Yosef Kolko, a former Yeshiva teacher, leaves the Ocean County Courthouse in Toms River.
Kathleen Hopkins APP.com May 13, 2013
TOMS RIVER - A former Lakewood Yeshiva teacher today admitted sexually abusing a boy, after authorities said two more victims of his came forward to them as his trial was underway.
Sheriff's officers placed Yosef Kolko in handcuffs and led him to the Ocean County Jail after he pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault, attempted aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and child endangerment, and state Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson revoked his $125,000 bail.
He was on trial before Hodgson, charged with sexually abusing a boy, now 16, when he was 11 and 12, in 2008 and 2009.
Kolko’s trial on the charges involving that one boy got underway last week, but Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Laura Pierro told the judge that the defendant decided to plead guilty after learning that two more victims had come forward to authorities.
Pierro said she was contacted late Friday afternoon by a young woman who claimed she was victimized by Kolko, and the attorney for a young man who also claimed to be a victim.
Pierro said she met with the additional victims this morning and would have sought to admit their testimony, had the trial proceeded.
In exchange for Kolko’s guilty plea, the state would not proceed with additional charges related to the additional victims, but no other promises were made to him, Pierro said.
Kolko, calm and unemotional, admitted committing a variety of sexual acts on a boy who attended Yachad, a summer camp that is run by the Yeshiva Bais Hatorah School on Swarthmore Avenue in Lakewood where Kolko was employed as a counselor.
The defendant also was a teacher at Yeshiva Orchos Chaim in Lakewood.
He acknowledged that the abuse occurred between August of 2008 through February of 2009, when the boy was 11 and 12 years old.
Kolko, now 39, of Geffen Drive, Lakewood also acknowledged that he, as the boy’s camp counselor, had a legal responsibility to care for the child when he engaged in sexual conduct with him.
The boy, who testified about those acts last week, and his family were not in the courtroom when Kolko made his admissions. The family has returned home to Michigan, where they moved from Lakewood after being ostracized by some in Lakewood’s Orthodox Jewish community for taking the allegations to secular authorities.
Kolko could face up to 40 years in prison, but Hodgson told the defendant he may consider sentencing him to no more than 15 years in prison. The sentencing will occur after Kolko is evaluated at the state Corrections Department’s Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in the Avenel section of Woodbridge to determine if he is a repetitive and compulsive sexual offender.
Yosef Kolko, 39, walks near the Ocean County Courthouse in Toms River, N.J., Thursday, May 9, 2013,
KathleenHopkinsAPP.com May 10, 2013
TOMS RIVER — The father of a former Lakewood boy who accused his camp counselor of sexual abuse wanted to handle the matter discreetly, within the Orthodox Jewish religious community, he testified in court on Thursday.
The man, formerly a prominent rabbi in Lakewood’s Orthodox community, said he just wanted to be sure the counselor, Yosef Kolko, quit working with children, sought therapy and stayed away from his son, the man told a jury.
But when months had already passed after he had brought the matter to the attention of a respected rabbi who promised to handle it discreetly, and learning that Kolko was still working at the summer camp where his son was molested, the father said he broke with Jewish tradition and sought justice with secular authorities
The breaking point was when he confronted Kolko months after first learning of the abuse and demanding that he quit his jobs, at Yachad, the summer camp run by the Yeshiva Bais Hatorah School on Swarthmore Avenue in Lakewood, and at Yeshiva Orchos Chaim in Lakewood, where he was a teacher, the father testified.
Kolko told him he was thinking of leaving the Yachad, but only to get a job as a counselor at a sleep-away camp, the father testified. Then he told the boy’s father not to contact him anymore, the man told the jury.
“I said, “A sleep-away camp! What are you nuts?’’ the man testified.
Soon afterward, the man went with his wife and son to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office to report the molestation, but only after the owner of the summer camp told him to be patient, “to give him (Kolko) another chance to get back on board,” the father testified.
“Going to law enforcement is not at this time common within the Orthodox Jewish community,” the father explained to the jury. “Even when it’s necessary, it’s considered unusual. People who might believe that the alleged molester is innocent would give the person going to law enforcement a very hard time.’’
