(Bronx, New York) – A survivor, sexually abused when he was approximately 13 to 14 years old, has sued the private Modern Orthodox Jewish school of Salanter Akiba Riverdale (SAR) Academy under New York’s Child Victims Act (CVA). The CVA is a new law that gives survivors of child sexual abuse until August 13, 2020 to bring lawsuits that were previously time-barred by the statute of limitations, no matter when the abuse occurred. Robert Eckmann was sexually abused as an 8th grader during the 1976 – 1977 school year by the Assistant Principal for General Studies at SAR Academy, Stanley Rosenfeld. The suit is being brought by Jeff Anderson & Associates in collaboration with Abend & Silber, a New York litigation firm. The complaint can be found at www.andersonadvocates.com (News & Events section) and at www.abendsilber.com.
“We have long been aware that there is a serious problem in this culture and at this school,” said Anderson. “The leaders at SAR Academy have hidden the peril at this school for decades and it’s time to address it.” Rosenfeld has admitted to molesting hundreds of boys on and off SAR campus. When asked if anyone at SAR knew he was abusing children, Rosenfeld stated to investigators, “I don’t know if they knew or not. Sometimes it was very possible to see me do that because I wasn’t hiding [the behavior].” Rosenfeld also stated that at some point, SAR Principal Rabbi Sheldon Chwat spoke to him about “doing something wrong” that he characterized as “always faulty touching.”
On August 8, 2000, Rosenfeld was arrested and charged with four counts of Second-Degree Child Molestation for the sexual abuse of a 12-year-old boy. On May 21, 2001, in Rhode Island Superior Court, Rosenfeld pled no contest to Second Degree Child Molestation, received a 10-year suspended sentence and was placed on probation, the terms of which included no contact with children. After violating his probation on September 13, 2002, Rosenfeld was resentenced to 18 months of incarceration. Rosenfeld was required to register as a Level III Sex Offender in Rhode Island upon his release from prison and was placed on probation supervision until May 20, 2011.
In 2018, an investigative firm looked into allegations of sexual abuse committed by Rosenfeld at SAR as a result of Eckmann’s report to the school. The investigation revealed that between 1974 and 1987 Rosenfeld engaged in acts of sexual abuse or other sexually inappropriate behavior with minor students. Among other places, the abuse occurred at Rosenfeld’s home during SAR-sanctioned Shabbat dinners as well as on-campus in the classroom, the office, and hallways. The findings were based on firsthand reports from twelve former SAR students, eleven boys and one girl, as well as one non-SAR student.
This investigation also revealed that Rosenfeld’s sexual misconduct became known to Rabbi Sheldon Schwartz, an SAR Judaic Studies teacher, when two former students separately disclosed to him that Rosenfeld had touched them inappropriately. Moreover, Rabbi Schwartz was present on multiple occasions at Rosenfeld’s home when abuse of the boys occurred. The evidence presented during the investigation further demonstrates that Rosenfeld’s sexual misconduct also became known to former SAR Principal Rabbi Chwat when a former faculty member reported to him that she observed Rosenfeld touch a boy’s groin area in an office at the school. Moreover, the investigation revealed that a “senior member” of SAR recalled Chwat saying that Rosenfeld left SAR in 1977 because he was “the kind of person that has a proclivity or interest in students” and “not the person who should be with kids full time.” Despite this proclivity, Rosenfeld was rehired in 1986 by SAR to teach sixth grade language arts part-time for one year. SAR’s assistant principal at the time, Rabbi Joel Cohn, asked the principal at the time, Rabbi Yonah Fuld, if there were any concerns regarding Rosenfeld. Cohn, recalling that Fuld had been an associate principal while Rosenfeld was employed at SAR, responded, “For a short amount of time, I think it’s okay.”
Throughout the years, SAR placed other employees in positions of power where they were able to sexually abuse minors. According to the investigative firm, Rabbi Sheldon Schwartz was found to have sexually abused at least four students. In September 2019, SAR’s assistant principal, Jonathan Skolnick, was arrested and charged with possession and production of child pornography and the sexual exploitation of a young boy.
“A school’s primary mission is the safety of the children placed in its care,” said Josh Silber of Abend & Silber. “SAR completely ignored this sacred responsibility.”
Contacts – Jeff Anderson & Associates
Jeff Anderson: 646.499.3364 (c), 646.759.2551 (o)
Trusha Goffe: 646.995.0616 (c), 646.759.2551 (o)
Nahid Shaikh: 516.395.3429 (c), 646.759.2551 (o)
Contacts – Abend & Silber
Richard H. Abend: 212.532.5656 (o)
Josh Silber: 212.532.7676 (o)