Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Yosef Kolko: A letter from a defender

I just received the following letter:

Your information is important. My interest is that I had a close friend that was one time accused of wrong doing and when his only accuser matured admitted that he was only accommodating the accusations of his parents. I understand the "two sides of a coin" very well. I visit Lakewood from time to time and observed the accused one Shabbos. You have many assumptions regarding the facts in the case as reported in the news. Many people in Lakewood including the Roshei Yeshiva say that there is no truth to any of the allegations. Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen said that "there was never any Bais Din involved in this case." I asked Horav Yisroel Belsky Shlita after hearing that he personally ruled that Kolko is innocent of any wrong doing why this is so. He responded that this is a case where the accused is the victim and the victim is the molester. I believe that for your own legitimacy you should reach out to properly understand the facts and dynamics of this case, as you seem to be condemning what might very well be an innocent man. I can be reached at [ deleted] You may want to clarify with Rabbi Simcha B. Cohen himself, this is his number: 732-370-2217. Rabbi Belsky: 718-941-5832. From what I understand the accused while on the quiet side, is not shy in his defense and speaks openly, perhaps contact him if you wish to hear his side. 
I responded:

Thank you for contacting me. I would be interested in publishing a post from you - or anyone else -  describing "the other side". I have been told that the accused has confessed to the social worker who evaluated him for the sake of the "beis din" which you claim never existed. That social worker was ordered to testify regarding his findings because the findings were no longer privileged information since he has shared them with the "beis din" that you claim doesn't exist.
I haven't said that Yosef Kolko is guilty - but that he has been charged with a serious crime , there is evidence to support the charges which I provided links to on my blog - and like many other cases e.g., Weberman - the victim and his family have been attacked. I am well aware that false accusations happen - but I am also fully aware that abuse does happen in the frum community.

I would like to talk with you to hear your view - I'll try calling this evening.


  1. All will come out in court. You can't play this he said- he said game, unless both parties are before you. Rabbi Forscheimer sent the victim's father to the police, as did Rabbi Soloman. Speak to Dr. Asher Lipner for the child victim's story. He can be reached at lipnera@gmail.com . I think the biggest question of all is why is BMG involved in this, the week of the BMG tent event? Do they want protesters out in force?

    1. How can Rav Belsky bring PROOF that something DID NOT happen?

      Why is he besmirching the name of the persons who went to court by accusing them of being liars?

      Why is the writer of the letter besmirching those who went to court? Can he testify AS A WITNESS that it DID NOT HAPPEN?

  2. The real problem isn't what Rav Belsky can prove or not.  The real problem is that a real faith complaint was made in his presence and he didn't report it to the police.  That puts him in violation of New Jersey's mandatory reporting laws.  If the social worker takes the stand and says that, Rav Belsky is looking at some serious jail time and/or fines.

    If I were the Beit Din who was involved in this, I would be getting all of my friends to say it never happened too.  It's called building a defense.  Because if they all colluded in committing a fourth degree crime in NJ now they are looking at additional charges for conspiracy and such.  While this stuff may work in PA and NY where clergy are mandatory reporters, it is going to seriously backfire in NJ.

    So I'm not surprised that people are hearing and saying that a B"D never happened.  Anything else(even if Kolko isn't convicted) puts them in serious legal trouble.

  3. Rabbi Belsky does not live in NJ.

    1. Actually I didn't see that mandated reporting is restricted to to residents or people who work in New Jersey. The law says that someone who knows or suspects abuse is required to report it.

      "any person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to child abuse or acts of child abuse shall report the same"

    2. Mandatory reporting laws are state specific. Rav Belsky, being in New York, is subject only to New York mandatory reporting laws. Since NY law doesn't require him to report, he is not required. Even if NJ laws do require. NJ laws only apply to actions occurring in NJ (i.e. someone who heard of the abuse while physically in the State of NJ.)

    3. thank you for the clarification - so that means that the Lakewood rabbis who were involved and read the social workers report - whether you call them a beis din or not - would in fact be liable under the NJ law

    4. I don't know NJ's mandatory reporting laws sufficiently to address that point. Perhaps clergymen when acting in an official religious capacity (such as Beis Din or a Catholic confession) are exempt from reporting. In fact, that protection may be the case under the U.S. Constitutional Law nationally.

    5. As far as Rav Belsky, it would depend on whether or not he was in NJ, even for a visit, when he was told of the inicident. If he was he is looking at jail time.
      As far the the Rabbis who may or may not have constituted a Beit Din, NJ law does NOT exempt clergy. That was proven when the NJ State Police raided the St James rectory and arrested all the priests.
      When the law says Any person having reasonable cause to believe It really does mean any person.
      The Catholic Church tried to pull the clergy operating in an official capacity card to get off those who only knew about the abuse and failed to report. It didn't work. So now they ship them off to Argentina. Those early NJ cases of Catholic abuse should give a pretty clear picture of the trouble that these Rabbis are in now. The only substantial difference will be that NJ has since increased the penalties.

