A prominent Orthodox Jewish school in Brooklyn agreed to pay an unprecedented $2.1 million to two former students who charged their teacher accused serial molester Rabbi Joel Kolko of sexually assaulting them.
Kolko’s case marks the first time a New York yeshiva has paid off victims of sex abuse, experts said.
“This is unheard of. I am not aware of any other settlements,” said Rabbi Yosef Blau, a spiritual adviser at Yeshiva University in Manhattan and longtime victims advocate.
Secret settlements between Yeshiva Torah Temimah on Ocean Parkway and two boys 6 years old when molested were filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court a week ago when the yeshiva failed to make payments.
Lawyers for the two plaintiffs filed a judgment for $1 million the total the yeshiva still owes both boys for the trauma they suffered.
Both lawsuits alleged the yeshiva and its leader, Rabbi Lipa Margulies, knew for decades that Kolko was molesting students, but chose to keep him on as an elementary teacher and “give him unfettered access to young children.”
Kolko allegedly had boys sit on his lap and fondled their genitals.
For 25 years, the yeshiva received “multiple credible allegations of pedophilia” against Kolko.
It covered them up and even threatened families who dared to complain, the suits charged.
Kolko, now 70, got a controversial deal from then-Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes in May 2012: He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of child endangerment and did not have to go to jail or register as a sex offender.
In the newly revealed settlements, Torah Temimah in November 2014 paid one ex-student $900,000 and the other $1.35 million. The school admitted no wrongdoing.
The settlements could deter the protection of sex predators, Blau said: “If word gets out, other schools will think twice if they hear about abuse.”
Sex-abuse expert Marci Hamilton said cases are rare in New York because victims must sue predators before age 23 and institutions by age 21. A pending bill in the state Legislature would extend the statute of limitations.
“Even as teenagers, it’s impossible to process what’s happened to them by someone they trusted,” Hamilton said. “Asking them to come forward is much more than most of them can handle.”
Four other ex-students have previously sued Torah Temimah as adults, charging Kolko molested them at ages 11 to 13, but the courts tossed their cases as filed too late.