Sexual abuse case against Conservative Jewish camp to be reopened

Two men who were allegedly molested at the camp as children in the 1970s are at the helm, following a change in the Statute of Limitations law in New York State.

August 6, 2019 16:54
2 minute read.
Camp Ramah boys camp in the Poconos, illustrative picture

Camp Ramah boys camp in the Poconos, illustrative picture. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A civil case against the National Ramah Commission, which runs multiple Conservative Jewish sleep-away camps in the US, is set to be reopened in New York later this month by two men who allege they were sexually abused at its camp in the Berkshires in the 1970s.
In 2016, the two plaintiffs, who say they have suffered a lifetime of “severe damage” from the abuse, filed a civil case against the commission.
However, Chaya Gourarie, who is one of their lawyers, told The Jerusalem Post that “the case never reached the merits” but was dismissed on the technical grounds of statute of limitations.
But in February of this year, the Child Victims Act (“CVA”) became law in the State of New York. Under the new law, there is an extended statute of limitations which gives victims of childhood sexual abuse until age 55, rather than age 23, to commence a civil lawsuit.
Additionally, the law created a one-year “look-back window,” during which old claims that had already passed the statute of limitations could be revived.
The new law will go into effect on August 14.
Gourarie explained that with this change in the law, “the Plaintiffs’ claims have now been revived” and a similar lawsuit will be filed soon after August 14.
According to Gourarie, “there is also a one-year window, between August 14, 2019 and August 13, 2020, to bring all the cases to the courts that couldn’t be brought before.”
The two plaintiffs were both campers at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires during the summer of 1971 and have alleged that a camp counselor in training molested them. Senior officials and administrators at the camp allegedly knew about the incidents, but they were covered up by the camp at the time.
“The camp knew, but they still kept the counselor on,” Gourarie said.
She told the Post that reopening the case has a two-fold goal.
“They [the plaintiffs] have been waiting a lifetime for closure, and for the camp to be held accountable,” she stressed. “Our long-term goal is to change the culture – to create awareness and discussion in schools and camps.
“We want there to be awareness so that children can feel comfortable going to teachers and counselors” if they need to report such incidents or if a counselor is making them feel uncomfortable – so that there is no opportunity for sexual abuse to happen.
Gourarie made it clear that there also needs to be awareness on the side of school teachers and camp counselors.
“They need to be able to notice if ‘so and so’ is making a particular child feel uncomfortable, or if a child becomes withdrawn around a certain teacher or counselor,” she said. “We need to make sure it never happens.”
Asked if anyone else has since come forward with regards to sexual abuse at Camp Ramah, Gourarie said that they have heard from a few people in other jurisdictions, but are still investigating.
The National Ramah Commission did not respond to several requests for comment on the matter.

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