Englewood’s Ahavath Torah Announces Suspension and further Inquiry About R. Shlomo Hyman

As I reported last week, the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey announced the dismissal of long-time teacher, Rabbi Shlomo Hyman. According to their letter,

it was determined that Rabbi Hyman’s conduct had been neither acceptable nor consistent with how a rebbe in our Yeshiva should interact with students. In consultation with counsel and halachic advisors, the leadership of the Yeshiva has terminated his employment and has determined that no further action is necessary at this time.

This was a shock to the Bergen County MO community since Hyman had worked in the school for 31 years and most people had a very favorable impression of him as a teacher and mensch. Some felt otherwise. But almost everyone agreed that the school letter was frustrating in its vagueness. My read of the letter was that it implied sexual misconduct but allowed for all sorts of other readings.

Left in the lurch was Congregation Ahavath Torah of Englewood where Hyman was also the Youth Rabbi. Though they did not officially announce it, they suspended him in February around the same time the yeshiva suspended him. Now they were faced with making a final decision, but the yeshiva was not willing to share the law firm report on which the yeshiva based its decision.

The congregation has now decided to continue the suspension and conduct their own inquiry (unless the school relents and shares the report from the law firm). In a letter sent to congregants (full text below) on Thursday, May 23, 2019, they wrote,

Rabbi Hyman is taking a leave of absence from all of his responsibilities as Youth Rabbi for our shul.

We have received very incomplete information from RYNJ regarding its termination of Rabbi Hyman’s employment after 31 years. We are aware of a letter that has been recently sent out to the RYNJ community regarding such termination that is cryptic at best. We are also aware that Rabbi Hyman has retained legal counsel and is taking steps to challenge his termination and the damage to his reputation. As we are sure that our community understands, the shul leadership has been placed in a difficult position by this situation… Every effort is being made to clarify the basis of RYNJ’s decision as quickly as possible and determine the best approach for our shul that takes into account our children’s well-being, fairness to all and Halachic considerations.

The letter is good as far as it goes though it is misleading to say Hyman has just taken leave of absence and ignore the fact that the shul was aware of the issue starting in February and he has been on leave since then. It is also not clear what sort of information the shul will consider adequate for its decision process or how they will conduct their inquiry. It is possible that they will now be granted access to the report prepared for the yeshiva. But it is not clear what they will do if the RYNJ continues to keep its report under wraps. There is also no proposed timeline. So I suppose it is, stay tuned.

For the moment, their website continues to list Shlomo Hyman as their “Youth Rabbi.”

Screenshot Shlomo Hymans screen shot at Ahavath Torah Englewood Youth Director 2019-05-17 at 11.19.02


FULL TEXT OF AHAVATH TORAH LETTER TO CONGREGANTS ON 5/23/19

Dear Friends,

We wanted to let our membership know that Rabbi Hyman is taking a leave of absence from all of his responsibilities as Youth Rabbi for our shul.
​​​​​​​
Rabbi Hyman has been a beloved fixture in our shul’s Youth Department for 29 years. Throughout his long tenure here, the shul has received absolutely no reports of any inappropriate behavior by Rabbi Hyman. We have received very incomplete information from RYNJ regarding its termination of Rabbi Hyman’s employment after 31 years. We are aware of a letter that has been recently sent out to the RYNJ community regarding such termination that is cryptic at best. We are also aware that Rabbi Hyman has retained legal counsel and is taking steps to challenge his termination and the damage to his reputation. As we are sure that our community understands, the shul leadership has been placed in a difficult position by this situation. Our primary responsibility is to the well-being of our children, but we do not wish to jump to conclusions and ask that our community refrain from doing the same. Every effort is being made to clarify the basis of RYNJ’s decision as quickly as possible and determine the best approach for our shul that takes into account our children’s well-being, fairness to all and Halachic considerations.

This letter is an effort to maintain a dignified approach of transparency with our membership. Should anyone have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Good Shabbos to all.

Rabbi Poupko
Michael Ratzker, President
Jeremy Schwalbe, Chairman of the Board
Executive Committee

 

21 thoughts on “Englewood’s Ahavath Torah Announces Suspension and further Inquiry About R. Shlomo Hyman

  1. I have no knowledge of what happened here but in general if a person’s child was abused by a teacher or anyone else please prosecute.
    Failure to do so is letting the person doe the same to the next victim…. and there always will be a next victim.

    • It is highly possible that victims did go to the police. Only the state can make the decision to actually prosecute. The child victim and family have very little power.
      Prosecution rates of reported abuse are quite low.

