The FORWARD reports
Mondrowitz Escapes Another Trial
By Nathan JeffayPublished January 20, 2010
Haifa, Israel — For several dozen Americans who say they were sexually abused as children, news from Israel on January 14 ripped the scab off a still unhealed wound. Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that Avrohom Mondrowitz, their alleged abuser, will not be extradited to stand trial in America.
But that is not the only recent decision regarding Mondrowitz. The Forward has learned that Israeli prosecutors have decided Mondrowitz will not be charged in connection with child pornography they say they found in his home in 2007.
Justice Ministry spokeswoman, Adi Simchovitz said that the child pornography case against Mondrowitz was closed in March 2009 “for lack of evidence.” She declined to offer any details.
Under Israeli law, possession of child pornography is a criminal offense.
Mondrowitz, an American Orthodox rabbi and psychotherapist, fled the United States in 1985, before an arrest warrant could be executed on an indictment handed down against him for child abuse. He will be released from house arrest in Jerusalem on January 24, unless the Israeli government appeals.
Survivors for Justice, a New York-based support group for Orthodox victims of sexual abuse, termed the court’s extradition decision a “travesty.”
“At the very least, the authorities in Israel should be pursuing criminal charges against Mondrowitz for recent crimes that both they and the U.S. authorities have clear and convincing evidence of,” said SFJ president Ben Hirsch.
The saga of Mondrowitz’s escape from extradition began when he was indicted in Brooklyn on multiple counts of sodomy and sexual abuse of five children.
He fled to Israel, where courts ruled that because Israel’s definition of rape did not include sodomy, Mondrowitz had not broken Israeli law and could not be extradited.
Then, in 2007, the U.S. – Israel extradition agreement was amended to cover homosexual rape and his case was reconsidered. The Israeli government jailed him and sought an extension of his incarceration. At a hearing, prosecutors cited four pornographic films they said had been found during a search of his Jerusalem home. Judge Shimon Feinberg agreed to an extension, noting the government’s claim that Mondrowitz was “a threat to the public as evidenced by the material discovered in his home.” Mondrowitz was ultimately granted house arrest.
The Supreme Court ruled it could not apply the 2007 amendment retroactively.
Michael Lesher, a Passaic, N. J., attorney who represents six American Jews who claim Mondrowitz abused them as children, said, “We know now, which we didn’t before, just what kind of denial we are facing.
“We feel outrage, we feel bitterness and we feel rising anger that bringing Mondrowitz to justice is being resisted.”
One of the first instances in America involving ultra-Orthodox teachers and rabbis preying on their students to come to public attention, the Mondrowitz case is thought to have been prompted by complaints from more than 100 accusers, most of whom encountered Mondrowitz in the 1980s when he was practicing as a psychologist in Brooklyn.
Although Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes instituted the extradition proceedings against Mondrowitz in 2007, he has come under fire from child advocates who say he should have done so earlier.
Even Mondrowitz’s attorney, Eitan Maoz, echoed this view after the extradition ruling. He told the Jewish Star, a Long Island weekly, “In 1988, the law was amended in a way that the route to extradition was open and the district attorney was notified. But they did not do anything until 2007, when they decided to apply.”
Hynes has said that since the crime occurred before the law changed, the extradition request could not be applied retroactively.
Now, child advocates are waiting to hear whether the government will appeal the extradition ruling, issued by a limited bench of three Supreme Court justices who heard the case. The government has 45 days to decide. A single judge will then decide whether to accept the appeal. If accepted, the case would go before an expanded Supreme Court panel.
Maoz, Mondrowitz’s lawyer, called the court’s ruling “a very brave decision… especially at this time when the request for extradition came from the U.S.” He declined to comment on other matters relating to Mondrowitz.
Contact Nathan Jeffay at firstname.lastname@example.org===============================================================
The Jewish Week Reports
Mondrowitz May Have Been Treating Boys Long After Indictment
by Hella Winston
Special To The Jewish Week
According to a document provided to The Jewish Week by New Jersey attorney Michael Lesher, and apparently obtained from Mondrowitz’s computer, Mondrowitz appears to have conducted an interview with and “assessment” of a 15-year-old boy who had been engaging in “improper behaviours [sic] with his peers.”
While the document contains the boy’s name, The Jewish Week is not publishing it to protect the identity of a minor.
