NY Orthodox Jews divided over sexual abuse case

An unlicensed therapist was sentenced on January 22 in New York to 103 years in prison, having been convicted of the repeated sexual abuse of a young woman. The sentence is close to the maximum allowed by law. Nechemya Weberman, 54, is a member of the Satamar Hasidic community, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg NY. The attacks began when the victim was 12 years old.

Weberman showed no visible reaction as the judge in Brooklyn NY sentenced him. The victim, who is now 18 years old, delivered a strong statement and demanded a maximum sentenced for Weberman as she daubed away tears.

State Supreme Court Justice John G. Ingram said to the court, “The message should go out to all victims of sexual abuse that your cries will be heard and justice will be done,” Justic Ingram praised the young victim’s “courage and bravery in coming forward.” Ingram gave the longest sentence any member of the Satmar community has received in at least 20 years by a Brooklyn court for child sexual abuse.
 
It was on December 9 that Weberman was found guilty of 59 counts of sexual abuse, including oral sex, fondling and acting out pornographic videos, during therapy sessions that were intended to strength the girl's religious faith. The sexual abuse went on for three years.
 
The victim said in her statement to the court said that for years during and after the abuse, she would look in the mirror and see “a girl who didn’t want to live in her own skin.” She said, “I would cry until the tears went dry.” However, she now sees herself as someone “who finally stood up and spoke out,” on behalf of both herself and “the other silent victims.” In an impassioned statement directed at the perpetrator of the horrors, she said “You played around with people as if they were your toys, without the slightest bit of mercy.”
 
Weberman wore a black suit and yarmulke and did not speak before the sentencing took place. Defense counsel George Farkas plans an appeal, having told the court that his client is “innocent of the crimes charged.” An appeal is planned.
 
Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, had been criticized in the past for supposedly not being aggressive enough in prosecuting child molesters associated with the well-connected Satmar Hasidic community. However, Hynes has blamed the dearth of prosecutions on intimidation that victims face from members of their own community. Hynes has been in office for more than two decades. Support for Weberman had been strong with the Satmar community following his 2011 arrest. A fundraiser for his defense turned out hundreds of supporters, for example. In the courtroom, support for the Weberman and the victim appeared to be evenly divided.
 
According to the New York Times, Prosecutor Hynes has said that the case may be a turning point for sex-abuse victims within close-knit Orthodox Jewish communities. Hynes' office also charged seven Hasidic men with bribery and intimidation of the victim in this case. The prosecution contends that there are more victims who are too afraid to testify. “If there is one message to take away from this case, it is that this office will pursue the evil of sexual abuse of a child no matter where it occurs in this county,” Mr. Hynes said in a statement. “The abuse of a child cannot be swept under the rug or dealt with by insular groups believing only they know what is best for their community.”
 
The victim is now married and has enrolled in college. She continues to face harassment and intimidation by Weberman's supporters. 


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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