What’s certain is that much of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish leadership still refuses to acknowledge that sexual abuse is even a problem. Efforts to persuade Orthodox organizations like Agudath Israel and Torah Umesorah (the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools) to develop a sex-offender registry have so far been all but ignored. Even Henna White, the Lubavitcher community liaison to Hynes’s Project Eden, has complained that she can’t get into the yeshivas to be heard on the subject of abuse. “In New York, we’re going into the girls’ schools,” White said at a conference in January. “Unfortunately, we’re not going into the boys’ schools, and not for lack of trying. Our right-wing yeshivas do not want us there, and there are many people who have tried. The feeling is that this is not a conversation they want to open up.”
“The bottom line is that abuse is a universal issue that closed communities hide because it threatens them,” says one former Lubavitcher in his thirties who says he was molested by an ultra-Orthodox neighbor, and who wishes to remain anonymous. “Whether it’s Jewish or Amish or Mennonite or Catholic or Muslim, it doesn’t make a difference. I feel like this is kind of like a fungus. It grows in the dark.”
When Framowitz was 14, he began hanging out at the Jewish Defense League in Borough Park. “I needed to get away,” he says. “It was more of a showing-off, ‘Oh, I’m JDL,’ like putting up a façade. I was looking for somebody to defend me because I wasn’t getting protection at school or at home.”
Recognizing how unhappy David was, his parents sent him to yet another yeshiva, in Cleveland, for ninth grade. He lasted a year there, six months at a yeshiva in Toronto, and half a year each in Long Beach and Far Rockaway. In Baltimore, he says, he was molested again, by a rabbi who is now deceased. In retrospect, Framowitz wonders if something about him made him seem vulnerable to pedophiles. “I grew up not wanting to make more trouble than there was already in the house,” he says. “Maybe I took everything as it came.”
He was 16 when he dropped out of the yeshiva system, moved home to Borough Park, and started working at a computer-services company on Park Avenue while he pursued his GED. He met his future wife, Joyce, in a youth group; he told her about Kolko almost immediately, he says, and she understood. By 1983, he’d become a CPA, and he and his wife had had their first child and decided to make aliyah before their son was old enough to start school in Brooklyn. The whole family, including his parents, eventually moved to Israel.
Three years ago, on a visit to New York, Framowitz was walking down Ocean Parkway when he ran into his seventh- and eighth-grade rebbe. He called out.
“Rabbi Kaufman, Rabbi Kaufman—I don’t know if you remember me, but you were my teacher 30 years ago.”
The rabbi squinted. “I remember the face, but I don’t remember the name.”
“Oh,” said the rabbi. “David Framowitz. How are you? It’s been so long.”
Given the choice between going after sexual abusers and protecting the community, religious authorities protect the community almost every time.
“And I told myself, David, say something, tell him that you were molested by Rabbi Kolko. And I said to myself, I can’t. It’s a different world, you’re not there. Forget it—you’ve made a life for yourself.”
Back in Israel, he found himself typing Kolko’s name into Google.
Framowitz found what he was looking for on a blog called Un-Orthodox Jew. The site—one anonymous insider’s blistering, some say heretical, accusations of hypocrisy and corruption in the community—started about a year ago and took just months to report a half-million hits. Its anonymous Webmaster, who calls himself UOJ, has made the Kolko case his main cause. UOJ has never met with me, but he calls when I e-mail him. When he does, my caller I.D. is blocked. “Being from the family I’m from, I know everybody,” he tells me. “They’ve all been to my home. My family’s involved in all aspects of the Jewish community.”
UOJ says that he first became disenchanted with the established Jewish leadership when as a young man he attended a beit din with his father and saw the rabbis there behaving in less than honest ways. “They were businessmen, mostly,” he says. His earliest postings, in March of last year, reflect what would become his signature cynicism. “By the time I was Bar-Mitzvah, I got the whole picture,” he wrote. “The guys with the money got the respect, the final say in the schools and shuls, and were the guests of honor at Jewish functions, period! . . . Give me one truly religious and honorable Jew, and I will give you one hundred thousand who do not have a clue.” UOJ’s first reference to Kolko came on June 26 of last year, in a broadside against Margulies. In no uncertain terms, he accused Margulies of harboring a pedophile and threatening the parents of victims into silence.