Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Jerusalem Post: US Wants to Extradite Rabbi Avrohom Mondrowitz

Rabbi Avrohom Mondrowitz

US wants extradition of prominent Ger hassid accused of sodomy

Jerusalem Post
October 23, 2007

The Brooklyn District Attorney's office has requested the extradition of
Avrohom Mondrowitz, a resident of Jerusalem and a prominent member of the Ger Hassidic sect, on child molestation charges dating back over two decades involving four boys aged 11 to 16.

The extradition request was made in January, according to Brooklyn District Attorney's Office spokesman Jerry Schmetterer. "We know that the US Department of Justice and the State Department have begun the extradition process," said Schmetterer. "It is also our understanding that the Israeli Justice Ministry has been contacted as well."

The Justice Ministry declined to comment.

Mondrowitz, who was contacted by telephone by
The Jerusalem Post, hung up as soon as the reporter identified himself.

However, a prominent member of the Ger community in Jerusalem defended Mondrowitz.

"There are people who are trying to disparage Mondrowitz's name," said the source.

"Mondrowitz is a very intelligent, talented man and so are all of his children. His father is highly respected in the community. I can't believe these stories are true.

The source said Mondrowitz was in the computer business.

Mondrowitz worked for a short period at the Jerusalem College of Technology as a fund-raiser and at the Jerusalem College of Engineering as a lecturer.

Post has also learned that Dep.-Cmdr. Avi Aviv of the National Fraud Squad's Cyber Crimes Division is conducting an investigation against Mondrowitz.

Mondrowitz, who was born in Tel Aviv in 1947 and later moved with his family to Chicago, arrived in Brooklyn in the late 1970s and presented himself to Orthodox educational institutions as a rabbi and clinical psychologist.

He provided psychological treatment to children from the mixed Jewish-Italian Borough Park neighborhood where he lived. He also opened a yeshiva for children with behavioral problems.

Four children, all from Italian families and all neighbors of Mondrowitz, complained of sexual abuse perpetrated by Mondrowitz. Jewish victims also eventually testified against him, but only after the statute of limitations had expired.

In 1985, a New York State court charged Mondrowitz with eight counts of child abuse in the first degree, endangering the welfare of a child and five counts of sodomy in the first degree.

Mondrowitz and his family fled to Jerusalem after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

At the time of the indictment, sodomy of boys was not an extraditable crime, since it was not defined as rape under Israeli law. In 1988, the Knesset changed that law, apparently opening the way for Mondrowitz's extradition.

The Brooklyn DA's office said Mondrowitz could not be extradited until this year, when the Knesset approved a law removing the impediments to retroactively applying the 1988 law.

But Michael Lesher, an attorney representing six men who say they were molested by Mondrowitz in the early 1980s but who were not included in the original indictment, said the extradition was delayed due to officials, especially Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, dragging their feet.

Lesher claims that Hynes balked due to heavy pressure to drop the case from the Orthodox community in Brooklyn, which supported Mondrowitz despite the fact that Israel's Edah Haredit Rabbinic Court issued a ruling in 1988 in which unnamed "insidious acts" committed by Mondrowitz were mentioned, and warning him to stay away from children.

"Hynes was elected in 1989 with strong Orthodox support," Lesher said in an e-mailed message. "He appointed a virtually all-Orthodox Jewish Advisory Council after being elected, and he reversed the policy of his predecessor, Elizabeth Holtzman, and did not press for Mondrowitz's return to face trial.

In September 1993, Hynes instructed the federal government to close its file on Mondrowitz and said he would not pursue the case while Mondrowitz remained in Israel.

Lesher said he was "elated" to see the district attorney finally moving to extradite Mondrowitz. "All my clients hope that Mondrowitz will at last be brought to justice."

In response to Lesher's claims, Schmetterer said extradition was impossible until the Knesset acted this year.

But in past news reports on delays, Hynes's office was quoted as providing a different explanation. Sources were cited saying that despite the changes in Israeli law, the extradition request could not be made retroactively.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is that really a photograph of Mondrowitz?

October 23, 2007 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Failed Messiah said...

The Saga Of Rabbi Avrohom Mondrowitz, Ger Hasid and Accused Child Rapist, Continues

The Jerusalem Post's Matthew Wagner has a new report on the Rabbi Avrohom Mondrowitz case. This is the story's first major coverage in Israel.

Mondrowitz allegedly abused (anally raped, I'm told) children in Boro Park during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was indicted by a Brooklyn grand jury but fled to Israel in 1987 before trial. Israel refused to extradite him to due a technicality in the extradition treaty between the US and Israel. What technicality? The treaty did not specifically mention man on boy rape as a crime.

