Despite tearful pleas from victims, a judge sentenced a one-time religious instructor for a prominent Brookline school to 10 years probation Thursday for sexually abusing three of his students in Boston during the 1975-1976 school year.
The sentence for Rabbi Stanley Z. Levitt, who pleaded guilty Wednesday to four counts of indecent assault and battery on a child, stunned and angered the victims, who gathered in the Suffolk Superior courtroom to face their abuser and witness the sentencing. Levitt was also ordered to stay away from children, register as a sex offender, and wear a GPS monitor.
“He should have served jail time,” said Michael Brecher, who along with the two other former students at the Maimonides School, an Orthodox Jewish school, said that Levitt touched him sexually when he was a sixth-grader.
Delivering a victim-impact statement before the sentencing, Brecher said Levitt groped him while Brecher was recovering at Boston Children’s Hospital after part of his finger was sliced off in a classroom door.
“As I lay helpless in a hospital bed, traumatized already by the events of that day, he affected my spiritual, psychological and, I believe, physical life and growth profoundly,” said Brecher, who added that he has suffered from severe depression since the encounter nearly 40 years ago.
According to Suffolk prosecutors, the other assaults took place at Levitt’s home in Brighton.
Prosecutors had asked Judge Geraldine Hines to imprison Levitt for 2½ years, but she adhered to a plea agreement reached last fall between prosecutors and Levitt’s lawyer, Scott Curtis, that recommended probation.
Levitt had agreed to plead guilty last December, then reversed course at the last minute, angering the three victims who had traveled to Boston for the hearing.
The rabbi changed his plea again this week to guilty, a move prosecutors said was due to their strong case against him. However, this time they asked for a prison sentence, rather than probation.
The request for a harsher sentence was sought in part because of comments the rabbi made to the Globe after entering his not-guilty plea last year, said Jake Wark, spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office. As Levitt exited the courtroom last December, he said, “The only victim here is me.”
“We’re absolutely disappointed,” Wark said. “We had recommended what we thought was a reasonable sentence of incarceration.”
Levitt, 66, remained silent throughout the hearing. He occasionally scribbled a note to his lawyer and shook his head in disagreement as two of the victims told of their abuse.
Rabbi–”Sexual abuse within Jewish community should not be reported to police”
Agudath Israel of America, Rabbinical Council of America come under fire after rabbi says abuse should be reported to rabbis, not police.
NEW YORK – Two Orthodox Jewish groups have released statements attempting to clarify their positions on reporting child abuse.
Agudath Israel of America and the Rabbinical Council of America were responding to what the former called “misleading claims about our stance on reporting suspected child abusers to law enforcement agencies.”
The statements come in the wake of criticism over comments by a leading American Orthodox rabbi, Shmuel Kamenetsky, that abuse should be reported to rabbis rather than police. Kamenetsky is the vice president of Agudah’s Supreme Council of Rabbinic Sages.
Agudah in its statement referred to rabbinic arguments that authorities should be notified when a certain threshold of evidence is met, but “where the circumstances of the case do not rise to threshold level … the matter should not be reported to authorities.”
However, in order to distinguish whether the threshold has been met, the statement continued, “the individual shouldn’t rely exclusively on their own judgment … rather, he should present the facts to a Rabbi.”
Kamenetsky said in a speech July 12 in Brooklyn — while a search was being conducted for an 8-year-old Brooklyn boy, Leiby Kletzky — that the sexual abuse of a child should be reported to a rabbi, who then would determine if the police should be called. Leiby’s dismembered body was found the following day in a dumpster and in the apartment of Levi Aron, who has been indicted for murder.
The speech came under criticism after a recording appeared July 17 on the Failed Messiah blog, which reported that Kamenetsky was repeating Agudah’s official policy banning Jews from reporting sexual abuse to police.
In the recording, Kamenetsky corrects a man who begins a question to the rabbi by saying, “As far as I know, your yeshiva is of the opinion that victims should report these crimes to the authorities.”
“Only after speaking to a rav,” Kamenetsky said.
Survivors for Justice, an advocacy, educational and support organization for survivors of sexual abuse and their families from the Orthodox world, described Kamentsky’s comments as “dangerous,” and called on Agudah to issue a retraction.
The RCA in its statement said that “Consistent with Torah obligations, if one becomes aware of an instance of child abuse or endangerment, one is obligated to refer the matter to the secular authorities immediately, as the prohibition of mesirah (i.e., referring an allegation against a fellow Jew to government authority) does not apply in such a case.”
It also says that “As always where the facts are uncertain, one should use common sense and consultations with experts, both lay and rabbinic, to determine how and when to report such matters to the authorities.”