Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lakewood yeshiva teacher pleads guilty to sex assault 

The boy who accused his former camp counselor of sexual abuse wasn't in court Monday when the onetime Yeshiva schoolteacher admitted the offenses.

He had already returned home to Michigan, where his family moved after they were shunned by some in their Orthodox Jewish community in Lakewood for going to secular authorities with the allegations.

But some spectators in the courtroom where Yosef Kolko pleaded guilty to various sexual assault charges said the admissions represented a victory not only for the boy, but for others in the Orthodox community who suffered from past abuse that has gone unpunished.

"I'm here for the victim, to show the victim that he did good and that he did nothing wrong," said Isaac Weinreb, 49, of Passaic.

Weinreb, who described himself as a victim's advocate, attended Kolko's trial, which began last week and ended Monday with a guilty plea to all of the charges against him. Weinreb said he was sexually abused from age 11 to 14 by someone at an Orthodox Jewish school in Brooklyn that he had attended. His alleged abuser fled the country and was never brought to justice for his acts, Weinreb said. So, Weinreb said he felt particularly glad for Kolko's victim.

"I feel good that the person who's responsible will get punished for his crime, more so for the victim, so he knows he isn't wrong," Weinreb said.
"What we did today was groundbreaking," said Laura Pierro, senior assistant Ocean County prosecutor. "The Orthodox community had never been involved to this extent in a prosecution of this nature (in Ocean County).

"Lakewood's community is a focal point for the Orthodox, so to say that it's watershed here is almost the same as saying it's watershed nationwide," Pierro said of the case, which highlighted the Orthodox community's longstanding tradition to handle such matters among themselves rather than going to secular authorities.

During the trial, the victim's father testified that he first brought the allegations to a group of rabbis, but finally went to secular authorities months later when he learned the defendant was still working with children. Amid backlash from the community, the father, once a respected rabbi in Lakewood, lost his job, and the family moved away.


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