It appears from the report, written as a letter and dated June 19, 2006, that Mondrowitz — who fled Brooklyn to Israel in late 1984 and was indicted on sodomy charges in 1985 — actually saw the teen in person, as opposed, for example, to having been sent a file for his review about the case. The boy is described in the letter as a “pleasant, neatly dressed, and polite 15-year-old.”
The assessment indicates that the boy was being seen by Mondrowitz in part regarding “normal hormonal and physical changes in his body.” It also notes that “Early adolescents may discover pleasurable self-stimulation. They form close friendships with peers and may experiment with them, or sometimes with somewhat younger peers, usually to satisfy curiosity. This quite normal experimentation phase usually fades and disappears.”
The lengthy report concludes with Mondrowitz suggesting that the boy “will appreciate and grow positively in Midos [positive characteristics] and Maasim Tovim” [good deeds] from “close interaction with a knowledgeable Mashgiach or other Torah-true guidance figure.”
The document indicates that the assessment was made at the request of the boy’s father and a Benyamin Rosenstein, whom, the documents make clear, is the father of Jerusalem City Councilman Shlomo Rosenstein, a member of the United Torah Judaism party.
The Jewish Week tried but was unable to reach Shlomo Rosenstein at his City Council office.
Mondrowitz’s name appears at the end of the assessment, followed by the credentials “Ph.D., L.N.H.A.” (Licensed Nursing Home Administrator), however there is no evidence he ever received a doctoral degree. Indeed, on a resumé obtained by The Jewish Week, Mondrowitz claimed to have earned a doctorate in clinical psychology in 1977 from “Teachers College, Colombia [sic] University.” A New York Police Department detective, now retired, is quoted in a 2007 article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz saying that all of his diplomas, including his rabbinic ordination, are “fakes.”
According to Lesher, an attorney in Passaic, N.J., author and advocate who represents several men allegedly sexually abused by Mondrowitz, “The new evidence we have suggests that Mondrowitz was serving as a psychologist in Israel, despite many assurances from rabbis over the years [to the contrary].
“That,” Lesher continued, “is a stunning contradiction of what we have been led to believe all these years.”
Other documents provided by Lesher seem to suggest that Mondrowitz had discussed plans for a project, referred to only as “AOL,” with someone named Mr. Myers. While it is unclear from the documents precisely what “AOL” is, the letter suggests it is an “endeavor” in some way related to “alternative therapeutic interventions that have assisted and greatly improved the situation and success of many children and their families.”
The letter is written on Mondrowitz’s letterhead, containing his current address and phone number in Jerusalem, and his name is preceded by “Dr.”
The Jewish Week also obtained an index of material found on Mondrowitz’s hard drive, information that was also provided to the chief superintendent of Israel’s division of computer crime, Avi Aviv, in early 2007. The index notes that the drive contained two graphic video clips. One of the clips features “two young boys sitting together on a bed and getting undressed”; another depicts two boys engaged in “graphic” sexual activity.
The index also lists dozens of URLs for pornographic Web sites, some involving what appear to be minors, visited by the computer. It also notes the existence of e-mails written from Mondrowitz’s e-mail address to customer support at sites that appear to feature child pornography asking why his access is being denied when he paid for access to the sites.
According to the index, there is also evidence that Mondrowitz used an iMule program, which is a site used to share illegal images. The index also lists items apparently related to the “Thornhill University,” a bogus university from which Mondrowitz allegedly issued degrees and credentials. (Thornhill, sometimes described as a “degree mill,” appears on several lists of universities that have no legal authority to issue degrees.) These included e-mail folders for the aliases of various Thornhill University “employees,” including its president, Theodore Thorton. The drive also contained logos from various universities, presumably used in the creation of fake diplomas.
Reached Monday at their Jerusalem home, Mondrowitz’s wife, Raizel, said that Mondrowitz was “unavailable.” But she emphatically denied that he had been treating boys in Israel, though she did say he “had been a psychologist in Brooklyn.”
“He hasn’t had anything to do with treating anyone in 25 years,” she said.
She also told The Jewish Week that the letters suggesting otherwise were “absolute lies” from “the same people who have been going after him for years.”
Mondrowitz and his family have professed his innocence since he fled to Israel in 1984. After he left the U.S., he was indicted in absentia on four counts of sodomy and eight counts of sexual abuse in the first degree against four non-Jewish children in Brooklyn. (While Jewish children were among Mondrowitz’s alleged victims, they were not part of the grand jury that indicted him and thus not part of this case).
