Friday, December 07, 2012

Weberman teen abuse trial questions Jewish group's customs 

If Nechemya Weberman had a guilty look in his eyes, the jurors never saw it. He didn't look at them once as the prosecutor gave graphic details Thursday of the 88 counts of sexual torment he allegedly wrought upon a teenage girl he was paid to help.

If the jury finds Weberman guilty — now that lawyers have wrapped their case — the leaders of the insular Satmar Hasidic sect to which he belongs must ask themselves the same questions that dogged the Catholic Church in the wake of its own pedophilia scandals.

They must ask, did we enable him? Do our methods of reigning in rebellious young girls run counter to American law? Do we deny these girls freedoms they are entitled to, treating them as prisoners despite more than a century of hard-fought victories by women's rights activists?

Instead, it seems this Williamsburg-based sect is operating under its own rules, some of which run counter to the law.

Satmar girls who break the sect's stringent rules for modesty and behavior are sent by rabbis, teachers or their parents to "therapists" for "counseling" — more like one-on-one reeducation camps.

At the age of 12, Weberman's beautiful blond accuser dared show her girlfriends a dance video from the family's computer, a no-no for Satmars forbidden TV, radio and nonbusiness uses of the Internet.

"She lived in an insular, male-dominated society that forbade any contact with the outside world," prosecutor Linda Weinman told the jury Thursday. "Accept your fate. Never question authority."

The girl, already in the sights of the Satmar "modesty committee" — known to enter girls' rooms to seize offending cell phones and clothing — was sent by her principal, Weberman's cousin, for "therapy."

Her counselor's qualifications? He had been a worker in a pants factory, after leaving school in the 11th grade.

Oh, and he had also been a driver, albeit for the sect's then-Grand Rebbe Moshe Teitelbaum.

Weberman wasn't a licensed therapist at all.

But that was considered a positive thing, since ultra-Orthodox Jews believe any Jewish person who informs police or government agencies about a fellow Jew is a loathed informant, a "moser."

Licensed therapists are required by law to report child molestation and domestic violence incidents.

As a nonlicensed therapist, Weberman could keep anything he heard within the Satmar community to himself.

Padlocking this girl even tighter in his grip, the young woman testified she would be expelled from her school if she tried to leave "therapy." Her parents were forced to pay Weberman $150 an hour for this service.

But for three years, starting in March 2007 when she was 12 years old, he grotesquely manhandled her young body, Weinman told the jury as Weberman looked into a corner of the courtroom.

"I'm not doing anything wrong," he allegedly told the girl.

She finally told a licensed therapist outside the community , who promptly reported Weberman to authorities.

Why hadn't the alleged victim reported it to the top rabbis?

"I didn't think they would believe me," she testified in court.


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