Thursday, December 06, 2012

Brooklyn criminal courtroom resembles nightclub as members of the Satmar Hasidic Jewish sect show up to support Nechemya Weberman 

With a costumed crowd pressing against velvet ropes begging to be let in, the Brooklyn criminal courtroom resembled a nightclub Wednesday.

The iconoclastic garb of the Satmar Hasidic Jewish sect was unmistakable as members showed up to support Nechemya Weberman when he took the stand to defend himself against charges that he sexually molested a beautiful Satmar teenager while he was supposed to be her therapist. Lubavitcher and Modern Orthodox Jews showed up to support the woman, sequestered in another room, quietly celebrating, if you could call it that, her 18th birthday.

Ladies in wigs and hats, with long skirts and arms and legs covered, sat apart from the men in dark suits, wearing yarmulkes, their hair in forelocks, as the jury as diverse as Brooklyn itself stared out over the insular community and got a lesson in Hasidism 101 from the testimony.

Like the fact that what you wear is no joke, as the alleged victim found out when she began to break the dress code with short skirts and sheer tights, and when she began to share pop songs like "Love Can Kill You" and sneak off to Hollywood movies.

The recalcitrant teen had come to the attention of an internal committee of men called the Va'ad Hatznius, which helps enforce modesty rules — among 613 commandments Satmar members believe must be followed.

According to the testimony of another young woman who'd taken the stand Wednesday morning, you don't want to mess with Va'ad Hatznius.

"Isn't it true that masked individuals came into your bedroom in the middle of the night and seized your cell phone?" no-nonsense prosecutor Kevin O'Donnell asked Baila Gluck. "And that this is the type of action Va'ad Hatznius takes when Satmar don't follow the rules? And wasn't it traumatic for you?" Yes. Yes. And yes.

But it was nothing like the trauma Weberman's accuser said she suffered as he allegedly forced her to perform oral sex and recreate scenes from porn movies. She had been ordered by her religious school's principal, Weberman's cousin, to go to Weberman for therapy, which he had no license to provide. And her parents were forced to pay for it.

If she didn't get therapy, she would be thrown out of the school, Weberman admitted. Though Weberman adamantly denied ever molesting her, the girl says the abuse went on for three years.

A young Satmar woman dressed modestly but wearing green nail polish against her husband's wishes told the Daily News, "I don't have time to come here, but I'm compelled to listen for myself. I need to know the truth."

The victim of molestation for five years as a child, Debbie Teller set up the website adkanenough.com — Enough is Enough — to post names of sex offenders in the Orthodox community worldwide. Since the Weberman trial began, her site's visitors have spiked by the thousands.

Sex abuse isn't greater within the Hasidic community than outside, said social worker Carole Sher, who helps run the SOURI Hotline, Support Orthodox Victims of Rape and Incest.

But there's been a lot of covering up in the past. But now with more receptive rabbis and greater communication, that's changing."

The Brooklyn jury learned that if a Jewish person reported another Jewish person to the police, they would be labeled a "moser" — informer — and ostracized as strongly as a Mob rat.

With the Internet, the thin black line of silence in the religious community has been erased, agreed Joey DiAngello, perhaps one of the most colorful people attending the trial.

Born Yoel Deutsch into the Satmar sect 32 years ago, DiAngello, a heavy-metal drummer with Slayer and Iron Maiden tatoos on his arms, told The News he was raped at the age of seven in a mikvah, or public bath. He's set up the Facebook pages War on Vaad Hatznius and Survivors for Justice.

"I've gotten tweets from people calling me a self-hating Jew, but I really want to help Jewish kids in the same situation I was in," he says. "It's like metal. I have something to say, and if you don't like it, I'll turn it up even louder."


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