The testimony came during the second day of Kolko’s trial before Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson.
The Asbury Park Press is not identifying the father to protect the identity of the victim, now 16.
Kolko, 39, of Geffen Drive, Lakewood is accused of sexually abusing the boy in 2008 and 2009, when the child was 11 and 12.
As reluctant as the boy’s father was to go to law-enforcement with the child-abuse allegations, so was his son to expose his counselor, whom he had considered his best friend, the father testified.
The boy made the revelation to his father when the father picked him up from a session with a school therapist in February of 2009, he said.
“He said that his counselor, Yosef Kolko, sexually abused him,” the father testified of his conversation with his son that day.
“What was his demeanor?” asked Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Laura Pierro.
“He really didn’t want to disclose it,’’ the father replied. “There was a big sense of loyalty.”
After making the disclosure to his father, “”He asked me not to tell anyone, and I told him I couldn’t do that,” the father testified.
The next morning, the father called Kolko and arranged to meet with him on a Lakewood street, he said. He brought along a digital recorder that he kept in the pocket of his overcoat to tape his conversation with Kolko.
The father said Kolko was “nervous and contrite” when he confronted him about molesting his son.
“I told him (my son) informed me of abuse and molestation, and he asked me what I wanted to do about it,” the father testified.
The father responded that he wanted to take the matter to a group of rabbis who deal with such issues. Kolko agreed to go with him that day to see one of the rabbis, Shmuel Blech, the father said.
“I told him, if he was compliant, it would most probably not be publicized,” the father testified. “I told him I wanted (him to have) absolutely no more contact with my son. I said, it’s obvious he has to give up his job with the school and the camp.”
The father testified he never would have gone to the police if Kolko had complied with his wishes., He said he had reassured Kolko, “If you deal with it correctly, everything will be alright.”
Defense attorney Michael F. Bachner suggested that the father may have purposely decided not to record portions of his conversation with Kolko, or that portions of the conversation may have been erased. But the father insisted that Kolko never denied the accusations.
He said he even gave Kolko an opportunity to deny the allegations before going to talk to Blech.
“I told him, if that’s what he wanted, he could speak to me,” the father told the jury. “He said, ‘Then there’s nothing to say.”’
When the father told Blech about the accusations, Kolko “”was closed to tears,’’ he testified. “He was embarrassed and remorseful.’’
The father learned months later that Kolko wasn’t going to therapy, he testified.
“I was more concerned that he was still at his job, and I felt that children were in danger,’’ he testified.
He went to the prosecutor’s office with the allegations in July of 2009.
Earlier at the trial on Thursday, the boy’s school therapist testified he told her that Kolko was his best friend, but she encouraged him to make friends his own age.
“Nobody else will ever understand me,’” Tzipora Koslowitz testified the boy had told her.
He later told her he had a secret to reveal, and she encouraged him to tell the secret to his father, she said.
The trial is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Monday.
Yosef Kolko, 39, right, walks with an unidentified man, near the Ocean County Courthouse in Toms River, N.J., Thursday, May 9, 2013, during a break in his trial on sexual assault charges.
KATIE ZEZIMA , The Associated Press Philly.com Thursday, May 9, 2013
TOMS RIVER, N.J. - A former yeshiva teacher is on trial in New Jersey on charges he sexually abused a socially awkward boy whose family members, prosecutors say, were ostracized by their Orthodox Jewish community for taking the allegations to civil authorities.
Rabbi Yosef Kolko, 39, met the boy in 2007 at religious school-run summer camp in Lakewood where he was a counselor. The boy was 11 at the time, and authorities say abuse continued until early 2009.
Kolko has denied the charges, which include sexual assault and child endangerment.
The boy's father, a rabbi, testified Thursday that during a car ride back from his son's therapist office, the boy said he had been sexually abused.
The next morning, the father said, he called Kolko. The two met and the father told Kolko he needed to attend therapy and stop working with children. The father wanted to bring the matter to a group of rabbis who had "experience dealing with these issues," he said, and did not intend to make the allegations public. The father recorded the conversation at his wife's urging.
