The Brooklyn District Attorney's office has requested the extradition of Avrohom Mondrowitz, a resident of Jerusalem and a prominent member of the Ger Hassidic sect, on child molestation charges dating back over two decades involving four boys aged 11 to 16.
The extradition request was made in January, according to Brooklyn District Attorney's Office spokesman Jerry Schmetterer. "We know that the US Department of Justice and the State Department have begun the extradition process," said Schmetterer. "It is also our understanding that the Israeli Justice Ministry has been contacted as well."
The Justice Ministry declined to comment.
Mondrowitz, who was contacted by telephone by The Jerusalem Post, hung up as soon as the reporter identified himself.
However, a prominent member of the Ger community in Jerusalem defended Mondrowitz.
"There are people who are trying to disparage Mondrowitz's name," said the source.
"Mondrowitz is a very intelligent, talented man and so are all of his children. His father is highly respected in the community. I can't believe these stories are true.
The source said Mondrowitz was in the computer business.
Mondrowitz worked for a short period at the Jerusalem College of Technology as a fund-raiser and at the Jerusalem College of Engineering as a lecturer.
The Post has also learned that Dep.-Cmdr. Avi Aviv of the National Fraud Squad's Cyber Crimes Division is conducting an investigation against Mondrowitz.
Mondrowitz, who was born in Tel Aviv in 1947 and later moved with his family to Chicago, arrived in Brooklyn in the late 1970s and presented himself to Orthodox educational institutions as a rabbi and clinical psychologist.
He provided psychological treatment to children from the mixed Jewish-Italian Borough Park neighborhood where he lived. He also opened a yeshiva for children with behavioral problems.
Four children, all from Italian families and all neighbors of Mondrowitz, complained of sexual abuse perpetrated by Mondrowitz. Jewish victims also eventually testified against him, but only after the statute of limitations had expired.
In 1985, a New York State court charged Mondrowitz with eight counts of child abuse in the first degree, endangering the welfare of a child and five counts of sodomy in the first degree.
Mondrowitz and his family fled to Jerusalem after a warrant was issued for his arrest.
At the time of the indictment, sodomy of boys was not an extraditable crime, since it was not defined as rape under Israeli law. In 1988, the Knesset changed that law, apparently opening the way for Mondrowitz's extradition.
The Brooklyn DA's office said Mondrowitz could not be extradited until this year, when the Knesset approved a law removing the impediments to retroactively applying the 1988 law.
But Michael Lesher, an attorney representing six men who say they were molested by Mondrowitz in the early 1980s but who were not included in the original indictment, said the extradition was delayed due to officials, especially Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, dragging their feet.
Lesher claims that Hynes balked due to heavy pressure to drop the case from the Orthodox community in Brooklyn, which supported Mondrowitz despite the fact that Israel's Edah Haredit Rabbinic Court issued a ruling in 1988 in which unnamed "insidious acts" committed by Mondrowitz were mentioned, and warning him to stay away from children.
"Hynes was elected in 1989 with strong Orthodox support," Lesher said in an e-mailed message. "He appointed a virtually all-Orthodox Jewish Advisory Council after being elected, and he reversed the policy of his predecessor, Elizabeth Holtzman, and did not press for Mondrowitz's return to face trial.
In September 1993, Hynes instructed the federal government to close its file on Mondrowitz and said he would not pursue the case while Mondrowitz remained in Israel.
Lesher said he was "elated" to see the district attorney finally moving to extradite Mondrowitz. "All my clients hope that Mondrowitz will at last be brought to justice."
In response to Lesher's claims, Schmetterer said extradition was impossible until the Knesset acted this year.
But in past news reports on delays, Hynes's office was quoted as providing a different explanation. Sources were cited saying that despite the changes in Israeli law, the extradition request could not be made retroactively.