Friday, September 18, 2015

Under the Category of 'No Good Deed Goes Unpunished'

Yona Weinberg at his 2009  sex abuse trial (NY Daily News)
On June 24, 2009 Yona Weinberg,  a social worker who worked for the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services - and Bar Mitzvah tutor, was found guilty of sexually abusing two of his students. After losing an appeal of his conviction he served a 13 month sentence in prison. He is now a registered sex offender.

In August of 2014, he allegedly assaulted an 11-year-old boy in a Shul in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.  From the NY Daily News
Weinberg, 36, allegedly slammed the 11-year-old boy against a shelf of prayer books in the synagogue on Aug. 15, witnesses told police…
The synagogue scuffle occurred two months after the boy told cops he was “forced” to touch Weinberg’s shirt and pants, ostensibly to measure their size, a law enforcement source told the Daily News…
The boy told police that Weinberg pushed him against the bookshelf, threatening further harm if he continued to talk to authorities.
When the police arrived at his home shortly thereafter, he was gone. He had fled to Israel where he now lives with his wife in the Har Nof section of Jerusalem. The crime he was accused of is considered a misdemeanor and not extraditable.

The problem is not so much that he got away with this assault. Which is bad enough. The problem is that he lives in a neighborhood that is filled with children. And to the best of my knowledge, Israel has no law requiring convicted sex offenders to register as such. So the people in Har Nof have no way of knowing who this man is or what he's done. He looks and acts like them - and seems to be as religious as they are. They perceive him as a decent member of their community. To the extent that there may be some there that heard about his case, he just claims it’s all a big mistake. Which of course leaves the many children there at risk.

Which brings me to one of the heroes of the fight against child sexual abuse, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz.  From his website: 
We'd like to share with our friends and supporters some of the details of the jaw-dropping story of Yona Weinberg, a convicted, registered, New York State Level 3 Sex Offender, who is suing me for slander in Israel.  The story became public when it was  reported in Yediyot Achronot, a popular Israeli newspaper.
As you know, our mission at The Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES is and has always been to protect children wherever they are, around the world. This was the reason I utilized Twitter to send an online warning to the residents of Har Nof in January, 2015, that Mr. Weinberg, who had just moved to their neighborhood was a convicted registered Level 3 Sex Offender who presents a clear and continuing danger to their children.
The  NYS Division of Criminal Justice website describes a Level 3 registered sex offender, their highest level, as one who has a "high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety exists". In June 2015, I was served  with papers at my home in Monsey, informing me that a summary judgement was issued against me in an Israeli court. The judgement obligated me to pay Mr. Weinberg 200,000 shekel (about $55,000) for slandering him, plus court costs. 
Although the judgment was set aside for now, the case is ongoing and as of yet unresolved. The injustice here is yet another example of ‘no good deed goes unpunished’.

I cannot understand a society (especially a Jewish one) that by way of its legal system puts the reputation of a convicted sex offender ahead of the welfare of its children.  They are ‘killing the messenger’ and letting the offender off the hook.  

I can understand that after serving time for his crime - a convict has the right to be left alone and live in peace. But not without the entire community knowing who he is and what he’s done if he is considered a danger to their children. Yona Weinberg is clearly a danger to them as per his level 3 sex offender status. Residents in his neighbirhood are entitled to at least that much protection. Without such information he might eventually be tutoring a child without a parent having a clue about the danger he will be to them. Pedophiles cannot be cured. They must be vigorously watched.

Rabbi Horowitz is a man of high moral fiber and great courage. He remains undeterred from doing the right thing, despite the attempts by some to silence him or shut him down completely. He deserves the gratitude of the entire Jewish community for all he has done as well as our support for all his future endeavors in the fight against child sexual abuse.