Thursday's FBI raids in the ultra-Orthodox village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County, New York are directly related to allegations of sexual abuse at a village yeshiva, a law enforcement source told the Journal News. Reached for comment, a spokeswoman for the FBI said that the agency is not issuing statements on the raid at this time.
FBI agents entered the United Talmudical Academy in Kiryas Joel shortly after 10 a.m. on Thursday. Throughout the morning agents were observed removing boxes of documents and at least one large filing cabinet from the school. Agents also executed search warrants at the village's Department of Public Safety.
— KJheadquarters (@KJheadquarters) May 12, 2016
The raids came a week after local police acquired surveillance footage allegedly showing the principal of United Talmudic Academy, 67-year-old Rabbi Moshe Hersh Klein, inappropriately touching a young male student inside his office. One 11-minute video was widely circulated on WhatsApp and Facebook, and appears to show Klein kissing a student. According to the News, the uncut version shows a boy standing between a man's legs as he strokes the boys face and kisses him. State police launched a joint investigation on May 2nd, with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the county Child Abuse Unit.
Here's an excerpt of the video, via News 4:
The school issued a statement Tuesday, denying any crime. "While this type of restraint may be unacceptable to some viewers, it in no way rises to the level of a criminal assault," the Board of Directors said. According to the Journal News's source, Klein was on school property the day of the raids and has continued to work since the inquiry launched.
Traditional Jewish law prohibits mesirah, or bringing allegations against other Jews to secular authorities. The Crown Heights rabbinical court officially exempted allegations of sexual assault in 2011 (according to the ruling, "one is forbidden to remain silent in such situations"), but some anti-abuse advocates in the hasidic community in Brooklyn have said that fear still plays a significant role in compelling community members to keep quiet.
"On the tape I don't see nothing," one resident told ABC7 on Thursday. "I don't see any abuse." Another called the rabbi a "wonderful person" and accused the controversy of being "fake."