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Officials Substantiate Synagogue Sex Abuse

Officials Substantiate Child Sex Abuse at Synagogue

Clergy sexual abuse knows no religious boundaries. Children who attend religious services and schools of all orders can suffer at the hands of trusted spiritual teachers and leaders. Allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have permeated the news recently. In early July, a CNN report revealed that a Jewish school was dealing with a scandal of its own. CNN reported that an official investigation by the education department substantiated “multiple accusations of child sexual abuse by a preschool teacher at a prominent synagogue in Washington DC.” CNN obtained this information from a cease-and-desist letter sent by the Washington DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to the Synagogue.

Update: NYS Extends Deadline To File Cases Until August 14, 2021

Families File Lawsuit to Hold Synagogue Responsible for Sexual Abuse of Children

In April 2019, the families of 8 children filed a lawsuit against the synagogue and director of the preschool at Washington Hebrew Congregation. The suit is not against the alleged abuser and teaching assistant Jordan Silverman, who is no longer an employee at the school. He has not been charged with wrongdoing and has denied all of the allegations contained in the lawsuit. Silverman’s former attorney told CNN “Mr. Silverman categorically denies engaging in any inappropriate or illegal contact with children at Washington Hebrew Congregation.”

The lawsuit seeks to hold the synagogue and school responsible for various infractions, including the negligent supervision of Silverman, giving him ample opportunity to abuse his victims sexually.

In the specifics of the letter, the Superintendent’s investigation discovered that the synagogue’s pre-school “failed to ensure the safety of children in its care, to properly supervise children and staff and did not report the alleged abuse to education officials, as required by law.”

OSSE Finds Synagogue Failed to Supervise Alleged Abuser

The letter from the education department appears to concur that the school acted wrongly in several ways:

  • By allowing the accused, on his own, to lead children outside of the classroom to a wooded area outside the center and the bathroom
  • By ignoring staff members’ complaints about the accused “disappearing” with kids for periods of time
  • By failing to enforce its policy of prohibiting the use of cellphones and taking photographs of the students, thereby enabling the accused to take videos and pictures of children
  • By threatening to punish staff members who complained about the alleged abuser

Jewish Preschool Revises Policies in Response to Sexual Abuse Allegations

Since the allegations, the preschool has made changes to its policies such as:

  • Requiring two staff members to be present with children at all times
  • Requiring staff members to announce via walkie talkie that they are moving children to different locations
  • Requiring staff training on the signs of sexual abuse, reporting sexual abuse, and handling specific situations in which they suspect abuse.

Who is Responsible for Sexual Abuse?

There is little doubt that the individual who commits sexual abuse against a child should be held responsible. But what about the religious institution? Much like an employer might be responsible for the wrongful behavior of an employee, a church, synagogue, or other religious institution might be liable for the actions of its workers, leaders, officials, and teachers. In the case of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, the OSSE investigation indeed suggests that the school was negligent in supervising and reporting the alleged abuse occurring under its watch.

Contact our clergy sexual abuse lawyers

If you or someone you love was abused as a child by a priest, rabbi or religious school teacher, contact the attorneys at Alonso Krangle, LLP. Call 516-350-5555 today to speak to our experienced clergy abuse lawyers and receive a free case evaluation.

 

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