A very disturbing video** was leaked onto WhatsApp of a school principal abusing a pre-pubescent boy who appears to be about eight years old. The viral video was taken from a hidden camera planted in the ceiling of the office of the principal of the Satmar (Aron faction) lower school (cheder) in Kiryas Joel, NY (KJ). Rabbi Moshe Hirsch Klein, the principal, is seen seated with the boy forced between his legs and with body and pelvic motions suggestive of masturbation. He uses his hands to alternately caress the boy’s body and face, and to pull him back as he repeatedly tries to get away. At times he also seems to be kissing the boy on his lips. The boy is obviously upset. Thankfully, the boy’s face is not visible and his identity is not disclosed through this video.
The online discussion of this episode offers up competing narratives. One camp reports that some teachers in the school were disturbed by the principal’s pattern of sexual abuse but could not get the higher ups to remove him. So, in desperation they planted the camera to furnish convincing proof of their complaints and then leaked it on WhatsApp, a very popular social medium in the Hasidic world where many rely on smartphones to get around the ban on home computer ownership. It is not clear whether they first tried showing the video to the higher ups in the Satmar system whose ultimate decision maker is the grand rabbi, Aron Teitelbaum.
Klein’s defenders insist the boy is troubled and the principal was merely being physically affectionate without being sexual in any way. They go on to claim that there are some inadequate teachers who are insubordinate and were just trying to dislodge a boss who was critical of them. Latest rumors claim that two teachers were fired, presumably for taking or circulating the video.
Westchester’s News12 TV station anchor, Blaise Gomez, Tweeted that they will be running a report about this at 5:30 tonight (5/2/16). A press release went out:
ALLEGED SEX ABUSE: A disturbing video, allegedly showing a Kiryas Joel Hassidic Rabbi inappropriately touching a young yeshiva student, is now going viral – amidst outrage – on social media.
News12 was alerted to the 15 minute clip Monday, which shows a young boy being held between an adult man’s legs, shaken, repeatedly caressed and seemingly kissed against his will. The boy is seen repeatedly attempting to get away and covering his eyes with his hands.
Ultra-Orthodox general education activist, Naftuli Moster, said Monday the video was reportedly leaked from someone inside the school after officials allegedly declined to press charges.
News12 reached out to the Orange County District Attorney’s office Monday but they wouldn’t comment as to whether or not they were previously aware of the video or if an investigation is underway.
Our calls to State Police have not yet been returned.
The full story, tonight on News12 at 5:30.
[Update: here is the News 12 report]
I share the outrage of many over the fact that Satmar (along with most other Haredi groups) privileges the reputation of adult molesters over its victimized children. Moshe Hirsch Klein may be especially protected because he is the son-in-law of Ezriel Glick, who was the personal attendant of the first Satmar Rebbe (Yoel Teitelbaum) during his last years after he had a stroke.
Parents and teachers who are upset with an abuser rarely go beyond complaining to higher ups. To go to the police or protective services is considered snitching (mesirah) and costs you everything in their communities. The snitch will have their kids expelled from schools, their children denied marriage matches, their livelihood damaged, and may even be subjected to violence or false reports about the family to protective services or the police.
Outsiders wonder why not just quit such a morally bankrupt community. The answer is that while a few do, most do not know any way of living but inside Hasidic communities because of their language, religious modes, and their extended families. Their extremely inadequate secular educations also get in the way of making a living on the outside. Many are in poverty and depend on the various charities of the community to supplement limited income and government assistance payments.
Given this atrocious social reality, I commend those who resorted to this method of trying to force this principal out of working with children, however imperfect an alternative this is to having this man prosecuted and sentenced.
I hope the authorities will do their darnedest to find their way to prosecuting Klein. And I hope for and work for a time when the community simply reports sex abusers to the criminal justice system. But it ain’t happening this year, except under exceptional circumstances.
Update: NY Daily News wrote about the story
**I have decided to delete my link to video. I feel I made a mistake in posting it. It is child porn. Perhaps not legally, but putting it out there means the child will at some point have to live the rest of his life knowing that untold numbers of strangers will see him that way. I feel that is wrong.