Rabbi Bender’s Disturbing Defense of Rabbi Yisroel Kleinman After He Was Arrested for Child Rape

Rabbi Yisroel (Stanley) Kleinman, a 62-year-old, 5th  grade Jewish studies teacher, was arrested on December 18, 2017 on charges of molesting and penetrating an 11-year-old girl multiple times for over a year. Kleinman, was put on paid leave by his employer of thirty years, Rabbi Yakov Bender, the Rosh Yeshiva (Dean) of Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway (Queens, NY).

rabbi-bender-portrait

R. Yakov Bender

Two months later, in the end of February 2018, when Rabbi Bender knew the story was about to appear in the New York Daily News, he told their reporter that “parents of children in his class have been notified.” However, just a few weeks earlier I spoke to people at the school who knew he was being replaced by substitutes but not the reason.

Rabbi Bender should have informed parents of entire school, as well as others who dealt with him over the years, of the arrest as the reason for his suspension from the classroom. This helps to surface any other instances of abuse and provides support to other potential victims. Some people will say that there were no grounds to suspect Kleinman of molesting in this all-boys yeshiva because his criminal charge involves a girl. But child molesting is not necessarily a single-sex behavior. Some molesters go after both boys and girls.

Yehuda Kolko

R. Yehuda Kolko

Many people are praising Bender for placing Kleinman on leave. But once there are criminal charges that is what almost all yeshivas do. Even Yeshiva Torah Temimah, which kept Rabbi Yehuda Kolko employed in spite of decades of allegations, dumped him once he was criminally charged in 2006.

The problem at most Haredi yeshivot is not that they keep on employees after they are arrested. But that they either do nothing, despite complaints until someone is arrested, or at best, let them go, only for them to move on to another job, without warning the new community. In this case, Darchei Torah had nothing to do with the arrest. The allegation did not come from one of its students; the alleged victim attends a totally different school. The report came to the authorities through the reporting of a mental health professional who is a mandated reporter.

Elly Martin Kleinman

Elly (Martin) Kleinman

Some will say it is generous of Bender to pay Kleinman while he is on leave. But Kleinman’s brother, Elly (Martin), the scandal-plagued CEO of Americare,  is a very generous benefactor of the school, and many other charities in the ultra-orthodox world including the new Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center. In 2011, Elly was the honoree of the annual dinner of Yeshiva Darchei Torah. According to an article in Matzav “The Kleinmans have a close relationship with Darchei Torah, as Elly’s brother, Rabbi Yisroel Kleinman, is a veteran and beloved fifth grade rebbi in its elementary school. They are also the proud grandparents of five talmidim (students) in the yeshiva.” The cost of Yisroel’s paid leave is probably offset by Elly’s contributions.

Rabbi Bender is trying to have the best of all worlds, assuaging his funder while seeming to adhere to best practices by keeping Rabbi Kleinman away from children. So on the one hand he says to the Daily News, “until this is cleared up I can’t have him in the classroom… because I have to be cautious.” On the other hand he says things like, “He’s very well liked,” “He is an excellent teacher,” “He is a wonderful, wonderful person,” and “He’s going to be cleared, I really believe that.”

In saying Kleinman will be cleared, Dean Bender is effectively denying the validity of the allegation. He is implying that the accuser is either lying or deluded. He is furthermore casting doubt on the integrity and diligence of the cops and prosecutors in this case. Bender of course knows better. He knows that the Brooklyn District Attorney goes out of his way to avoid offending the orthodox community with its influential voting block.

Rabbi Bender makes a point of saying he knows all about Rabbi Kleinman’s fine character. But he does not know the girl, he does not know what happened behind closed doors. In short, he knows nothing except his bias in favor of the adult rabbi he knows over the child. Yet he feels free to slander her by asserting Kleinman’s innocence. Bender may claim he is adhering to the laws of loshon horah (prohibition against gossip) but he isn’t because he is slandering the victim. I can understand witholding judgment about Kleinman’s guilt. But by insisting on Kleinman’s innocence, in spite of the arrest, he is feeding the knee-jerk Haredi reflex of invalidating allegations as false.

I am disturbed by Bender’s handling of the case, of his minimizing knowledge relevant to the parent body till it was unavoidable, and all but accusing a complaint vetted by cops and prosecutors as false. I am glad that a minimum standard is established to not employ teachers facing felony child molesting charges. But the community is entitled to more.

28 thoughts on “Rabbi Bender’s Disturbing Defense of Rabbi Yisroel Kleinman After He Was Arrested for Child Rape

  1. In other words my way or the highway.
    No one ever does what’s right in your eyes. Yet they have no way of consulting you.
    Vetted by cops, you kidding me? Cops are now judge and jury?
    Cops have never botched up an investigation?
    Oh and prosecutors, again they didn’t consult with you. What a shame. But wait, since they anyhow arrested him, it must be that it’s true. Again DAs have never made a mistake.
    I have no idea who Kleinman is (oh and throwing in his brother in th is writeup was really important, we got to show who this rotten family is, guilty by associatioon), nor do I know if the story is true or not, since I was not there. I do know that much, you Yerachmiel Lopin don’t know either, as you were not there.
    So please learn how to split speculation from facts and put that into the article.
    You are not doing anyone a favor by accepting every accusation as fact. In fact with this type of work, ordinary people like me take activists like you as just that. An activists believe and you are hurting the victims in the process.

    • Actually, I am clear about the facts, I use the term allegation. I reach no conclusions about guilt, merely about serious allegations. In fact those conclusions are reached by Rabbi Bender.

