Monday, April 03, 2006

Where in the world is Aron Goldberger

I've heard from a few people that Aron Goldberger is back living in Baltimore, MD. Does anyone know for sure? Heard he's been back awhile.

Aron Goldberger is the ex-brother-in-law to Rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau

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Scholar in molestation case receives probation

By Jay Apperson, Staff Writer

January 11, 1994

Edition: FINAL, Section: NEWS, Page: 3B

A bitter domestic battle that has aroused passions in Orthodox Jewish communities from Northwest Baltimore to Jerusalem moved a step closer to resolution, as a self-proclaimed religious scholar charged with molesting his children received probation before judgment for assault.

Prosecutors dropped sexual child abuse charges against Aron Goldberger when he pleaded guilty to assault last week in Baltimore Circuit Court. Mr. Goldberger entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant declines to plead guilty but concedes that the evidence is against him.

The conviction was struck when Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe granted probation before judgment, prosecutor William J. Giuffre said.

Under the terms of his probation, Mr. Goldberger, 34, cannot have any contact with his six children and must receive psychiatric therapy, the prosecutor said.

Mr. Goldberger had been charged with sexually abusing three of his sons, ranging in ages from 2 to 5, in 1989.

Mr. Giuffre said a major reason he agreed to the plea bargain was that he feared that the children would be traumatized by testifying against their father.

The charges stemmed from a husband-wife battle played out in Maryland courtrooms but followed by Jewish leaders in three states as well as in England and Israel.

In May, a state Special Appeals Court affirmed a Circuit Court order granting the couple a divorce and giving custody of their six children to their mother, (wife) Goldberger.

Ms. Goldberger's lawyer, Susan Carol Elgin, said that her client is still seeking child support payments from Mr. Goldberger, who she says has made no such payments.

Mr. Goldberger has said that he has not made child support payments because he does not have a paying job.

Mr. Goldberger said that his marriage contract called for his family to be supported by his in-laws and other members of the community while he was a full-time Talmudic scholar.

Allegations of molestation are not unheard of in custody fights.

But as Michael Rottenberg, a board member of a Lakewood, N.J., rabbinical college and one of Mr. Goldberger's key supporters, has noted, they are almost unheard of in an Orthodox Jewish society that prefers to mediate its disputes internally and not in the secular courts.

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Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer / Rabbi Moshe Heinemann / Rabbi Tzvi Weinreb

What steps have been taken to protect Aron Goldberger's present community?

Protocols - November 22, 2004

What steps have been taken to protect Aron Goldberger's present community?

The answer is not to shift the problem. Not to use batei din. Not to fight clergy mandated reporting laws.

The answer is support:

  1. Requiring laws to report suspicions of abuse.

  2. Respecting such laws.

  3. Allowing professionals trained in investigate such cases to investigate such cases without interference.

  4. Co-operating with the police and child family services.

  5. Supporting jailtime for our sexual predators instead of a plane ticket to Israel or probation.

Family Feud: The local, and international, Orthodox Jewish community is buzzing about a controversial child abduction and abuse case against a Torah scholar.

by Alan H. Feiler, Baltimore Jewish Times. Baltimore: Oct 23, 1992.Vol.207, Issue 9; p. 21

The local, and international, Orthodox Jewish community is buzzing about a controversial child abduction and abuse case against a Torah scholar.

Baltimore's observant Jewish community is still reeling from the dizzying charges and political intrigues resulting from a bitter child custody, abduction and sexual abuse case being played out in local courts.

"I think you could easily write a novel about this," said one member of the Orthodox community. "There are so many twists and turns in the context of this passion play. Everybody just went overboard. I've never seen anything this extensive."

The case of Goldberger vs. Goldberger is being closely watched on several levels: the disintegration of a prominent family; the inability of the insular observant community to deal with its problems without allowing them to spill over to the secular world; the involvement of various factions of world Orthodox Jewry; and rivalries between old and new guards of Baltimore's observant community.

The case centers around Aron and (WIFE) Goldberger, who married in August 1980, have six children and lived in Israel from 1983 to 1988. Mrs. Goldberger is the daughter of Rabbi Moshe Eisemann, a leader of the Beth Medrash Govoha Yeshivah in Lakewood, N.J., the world's largest rabbinical college. Aron Goldberger, 33, is a Torah scholar from Monsey, N.Y., who is well-connected with Rabbi Shlomo Auerbach, one of Israel's ultra-Orthodox leaders.

