The Jewish Week
August 27, 2008
A teacher at a prominent Satmar yeshiva in Williamsburg has been accused of sexual assault and abuse by a former student.
In court papers filed Wednesday, Joel Engelman is seeking $5 million in damages from Rabbi Avorohom Reichman, the yeshiva, the United Talmudical Academy and the Satmar Bungalow Colony, where Reichman also teaches in the sect¹s summer camp in upstate White Lake.
The civil complaint alleges that Engelman, now 23, was 8 years old in 1993 when Rabbi Reichman sexually assaulted him. The suit alleges that Engelman "suffered psychological and physical injury, which required medical and psychological treatment," as a result of the abuse.
The suit also alleges that the school "continues to lack basic rules protecting children from sexual assault."
It states that a deal was in place in April whereby the Engelman family agreed not to pursue legal action in return for Reichman¹s resignation from the school and the camp. But Rabbi Reichman, according to the suit, was videotaped teaching at the camp in July, after the statute of limitations for a criminal prosecution had run out.
"The defendants fraudulently induced Joel Engelman to enter into this exchange of mutual promises, and oral contract," the suit alleges.
It also claims that various Satmar officials investigated Engelman's allegations and found that "there were multiple, credible complaints of sexual abuse made against Reichman."
Calls to United Talmudical Academy and the Satmar Bungalow Colony for comment were not returned.
"I really didn¹t want this to get into the courts," Engelman told The Jewish Week. "Had they done things differently [and fired Reichman], I probably wouldn¹t have sued. This is the last thing I wanted."
Engelman's sexual abuse allegations are the latest in a string of such charges made by former male yeshiva students in ultra-Orthodox schools in Brooklyn.
Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a first grade teacher at Yeshiva Torah Temima in Flatbush, recently plead guilty to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child after being charged with several counts of sexual abuse. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes defended the last-minute plea, citing the young age of the plaintiff.
Several civil suits pending against Rabbi Kolko and the school seek a total some $50 million in damages.