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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Judge hears arguments on potential witness in camp counselor sex case

Yosef Kolko

Rift is widening in Orthodox community

TOMS RIVER — A former yeshiva teacher and camp counselor spoke in detail about sexual abuse accusations against him to a social worker hired by a rabbinical council months before the case was brought to law enforcement, according to testimony in Superior Court Wednesday.

Now, an assistant prosecutor wants the social worker to be able to testify against the teacher, Yosef Kolko, at upcoming criminal proceedings regarding accusations that he molested a boy he met while a camp counselor.

Kolko's attorney, Michael E. Wilbert, argues that his client, as a patient, is entitled to confidentiality.

Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson told both attorneys he would hear further arguments from them on May 6.

The criminal case against Kolko has widened a rift in the Orthodox Jewish community regarding where religious rights end and the secular justice system takes over.

The victim's father has been chastised by the Orthodox community in Lakewood for bringing the case to secular authorities instead of allowing religious leaders to handle it.

But according to papers filed in court by Senior Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Laura N. Pierro, the victim's father first brought the accusations against Kolko to the Beis Din in Lakewood, a council comprised of three rabbis, shortly after his son came forward to him with the allegations in February 2009.

The Beis Din hired Brooklyn, N.Y., social worker Gavriel Fagin to interview Kolko and determine the legitimacy of the allegations, according to the papers filed by Pierro.

Kolko later entered counseling but discontinued his treatment shortly afterward, prompting the victim's father to bring the allegations to the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office in July 2009, according to the court papers.

As a result of the prosecutor's investigation, Kolko, 37, of Lakewood, was charged in an indictment last year with molesting the boy, whom he met at Yachad, a summer camp at the Yeshiva Bais Hatorah School on Swarthmore Avenue in Lakewood.

The alleged molestation occurred between September 2007 and February 2009 when the boy was between 11 and 12 years old, according to the indictment.

Kolko at the time was working as a counselor at Yachad, and previously taught at the Yeshiva Orchos Chaim on Oberlin Avenue in Lakewood, officials have said.

At a hearing Wednesday to determine whether Fagin will be able to testify to a jury about what Kolko told him, the social worker said that he was hired by the Beis Din in Lakewood in February 2009 to evaluate Kolko to determine his risk to the community and what, if any, were his treatment options.

Fagin told the judge that he administered a number of tests to Kolko during a series of office visits in March 2009. When Fagin was discussing the results with Kolko during another visit on April 3, 2009, "he began to open up about the allegations," Fagin said.

"There were a lot of specifics," Fagin said, responding to a question posed by Pierro.

Wilbert insisted the contents of the conversation be kept confidential unless the judge rules that Kolko waived his right to confidentiality.

Pierro is asking Hodgson to rule that Kolko waived his right to confidentiality, based on documents he signed approving the release of information by Fagin to the Beis Din as well as to others. Fagin testified that Kolko signed forms approving of the release of information to the Beis Din, two other rabbis and another social worker.

Fagin said he never forwarded his evaluation report to Beis Din because the rabbinical council had disbanded, nor did he share it with anyone else.

The social worker Wednesday provided the judge with his report to review privately prior to the lawyers returning to court May 6. Fagin said Kolko's conversation about the allegations is contained in the report.


  1. Here we go again. I am on the side that Bais Din should be contacted first, but ALWAYS move matters with any credible support (raglayim ledovor) to the secular courts. Our own beis din systems lack the capacity to either evaluate the matter, nor to adequately prosecute it. We do not have the authority to enforce any ruling, whether it be breaking a family in which there is abuse, nor the dismnissal or relocation of a perpetrator. The safest place for an abuser is jail, and every Rov worth his title knows that. We understandably fear the use of secular courts, and we need to make a clear statement that a Yid goes to beis din first. But the beis din MUST move these cases to the only place where they can be properly adjudicated. There may be flaws in the secular court system, but in the face of the total inability of beis din to handle this, there is no other choice.

    I hope the comments here do not stoop to the name calling and the bizayon of talmidei chachomim and gedolim as previous articles on this subject did. Extremism and fanaticism are not the answer.

  2. It is 100% prohibited to give over information to a non Jew about another Jew, and u have to do it with mesiras nefesh, the social worker has to show and make a kiddush hashem by not providing them the info.period

  3. I love this article which totally disregards halacha. there are no loopholes in the halacha against going to secular courts! doesn't matter if nachum rosenberg says that's the only way (he doesn't have horaa) nor if hikind paskens you have to go. I deplore you all to find me any rav any rav that's a posek, that has horaa, that's impartial (thats a must in religious court as much as secular). who gives a blanket approval to go to secular court, let alone prior to even attempting b-d. this imho is exactly what rashi explains "when one goes to secular court, that degrades the name of h-m." next. mesira. I love it how we pasken, knowing we don't have horaa. mesira is l'halacha punishable by if I'm not mistaken death. all along history we had people going to jail in order to avoid mesira! here we have dov hikind (a nothing but politician) paskening its mutar? are all you recommending trampling on our torah b'rabbim? I can't fathom it. I totally agree that these molesters are supposed to be dealt with even in the most harsh ways. but it has to be according to halacha. hetter to go to court must be in place. and if your rav can't give you one for he petrifies mesira, we have to find a way to rid ourselves of these sic molesters. but to throw our poskim and torah moshe away for toras nochum rosenberg, or for toras hikind? deplorable! disgusting! heartbreaking!

    I also agreed in the begining that secular court is the only way, till I realized I am no posek and therefore mindless and clueless when halacha is involved. especially something this important and complicated according to halacha.

  4. Most cases that go to arkaos are frame ups and the judges get bribed - especially when they make a federal case, because the federal system is very corrupt - it is not a justice system, it is a plea bargain system - but when you have someone who doesnt want to lie when they have been framed and admit to something they havent done then they get a thirty year sentence RL while real abusers know the system and go free RL

  5. the question is how can we be moiser a mere SUSPECT? If he is innocent we are ruining his life.

  6. As horrible as abuse may be, it is not murder, and there is no loss of life regardless what psychiatrists say

  7. b67 NY --that is a lie that it is not murder. People who were molested have a 30% higher chance of dying of cancer. A higher chance of having an auto-immune disease. A higher chance of committing suicide (I suppose you didn't care for the kid who jumped). And most rabbonim who are not covering up for someone say go to the courts.