During his time in Brooklyn, Mondrowitz ran a child-counseling program out of his home and worked in a special-education school for boys that had connections to Ohel Children and Family Services. One of his alleged Jewish victims told The Jewish Week he was referred to Mondrowitz for counseling directly by Ohel. Several others made their way to him because he had a reputation within the community for being able to help “troubled” boys.
Prior to Mondrowitz’s arrest pursuant to an extradition request by the United States in late 2007 — and months after the Israeli authorities were alerted to Mondrowitz’s involvement in child pornography and the granting of bogus degrees — Israeli police found evidence of his involvement with films containing child pornography, according to court papers.
Mondrowitz has not been charged with any crimes in connection with these activities.
An e-mail to Aviv seeking comment on whether an arrest was planned was not returned. An e-mail to the spokesman for the Israeli State Attorney’s office was also not returned.
Recently, it came to light in a story on the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Web site, SignOnSanDiego.com, that a California Air Resources Board scientist from San Diego, Hien Tran, had bought a fake degree in applied statistics from Thornhill University.
According to Ben Hirsch, president of the advocacy group Survivors for Justice, “The Israeli government’s continued failure, thus far, to honor the Unites States’ request for the extradition of Avrohom Mondrowitz to face trial for the heinous crimes he was indicted for in 1984, raises troubling questions. That forced sodomy was legally not an extraditable offense in 1984 was a travesty then, and Israel’s failure to extradite Mondrowitz, now that the law in Israel has been corrected, is a travesty now.
“At the very least, the authorities in Israel should be pursuing criminal charges against Mondrowitz for recent crimes that both they and the U.S. authorities have clear and convincing evidence of. ... An indicted serial child rapist such as Mondrowitz has no place in any civilized society. He deserves to be judged by a Brooklyn jury for the unspeakable crimes he committed in Brooklyn.”
The new evidence about Mondrowitz’s actions since being indicted in 1985 comes after last week’s decision by the Israeli Supreme Court to deny what is the second extradition request made by the U.S. (An article on the ruling appeared last Wednesday on The Jewish Week Web site.)
Israeli state attorneys have until Jan. 24, 10 days after the court ruling, to decide whether to request an additional hearing.
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office expressed disappointment last Thursday after the ruling, which overturned a lower-court decision that Mondrowitz should be extradited to the U.S. for trial.
“We are disappointed by the decision,” said Jerry Schmetterer, director of public information for the DA’s office, which had been seeking Mondrowitz’s extradition. “We are working with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Israel Ministry of Justice to see what remedies are available.”
Asked to elaborate, Schmetterer told The Jewish Week the remedies “would possibly be in the area of further appeals.”
At the time Mondrowitz fled to Israel in 1984, the extradition treaty between Israel and the U.S. did not cover charges of sodomy, which was among the crimes for which he was indicted. The first extradition request regarding Mondrowitz came in 1985, but the appeal was denied. A new request was filed after the treaty was amended in 2007. Last Thursday’s decision was on Mondrowitz’s appeal of that request.
This article was posted on The Jewish Week Web site, www.thejewishweek.com, on Monday, Jan. 18.
|Accused child molester Mondrowitz wins first battle against extradition|
|By Aviva Lori, Haaretz Correspondent|
For the more than two years he was in prison, Avrohom Mondrowitz prayed to God for his freedom.
Two weeks ago, a three-judge Supreme Court panel ruled to release him to house arrest, reversing an earlier Jerusalem District Court decision that the 62-year-old member of the Gur Hasidic sect would be extradited to the United States for the alleged molestation of more than 100 children and adolescents.
Born in Poland, Mondrowitz immigrated to Israel with his family after World War II. In the 1950s, he immigrated again, to Chicago.
By the 1980s he was living in Brooklyn, where he presented himself as a rabbi and psychologist, an expert in childhood and adolescent problems, even though he had no accreditation in the field.
In 2007, former patients of Mondrowitz and students at the yeshiva at which he taught described to Haaretz just what happened behind closed doors.
The parents of Mark Weiss, then 14 years old, came from Chicago to Brooklyn for treatment with Mondrowitz. Weiss had nowhere to sleep, and his self-styled therapist invited him into his home.
"My parents knew and trusted Mondrowitz," said Weiss, now 42. "His family was on vacation in the Catskills, and he came to pick me up at the airport. At first it was a lot of fun; he took me all over the place.
