Lawyers representing "several men" and "two young boys" who were allegedly sexually molested by a teacher at Yeshiva Torah Temimah in Brooklyn sent a letter March 13 to the families of more than 600 male students who had Rabbi Yehuda Kolko as an instructor.
The letter, from attorneys Jeffrey Herman and Michael Dowd, is "seeking any information that may be helpful to these important cases, including information that staff at Torah Temimah and/or [founder and head of school] Rabbi [Lipa] Margulies was aware of allegations against Rabbi Kolko."
According to the letter, "Two of the boys allege they were abused by Rabbi Kolko while attending the yeshiva during the past few years. Others allege they were abused by Rabbi Kolko at the yeshiva during the 1980s."
"[The letter] is part of our investigation," Herman told The Jewish Week Friday. "We are interested in speaking with families whose kids were with Rabbi Kolko at school and may have information that’s relevant. We allege that there were complaints going back for decades about Rabbi Kolko.
"My sense is that the community is really coming around," Herman continued, "and that people [in the community] are much more willing to cooperate than they were a few years ago."
In December of 2006, Rabbi Kolko was arrested and indicted by a Brooklyn grand jury on sexual abuse charges that involved a 6-year- old boy and a 31-year-old man; the latter alleges he was abused by the rabbi as a boy and again when he returned to visit the school in 2005.
Rabbi Kolko was arrested again in September 2007 on charges that he molested a first grader at the school in 2005. Rabbi Kolko remains free on $60,000 bail.
According to a spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, preliminary hearings are set to begin in Rabbi Kolko’s criminal case on March 31.
Over the past several years, YTT has been served with four civil lawsuits by five students. The most recent, filed in January 2007 on behalf of an underage "John Doe," alleges that the yeshiva covered up the abuse during the 2004-2005 school year, and seeks $10 million. The yeshiva has denied a cover-up.
"I have been deeply involved in cases involving child sexual abuse for the past 12 years," Dowd, who just joined Herman on the Torah Temimah case, told The Jewish Week Friday. "And whether it be the Boy Scouts or the Catholic Church, whoever does this to children, they have to be stopped, the children have to be made whole and the children have to be protected in the future.
"The only way you defeat evil in this world is by standing up to it," Dowd continued. "We are asking and appealing to the children of the community that have been subjected to this evil to come forward and confront this evil, which is to be condemned in the eyes of men and in the eyes of God. We protect the evildoers when we remain silent. There is no difference whether it be a priest or a Boy Scout leader, it’s all wrong."
A message left for the attorney for YTT, Avi Moskowitz, was unreturned.