BROOKLYN, NY (PIX11)—The District Attorney of Kings County went on the defensive Wednesday, writing an Op Ed piece in the New York Daily News, insisting his office works hard to protect children from sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities of Brooklyn.
"The suggestion that I have ever condoned the practice of first seeking a rabbi's advice before an Orthodox Jewish community member reports sexual abuse is a distortion of my record," Charles J. Hynes wrote. " I have never suggested that someone seeking the advice of a rabbi is then relieved of the obligation of reporting sexual abuse to the appropriate authorities."
PIX 11 was in Brooklyn Criminal Court on Wednesday, where we briefly spoke with the father of an Orthodox Jewish teen, who said his son was molested in a ritual mikvah bath, when the boy was just 12. Mordechai Jungreis first told his story to PIX 11 in December 2010, and since then, he claims he's been kicked out of his Williamsburg apartment and his synagogue--by Williamsburg residents upset about his disclosures to police. "It's time to get child abuse in the Jewish community to come to a stop," Jungreis said to PIX 11 outside the courtroom, where the accused, Meir Dascalowitz, failed to show up for a hearing that would discuss his mental competency.
Back in 2010, Jungreis' son recalled to PIX 11 that when Dascalowitz approached him in the mikvah bath and started abusing him, "he said he did it for lots of kids and I should do it, too." Dascalowitz later told detectives that he, himself, was abused by a prominent Borough Park businessman, when Dascalowitz was a youth.
In his Op Ed piece, Hynes wrote that since his task force started in 2009, his office has made 95 arrests, with a 72 percent conviction rate.
Mark Appel, director of an advocacy group called "Voices for Justice", said Jungreis had been "constantly harassed" since his family went to police, with angry Williamsburg residents, "cutting his phone lines, breaking his boiler." Jungreis and his wife, along with their four children, have since moved to a new apartment.
PIX 11 first started reporting on the explosion of sexual abuse cases emanating from the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn in December 2008, when Joel Engelman went public with his claims that his former principal molested him in school, when he was just 8 years old. As a young adult, Engelman--who left the insular Williamsburg community--thought he'd made an agreement with the school to have the man removed. But once Engelman turned 23 years old, and he was too old to file a complaint under state law, he said the school re-instated the offender to work with children. Engelman later confronted the former principal outside his home.