Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

Unmolested

An accused pedophile from ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn has never faced trial, thanks in part to a D.A. who had political reasons not to pursue the case

Print Email
Avrohom Mondrowitz arriving for a 2007 extradition hearing in Jerusalem. (Brian Hendler/Getty Images)

Most people have never heard the story of Avrohom Mondrowitz, which has received only a smattering of headlines in the Jewish media. A charismatic and eloquent member of the Ger Hasidic sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews, the 63-year-old claimed to be both a rabbi and a Columbia-trained psychologist. Though he was neither, for years he ran a psychology practice out of his basement, as well as a school for troubled youth. He is also alleged to be one of the worst sexual predators in Brooklyn history.

In 1984, Mondrowitz was accused of sexually abusing four Italian boys. Since then, the number of Mondrowitz’s alleged victims has been estimated at close to a hundred—making him, shockingly, an average pedophile. But given the shame and secrecy surrounding sexual abuse, and his broad network of contacts, the number of alleged victims could actually be much higher. Moshe Rosenbaum, one of the activists who first aired concerns about Mondrowitz in the late 1980s, estimates the number to be 300. If Mondrowitz were to be convicted of so many crimes, he would be the worst sexual predator in the Orthodox community on record.

But that would require a case to be brought against him—which, for a variety of troubling reasons, has never happened.

This fall, the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, will hear oral arguments pertaining to the release of documents about Mondrowitz. Michael Lesher, an attorney representing several of Mondrowitz’s alleged victims, asked the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office for the documents under New York’s Freedom of Information Law in 2007. A trial court initially ruled in favor of Lesher’s clients, but that verdict was overturned unanimously last year on appeal.

The fact that the Court of Appeals will hear the case is a significant victory for Lesher, who believes that Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes stopped pursuing Mondrowitz, who’d fled to Israel, because of pressure from ultra-Orthodox voters. Although it seems that Mondrowitz could have been extradited to Brooklyn to stand trial as early as 1989, Hynes’ office waited two decades, until 2007, to launch the extradition process. Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn D.A.’s office, said that if Mondrowitz ever returns to the United States, he will be arrested and tried. “We don’t reveal files on open cases, and courts have upheld that,” he said. “I know we have handled this case properly.”

Lesher disagrees and is looking for a smoking gun to prove his theory. But even if he is wrong about Hynes, the Mondrowitz case—or non-case—has involved a series of brilliant two-steps on the part of a community that is looking to face its demons quietly. But the story, in part due to the complexities of extradition, simply won’t go away.

***

Mark Weiss, who is represented by Lesher, is one of Mondrowitz’s alleged victims. Today, he is a frequent speaker at Jewish sexual abuse conferences; in 2006, he appeared on a Nightline segment about Mondrowitz. In 1980, he was a 13-year-old in Chicago—a good kid with some philosophical differences from his ultra-Orthodox parents. “I didn’t see eye-to-eye with them,” he said last month by phone from New Jersey. “But I wasn’t stealing cars or taking drugs.” When his junior high school asked him not to come back, his parents sent him to a psychologist in Brooklyn named Avrohom Mondrowitz.

The Weiss and Mondrowitz families were friendly. They had lived close to each other in Chicago. Mondrowitz’s father was a popular figure in the community, both a scholar who studied in the Mir yeshiva and a businessman in charge of several nursing homes. According to a family friend from the neighborhood, the senior Mondrowitz was part of the group of Mir students who escaped Poland before World War II through Shanghai, China. Avrohom, who was born in 1947, moved to New York in the late 1970s to be closer to the Ger Hasidic community in Borough Park. By the time Weiss was sent to Mondrowitz, the older man had already established himself as a psychologist whose patients came to him through a wide network in the Orthodox community, including the Ohel Jewish social service agency, according to the Orthodox Jewish website Vos iz Neias? and other leading members of the community. (Ohel has publicly denied employing Mondrowitz but is more circumspect about referrals. “Given the lapse of time, it is impossible to determine whether any referrals were ever made to Mondrowitz,” a spokesperson said.) Mondrowitz agreed to treat Weiss by taking him for a week into his Borough Park house. Unknown to Weiss’ parents, Mondrowitz’s family was out of town, which left him alone with the teenaged Weiss.