According to court records and local Orthodox Jews familiar with the case, the couple's pre-arranged marriage stipulated that Mrs. Goldberger's family promised that Mr. Goldberger would be financially supported to study Torah indefinitely in a kollel, or graduate program, in yeshivahs in the United States and Israel.

Details on what led to their breakup appear sketchy -- with both sides claiming the other spouse was mentally unstable -- but it seems that while staying with Mrs. Goldberger's sister in Baltimore in November 1989, (WIFE) Goldberger decided to part ways with her husband, Aron. Some say that Mrs. Goldberger's reluctance to move back to Israel -- her husband's desire -- was the final bone of contention.

She left a farewell note for him saying she was taking their youngest son and asked that their four other children be left with her sister or with Mr. Goldberger's cousins who live in Baltimore. Mr. Goldberger searched for his wife for a week and on instructions from his rabbinical mentor, a rabbi in Belgium, decided to take his children to Israel. Pointing out that Mrs. Goldberger, by her own accounts, moved six times between November 1989 and July 1990, attorneys for Mr. Goldberger claim he was unable to know where to return the children to her.

Only a month earlier, while the Goldbergers were expecting their sixth child, court records show Mrs. Goldberger's sister noticed "inappropriate behavioral responses" from their three young sons. She had a local pediatrician examine the boys. The pediatrician found evidence of sexual abuse.

After consulting with a local Beit Din, or Orthodox rabbinical court, the pediatrician was advised to report his findings to the Maryland Department of Social Services. Mr. Goldberger was scheduled to be arraigned on child abuse charges Oct. 22 at Baltimore City Felony Arraignment Court. His attorney, Phillip G. Dantes, said Mr. Goldberger "vehemently" denies the child abduction and sexual abuse allegations.

When Mr. Goldberger returned to Israel with four of his children, he said he had received his wife's blessings, as well as his rabbi's. But he was later indicted on abduction charges that are scheduled to be heard Oct. 26 in Baltimore City Criminal Court.

What is unique in this case is the attention it has received in Orthodox circles around the world and the large sums of money that have been raised for legal fees on behalf of a couple with no income.

Mr. Goldberger has been imprisoned and bailed out of jail twice by supporters from around the world who have allegedly contributed over $150,000 for the Torah scholar's legal fees and other expenses.

Mrs. Goldberger and her family reportedly have paid $70,000 of their $100,000 bill for legal and psychiatric fees.

The domestic fight is now pending before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, and Mrs. Goldberger's lawyers claim she and her six children are living on public assistance. Mr. Goldberger is unemployed and living with a relative in Baltimore.

According to court records, Mr. Goldberger moved the children around from Israel to France, Belgium and England, sometimes staying with some of Mrs. Goldberger's relatives. With the help of private investigators, Mrs. Goldberger tracked down her husband and children in London in the summer of 1990. She and her husband asked a Beit Din there to rule on a divorce and child custody case.

In November 1990, the London Beit Din gave Mrs. Goldberger custody of the children, and ruled that her husband must give his wife a get, or Jewish divorce, and only visit the children while under supervision. The Beit Din also ruled that Mrs. Goldberger did not have to move with her children to Israel, as her husband insisted. Mr. Goldberger refused to adhere to the rulings of the Beit Din.

<> In December 1990, according to court records, Mr. Goldberger and some of his friends were arrested by British police when they allegedly broke into a London house where his wife and children were staying and tried to re-kidnap his offspring. They were held in custody until his wife and children returned to the United States a few days later.

After Mrs. Goldberger and their children returned to Baltimore, to be followed by her husband, the family approached a Beit Din here consisting of rabbis Yaakov Hopfer of Shearith Israel, Moshe Heinemann of Agudath Israel and Tzvi Hersh Weinreb of Shomrei Emunah.

According to Rabbi Weinreb, the Baltimore Beit Din supported the findings of the London Bet Din. He said that when Mr. Goldberger still refused to comply with the rulings of the Beit Dins, the Baltimore group passed around a notice in August 1991 declaring him "persona non grata" in local synagogues, meaning that he was not welcome to worship in Orthodox congregations. Six months ago, when Mr. Goldberger finally agreed to comply with the rulings, Rabbi Weinreb said most of the 20 rabbis who originally signed the document removed their names.

