“There are many Jewish communities that are controlled by the rabbonim [rabbis] of their towns that set certain standards, whether in regards to businesses, giving kosher supervision or allowing schools to open,” said Harold (Hershel) Hershkowitz, a Lakewood businessman who ran (and lost) for the Lakewood Township Committee on an anti-cronyism platform against the BMG-backed candidate. “But all of these are controlled in an open manner well understood by all that live there,” he said. “Lakewood, on the other hand, has a cabal that controls most Jewish publications, websites and of course the political arena, in order to exert full influence whenever it is necessary in order to keep their position of influence.”[...]
Indeed, the court testimony described above affords a rare public glimpse into what New Jersey Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson characterized as Lakewood’s “parallel justice system.”
The testimony itself comes from the only sexual abuse case in memory from the Lakewood haredi community to be prosecuted — something that came about because a family flouted, at great personal cost, communal norms and pressed charges against an alleged child molester, Yosef Kolko, in 2009.[...]
In addition to information directly relevant to the Kolko case, testimony from the hearings indicates that there have been other abuse allegations apparently deemed credible by rabbis, but that nonetheless went unreported to the police.
In testimony in New Jersey Superior Court given in May of this year, Lakewood rabbi and activist Micky Rottenberg alludes to such a case, which The Jewish Week has learned involved allegations against the husband of a woman who ran a local children’s playgroup. The beit din found the allegations to be credible and publicized them, effectively shutting down the playgroup. However, the authorities were never notified and the accused remains in the community today.
In his testimony, Rabbi Rottenberg also sheds light on the beit din’s inner workings.
According to him, “[The Secretary] of the beis din [would contact] the victims … [and the] alleged perpetrator, discuss with them … beg them to do certain things. And if they don’t do it, [the secretary would say] ‘I’m going to report [to the beit din] that you don’t listen to us, and then we are going to … Take away your job. Send away your kids from schools.’ Whatever measures they would feel they have power to be able for the person to submit and accept the verdict of the beis din.”
Rabbi Rottenberg also testified that he felt the beit din favored the accusers and was in fact involved in disbanding it at the behest of Rabbi Malkiel Kotler for this reason. Rabbi Kotler, through his brother, denied making any such request. [...]