    • I personally have known since I was a child with him as a youth director. I can honestly say that he was a true mensch and role model for me and my friends. He was always careful to treat us with genuine respect, love, and tzniyus. I remained in touch with him for years and am shocked and disturbed by these accusations and advise all to hold back judgements until we know the full extant of this situation. This man doesn’t have a bad bone in his body and I care for him deeply and greatly. May G-D give him and his family much strength to get through this and may the ultimate truth persevere.

  2. I know you printed the full Ahavath Torah letter, but funny how when you quote virtually the entire letter, you leave out the two sentences that say “Rabbi Hyman has been a beloved fixture in our shul’s Youth Department for 29 years. Throughout his long tenure here, the shul has received absolutely no reports of any inappropriate behavior by Rabbi Hyman.”

  3. I have let through a torrent of abusive comments directed at me without deleting or censoring a single one, and usually not replying or sticking to reasoning and the facts. I intend to continue that because for 9 years and through over 17,000 comments I have tried to create a more open arena for discussing the sensitive topic of abuse. But I am having second thoughts about not replying in kind.

    I am coming to realize that these comments, even though they do not name names of survivors are triggering to them. They are seeing a sort of aggressive nastiness that people would not otherwise show in the face-to-face encounters in the community. I am also astounded by the level malicious rumor mongering that were either invented or came from others who invented them. I do know eenough more than what I put online to know that much. Those that have followed my blog for years know that my integrity and accuracy are high. So that is who I am to write these things.

    I am amazed at the fury directed at me as if plenty of others are not saying the same things. I think it is because some of you are determined to intimidate and stamp out those who have valid observations and complaints. The loudest aren’t always the most or the truest. If it is really true that no one ever complained or suspected, relax- no one will pay attention to me and R. Hyman will retain his stature. You are really angry at the school for doing what their lawyers told them they had to do. Now guess why lawyers do that?. Usually, it is because a school becomes very liable for damages if their employee caused harm after the school was aware of that potential for harm. For a long time those in Bergen who complained about Lanner were also accused of slander. Lanner even got a beit din to rule that he was being slandered.

    I am confident that in time some of you will be embarrassed to have gone so far in defense of the wrong guy. And others of you will carry on just as Lanner still have those who defend him.

    בְמָקוֹם שֶׁאֵין אֲנָשִׁים, הִשְׁתַּדֵּל לִהְיוֹת אִישׁ

    • Don’t know about you but the defenders of the guy are reminding me very much of a case a year ago in a different town. Wonder what legal retaliation against victims will follow

      • They haven’t a legal leg to stand on to retaliate. I wish Hyman would stop claiming he will sue or go to beit din and will actually sue or issue a beit din summons. He will lose.

  4. Those of us who are defending him are just saying “show us some proof or fact”. After 30 years, he has earned the benefit of the doubt, that’s all, as opposed to all of you who have found him guilty based on a letter with no facts, and hearsay of creepy staring. The school AND their lawyers mean nothing. “Just the facts maam”.

    • Hey, I agree. The school owes the community more than it gave. It owes it more so that enough is said so that others can be confident in steering clear of R. Hyman. However, the school may have its own culpability which it does not want to expose. It is my opinion based on the pattern and contact with several sources who have heard accounts from affected children, that the school could have and should have responded earlier and more strongly to the issues. Revealing the full story in such situations increases the school’s potential vulnerability to lawsuits.

      I do understand and respect the confusion of those who have an otherwise favorable impression of Hyman. What I do not respect is the vicious attacks based on rumor and innuendo. Some of the very people who preach benefit of the doubt to Hyman think nothing of slandering the complainants.

  5. Not sure why a vague letter like this to you implies SEXUAL misconduct. This is pure lashon hara and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    • Because all such letters by schools to date involved sexual abuse and used vague language in discussing dismissals. All investigations to date in other MO schools involved sexual abuse. Other than physical or sexual abuse, forced suspensions I am aware of to date always involve sexual abuse. Firings for other reasons happen without an explanation to parents by mass mail. You may believe that R. Hyman is innocent of any sexual misconduct but admit, you also saw the letter as at least casting a shadow of doubt about whether R. Hyman committed sexual misconduct. That the school relied on an external investigation suggests concerns about legal liability in retaining him. There is no legal liability is just refusing to renew a contract. Again, abuse carries legal liability risk. Being an insubordinate or inadequate teacher does not. All pointers add up to allegations of sexual abuse. Don’t blame me the messenger for reading into the letter what also has you and Hyman upset. Why else would Hyman threaten to sue the school.