"At night he came into my bed and touched me. He did everything, including acts of sodomy. I was naive - I didn't understand exactly what was going on. I thought it was part of him being nice," Weiss recalled.
Today Weiss is active in Survivors for Justice, an organization created in the United States by victims of Mondrowitz.
In 1984, the New York Police Department collected testimony from Mondrowitz's victims and their parents in the ultra-Orthodox communities of Brooklyn.
Officers drafted a 13-part indictment including first-degree sodomy, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Authorities in New York issued an arrest warrant, but when police came to detain him, Mondrowitz and his family had fled to Israel.
The U.S. Justice Department immediately issued an extradition request, but the extradition agreement between the United States and Israel did not include charges of sodomy, but only rape.
In Israel, Mondrowitz - married and the father of seven children - continued teaching in a yeshiva and counseling children. He is also suspected of having sold forged university degrees to anyone willing to pay.
Israel Police investigators have found significant material testifying to offenses both sexual and otherwise, including pedophile films and forged degrees from universities around the world.
Mondrowitz was first questioned by Israeli authorities in October 2007, then released to limited house arrest.
In January of that year, the Israel-U.S. extradition treaty was amended to include any offense that carries a sentence of one year or more.
The U.S. Justice Department immediately issued a new request for Mondrowitz's incarceration.
According to U.S. law, Mondrowitz's alleged offenses are not affected by a statute of limitations, given that the suspect fled to a foreign country.
Too much time has passed
One night in November 2007, Mondrowitz was seized at his home in Jerusalem's Nahlaot neighborhood and taken into custody, and a week later released to house arrest.
Supreme Court Justice Ayala Procaccia wrote in the ruling that even if the alleged offenses had not exceeded the statute of limitations, Mondrowitz should not be extradited because the length of time passed since they allegedly occurred would make a fair trial impossible.
The court also ruled that Israel and the United States could have changed the extradition treaty long before they did, and even if it was amended in 2007, Mondrowitz was still entitled to the presumption of innocence.
In the coming days the State Prosecutor's Office will likely ask the Supreme Court to hold an additional hearing on Mondrowitz's case.
The New York-based president of Survivors for Justice, Ben Hirsch, said, "We won't rest and we won't be quiet until Mondrowitz is brought to a fair trial in Brooklyn, where he committed his criminal acts. How many children's lives will be ruined by that monster before the Israeli authorities decide to put an end to it? Should we understand from the Supreme Court's ruling that it is recommending that the U.S. government forcibly kidnap Mondrowitz to bring him to trial?"
The Jewish Star reports
Assessing blame, further options in notorious case
By Michael OrbachIssue of January 22, 2010/ 7 Shvat 5770
Avrohom Mondrowitz will not be extradited to New York to be tried on multiple counts of child sexual abuse, Israel’s Supreme Court has decided. His attorney says the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office is to blame but even one of the DA’s harshest critics calls that “preposterous.”
Mondrowitz, a charismatic, self-styled rabbi who faked his psychology credentials, was indicted for sexually abusing several Brooklyn boys a month after he fled to Israel in 1984. He is widely suspected of molesting dozens of boys, many of whom, twenty years later, are still unwilling to come forward.
The case is more involved that that of a single individual accused of committing serious crimes. The social service agency Ohel has vigorously denied having referred clients to Mondrowitz for counseling; and leaders of the frum community, specifically the Council of Jewish Organizations of Borough Park, were thought to have warned him of his impending arrest.
Elizabeth Holtzman, Brooklyn’s district attorney at the time, sought Mondrowitz’s extradition. However, the charges against him were not extraditable under the treaty between Israel and the United States in force at the time. That changed in 1988, but the next district attorney, Charles Hynes, chose to not pursue the case until 2007 when the treaty changed again. Hynes has been accused of sitting on the case under pressure from the same Borough Park communal leaders. After a renewed interest in the case, extradition proceedings began in earnest in 2007. Mondrowitz appealed and in a decision issued by the Israeli Supreme Court on Jan. 14, his appeal was sustained.
“The delay in the appellant’s extradition process — currently measured at 23 years — which could have been prevented by an earlier amendment of the extradition agreement, places a legal and ethical obstacle before the completion of the extradition,” wrote Justice Ayala Procaccia.
Eitan Moaz, Mondrowitz’s lawyer, attributed the defense’s success to inaction by the district attorney.