    6. Are you saying that if a Catholic goes to Church in NJ and during a confessional admits to a sex crime, the Priest is obligated to report the Confession to the police?

      I do not believe that is the case.

      And whatever protection Catholic Priests have, Jewish Rabbis similarly have.

    7. "Are you saying that if a Catholic goes to Church in NJ and during a confessional admits to a sex crime, the Priest is obligated to report the Confession to the police?"

      He might be obligated and not do it and face the consequences. (I think that is the policy of the catholic church)

    8. Privileged communication for clergyman is not clearly defined in New Jersey. In other words a determined prosecutor probably could get charges to stick.

      the following is a government report summarizing the issues of clergy as mandated reporting


      Privileged Communications
      As a doctrine of some faiths, clergy must maintain the confidentiality of pastoral communications. Mandatory reporting statutes in some States specify the circumstances under which a communication is “privileged” or allowed to remain confidential. Privileged communications may be exempt from the requirement to report suspected abuse or neglect. The privilege of maintaining this confidentiality under State law must be provided by statute. Most States do provide the privilege, typically in rules of evidence or civil procedure.4 If the issue of privilege is not addressed in the reporting laws, it does not mean that privilege is not granted; it may be granted in other parts of State statutes.
      This privilege, however, is not absolute. While clergy-penitent privilege is frequently recognized within the reporting laws, it is typically interpreted narrowly in the context of child abuse or neglect. The circumstances under which it is allowed vary from State to State, and in some States it is denied altogether. For example, among the States that list clergy as mandated reporters, New Hampshire and West Virginia deny the clergy-penitent privilege in cases of child abuse or neglect. Four of the States that enumerate “any person” as a mandated reporter (North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Texas) also deny clergy-penitent privilege in child abuse cases.
      In States where neither clergy members nor “any person” are enumerated as mandated reporters, it is less clear whetherclergy are included as mandated reporters within other broad categories of professionals who work with children. For example, in Virginia and Washington, clergy are not enumerated as mandated reporters, but the clergy-penitent privilege is affirmed within the reporting laws. [which isn't true of New Jersey]

    9. If it is a sex crime against a child yes they have to report it. Look at the Camden Diocese's new policy regarding mandatory reporting. They got tired of having to send their priest to places without extradition treaties, and so changed their policy.
      New Jersey also does not recognize attorney client privilege nor doctor patient privilege in these areas.
      Furthermore since when does Judaism have a policy of sacrosanct secrecy? Before clergy can claim clergy-penitent privilege they would need to show that it is an inalienable part of their religion.
      Add to the problems of that defense that we are not talking about Mr Kolko supposedly having gone to a Rabbi(or Rabbis or a B"D that may or may not exist) and confessing his sins. We are looking at a good faith accusation by a child(ren) to those Rabbis in a plea for help. Refusing that help and engaging in witness tampering, well that is just bad juju all around.
      This may quickly escalate into some serious felony behavior.

      The really sad part is that so often the claim is that they don't want civil suits coming back on the schools/Yeshivot. If they had only reported it in the first place, then they would have been granted immunity from said civil suits. These guys are standing in the grave they dug for themselves.

    10. "Furthermore since when does Judaism have a policy of sacrosanct secrecy? Before clergy can claim clergy-penitent privilege they would need to show that it is an inalienable part of their religion."

      Not exactly accurate. The rabbi can simply claim sacrosanct secrecy under his view of Judaism. The State or Courts cannot Constitutionally evaluate a claimed religious belief to determine if they think the said religion really does or does not have sacrosanct secrecy. As long as the rabbi or priest thinks the religion requires it.

    11. The courts cannot, and if they do face being overturned by a higher court for infringing on the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.

      If a rabbi claims his understanding of Judaism prohibits him from disclosing what someone advised him in his capacity as a religious figure, that has the same status and effect under the las as a Catholic confession / sacrosanct secrecy.

      A court cannot review religious doctrine and/or canon law to make a determination of what is or is not a particular religions religious laws.

      Every Jewish community has their own religious customs (minhagim) and interpretations of Biblical Law that may differ from another Jewish communities or sects interpretation or customs. A court cannot and will not favor or judge one version of Judaism over another or even attempt to determine any particular Jewish sects customs or interpretations of religious law.

    12. I don't think you are right.

      If freedom of religion prevailed over the law, you could invent a religion where it is a duty to murder people and claim religious freedom to avoid prosecution.

  4. The writer writes,
    "I visit Lakewood from time to time and observed the accused one Shabbos."
    Like so many of us this writer too cannot fathom that someone might look so holy and normal, really like one of us, and yet be doing all these heneous stuff.
    The second reason that seems to convince the writer that he is innocent is the fact that even the Rabbis said so. (unfortunately that too says very very little.)

  5. Ask Aaron Kotler who the victim is here. He'll tell you to keep your children away from Kolko. It's because of stories like this that BMG put up cameras by all the BMG bathrooms.


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