Weiss remembers Mondrowitz as a dazzling figure. “He was just the essence of coolness, especially for a little yeshiva kid showing up,” Weiss told me. “He wined and dined me. He took me out to eat. He took me out to an amusement park. He basically showed me a good time and gave me lots of positive attention. I soaked it up. He was grooming me.” At night, Weiss said Mondrowitz gently persuaded him to sleep in Mondrowitz’s bed. (He declined to go into detail about what would happen next, but he alleges sexual abuse.) “He was very smooth and manipulative and really gave me no pause for thinking anything was inappropriate,” Weiss said. His descriptions are similar to those of the five other alleged victims represented by Lesher, none of whom are named in the appeal.

Part of Mondrowitz’s appeal relied on the stigma toward mental health professionals in the Orthodox community. “He had this reputation of being a wonderful guy and being very helpful,” said Deborah Dienstag, a physician who works with the Orthodox community. “People don’t want to go to psychologists, since there’s stigma. There is no stigma going to rabbis.” According to Jeff Dion, of the National Center for Victims of Crime, an advocacy group, certain abusers set themselves up as pillars of the community, targeting victims who are troubled, outcasts, or young people with drug and alcohol abuse problems. If a victim then chooses to disclose acts, he said, “it becomes the word of a ‘bad kid’ against the pillar of the community.”

In the years following Weiss’ visit, Mondrowitz’s star rose. He hosted a popular program called Life Is for Living on the now-defunct local radio station WNYN. “Don’t picture this man living in isolation or even living a double life,” said Lesher, the lawyer. “Don’t picture someone who was off in the corner abusing kids who came to him. He was very industrious about bringing victims to him and integrating himself into the institutional structure that made it possible. He founded a school. He got victims through the school. He ran a psychology practice and promoted it with a radio program. He got hundreds of kids.”

***

For years, no Jewish victim spoke out against Mondrowitz. But accusers say he also went after Italian boys on his ethnically mixed Brooklyn block; residents recalled him showering gifts on the neighbors’ kids. In 1984, someone made an anonymous phone call to two New York Police Department detectives, Pat Kehoe and Sal Catalfamo.“I never had received a call like that in my whole career in the New York City Police Department,” Kehoe told ABC News. “There was a rabbi and gave the name and he was abusing people on this block. And he said if you go knocking on doors, you’ll find victims.” Both detectives are now retired and, through another police officer, declined to talk to me about the case.

Responding to the tip, the detectives went down the block, knocked on doors, and quickly located four Italian victims who were willing to press charges ranging from sexual abuse to sodomy. “When people finally went to the police, it was the Italian kids,” Lesher said. “Several victims have told me that their parents were instructed not to approach the grand jury. Some victims were discouraged from reporting Mondrowitz’s crimes. I can only assume the rest were, also.”

Continue reading: the community’s response, extradition, and “the guy who broke the ice.” Or view as a single page.

1 2View as single page
Print Email
Celticpole says:

Very informative article that provides a precedent for less inaction today on a couple of issues that affect our children …. but its point, as it pertains to Mondrowitz is elusive, at least to me. Forget about treaties and American/Israeli politics on any level. Forget about rabinnical conclaves and meetings to have more meetings. If he “abused” any number of children, and his actions were so heinous, why has not one of the now grown boys done anything to, the word is too kind, “confront” the man. It’s not like Isreal is on another planet nor has a population in the billions.
The adjective “insular” is not big ebough to hide that many “whys”.

This is a case of Hasidic omerta. Call them what you will, but the Hasidic sects are little different from organized gangs of criminals.

Mondrowitz is an evil person that should be behind bars. But the assertion by the writer, using Failed Messiah as the source, that the Israeli Supreme Court made a deal to protect him due to pressure from religious political parties is a fantasy. Anyone with the most basic understanding of Israeli politics knows the Supreme Court is heavily slanted to the left. Time and again it has ruled against religious interests. Why would a liberal court with this history of anti orthodox bias protect a person who clearly belongs behind bars.