  6. Shame on all of you! I have known this man since he was a child. I have known Rabbi Hyman to be of the utmost highest ethical and moral character. There is absolutely no way he could be guilty of, let alone accused of, inappropriate conduct. The school has not disclosed what the allegations are against him yet in a single e-mail they chose to destroy his life, parnusa, reputation and family. Anyone who knows Rabbi Hyman can attest to his ethical behavior, piety, devotion to Judaism and his family, and his kindness. Please give him the benefit of the doubt and I wish that everyone who knows him will stick up for him. The Bais Din will decide. Ultimately Hashem is the greatest Judge. Please don’t spread this awful Loshon Hora about such an honorable man.

    • There are multiple accusations from more than one person which have been corroborated by multiple witnesses and took place over a span of years. Don’t assume that because someone has always been nice to you they are incapable of bad conduct.

      • Multiple accusations from more than one person? Where is your source for this? Because people extremely immersed in this situation have only been able to cite one accuser from 20 years ago who said a pat lingered too long for her liking. Anyone “assuming” Rabbi Hyman is innocent is not doing so because Rabbi Hyman is nice to him or her, they are “assuming” he is innocent because in his decades of work in the greater Jewish community, there has been no suspicious behavior reported or accusations leveled against him until this one woman spoke up at some rally or gathering about a lingering pat that took place 20 years ago. And it’s not like anyone has any hard facts to go on from an extremely vague letter that was circulated that, in a single day, destroyed a man’s credibility and sterling reputation that existed for 30 years while he was employed by numerous Jewish institutions. Our society obviously has a heightened awareness about sexual impropriety given the current climate both within and outside the Jewish community – as well it should -but a person should also be innocent until proven guilty and not condemned by a jury of his peers on the basis of one vague letter.

        I’ll go on record and say that until more evidence or proof is offered, or unless you cite some credible source that reveals these “multiple accusations from more than one person which have been corroborated by multiple witnesses,” I would have no problem with Rabbi Hyman continuing to be around my children. This rabbi radiates kindness and purity and the only negative things I have ever heard uttered about him is when jaded and suspicious grownups wonder grumpily how he is able to maintain such an innocent, affable and enthusiastic personality. (Almost like they’re upset that life hasn’t beaten that genuine sense of wonder and kindness out of him.) I’m sure that’s been stamped out by now, unfortunately. But if you’re going to destroy a man’s life, you should be compelled to offer substantial proof to back that up. Please cite your source with these numerous accusations corroborated by multiple witnesses that took place over a span of years.

        • How do you know it is only one woman about a pat? You don’t. It is a rumor. I do know that no reputable major law firm lends it name to a report calling for dismissal and public notification based on that little. I know for a fact that there are multiple complaints.

        • The reason you don’t know of anyone is because the people who came forward to the investigators wish to remain anonymous, and based on the comment thread here, I hope you can understand why. The information you have is not correct, it was not merely a “pat” that lingered. And even if it were, why would a rabbi be patting adolescent girls?

  7. Shame on all of you who gang up against Rabbi Hyman without proof. I am a woman who has know this man and his family since he was a little boy. I can state unequivocally that Rabbi Hyman is of the utmost highest ethical and moral character and level. There is no one who comes close to his purity of behavior, heart and soul. Please give him the benefit of doubt here. Not a single allegation of improper behavior has been revealed. Let him defend himself in a Bais Din or court of law. It is so easy in this day and age to destroy someone’s livelihood, reputation, career and life. Please don’t repeat this vicious Loshon Hora. If he did something wrong there would be a record of it previously; but there is none. Put yourselves in his shoes.

    • Your comment is so famiiar already, so similar to others protecting a perpetrator, “mir kenim the family”, ” everyone loves him” (hey, Pelcovitz wrote that about Evan Zauder in his plea to the court for leniency, what a nice guy, though even while he was under house arrest he was soliciting minors for sex) . Even the “experts” (David Pelcovitz), were taken in. Many other reasons not to trust Pelcovitz at this point. But that is another story.

  8. until you actually publish reports under your own name… you are nothing but a rumor monger.. and should be ashamed of yourself.. this is cowardice in its purest form. And before you respond with any self inflated sense of righteousness.. ask around about me…I carry much more weight in this arena than you do. Shameful

    • I am amused to get this attack from a man who will not use his full name.

      I have been blogging about abuse for over 9 years and have an established track record of accurate reporting and taking care to retract or correct my errors. Happily I have only had to retract or significantly correct about 10 of my 1,300 posts over these years.

  9. Pingback: The Catholic Church has finally gotten serious about handling sexual abuse. Here’s what Jewish institutions could learn from the process. | AZ Jewish Post

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