A leading rabbi has told a court that a Jewish teacher was “annoyed at being caught” when confronted with allegations of serious sexual abuse in front of his wife as part of a secret meeting.
Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman was giving evidence on Tuesday in the trial of 50-year-old Todros Grynhaus, a prominent member of the Charedi community in Salford.
Father-of-ten Mr Grynhaus is charged with five counts of indecent assault and two counts of sexual assault against two girls committed when they were aged around 14 and 15.
Rabbi Zimmerman – the Gateshead Rav – and one of the most significant figures in Gateshead’s strictly Orthodox community, was notified of the allegations by Mr Grynhaus’s cousin, Rabbi Gershon Miller, also of Gateshead, in 2010, and it was decided a meeting should be arranged.
Rabbi Miller, Rabbi Zimmerman and psychologist Dr Michael Schauder opted to tell Mr Grynhaus to visit them in Gateshead with his wife without telling him the precise reason.
Once at the classroom location, he was confronted with the sexual abuse allegations said to have been committed against one girl some years earlier.
Rather than protesting or denying the allegations, it is claimed Mr Grynhaus said: “What would you like me to do about it?”
With Mr Grynhaus’s wife Leah beside him looking “speechless and stunned”, Dr Schauder suggested he attend therapy sessions, to which Mr Grynhaus agreed, Manchester Crown Court heard.
Giving evidence, Rabbi Zimmerman said: “Up until a certain point I thought it was insignificant. Up until the point the charge of sexual abuse was made then I realised it was far more serious.
I wanted to see what Todros Grynhaus would say about this.
“If he had denied it or expressed some remorse I would have tried to push further to restore peace, but since he didn’t, I realised it was beyond competence and let Dr Schauder handle it.
“I believe Rabbi Miller met them [Mr Grynhaus and Leah] outside and brought them to the classroom where Dr Schauder and me were. Dr Schauder took the lead. He had a prepared speech where he said a woman had made accusations of serious sexual abuse over many years.
“His reaction was unemotional. ‘What would you like me to do about it?’ There was not any attempt to deny it. No individual who didn’t seriously sexually abuse someone when confronted with that allegation in front of his wife doesn’t deny it.
“He admitted it without accepting responsibility. The impression we had was he was only interested in negotiating his way out of the situation.
It was the annoyance to him that he had been caught. He wasn’t sorry about the welfare of the woman, he wasn’t concerned with anything other than ‘how do I get myself out of it?’”
Mr Grynhaus, the son of influential London Rabbi Dayan Dovid Grynhaus, has taught in Jewish schools both in the UK and abroad.
Once matters were brought to the attention of police in November 2012, Mr Grynhaus appeared in court and was granted bail.
But he soon fled the country to Israel using a false passport. He was later detained before being sent back to the UK to face trial.
American Rabbi Zimmerman, who formerly served as rabbi to a community in Monsey, New York, added: “Anyone who is accused of even a minor crime, certainly something as heinous as this, if they didn’t do it they would vehemently deny it. No one would agree to go to therapy. His wife was speechless. She was stunned.”
The jury have previously been told that the strictly Orthodox Charedi community often shuns the outside world and children are not allowed access to television, radio and the internet.
It has also been said there is a reluctance to report unlawful matters to the police, with Charedim instead preferring to settle matters ‘within the community’.
In cross-examination, Jonathan Goldberg QC commented on a “Jimmy Savile effect”, which has prompted more people to come forward and support complaints of sexual abuse – even in Orthodox communities.
“Jimmy Savile, just as he has had an effect on the general non-Jewish community, he has had an effect on your community,” he said. “People have moved with the times, including your community.
You, as an American, had no difficulty in saying people could go to the police. You mention Rabbi David Cohen in America and he said go to the police.
“I suppose it wouldn’t be hard to find rabbis of the old generation who would say ‘deal with it in-house’”.
Rabbi Zimmerman said: “At that point nobody wanted to report it. Everybody wanted him to seek therapy and to heal himself and not be a danger to the general public.
Part of any therapy is admission and taking responsibility for what you did.”
Todros Grynhaus denies all of the allegations. The trial continues.