Rabbi Uzi Rivlin is lead into the court room in Hackensack, N.J. on Aug. 17, 2011
TARRYTOWN — The Rabbi of Temple Beth Abraham said he was "shocked" at the arrest on child molestation charges of a fifth-grade teacher at the synagogue's religious school.
Rabbi Uzi Rivlin, 63, is accused of sexually abusing two 13-year-old Israeli boys who were staying at his New Jersey home as part of an exchange program he helped start.
"I'm completely shocked," Rabbi David Holtz said of the allegations. "These charges are inconsistent with anything we have ever heard or known about Rabbi Rivlin. They're competely out of character."
Rivlin, who is married with grown children, was arrested after each of the boys reported to police in Israel that the rabbi had touched them sexually; one in 2009 and the other last year. Israeli authorities contacted the FBI, who investigated the accusations with Teaneck, N.J., police and the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit.
He was charged Tuesday with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual contact and two of endangering the welfare of a child. Rivlin, who pleaded not guilty, was ordered to surrender his Israeli and U.S. passports during his arraignment today in Hackensack (N.J.) Superior Court. He was also prohibited from having contact with children if he posts his $175,000 bail. He is being held at the Bergen County jail.
After Rivlin's brief court appearance, his lawyer, Howard Simmons, told NorthJersey.com that the accusations are "a complete and utter shock to him. He just doesn't understand why these children would make these allegations."
Holtz said Rivlin has worked as a fifth-grade teacher at Temple Beth Abraham for several years.
"He teaches about the land of Israel," he said. "He would have been one of our teachers again this year.
"As a precautionary measure," Holtz said, "we are putting (Rivlin) on leave until the legal process has been completed."
The boys were at Rivlin's Teaneck home through the Scholarship Fund for the Advancement of Children in Israel, which he helped found more than a decade ago. The program places Israeli children with U.S. host families while they attend camp. Rivlin served as a host, according to Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli.
Authorities are continuing their investigation "to determine if any other children who had visited the United States from Israel and stayed with Rivlin may have been a victim of sexual abuse," Molinelli said in a statement.
Holtz said that while a few parents have called him to ask what Temple Beth Abraham's response will be, "I haven't heard a lot of reaction to this so far. A lot of people are away on vacation."