This month, Child Abuse prevention month, our newsletter addressed the extremely difficult issue of abuse in our religious communities - including the great progress in awareness and prosecution that has been made over the past few decades.
One apparent sign of progress was the case of Rabbi Baruch Lebovits, in 2010.
Baruch Lebovits, 60, received a sentence of 10 2/3 to 32 years in prison a year ago, based on the testimony of a 22-year-old man who said the rabbi sexually abused when he was 16. The trial and stiff penalty sent shockwaves through Borough Park's tight-knit Jewish community.
Yesterday, however, a second man was arrested:
Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes announced the indictment of Samuel Kellner, 49, charged with paying a child to testify falsely that Borough Park rabbi, Baruch Lebovits, had sexually abused him. Kellner is also charged with attempting to extort $400,000 from the Lebovits family to prevent other children from accusing the rabbi and to stop those who had come forward from pursuing their cases.
Although Brooklyn prosecutors are currently saying that Rabbi Lebovits' conviction should stand, notwithstanding, and we can only hope that either way, justice, to the extent possible, will be achieved in this particular case - there is no question that these charges - and the behavior they allege - will only make addressing the issue of abuse within our communities more challenging and more fractious in the future. This is a shame and it hurts everybody.