“In 1988 the law was amended in a way that the route to extradition was open and the district attorney was notified,” he explained.” But they did not do anything until 2007, when they decided to apply.”
“I’m not saying it was his fault, it was his decision,” he added. “This case was buried under ground.”
Moaz praised the judge’s decision, calling it “brave,” especially in light of the relationship between the United States and Israel.
Hynes is currently also fighting a Freedom of Information Act request by attorney Michael Lesher, concerning the DA’s conduct in the Mondrowitz case. On Nov. 23, 2009, a judge ordered Hynes to turn over to Lesher all of the documents concerning the district attorney’s handling of Mondrowitz.
“If the District Attorney has been telling the truth about his role in the attempted Mondrowitz extradition, he has nothing to hide; if he has not been telling the truth, he has no right to hide,” Lesher wrote in his affidavit.
Reached by phone on the day of the Israeli Supreme Court decision, Lesher became Hynes’ unlikely defender.
“It’s preposterous to blame the DA for the fact that Israel and America simply did not negotiate a new extradition treaty fast enough. I don’t say that as a defender of Hynes — he did plenty to bury the case -— but it isn’t his fault that the extradition treaty didn’t change sooner.”
“It was the wrong decision and protects a man whose crimes extend … far beyond him,” he said about the decision. “If prosecuted it [the case] would reveal so much about the corrupt underside of the society he comes from. All we ever wanted was simply for him to come to trial like others accused of such crimes. If he did come to trial we would learn a lot of unpleasant things, but invaluable things. I think there were a lot of people who didn’t want that to happen.”
Lesher added that said he believed the court’s decision had been made for “political considerations.”
Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesperson for the DA said that they were “disappointed” by the Israeli decision.
“We’re working with the [U.S.] Department of Justice and the [Israeli] Ministry of Justice to see what remedies are available,” he said.
If there is any further recourse that could see Mondrowitz brought back to New York, it’s a long shot, at best, according to his attorney, Moaz, who believes that Israel’s Supreme Court would need to call a new session with a panel of seven judges.
The decision to set Mondrowitz free “raise[s] troubling questions,” according to Ben Hirsch, president of Survivors for Justice, an advocacy organization for victims of sexual abuse inside the Jewish community.
“We are working with counsel to determine what can be done to help bring Mondrowitz to the U.S. to face trial for the terrible crimes [of which] he stands accused. We are saddened that Mondrowitz’s victims have been deprived of this important step towards closure and we will not rest until every possible legal means to bring this matter to the close it deserves have been exhausted,” he said via email.
The question now becomes what will happen to Mondrowitz. He remains under house arrest after being moved from the prison where he spent the last two years.
He is set to go free on bail in ten days. Documents Michael Lesher provided to the Jewish Star indicate that as recently as 2006 Mondrowitz was actively counseling adolescents under the same false credentials he used in the United States 20 years ago.
In an evaluation of a boy named Eliyahu, who engaged in “improper behaviors with his peers,” Mondrowitz wrote that the boy’s experimentation was “normal.”
“They form close relationships with peers and may experiment with them, or sometimes with somewhat younger peers, usually to satisfy curiosity. This quite normal experimentation phase usually fades and disappears,” Mondrowitz wrote.
Eliyahu would “benefit” from close interaction with a knowledgeable mashgiach or other Torah-true guidance figure,” Mondrowitz recommended.
“An adult supporting figure could teach and encourage Eliyahu that, like hunger, thirst, or other basic needs, other desires must be controlled, channeled and satisfied in the proper time, place and manner.”
In another set of documents, a Jerusalem City Council member, Shlomo Rozenshtein, responded to Mondrowitz’s pitch to develop a “Spiritual Centre” near the Kotel, cc’ing then-Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski on the e-mail.
“The City of Jerusalem and the State of Israel have a deep interest in an idea as beautiful and challenging as your ‘Spiritual Centre,’” he wrote.
At the Mondrowitz residence in Jerusalem a woman who answered the phone wouldn’t put Mondrowitz on the phone to speak with a reporter.
“Sorry,” she said before hanging up.
For at least one of Mondrowitz’s alleged victims, his freedom and the judge’s verdict are frightening.
“It’s not about vengeance. It’s about getting him of the street. I think the world is a less safe place because he’s out and feels empowered,” said Mark Weiss. “It’s pitiful, is what it is. I think humanity has dropped the ball.”
For more on Mondrowitz, just Google his name. You can also Visit Survivors For Justice.