’s attorney, at least one prominent psychologist, etc. Should there be no consequence whatsoever for those who defend perverts? Should such individuals continue to be invited to give lectures to our community?

    • 5T, RE: “consequences” for the defenders of perverts”
      I have very specific knowledge, you might call it “from the highest authority on the issue”,
      that after I personally supplied information on a famous child psychologist’s leniency letters for Zauder, (which I documented mostly from posts here on FF), that this “exemplary and distinguished psychologist” was uninvited as distinguished speaker at a very large planned event. (for accuracy, let me modify that, a bit, it may be that the invitation had not yet been issued at the time that I documented the Zauder debacle to those in charge of arranging the speaker) and therefore it was never actually extended. Either way, the decision was reversed and he lost the speaking engagement.
      I never thanked YL for his coverage, and I believe that I never reported to him how beneficial his excellent coverage of the Zauder case had been.
      For, using his detailed posts, I succeeded in supplying such information and causing one of these exemplary experts from getting a significant speaking engagement. As always, thank you YL.
      This is all totally EMET. (EMES)

      • Several groups disinvited David Pelcovitz because of his Zauder letters. Most did not get publicity. Credit for that post goes to David Cheifetz. while it appeared first on Frum Follies, it was his guest post, not my original writing.

  7. Yerachmiel,
    Yes, I had indeed forgotten that David Cheifetz wrote that original post about Pelcovitz and leniency letters—- kol hakavod to David, would be nice to have him participating here more often,

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