(photo credit: ABC)
I do not anticipate receiving an invitation to address the judge presiding over the extradition case of Avrohom Mondrowitz on charges of molesting young boys over two decades ago in Brooklyn. However, given the opportunity, here is what I would say:
Your Honor: One of the great Torah sages of the 19th century famously stated that one of the main functions of a rabbi is to advocate for and support the weakest members of his community. I respectfully suggest that our judicial system, as well, has a similar mission - to provide a venue for the downtrodden individuals among us to be heard and fairly represented.
I can think of no group of people who are in need of rabbinic and judicial support more than child-abuse victims. For the vast majority of them were abused or neglected many, many times - first by the monsters who ravaged their innocence and cruelly stole their childhood, later, inadvertently, by the adults in their lives who weren't attuned to their silent cries for help while the abuse was taking place, and finally by those who passively or actively protected the abuser rather than the victim once the abuse became known.
On behalf of the hundreds of abuse victims that I have tried my very best to comfort and support over the years, I beg you to remove the legal barriers that stand between Avrohom Mondrowitz and his long overdue date with justice in America.
MONDROWITZ CRUELLY abused and ruined the lives of many dozens, perhaps hundreds, of vulnerable kids who came to him for counseling and support. I personally have met many of his victims and know of at least one who committed suicide after years of a tortured existence. I met victims of his who became alcoholics, heroin and cocaine addicts, and those who are my age and unmarried - never becoming whole enough to love and be loved. This evil monster robbed them of the joy of holding their own child, while my wife and I became grandparents 18 months ago.
Thankfully, I was never molested as a child. But I often think of how I could very well have been one of the kids who were ruthlessly sodomized by Mondrowitz. I lost my father before my fourth birthday and, due to my restless nature, was a very poor student in school. In short, I was a perfect candidate for a ghoulish predator like Mondrowitz - who was a practicing social worker when I was struggling in school as a teenager. Because I was spared that horrific fate, I feel all the more morally compelled to stand with his nameless, voiceless victims and advocate on their behalf.
I am far from an expert in legal matters. But, one human being to another, I plead with you to do everything in your power to see to it that the people he violated finally gain a modicum of validation and support after all these years - seeing him stand before an American court of law and squarely face his victims. This is where he committed his crimes, and this is where he must face justice.
Two years ago, several months before the attempt was made to extradite Mondrowitz, I wrote a column in The Jewish Press decrying the fact that this fiend was permitted to live a peaceful life in Israel after the atrocious crimes he committed. At that time, the public at large was apathetic, as this case was under the radar of the average person on the street. Thankfully, the tide is turning and there is now a groundswell of support for his extradition. It is difficult to convey to you what a body blow it would be to the fragile emotional health of long-suffering abuse victims to see this high-profile case fall into the win column for this monster and the immoral people who are protecting him.
WORD ON the street is that there are powerful people backing Mondrowitz. Having him successfully avoid extradition will confirm that suspicion in the minds of many. It will also reinforce a horrible message to the public at large and more specifically to abuse victims - unfortunately the one that is prevalent - that the blood of innocent children can be washed away if the molester knows the right people. Additionally, it will be a huge step backward for those of us in the trenches who are begging abuse victims to step forward and assuring them that they will be taken seriously.
At the risk of overstepping my bounds, I appeal to you from the depths of my heart not to be a party to yet another rape of his victims - and of all survivors of abuse and molestation who are watching this case carefully - which offering Mondrowitz shelter from justice would most certainly be.
Thank you for offering me the opportunity to address the court.
The writer is the dean of a yeshiva in the New York area and the director of Project YES, a program that assists at-risk teens and their families across North America. He has authored books on parenting and recently received the 2008 Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education.