Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak..
(photo credit: KAPITULINI [PUBLIC DOMAIN] VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
A civil law suit has been filed against the renowned Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak and two of its rabbis for failing to adequately deal with a student who allegedly sexually abused other students in the yeshiva.
The suit has been filed by the Din V’Cheshbon organization, which was founded six months ago and offers free legal services to anyone who has been sexually abused in the Haredi community, with a focus on filing civil suits, especially in cases that have been silenced.
According to the lawsuit, a student of the yeshiva was physically and sexually abusive against one boy, then aged 16, on several occasions, although there are deep suspicions that the abuser also had several other victims.
The abusive student on several occasions would physically abuse and humiliate the victim, and grab his genitals.
In one incident, he forcibly undressed the victim and tied him to a bed and refused to release him for an extended period of time until the victim apologized sufficiently for some matter. On another occasion, the abuser again stripped the victim, forced him onto the floor, poured water on him, beat him and humiliated him by forcing him to bow down to him.
In these incidents and others, the abusive student would sit on the victim and take photos of them together, and would save the pictures of the naked student on his personal computer, allegedly together with pictures of other students who he had similarly abused.
“Essentially, the defendant held a collection of pedophilic pictures on his computer,” alleges Din V’Cheshbon’s suit.
Two prominent rabbis from the yeshiva have also been sued in the suit, who the victim says were guilty of failing to deal with his complaints when he approached them about the abuse.
One rabbi who the victim spoke with simply failed to do anything at all, while the second rabbi allegedly told the victim that he was aware that the abusive student represented a danger to other students but had not realized how severe his abuse had been.
The suit also alleges that the abuser still studies and resides at the yeshiva.
“The suit presents a severe reality in which it tells the untold story of young students at Ponevezh Yeshiva who have been exposed to systematic abuse by a long-time student of the yeshiva, while the senior yeshiva management knew about the danger he posed and didn’t do a thing to protect the students and essentially collaborated in a conspiracy of silence regarding this abuse,” said attorney Rotem Aloni Davidov, who is handling the suit for Din V’Cheshbon.
A representative of Ponevezh Yeshiva said no civil suit had been received and that the yeshiva had already expelled the student for other problematic behavior such as thievery and possessing “different types of forbidden things in the yeshiva.”
He denied that any sexual abuse had gone on in the institution.
Nachman Rosenberg, who represents the private Haredi donors behind Din V’Cheshbon, said that those who silence sexual abuse were “more dangerous than the predators themselves.”
“These institutional cover-ups directly endanger hundreds and thousands of innocent children simultaneously. Din V’Cheshbon represents a paradigm shift in the Haredi community by targeting the root of this horrific epidemic, by punishing institutions or individuals who neglect the safety of their students and turn a blind eye on sexual abuse.”