Kolko did not dispute the allegations, the father said. At one point Kolko told the father he had nothing to say to him, which the father took as an admission as guilt, something Kolko's lawyer disputed.
Later, the father and Kolko went to the home of a prominent Lakewood rabbi, where the father said Kolko was contrite and looked "close to tears." The father said the rabbi took the allegations seriously.
The Associated Press generally does not identify accusers in sex crime cases and is not naming the father to protect the son's identity.
The boy's father wanted to bring the matter to a rabbinical court. After a few months he was unsatisfied with how the case was being handled and that Kolko was not following his recommendations and still teaching. After hearing Kolko was planning to return to the summer camp, the father called the head of the camp and Kolko, who told him to talk to a Brooklyn rabbi.
"I was more concerned that he was still at his jobs," the father said. "And I felt that children are being endangered."
In July 2009, the father decided to bring the case to Ocean County prosecutors. He said that if the allegations had been dealt with appropriately through rabbinical channels, he probably would not have gone to the police.
"Going to law enforcement is not, at this time, common within the Orthodox Jewish community. Even when it's necessary it's considered unusual," the father testified. "Particularly with some people who might believe that the alleged molester is innocent would give the person going to law enforcement a very hard time.'
Prosecutors said the family was ostracized by the Orthodox Jewish community.
A flier was circulated in Lakewood, a community with a large Orthodox Jewish community, saying the boy's father had made a mockery of the Torah and committed a "terrible deed" by taking the case to state prosecutors, the Asbury Park Press reported.
The family has since moved to Michigan.
The boy's former therapist also testified Thursday, saying the boy told her in late 2008 he no longer needed help with his social skills because he had made a new friend, Rabbi Kolko.
"He's my best friend. He's the only one who understands me," Dr. Tsipora Koslowitz recounted the boy telling her.
The boy took the witness stand Wednesday on the first day of the trial, testifying how he wanted to remain close to Kolko, even though his actions made him uncomfortable, because Kolko was his friend and he had no friends in school or camp.
The boy described a series of encounters with the rabbi, who would pick him up in his car, including molestation and oral sex and occurring in such locations as an empty classroom, a storage room, Kolko's car and the basement of a synagogue, the newspaper reported.
Opening Statements and Testimony by Alleged Victim
Yosef Kolko 2013
| |Frumfollies.com May 9, 2013
Rabbi Yosef Kolko had about a half a dozen family members in the courtroom. There were also about a half a dozen supporters of the alleged victim including Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg.
During yesterday morning’s court session, the prosecutor and defense counsel finished selecting a sixteen person jury. The jury that deliberates will consist of twelve people who will be randomly selected out of the sixteen after the presentation of evidence and closing statements. Since no potential juror knows whether they will end up being an alternate everyone is more motivated to carefully attend to the trial.
The rest of the morning was taken up with opening statements by the prosecutor, ADA Laura Pierro, and defense counsel, Michael F. Bachner.
The prosecutor’s opening statement was an all too familiar story about a lonely, unpopular boy groomed by a camp counselor who gave him star billing in the choir and theatrical productions and then subjected the boy to escalating levels of sexual assault culminating in an attempt at anal rape. In the afternoon, the boy testified that Kolko kept saying he should not to tell anyone else about their encounters because it would ruin his chances of getting a shidduch (marriage match).
Sadly, the boy maintained the relationship even colluding in secret meetings because “He was my friend” perhaps his only friend.
According to ADA Pierro, the abuse only stopped when the boy revealed it to his psychologist, Dr. Koslowski. She did not fulfill her responsibility as a mandated reporter. At the time she said, “We keep things like this in-house at Lakewood.”
Instead, she told the father about the abuse and he confronted Kolko one-on-one and then in several more meetings with Rabbis Shmuel Blech and Doniel Bernstein, members of a beit din (rabbinical court) created to deal with sex abuse allegations. There were also meetings with Rabbi Nechemya Gottlieb, the then director of Camp Yachad and Yeshiva Bais Hatorah (which also employed Kolko).