The writer has fallen into the trap of using a unreliable blog for so called expert information about the Orthodox world. At the least the editor should of have the good judgement to delete such assertions without any factual basis from the article.

Fed Up Lady says:

The more I read about the Hasidim in modern times, the more disgusted I am with them. There is less and less of redeeming value to many Hasidim. And they try to scare each other into keeping quiet, toeing the line. Yet they think they are the real deal Jews. I’ll stick to being a Conservative Jew. We have a lot less crap in our corner.

The Hasidim . . . the Jews’ Jews. Jews who would otherwise stand up against bigotry and hatred love to hate their Hasidic brethren. Criticism of certain individuals and policies may be warranted, as it may be in regard to anyone else, but hatred of an entire community by other Jews is incredibly ugly and wrong. But it is rather revealing of those haters’ insecurities and self-doubt.

Totally agree with Jack. Dudes, FM knows absolutely nothing about the relationship between Israeli courts and religious parties. I’ll go further than Jack- they actively hate religious parties. There is a lot of animosity between the two entities. And the idea that somehow the judiciary is in any way “beholden” to religious interests is beyond laughable.

Please, this was a great article right up until that fashla (look it up).

Debra says:

A good book about abuse in the Hasidic community is Hush by Eishes Chayil. I think I acutally read about the review here.

Pedophiles usually don’t spontaneously rehabilitate themselves. Over the many years in Israel does anyone know if he has been charged with molestation and if so is it being quashed there as well? What is important is not where he gets tried or incarcerated but that he gets punished for what he did.

Mondrowitz was found to be counselling children thanks to an in with an activist who’s son is a politician in one of the religious parties. In 2007, police found child pornography on Mondrowitz’s computer but no charges thanks to pressure and support from Gur leaders and their friends in the religious political parties. He’s also involved in the fake diploma industry and continues to seek opportunities to work with the vulnerable. And thanks to the complicity of Agudath Israel in its silence, he likely will find such opportunty.

Excerpt only.

In the basement, behind a closed door
By Aviva Lori
Haaretz – November 15, 2007

Searching for a job, Mondrowitz offered himself to the Herzliya Municipality as director of the education, welfare, culture, youth and sports department. When that didn’t pan out, he tried for a less prestigious position, as director of a home for the aged, also in Herzliya. He claimed to have considerable experience in treating the elderly.


As far as the Israel Police know, Mondrowitz is currently devoting most of his energy, in the many leisure hours at his disposal, to the Internet. There he gratifies his deviant inclinations by watching clips of sadistic activity and pedophilic material. In his remaining time he makes a living by issuing bogus academic degrees to all comers, particularly to students from the Third World. He has emblems and logos from various universities, as well as seals, examples of signatures and registration forms. He refers most of the students to Thornhill University, in London, which grants degrees by correspondence and has a branch in Brooklyn. The letters that are sent out are signed by a Dr. George Coleman, who probably does not exist.

One further excerpt from same article:


Mondrowitz’s CV is flexible, changing with the circumstances. With every job application he attaches a CV to fit the requirements, or as he himself put it on one occasion, he possesses “a rare talent for flexibility and adaptation.”

So rapid is his adaptability that it’s hard to follow. According to one resume, he obtained a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Columbia University in 1977, but elsewhere he wrote that in that year he completed a master’s degree in educational administration at Long Island University and proceeded immediately to an MBA at Harvard. According to this version, he did not obtain his Ph.D. in psychology until 1984, though still at Columbia. But in yet another place he states that the 1984 degree is in developmental, not clinical, psychology, and is from Columbia University in Florida. And that is not the end. According to another CV, his doctoral degree in clinical psychology is actually from Heed University in Florida.

“Mondrowitz is currently devoting most of his energy, in the many leisure hours at his disposal, to the Internet. There he gratifies his deviant inclinations by watching clips of sadistic activity and pedophilic material”

Ah, the “joys” of the internet! No wonder why some of the rabbis are against it.

