Child sex abuse in the Hassidic community
Retired New York Police Department Det. Pat Kehoe still remembers a phone call she got more than 20 years ago, from a person making allegations that a rabbi was sexually abusing children in his neighborhood.
"I never received a call like that in my whole career in the New York City Police Department. Never," Kehoe told Cynthia McFadden in a recent interview.
"I'll never forget it because unfortunately it was my birthday, November 21 1984. I was working in the Brooklyn Sex Crimes squad and I received an anonymous call from a male who started to say that there was a rabbi and gave the name and he was abusing people on this block," she said.
Rabbi Avrohom Mondrowitz, as he called himself, lived on a tree-lined block in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn. Kehoe and her partner, Sal Catafulmo, went out to the neighborhood where Italians and Hasidic Jews lived side-by-side.
At one of the first addresses they tried, she says a resident told her "Everyone knows Rabbi Mondrowitz. He's good to all our children. He buys them bicycles and takes them away on weekends and things."
That might sound like a recommendation, but not to Kehoe.
"With that information I got very scared," she said.
Kehoe's background in an NYPD pedophilia squad taught her to recognize the signs of pedophilia.
"Pedophiles have a pattern with children to get their confidence and send their so-called love, you might say, and buy them things," she said.
What she heard from the children themselves only confirmed her gut feelings.
"We brought them in without their parents," Kehoe said. "They started to tell us, 'The rabbi is our friend. He takes us away,' and things like that. As the questions became more difficult for the children — 'Did anything ever happen? Did anything sexual ever happen? Are you aware of it happening to anyone else while you were there?' — they all broke down and cried, each one separately."
According to Kehoe, the children painted a clear picture of abuse. Kehoe says the children told her that the rabbi had fondled them, had sexual relations with them, and that he had fondled others in front of them.
Apparently the self-proclaimed rabbi — Mondrowitz had no formal rabbinical credentials — was counseling young Orthodox boys in the basement office of his home in Borough Park.
Kehoe and her partner immediately obtained a search warrant for his home. When they got to the address, there was no answer at the door, so Kehoe climbed through the basement window.
The alleged pedophile and his family had fled and his house was completely vacant but for what Kehoe says were up to a hundred files of Orthodox boys that Mondrowitz had been counseling in his basement office.
Kehoe and her partner reached out to all of the Orthodox boys' families, she says, but no one would talk.
"They were members of the Hassidic community, and as we found out through the investigation — at the time I wasn't completely aware of all the different rules in the Hassidic community. And one of the things is that if one of them is ever sexually abused, whether it be by a pedophile or raped, there's a very large stigma that prevents them from getting married and going forward with their lives if this is ever found out or brought to anyone's attention," she said.
The only victims that cooperated with the investigation were Italian. They were neighborhood boys who trusted the rabbi because he bought them gifts like bicycles. Not a single Orthodox Jewish boy or their parents would talk to the police.
The statements of four Italian boys, aged 11 through 16, were the basis for the indictment against Avrohom Mondrowitz. He was facing eight counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, endangering the welfare of a child, and five counts of sodomy in the first degree.
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