In news reports unrelated to this case, Gottlieb is alleged to have physically abused boys in his school. Gottlieb went on to organize the asifa (gathering) which filled up a stadium to discourage Internet use and encourage orthodox Jews to buy his pricey Internet filter. It is ironic that this zealot for purity, this crusader against licentiousness on the Internet, ignored and covered up abuse in his own domain where there was no Internet use.
The beit din’s “in-house” procedure included sending Kolko to Gavriel Fagin, a social worker in Brooklyn. Sources tell me that Fagin is popular with ultra orthodox communal fixers across the metro NYC area who deal with molesters.
The father’s goals were getting Kolko out of work with kids and keeping Kolko in therapy in the hope that it would deter him from abusing other kids. But apparently Kolko thought he could get a better deal. He discontinued therapy after the evaluation was completed and the therapy began. He fled from the pointed fingers of the beit din and Fagin into the embrace of Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath in Flatbush where he once learned and was ordained as a rabbi around 2001. READ MORE
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RABBI YISROEL BELSKY'S LETTER TO THE RESIDENTS OF LAKEWOOD
My ears should have been spared hearing the horrific news that one of your fellow residents in town
informed upon a fellow Jew to the hands of the secular authorities,may god spare us,for which the
[Jewish]law is undisputed that one who commits such an act has no share in the world to come. (see:
Choshen Mishpat 388:4)
After conducting a thorough investigation I am absolutely certain that R' Y.K.[Yosef Kolko],may his light
shine, is perfectly innocent of any wrongdoing of any nature whatsoever. And not only is he innocent
but it is also as cleartone that all these allegations are fabrications made by [REDACTED].
Further, all the reports made to the secular authorities were only for the express purpose of casting
blame for their[the victim's family] own shameful and cursed existence on others. And the truth is that
the allegations they make against others are crimes they themselves are in fact guilty of and they seek
to cleanse their reputation by blaming an innocent man for their own deeds.
Accordingly, asitis a great mitzvah to rescue the pursued from the hands of the pursuer and to make it
known that the righteous man is right and the evil man is evil‐to rescue a pure and righteous soul.
Therefore, anyone who has the ability to rescue the righteous and does not do so is considered as if he
is himself the pursuer. (See: Rambam ‐ laws regarding informing 1: 14)
Thus, all who have the ability to influence the informers that they should retract their terrible deeds
should do so.
lul, 5770 [August, 2010]
It is clear that no one in the world has the authority to establish guilt on anyone without both [the
accuser and accused] coming to an accepted bais din of the matter to be heard amongst “brothers.” If
one does this[establishes guilt without a determination of a bais din] even if he is "as tall as a cedar
tree" [a great scholar] he has made an absolute error. And More so he [the accuser]may not take any
damaging action against the accused and even more so may not bring any accusation to the secular
authorities. Such actions[reporting made to the secular authorities] are elucidated in [Shulchan Aruch ‐
Jewish code of law compiled in the 16th century] Choshen Mishpat chapter 388 [which discusses the
penalties for “mesira” reporting to the secular authorities]. And there can be no [Jewish law] lawful and
righteous means[to report to the secular authorities] other than to first show that one has in their
possession a clear detailed ruling in writing from an expert bais din that includes specifics of the matter.
And if one violates this ruling and commits the deed of reporting to the secular authorities it is
incumbent upon him to rectify this misdeed and do everything possible to clear the accused of any trace
of allegations with the secular authorities. And it does not need to be said that it is prohibited to assist
and participate with them[the secular authorities]in their efforts to persecute a Jew.
Avrohom Spitzer Tzvi Yosef Burstein
Dayan ‐ Skver Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta of Lakewood
Eliyahu Levine Shlomo Gisinger
Rosh Kollel of Kollel Choshen Mishpat Rabbi of Cong Zichron Yaakov
Chaim Ginsberg Shmuel Mayer Katz
Rosh Chabura – Beth Medrash Govoha Dayan – Beth Medrash Govoha
Yosef Zimbal Simcha Bunim Cohen
Rabbi ‐ Congregation Westgate Rabbi ‐ Congregation Ateres Yeshaya
Meir Reuvein Berkowitz
Rabbi – Congregation Whispering Pines Sefard
Yosef Kolko leaves the Ocean County Courthouse after pleading not guilty to sexual assault charges in August 2010.