Does Israel have laws regarding to child porn stored on ones computer like we have here in the states? Considering his history they should confiscate it and use it for evidence to take him down.

Hershl says:

Thanks, Jewishwhistleblower. This guy needs to be stopped….somehow. I just can’t believe that he is not only walking free but still practicing his criminal activities.

You mention the many contradictions in his claimed education.

Are there no ways in Israel for him to be brought up for any number of charges?

It only takes one person to blow the whistle.

We also would like to know his address since he is operating so openly, brazenly inviting all comers.

According to the article he doesn’t hide his presence and address.

I would imagine that many, many people would love to be able to meet with him if only it was publicized how this is possible.

Mondrowitz continues to be supported by the silence of Agudath Israel and others. My understanding is that Rabbis affiliated with Agudath Israel told Mondrowitz to flee to Israel when he was about to be indicted in the US.

The prosecutors in Israel won’t prosecute him despite the possession of child pornography which is a crime in Israel (Leah, why would you even consider otherwise?) which they confiscated in 2007. It’s been reported that he is being protected by the Gur Hassidic community in Israel that has ties to the religious political parties:

http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2007/12/breaking-govern.html

Briefly, it seems Rabbi Meir Zilberstein, who is the head of the Ger Hasidim in Jerusalem, has offered to vouch for Mondrowitz and serve as a form of a guarantor, as has Mondrowitz’s wife and children.

This proves Ger is officially backing Mondrowitz, because no such action could or would be taken by Rabbi Zilberstein without the direct approval of the Gerrer Rebbe himself.

“The prosecutors in Israel won’t prosecute him despite the possession of child pornography which is a crime in Israel (Leah, why would you even consider otherwise?)”

Just what is so special about this fiend that so many are afraid of him. He is an unsavory character doing sickening things. Why the love? It doesn’t appear that he is a wealthy person having to play the ever changing CV thing. Just makes no sense.

Good work, Michael!

I think more stories are coming out now about corrupt Chassidic Jews. They think they can do what they want, and never get caught. Times are changing. The attitude of “sweeping under the rug” is fading, and those Jews who argue that it is wrong to air out the dirty laundry are delusional and have no touch with reality. The dirty laundry NEEDS to be aired out to the public, that is the only way these hypocrite Jews will get what they deserve. These are the Jews that cause nations to hate us.

“You can have the Chasidim, boys, just leave the rest of us alone.” Ugly ain’t the proper English for it.

michael nadata says:

excellent article, Michael. I’m incredibly impressed

If true – the bastard would’ve been killed by now – other scumbags have been dealt justice. Something stinks for sure, and the Israeli marxist legal system hates religious jews as much as this marxist website – so the question remains – what the fuck is going on ?!!

new developments regarding this case. if you wil contact me at last i will ask you for some info i need to be passed on to others involved. this is really important and asap

terrible story. great article though, really well done

win123 says:

I am so glad this internet thing works and your article really helped

me.Might take you up on that home advice you!At same time,you can visit

my website: http://www.coachfactoryonline-us.org/              http://www.coachfactoryonline-us.net/     

pearly100 says:

 oh you are a sick man, Neal!

LazerBeam007 says:

There is no two-tiered system of justice for the religious and non-religious, irrespective of political expediency.  The sanctimonious ultra-religious fascists who consider the rest of us untermenschen have a special place in the hell we don’t believe in reserved for them, right next to the pedophiles. 

Jorge Magalhães says:

Um tarado merecia ser condenado. Leia agora http://www.coisasjudaicas.com

Mondrowitz is a monster – I once met him and dealt with him on a business issue – he looked me right in the eye and told me I would soon be out of work – that the company I worked for would be closed – i was a young man at the time – married with children – I looked in his eyes and saw the soul of an evil – wicked being. I told my wife that I had met a man with a severely damaged soul. Not long after that – his evil hit became public and he had to flee the US. Shame on him and on those who support him financially.

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Unmolested

An accused pedophile from ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn has never faced trial, thanks in part to a D.A. who had political reasons not to pursue the case