NEW YORK (AP) — It started as a radio program discussion about a taboo subject: child molestation among members of the insular world of Orthodox Jews.
Since he broached the subject on his radio show this summer, says a state assemblyman, dozens of people have come forward with stories about children being molested in the Orthodox community, which strictly follows Jewish law.
Dov Hikind says as many as four people a day have come to him over the past three months with painful accounts of secrets often kept for decades, accusing more than 60 individuals.
Hikind says he would eventually consider unmasking accused sexual predators but wants to focus now on setting up a broader framework for addressing the issue.
His campaign has set off a firestorm in the Orthodox community, where people are reluctant to involve secular authorities. One rabbi said he got death threats for speaking out.
"In our community, people don’t talk about the things that they’ve come to my office" and revealed, said Hikind, himself an Orthodox Jew.
Among other faiths, the subject has meant turmoil in recent years for the Roman Catholic church. For decades, church leaders often transferred predatory clergy among parishes without telling parents or police. Victims have won millions in settlements from dioceses.
Members of a polygamous offshoot of the Mormon church have been charged with assaulting children in Texas. Children have been removed from the Arkansas compound of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries amid allegations of beatings and sexual abuse.
Hikind said he won’t breach victims’ trust by disclosing his private exchanges to prosecutors — or to a lawyer who subpoenaed him in a civil case against a school accused of concealing abuse.