Six teachers from a Talmud Torah school (“Cheder”) belonging to the Belz Hasidic dynasty were indicted on Tuesday for the abuse and assault of minors, with the main defendant accused of many cases of sodomy with minors, indecent assault, and extortion.
According to the indictments, the offenses were allegedly committed over the course of 11 years from 2000 to 2011 against 22 complainants aged 3-10, who were taught by the defendants.
During that time, the defendants committed daily physical and emotional violence against the students, which was characterized by cruelty, humiliation, and intimidation.
According to the indictments, the students called the school “Bergen-Belsen,” referring to the Nazi concentration camp, while the main defendant, 49-year-old Avraham Mordechai Rosenfeld, was dubbed “Rosenazi.”
Rosenfeld, the indictment states, brought students to a lounge at the school that contained beds and a closet in which he kept sweets, some of which he confiscated from the students. He allegedly ordered the students to come with him into the room, where he sexually assaulted them. After they stopped crying, he gave them sweets and sent them on their way.
In many of the cases, Rosenfeld beat the students using wooden sticks or planks that he ordered the students to gather during recess.
The indictment also details some instances in which Rosenfeld tied the students to chairs or desks using ropes or cable ties and had them stand in class with their hands and feet bound. While tied, he force-fed them a spoonful of black pepper or soap and forbade them from washing their mouths after.
In other cases, he forbade students from going to the bathroom, or otherwise forced them to relieve themselves in their pants while sitting in class.
Rosenfeld is also charged with animal abuse. In one instance, when a cat entered the classroom in which Rosenfeld was teaching, he beat it in front of the students with an umbrella or wooden sticks, and eventually shoved it out of the window, killing the cat.
Additionally, Rosenfeld is suspected of terrorizing his wife and children at home. He allegedly subjected one of his children to abuse for years until the child left home. His wife claimed he threatened to keep her from their children, threatened to divorce her, and controlled the food in the house.
The other five defendants are Yisrael Haim Shapira, 65, Haim Fishgrond, 69, Moshe Hirsch, 39, Menachem Alberstein, 63, and Avraham Pinchas Deytsch, 53.
The six defendants denied the offenses attributed to them, with each providing explanations and interpretations of the incidents, claiming they did not intend to harm the minors. Some admitted to some of the less serious incidents, while presenting them as mere jokes.
Apart from Rosenfeld, the other five teachers were released from detention under restrictive conditions.
Zion Amir, who also represented former president and convicted rapist Moshe Katsav, now represents some of the defendants.
“Some of the people I represent completely deny the allegations against them,” he said. “There is going to be a long trial that will acquit whoever needs to be acquitted from this important community.”
Rosenfeld’s lawyer, Yehuda Fried, claimed that “the acts described in the indictment are exaggerated. Regarding his family, the accusations are completely made up by those seeking to get between him and his wife.”