      And yes, there are false convictions, usually poor teenagers coerced into confessing without having a lawyer, or poor people unable to pay bail who can get out faster by pleading guilty than by waiting for trial. None of those factors applies in Kleinman’s case. His brother matters because his wealth really assures a well paid legal defense and his brother’s wealth can mean influence with the DA. And his brother’s past history of fraud settlements suggests a willingness to circumvent ordinary legal processes.

      You obviously are fiercely protective of Yisroel Kleinman. If I didn’t know better I would be sure you are medakdek about dan l’kaf zecus. But in this case, you, like rabbi Bender, will not assume the accuser also deserves the benefit of the doubt. That was the main point of my post. You managed not to get the message, and you have the gall of accusing me of jumping to conclusions.

      • You are a really sad person. You make it very clear from your post that you don’t believe Kleinman, even though you use the term allegation. Rabbi Bender is rught when he says that he believes he is innocent 1) he hasn’t seen the proof and therefore from hilchos loshon hora is not allowed to say anything other than that until it is proven otheriwse. 2) in american law he is accused but not guilty. “Innocent” until proven guilty. Therefor, mitzad hilchos loshon hora, Rabbi bender could not inform parents why he removed Rabbi kleinman from the classroom until h eknew the story would be on the street via the daily znus. Once he was out of the classroom the students were protected. however, once it was becoming public knowledge, he had to and was halachically allowed to acknowledge the alleged accusation.

        • You are engaging in sockpuppeting, appearing under two different pseudonyms, in one post. If you do it again, you will be blocked from commenting.

          You misunderstand hilchos loshon horah. Even if you do not believe something you can and should warn others if there is potential harm to them. A That is the essence of the Chofetz Chaim’s position on toeles. A respected teacher is trusted by the community and that trust is based on the assumption that there are no serious charges against him. If you trusted someone, wouldn’t you want to know their reputation and such allegations in weighing whether to continue trusting them.

          You misunderstand the idea of a “presumption of innocence. All that means is that during a trial the burden of proof is on the prosecutor and it says to jurors, “do not assume guilt just because he is charge; weigh the evidence.” But there is no logic to saying someone is necessarily innocent in fact. Just in the eyes of the law, guilt sufficient for legal punishment requires a conviction by trial or by plea.

  2. Well I know the facts. Rabbi Kleinman is the 3rd person whom this man has falsely accused. The accuser is quite troubled and disturbed. Rabbi Kleinman has a solid reputation for more than 20 years in Darchei Torah and Rabbi Bender is right for supporting his staff member.

    • You actually know the accuser? I doubt it, since you referred to the accuser as a man, when it is a girl. What you think you know is what other people are saying. It isn’t just loshon horah, it is motzi shem rah, since it is false. I do know more about the case but I am interested in protecting the identity of a child, still a child, not a grownup and definitely not a man. The allegation was reported by a social worker, who as a mandated reporter, had to inform the police and protective services once she heard the account of sexual abuse.

  3. “He is a wonderful, wonderful person,” and “He’s going to be cleared, I really believe that.”

    In saying Kleinman will be cleared, Dean Bender is effectively denying the validity of the allegation.

    In all fairness to Rabbi Bender he sounds hopeful that a person he knows for 30 years is innocent. That is not the same as saying that the girl falsely accused anyone. You are either being hyper-sensitive or do not believe in innocent until proven guilty. He did the right thing by removing the accused from the classroom until the matter is settled. Had the other RYs done this over the past 40+ years, our community would be much better off (and many people would still be alive)

    • Actually, the odds are very high that he will not be cleared and he is not innocent. I can understand his hope that Kleinman will be cleared But to say he believes that is a clear assertion that he is giving the benefit of the doubt to Kleinman over the accuser, the cops and the DA. In doing that he is feeding a malicious campaign behind the scenes that is slandering the accuser. More broadly, he is feeding the falsehood that most accusations are untrue.

      Apart from how this is probably wrong about Kleinman, Bender is sending a terrible message out to victims of abuse and their parents. He is telling them that even if you have the courage to bring a charge, don’t expect any support from the community. Instead, expect them to slander you

  4. But what happened here…arrested in Dec….NO WORD AT ALL until a small Feb Daily News article and then no one else picks it up???? The accuser is a 10-11 year old girl seems very very strange that there is no further word on this.

    • Normally, it is about 2 years from an arrest to a trial. Usually, plea deals do not happen until close to trial date. There are not enough judges in NYS, so the trial calendar is crowded and judges, understandably give priority to those unable to get out on bail and waiting in jail. Frum Jews almost always get out on bail while awaiting trial or a plea bargain. So this is not unusual.

    • Yes, 10 or 11, for sure she dreamt this up This does not happen in the Jewish world , chas v’shalom (sarc).
      I pray to Hashem that she was removed from her prior living arrangements , whatever they were,
      emes I know zero about this case, albeit I have very strong suppositions, but I know zero, given that, I hope that the monster is put away for life.with all of the ramifications notwithstanding,

      please do not block my comment??

  5. i happen to know rabbi kleinman very well and i am positive he is not guilty in fact he was my 5th grade rebbe so i can say for sure that there is no way he is guilty

    • Let us assume you never had a single improper experience with him. But how can you know what he did or didn’t do with others in other settings. You are a male, I am guessing, since he taught boys all these years. He is accused of molesting a girl. Maybe he is only interested in girls, not boys.

  6. lopin should burn, stop spreading false rumors without any evidence, i knew the rav for over 30 years, he would never commit such acts.

    • I appreciate your passion, but I am afraid it is misdirected. Alas, people who behave properly in public can do awful things behind closed doors. In fact, virtually never are such acts committed in public.

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