Shocked? Don't be. Israel protected Mondrowitz. It's a fact. Why? The key quote from the JPost piece tells the story:

… However, a prominent member of the Ger [hasidic] community in Jerusalem defended Mondrowitz.

"There are people who are trying to disparage Mondrowitz's name," said the source.

"Mondrowitz is a very intelligent, talented man and so are all of his children. His father is highly respected in the community. I can't believe these stories are true.…

Ger is the largest hasidic group in Israel and the most influential politically, controlling today half of the United Torah Judaism political party. Then it controlled its own party, Agudat Israel, which later combined with the Lithuanian haredi party Degel HaTorah to form the block now known as UTJ. Chabad was usually in the Agudat Israel camp, as were most but not all other hasidic groups, excluding primarily the virulently anti-Zionist groups like Satmar, and Belz, which was an early pioneer, so to speak, in sell its votes to the highest bidder. Shas was formed about this time. Before that, its Sefardic haredi voters were usually steered into the Degel HaTorah camp by Sefardic haredi leaders or to other less successful parties that no longer exist.

The word for many years on the Mondrowitz case is that the various leaders of Ger did not want him extradited. This is so even though the Edah Haredit beit din in Mea Shearim issued a ruling in 1988 against Mondrowitz noting that he had committed "insidious acts" and warning him to stay away from children.

At the time Mondrowitz worked for various schools in Israel, including the Jerusalem College of Technology and the Jerusalem College of Engineering.

The ruling from Edah Haredit did not change this.

Mondrowitz was aided by the fact that at first his accusers were all Italian children. There were many Jewish victims. Some of them and their parents even spoke with police. But all Jewish victims and their families refused to testify citing everything from laws againg speaking lashon hara and laws against mesira (informing), to fears that siblings would not get shidduchim, that they and their families would be harassed and ostracized by their haredi communities, etc.

Haredi rabbis – who are loathe to accept the testimony of children anyway and who disparage non-haredi court proceedings – were reluctant to act based on testimony that was not only from minors and given in a non-Jewish setting, but was from non-Jews rather than from Jews. Even though some recognized that Mondrowitz was guilty, they would not act against him for these reasons and because they did not want to bring shame down on the haredi community. Others also feared having Mondrowitz go to prison in the US, where it is difficult to keep a haredi standard of kosher and religious observance and where child molesters are treated badly by other inmates.

By the time Jewish victims came forward, Mondrowitz was safe in the protective arms of Ger in Israel.

And so the case sat for 20 years. Sure, the law changed, first in 1988 to recognize man on boy rape and then in January of this year, finally making the 1988 change retroactive to the signature of the original treaty.

Then, a combination of pressure brought against the Brooklyn DA by bloggers (UOJ first among them) and their readers and some back door work by other advocates forced the Brooklyn DA to ask for Mondrowitz's extradition.

(The JPost says Hines asked for extradition in January, but seems to be basing this on information given by the Brooklyn DA's spokesman. I am not sure this information is accurate.)

What will come from this?

Time will tell. Mondrowitz will certainly fight extradition and the JPost reports Israel has its own open investigation against Mondrowitz. I suspect that Israel will charge him for lesser crimes than child rape and will, after a long legal process, convict and jail him, housing him in a yeshiva-prison, refusing to release him for extradition until his sentence in Israel is fully served. He will have weekend furloughs and conjugal visits and time off for family celebrations and lifecycle events. He will learn Torah most of the day and eat glatt kosher mehadrin food.

Mondrowitz is now 60 years old. By the time the legal wrangling is finished and his Israeli "jail time" served, he will be nearing 70. By then, the Brooklyn DA will have forgotten about Avrohom Mondrowitz, who will anyway then be an old man.

You get the picture.

The Mondrowitz case is proof that you can rape children as long as you belong to a well-connected (and in this case wealthy) haredi family. The law may one day find you – but that will only be after years of work by victims and their advocates.

The case also illustrates the misuse of halakha by haredi rabbis out to protect their own. It shows a level of disregard for crimes committed against non-Jews.

But most of all it illustrates the destructiveness of silence. Haredi victims and their families remained silent, preferring to rely on the courage of the non-Jewish victims while they themselves hid in the shadows while their neighbors whispered about the "Hot Yudis" and "Avremels" in their midst but refused to stand up and do anything.

If you want to protect children, end the silence.

Your voices are the only weapons you have.

October 23, 2007 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mothers and children need to understand that they cannot depend on the Rabbis for protection. They are excluded from the covenant. They must pursue the matter within the legal system that the U.S. Provides. I am talking from experience. The DA, ACS and the legal guardians provided for the children are wonderful. Just tell the truth- and you will be protected. Do not look to the yeshiva world which is so frightened of recognizing the sickness of sexual abuse and molestation. They cannot and will not help you- If you don't help yourself no one else will.

February 24, 2008 12:26 PM  

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