Child sex-assault trial of Yeshiva teacher to begin.
Lakewood boy, family skirted religious protocols
By Kathleen Hopkins Asbury Park Press May 4, 2013
TOMS RIVER — In a tight-knit community of people accustomed to handling problems among themselves, one young boy bucked the trend.
He accused a Yeshiva teacher and camp counselor of molesting him, and when a religious council of Orthodox Jews failed to take action against the man, the boy and his family went to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office for help.
Because they skirted religious protocols, the boy and his family were ostracized by their community. Some in the community even embarked on a campaign to get the boy and his father to drop the criminal charges.
And, a flier was circulated in Lakewood saying the boy’s father made a “mockery” of the Torah and committed a “terrible deed” by going to the secular authorities.
But the family stood its ground. Now, six years after the alleged abuse occurred, the man accused of molesting the boy is set to go on trial in a case that likely is to be closely watched by Lakewood’s Orthodox Jewish community.
Jury selection began Wednesday for the trial of Yosef Kolko, who was working as a camp counselor at Yachad, a summer camp at the Yeshiva Bais Hatorah School on Swarthmore Avenue in Lakewood when he met the victim. Kolko also was a teacher at Yeshiva Orchos Chaim in Lakewood.
Kolko, 39, of Geffen Drive in Lakewood is accused of sexually abusing the boy between September 2007 and February 2009, when the victim was 11 and 12 years old. Kolko is charged with aggravated sexual assault, attempted aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and child endangerment.
Jury selection was expected to last several days. The trial will be before state Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson.
Prior court hearings have provided a glimpse of what is to come at trial.
At a pretrial hearing in 2011, it was revealed that Kolko opened up to a social worker about the sexual abuse allegations.
The social worker, Gavriel Fagin of Brooklyn, had been hired by the Beis Din, a rabbinical council to which the boy and his father initially brought the molestation allegations. Fagin was responsible for interviewing Kolko to determine the legitimacy of the allegations.
He testified in the pretrial hearing that he had administered a number of tests to Kolko during a series of office visits in March 2009. At an office visit in April 2009, Fagin was discussing the results of the tests with Kolko when “he began to open up about the allegations,” Fagin said. “There were a lot of specifics.”
Kolko’s attorney, Michael Wilbert, tried to get Kolko’s discussions with Fagin excluded from the coming trial, saying that what Kolko said to Fagin should be privileged because of the social worker-client relationship. But Hodgson ruled that Kolko waived any privilege by signing a form allowing information from his sessions with Fagin to be disclosed to the Beis Din. Hodgson said the Beis Din could be considered a parallel justice system within a closed community, and therefore, Kolko’s discussions with Fagin can be presented at the upcoming trial.
After his sessions with Fagin, Kolko entered counseling but discontinued treatment shortly afterward, according to papers filed in the case filed by Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Laura Pierro, who will be trying the case.
The discontinuation of treatment is what prompted the victim’s father, in July 2009, to go to the Prosecutor’s Office with the allegations — a bold move in a community that has long been resistant to secular involvement.
Kolko has been free on $125,000 bail. If he is convicted, he could face up to 60 years in prison.
Trial Update- Jury Selection Continues
Yerachmiel Lopin, Frumfollies.com May 3, 2013
Thursday, May 2 was taken up with the selection of the jury trying Rabbi Yosef Kolko which will include four alternates. Jury selection will resume Tuesday, May 7 at 2 p.m. Opening statements will probably be delivered Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning. The trial is expected to run for about three weeks
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Jury Is in Process of Being Selected in Yosef Kolko Lakewood Trial
May 1st 2013
The trial of Yosef Kolko started this morning with jury selection. The window has closed on a plea bargain.