An ultra-Orthodox Jewish Rabbi from Crown Heights has been arrested in Beverly Hills on child sex abuse charges. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Tevel was arrested yesterday at a community center in Beverly Hills on charges of Criminal Sexual Act in the First Degree, Criminal Sexual Act in the Third Degree and Sexual Abuse in the First Degree. According to the Jewish Journal:
In August, the Journal reported on four men who said they had been victims of Tevel when they were minors (ranging from ages 6 to 14 at the time of the alleged abuse). They claimed Tevel performed acts that included spanking on bare skin, to sexually suggestive rubbing. The instances described by those who spoke with the Journal took place as early as around 1995 and as recently as around 2004.
Tevel is expected to be extradited back to NYC to face the charges. The watchdog group Jewish Community Watch was heavily involved in calling attention to the allegations against Tevel. The group's website recounts the experience of one victim who came forward after New York's statute of limitations had expired:
When he was a 14-year-old student — in around 2004 — at the since-closed Shterns Yeshiva in upstate New York, Tevel, then a mentor at the school, initiated what was at first a friendly relationship with the speaker. Tevel, who is now about 30, was around 21 years old at the time.
At first, the man alleged, Tevel offered simply to be the student’s exercise partner. But eventually, he said, Tevel came up with extreme ways to motivate him to work out harder, including repeatedly whipping him with a metal coat hanger, which he said lacerated his skin and caused bleeding.
He claimed that as the relationship grew, Tevel would crawl into bed with him at night, inappropriately massage him, and rub his clothed body against the boy’s. He claimed Tevel also bent him over and spanked him when he refused to immerse himself in what was sometimes a very cold outdoor mikveh(ritual bath). These incidents occurred multiple times, the speaker said.
“He wasn’t exactly trying to hide the fact that he had an erection at the time,” the alleged victim told the gathering, describing his incidents with Tevel in the mikveh. “I was a very naïve 14-year-old, but something just didn’t feel right, so I cut off ties with him.”
The director of the community center where Tevel was arrested is Rabbi Hertzel Illulian, Tevel's father-in-law. In a statement to the Jewish Journal, Illulian said, "God will help that it will show that it's all false and will clear up, and people will see while we will still continue our good job for the community."