Fired Rabbi In Baltimore Sues Families Of Alleged Victims
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Fired Rabbi In Baltimore Sues Families Of Alleged Victims

Asks for $75 million, claiming defamation; open letters criticize, support school’s handling of allegations.

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers trends among youth and millennials, progress and pushback in the Orthodox world, women's issues, the Jewish LGBTQ community and Reform and Conservative Jewish life. She also heads the Investigative Journalism Fund, a special project of the Jewish Week to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting, and 36 Under 36, an annual special issue profiling 36 exceptional young leaders. Reach her at hannah@jewishweek.org

In the wake of sexual abuse allegations against him, which he denies, Rabbi Krawatsky had the support of many in Baltimore's Orthodox community. He was terminated on Jan. 18, 2018 after The Jewish Week report. Via rabbishmuelkrawatsky.blogspot.com
In the wake of sexual abuse allegations against him, which he denies, Rabbi Krawatsky had the support of many in Baltimore's Orthodox community. He was terminated on Jan. 18, 2018 after The Jewish Week report. Via rabbishmuelkrawatsky.blogspot.com

In the wake of The Jewish Week’s report on allegations that a former teacher at a Baltimore Jewish day school abused three young boys when he was a division head at a Maryland summer camp in 2015, the rabbi has filed a lawsuit against his accusers.

On Tuesday, Rabbi Shmuel Krawatsky filed the suit in Maryland federal court against the parents of his accusers and Chaim Levin, a sexual abuse activist and blogger, for defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Rabbi Krawatsky and his wife are asking for $75 million in compensatory and punitive damages — $15 million per defendant. They say the rabbi’s accusers engaged in an effort to “damage Rabbi K and destroy his reputation and ability to earn a living” by publicly alleging that he sexually abused their sons, charges that he denies.

Attorney Jonathan Little, who represents the families, said the lawsuit is a “thinly veiled attempt to intimidate our clients.”

In the coming weeks, the families of three alleged victims plan to sue Rabbi Krawatsky for battery of children and “any organization that had knowledge that Rabbi K was being inappropriate with children and failed to intervene,” Little Told the Jewish Week in January.

Meanwhile, as of Feb. 2, 135 alumni, current students and parents of the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School where Rabbi Krawatsky taught Judaic studies to middle schoolers until Jan. 18, signed an open letter calling for an investigation into how school officials handled the matter.

The rabbi was terminated after the publication of The Jewish Week report last month. (Read the report here.) The Beth Tfiloh board attributed the rabbi’s firing to “the explosive nature” of media reports which the board said made it “impossible” for the rabbi to effectively carry out his teaching duties, according to a Jan. 22 statement.

Beth Tfiloh school where Rabbi Krawatsky was employed. Via Google Images

The Beth Tfiloh alumni letter, circulating on social media, expressed disappointment in the Modern Orthodox school’s “apparent failure to promptly address allegations of abuse” against Rabbi Krawatsky, who denies any misconduct.

Another letter, apparently drafted by current Beth Tfiloh students, affirmed support for the school’s education director, Zipora Schorr.

“We, the undersigned students of the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, are deeply concerned with the disparaging remarks made by certain alumni and other members of the Beth Tfiloh community towards the administration of our school,” the letter reads.

“Many current students can attest to the fact that, in their eyes, the BT administration consistently approaches developing issues with all necessary ‘urgency and transparency.'”

As of Feb. 8, the open letter had more than 400 signatories, most of whom are current students.

(The letter does not address the allegations against Rabbi Krawatsky.)

The apparent author of the letter declined to comment.

Saryn Levy, a 2007 graduate of Beth Tfiloh high school and co-creator of the alumni letter, said she became involved because she was “deeply disappointed” in the school.

“Beth Tfiloh taught me to act ethically and to stand up for what is right,” she said. “That’s what I believe I’m doing and I am saddened that my alma mater has yet to do the same.”

In response to the open letter, Beth Tfiloh released a letter on Jan. 31 stating that the school is “committed to enhancing our hiring and rehiring policies” and “expanding reporting obligations of our staff and faculty.” The letter noted that school underwent a “comprehensive audit” by the Baltimore Child Abuse Center at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, which determined that its practices are in compliance with the guidelines of the Association of Independent Schools of Maryland and Maryland law.

At this point, the school board did not indicate if it would follow through on alumni requests’ to conduct an independent investigation into the hiring and retainment of Rabbi Krawatsky.

The alumni open letter also expressed concern about the school’s recent hire — and subsequent termination — of Dr. Jonathan Lasson, a community psychologist placed on state probation in October 2017 after allegations arose of improper conduct with a patient. Lasson was welcomed to Beth Tfiloh as a high school psychology teacher during the 2016-17 school year, according to the school, and terminated days after Rabbi Krawatsky. The school’s board claimed that, despite conducting a background check on Lasson, it did not know of the court order against him until they read it on a “blog.”

 

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