Assemblyman Dov Hikind of Brooklyn, a leading voice in the fight to end child sexual abuse in Orthodox communities, is backing down from some of his previous claims and backing away from one of his most confrontational stands against an alleged pedophile.
In an interview with the Forward, Hikind dramatically scaled down a previously reported estimate of the number of abuse cases he knew about. He also said he could not keep a pledge to force a prominent yeshiva to remove an alleged pedophile from its staff.
Hikind said that he adjusted his tactics in order to be most effective. “Some people want me to yell and scream; they want me to burn the town down. I know how to do that, but I would lose the war immediately,” Hikind said in his office in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Boro Park.After Hikind first publicized the problem of child sexual abuse in religious communities on his weekly radio show, it was widely reported that he heard from 1,000 victims of past and current abuse. That figure was attributed
But the real figure is about 100, Hikind told the Forward. He said the often repeated 1,000 number may have come from his speculation about the possible number of cases, given what he has heard from therapists who treat sexual abuse victims.
“I think what we were saying to everybody was, my God, the numbers must be astronomical,” Hikind said. “We never said a thousand. It keeps on getting repeated; anybody who talks to me, I actually tell them what the facts are.”
In the same interview, Hikind retreated from his previous position with regard to one of the Orthodox community’s most prominent alleged abusers — Rabbi Avrohom Reichman, formerly principal of, and currently a teacher at, the United Talmudical Academy, located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Reichman, the UTA and the Satmar Bungalow Colony summer camp are all named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by Joel Engelman, 23, who says that he was sexually abused by Reichman when he was 8 years old and that the school covered up the abuse.
Since Engelman went public with his allegations, both his family and Hikind have heard from others who say they were also victimized by Reichman. Last summer, following those revelations, Hikind vowed publicly that Reichman would not return to his teaching job in the fall of 2008.
But the accused rabbi is still teaching, and Hikind has not publicly pressed the issue further. The assemblyman told the Forward that his confrontation with Satmar leaders has been “a rather huge learning experience for me.”[...]