In Scotland a jury can return a verdict of guilty, innocent or not proven. This goes back to 18th century and it was also called the bastard verdict. Maryland uses a similar system for allegations of child abuse. At the end of an investigation, the report can conclude that action is indicated (e.g. removing a child from a home or a teacher from a job), ruled out or unsubstantiated.
Ruled out is a clean bill of health. Unsubstantiated is not! The name of the alleged offender is retained in a database so schools and child care centers can check on individuals when making employment decisions. This brings me to Rabbi Shmuel (Stephen) Krawatsky, known to kids as Rabbi K who at different times was classified as indicated or unsubstantiated by the child protective services agency of Frederick County, Maryland.
Rabbi K is a very friendly popular guy with younger kids. He is a 6th grade teacher at Beth Tfiloh in Baltimore and a youth leader at Suburban Orthodox synagogue in the Baltimore area. Since these allegations he no longer works at the Shoresh day camp in Frederick County or in the Orthodox Union’s Yachad youth program. For months he was also suspended by the Beth Tfiloh though it was done without any official announcement.
In August 2015 a seven-year-old boy alleged that earlier in the summer while he was at Shoresh, Krawatsky, was naked on several occasions in a locker room by the pool and offered him money to touch his genitals, grabbed him roughly, threatened him if he told anybody, and invoked loshon horah, the religious prohibition against saying bad things about others.
The charge was investigated by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office together with the county’s protective services unit. At the end of the investigation the police found the child’s allegations credible. However, Rabbi K denied the allegations. After consulting with the prosecutor they decided not to press charges because they were not confident enough they could get a conviction. However, Protective Services classified the allegations against K as indicated, meaning that action should be taken to keep him away from children.
K exercised his legal right to appeal, hiring a heavy weight lawyer Christopher M Rolle. This attorney’s brother, Scott Rolle, is the former State’s Attorney (prosecutor) of Frederick County and now a Judge for the County. He ground down the protective services legal resources in a process stretching out over months and finally, the country and Rabbi K reached a compromise. Krawatsky accepted a finding of unsubstantiated.
What was “unsubstantiated” (but not ruled out) is that he was standing naked in a locker room at Camp Shoresh and offered money to a 7-year-old boy to touch his genitals. This was known to Beth Tfiloh, and the leaders of some other Baltimore institutions such as Camp Shoresh and Suburban Orthodox synagogue.
This morning, The NY Jewish Week reported on the allegations mentioned above as well as reports from two other children with similar allegations as well as allegations of oral sex and anal penetration.
In what world does a school continue to employ a teacher of young children with serious allegations of being a serial, pedophile, child molester/rapist?
Yet, Beth Tfiloh’s Director of Education, Zipora (Tzipi) Schorr doubled down after the publication of the Jewish Week story with a letter to parents emphasizing that the charges were found unsubstantiated. But as I explained earlier, unsubstantiated is not the same as ruled out. Their letter also conveniently left out the allegations from two other children.
In my opinion, Beth Tfiloh is not a school I would depend on to keep children safe from pedophile teachers, nor is Suburban Orthodox Synagogue a place where I would trust the youth workers.
I have my doubts about trusting Camp Shoresh. It is true that Rabbi K no longer works at the camp. But like Beth Tfiloh, Camp Shoresh sent out a misleading letter implying Rabbi K was fully cleared of allegations of pedophile molesting, when a finding of unsubstantiated is not being cleared enough to justify employing someone like that. It is true that Rabbi K’s employment at Shoresh ended after the initial allegations, and perhaps he was fired. But no one else was warned about this public hazard. Shoresh director, Rabbi David Finkelstein refused to comment for the Jewish Week story.
Extraordinary thanks are owed to the brave parents of the children who brought complaints to the authorities and allowed their names to be used by the Jewish Week in their article. Their families have been snubbed, shunned, and slandered during this process. But like true parents and righteous people they cared more for the truth and the protection of children, their own and others. That is more than can be said for the leadership of Beth Tfiloh and Suburban Orthodox synagogue.