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 selling 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-American 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 against 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 Hynes 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. UPDATE: The Jewish Week reports the extradition request was made in February. Why this may be significant will have to wait for another post.)
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.