BROOKLYN MAN ACCUSES HASIDIC RABBIS OF CHILD SEX ABUSE IN HEBREW “HELL”
November 9, 2019
A Brooklyn man claims he was repeatedly raped as a child by two Hasidic rabbis, and beaten when he tried to report his Hebrew school “hell.”
“We do not discuss such things,” Yonah Kohn says a rabbi admonished after slapping him in the face when he desperately sought help.
Kohn, 37, is suing three Hasidic organizations where he says he suffered sexual molestation and brutal assault: Rabbinical College Bobover Yeshiva Bnei Zion and Congregation Shaarei Zion in Brooklyn, and Camp Shalva, a sleepaway camp in upstate South Fallsburg.
None returned calls. Two rabbis who allegedly molested him are dead.
But a third rabbi, Yankel Zitronenbaum — who began to “violently and heartlessly hit and punch” him when he reported sexual abuse — is still working at the boys’ yeshiva, The Post confirmed.
Zitronenbaum, 71, did not return messages seeking comment.
Kohn filed his lawsuit under New York’s Child Victims Act, which opened a one-year window starting in mid-August for people of any age to seek damages against those accused of molesting them as kids.
“This is a way for me to seek justice, and to open up a dialogue that when a child makes allegations, the priority should be the safety and well-being of that child and others,” he told The Post.
His suit is among the first against Orthodox Jewish institutions, which are highly insular and shun whistleblowers.
“The shame and stigma that Mr. Kohn experienced is common,” said Kohn’s attorney, Hillary Nappi. “People are being abused throughout the community, not reporting it, and not getting the help they need.”
Life at his yeshiva was “a hell,” Kohn’s suit charges, saying the abuse ruined his childhood and caused ongoing psychological suffering. The married father of four is still in therapy, he said.
In the early 1990s, when Kohn was age 10, rabbi Berel Weiss began grooming his prey, and finally forced him into oral sex, the suit says.
Kohn reported Weiss’s actions to another rabbi, Shlomo Dov Pfefferkorn, who slapped his face and told him in Yiddish, “We do not discuss such things,” the suit says.
Pfefferkorn soon began hitting Kohn or slapping his knuckles with a stick in front of other students, then to “touch, rub and massage” Kohn’s penis in school, and force him to engage in oral sex, the suit charges.
At a “mikvah,” a bath where boys were nude, Pfefferkorn trapped Kohn against a wall and “forcefully” raped him anally, he charges.
When Kohn went to Zitronenbaum to report that abuse, the rabbi violently beat him and told him “to never speak of Pfefferkorn’s behavior again,” according to court papers. The yeshiva later booted Kohn from its high school — sending a signal to the community that something was wrong with him.
At Camp Shalva, Kohn claims, he wandered into the woods one night, where a group of four to five young men he believes were counselors tried to force him to smoke marijuana, then gang-raped him.
Message from Executive Director Laura A. Ahearn: Please visit our website at www.crimevictimscenter.org for news, information and resources in your community.