I’ve written before about some of the truly twisted things that routinely go on within insular orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities in and around New York. And a lot of interesting information is coming out in the trial of a rabbi accused of sexually assaulting a girl who was sent to him for counseling. The Jewish Week reports:
Indeed, ever since she reported the abuse, the alleged victim of Nechemya Weberman — an unlicensed “therapist” to whom, testimony has indicated, Satmar schools referred “wayward” girls for “help” — has been subjected to intense pressure to withdraw her claim, including intimidation, harassment, social ostracism of her family and even a reported $500,000 bribe. Last spring, members of the Satmar community held a lavish fundraiser for Weberman’s defense. Not long after, four men were arrested and charged with witness tampering in connection with the case. And last Thursday, four chasidic men were arrested for taking the young woman’s picture — which was then posted online — as she testified in the courtroom…
However, many people with ties to the chasidic community believe there is something even more important about the Weberman case — namely, what it exposes about the larger communal role played by chasidic “modesty committees” in communities like Williamsburg, Borough Park and Kiryas Joel. These groups — to which, sources say, Weberman was connected — originated years ago to guard the “purity” of the community by enforcing strict dress and behavior codes that characterize the insular chasidic lifestyle. But, insiders say, the tactics of these self-appointed, freelance modesty patrols have evolved from public shaming to extortion and threats…However, community members and observers believe that Weberman’s connection to the modesty committee (or Vaad HaTznius; tznius is Hebrew for modesty,) and his ties to the Satmar schools make this case about more than one woman’s allegations of sexual abuse against a man ostensibly charged with helping her.
According to Yerachmiel Lopin, who blogs at FrumFollies and has been reporting on the case for two years, “UTA was in effect, extorting money for Weberman. I strongly suspect they kept some of it. Given widespread rumors about his sexual misconduct, Satmar was in effect pimping its girls to Weberman, adding insult to injury by making the victim pay to be victimized.”…
According to Engelman, one of the roles of the Vaad — which comprises various “divisions” and whose members’ names are not publicized — is to conduct surveillance on those who are thought to be transgressing. Examples include local businesses that may be featuring immodest window displays or creating an atmosphere conducive to mixed-sex socializing. Young people who are spending time with members of the opposite sex or leaving the community to attend movies or go to bars or clubs are also targets, as are those who are having affairs.
Armed with their “evidence,” Vaad members then approach their subjects and, according to Engelman, attempt to persuade them to pay for therapy — with “therapists” they select — or risk public exposure. Wayward spouses are also given the option of paying members of the Vaad to fund “therapy” for their wronged mates.
Sounds like a combination of the Saudi religious police and a Mafia shakedown.