While many Orthodox Jews in the community view the document as a cherim, or excommunication, Rabbi Weinreb said it is only a demonstration of unity among rabbis to "shun" a tainted member of the community. Rabbi Weinreb said this is the first "shunning" that he has been involved in since coming to Baltimore a number of years ago.

"A lot of disputes of this kind are better handled at a community level," he said. "We're in a better position to determine the truth."

But some Orthodox Jews here are highly critical of the Baltimore and London Beit Din decisions, claiming that charges against Mr. Goldberger were trumped up by his wife and family to gain custody of the children. And in the Beit Din documents they say rabbis forbade members of the religious community from housing, feeding, transporting or employing Mr. Goldberger, thereby making it impossible for him to live in a manner suitable for an observant Jew.

In September, Baltimore Circuit Judge Edward J. Angeletti, who has described Mr. Goldberger in the past as "duplicitous and very devious," sentenced him to three years in prison for contempt of court for ignoring orders to pay over $4,000 a month in child support. The sentence was stayed after Mr. Goldberger's attorneys filed an appeal.

But prior to Rosh Hashanah, Mr. Goldberger spent three weeks in jail on child abduction charges until his supporters were able to post $5,000 of his $50,000 bail. He was also indicted on Oct. 1 on child sexual abuse charges and imprisoned the day after Yom Kippur, spending three days in jail until he was released on $50,000 bail.

While opinions vary on the case, some local Orthodox Jews condemn Mr. Goldberger's jailing and believe powers outside of Baltimore are "out to get him."

Many people in the community are also upset that the case is now in State courts. For one thing, they say, it violates a Jewish law forbidding one Jew from participating in the jailing of another. "When I saw this bearded man in shackles from head to foot, I was more convinced than ever that he shouldn't be in jail," said a member of the community with legal expertise.

This source believes the Goldberger case has become part of a power struggle between several of the newer Orthodox rabbis in town who maintain strong ties with the Lakewood yeshivah, and rabbis here aligned with Baltimore's Ner Israel Rabbinical College, which by comparison is more liberal in that, for example, it allows its students to attend secular college.

Some of the Lakewood-affiliated rabbis are said to be sympathetic to Mrs. Goldberger in the dispute out of respect for her father, a leading scholar at the Lakewood yeshiva.

Mr. Goldberger's supporters say they want a trial to expose some of the "dirty tricks" that have been used to pressure him into complying with the rabbinical, and court, rulings.

They also say Mrs. Goldberger's side is scrambling to get the State to drop charges now that the matter has become an international crisis, with posters of Rabbi Eisemann in yeshivahs in Israel and the United States charging that he took the issue outside of the Jewish community.

But Susan C. Elgin, Mrs. Goldberger's attorney, said it was Mr. Goldberger's filing of an emergency motion for unsupervised visitation rights of his children in circuit court in early 1991 that brought the case to the secular world. And while noting that the case is now a State matter that cannot be dropped by the family, she said it has been Mr. Goldberger's refusal to pay any child support that has led to his recent problems with the law.

"Mr. Goldberger, by his own psychiatric report, has a personality disorder," Ms. Elgin said. "The people supporting him are doing him no favor. He needs help."

Mr. Goldberger alleges that his wife suffers from mental illness and sever depression.

Some observers suggest that this case, however unique, is indicative of potential problems that can result from arranged marriages where the husband and wife do not know each other well, compounded by the longstanding tradition of having the wife's family agree to support the husband's scholarship. Large families and little income can lead to conflict, experts note.

But for now, the focus is on bringing this particular case to resolution.

Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, Rosh Yeshiva (dean) of the local Ner Israel Rabbinical College, blames the case's entrance into secular courts to "partisanship" between factions in the Orthodox world.

"It's a disgrace to the community and people involved in the case that it's anywhere but in the rabbinical courts," he said. "Obviously both sides are wrong. But the whole thing should have been settled justly in the Beit Din. What we have to do now is try to find some peace for these people."
For more information:

  1. Let Them Talk The Mitzvah to Speak Lashon Hara - By Rabbi Mark Dratch
  2. The 411 on 911 Reporting Jewish Abusers to the Civil Authorities - By Rabbi Mark Dratch


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