Jewish School In Kiryas Joel, New York Searched By FBI, Sexual Abuse Suspected

Kiryas Joel Jewish school raided by federal agents

A Jewish school in Kiryas Joel, in Orange County, New York is being searched by state and federal agents after a video showed a school principal in close contact with a young boy.

Police have focused on an 11-minute video showing a man sitting at a desk in an office and calling a young boy toward him. Once the boy steps closer, the man pulls him in until he is standing between his legs. The man then appears to be stroking the boy across his face, kissing him several times. The video apparently shows the man shaking the boy a few times before pulling him closer again. At all times in the video, both are completely clothed. It is not known whether there was any other contact on the video, as further details have not been released. Now, it seems, there have been two additional videos released from the school with the same man, each time with a young boy. The camera was apparently hidden in the ceiling of the principal’s office. Authorities haven’t said if they know who released the videos.

The Kiryas Joel school that’s been searched, United Talmudical Academy, is an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school. Phone calls to the principal have not been returned, according to a report by The Journal News.

Major Joseph Tripodo, commander of state police Troop F in Middletown, says they have received the video and are looking into it, along with the District Attorney’s office and the Orange County Child Abuse Unit. He would not say whether a crime was committed. He claims “it hasn’t been determined” what is happening exactly, but he says that authorities are searching further into it, even having the video enhanced for better detail. It is unclear what else the police searched for, other than the video that was released on Monday.

The Journal News also reports that the school’s Board of Directors has issued a statement, saying the principal has been a respected rabbi for more than 30 years with an “unblemished professional record as an educator.”

Residents in the Hasidic community have been vocal on social media, with some defending the principal as a well-respected rabbi in the community while others have expressed shock that such behavior took place in the school. Some have said the video is from several months ago and was only released to the public after law enforcement failed to bring charges against the school and its principal. One Kiryas Joel man, Joseph Waldman, defended the principal, telling a local cable station, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, that the man is a well-known, highly-respected rabbi.

“He’s not going to hurt the kids. His life is for the kids. This person is such a loving person that instead of taking out a belt and beating up the child would rather give an extra kiss or an extra show of love.”

He goes on to accuse former members of trying to besmirch the school and the community in the eyes of the secular world. He is not alone. Several people in Kiryas Joel have said they will step up and defend their Hasidic culture and their people against false allegations. Others, however, strongly disagree.

JTA says Boorey Deutsch is a well-known activist against sexual abuse in the Hasidic community. His wife, as early as the age of 12, was sexually abused for three years by Nechemya Weberman, an unlicensed Satmar therapist. Weberman’s supporters called Deutsch’s wife a slut and targeted her with cruel verbal attacks throughout the trial. Weberman, however, ended up being convicted of 59 counts of sexual abuse, including oral sex, and was sentenced to one to three years in prison in 2012. Her husband is disgusted by the video, calling it “inappropriate” and saying the school principal will repeat his behavior because no one is taking any action. Deutsch grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a Satmar neighborhood, and cannot be accused of not being knowledgeable of the culture. Still, he refused to ignore any suggestions of sexual abuse, especially in a school.

“It’s our job to stand up. If nobody else will stand up, I will stand up. I will make it happen.”

It would seem that a large number of members of Kiryas Joel and others familiar with the case are expressing their opinions. As the video has been made widely available, causing varied reactions. Social media has erupted with posts and comments since the school was searched, some defensive of the school and community, others whose concern is clearly for the children.

Do you believe the abuse allegations in the Kiryas Joel school are warranted? Or is this just another case of federal agents unfairly having unfairly targeted and searched a religious sect? Please sound off in the comments section below.

[Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images]