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Rabbi abused me too, many more allege

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Wagons filled with discontent and outrage are circling Flatbush’s Yeshiva Torah Temimah as more and more students, both past and present, allege that the school did nothing to stop wayward sexual abuse by a prominent rabbi, even after they had been repeatedly told about the teacher and the spiritual leader’s sinful actions. Despite the clouds of discontent that hang over the school at 555 Ocean Parkway, officials are tight-lipped about the allegations, the lawsuits as well as the arrest of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, who was charged last month with abusing a nine-year-old boy from the school. On January 4, lawyers for Yeshiva Torah Temimah were handed their fourth lawsuit in one year – this one on behalf of an unidentified child and his parents who claim that the school covered up allegations that Kolko sexually abused him during the 2004-2005 school year. The student and his family are seeking $10 million in reparations for the alleged abuse. Neither the school nor attorneys representing the school returned calls for comment about the latest lawsuit. Troubles for Torah Temimah began in May of last year when two former students of the school, who are now well into their 40s and 50s, came forward, claiming that they had been sexually abused by Kolko when they had attended the school. Both men, who were identified only as John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 in court papers, alleged that they were sexually abused by Kolko, but when they reported the abuse to the school, they alleged that administrators did nothing, claiming, in effect, that the students “were not actually abused.” Their parents were allegedly warned that if they continued with their complaints or had the authorities investigate the complaints, “other children in their families would be expelled from the yeshiva and prevented from attending other yeshivas in the New York area,” according to the suit filed by Jeffrey Herman of the Miami-based law firm Herman and Mermelstein. “[Yeshiva Torah Temimah] received multiple, credible reports that Rabbi Kolko was sexually abusing other young boys who he came into contact with,” Herman stated in his suit. “But instead of accepting responsibility or at a minimum conducting a good faith investigation, [administrators] willfully engaged in a campaign of intimidation, concealment and misrepresentations designed to prevent victims from filing civil lawsuits.” Most of the alleged “cover-ups” were conducted by Rabbi Lipa Margulies, the leader of Torah Temimah at the time, who also happened to be a neighbor to the parents of one of the plaintiffs. The third person to bring a lawsuit against Rabbi Kolko and Torah Temimah did so in August of last year, claiming that he had been sexually abused in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During an interview with Jewish Week, the plaintiff, identified only as John Doe #3, said that he felt he was special because Rabbi Kolko paid so much attention to him. Then the abuse started, alleged the plaintiff, a 31-year-old former soldier who now lives in South Carolina. “I hate that he took away my innocence,” the plaintiff told Jewish Week. “I blame so much on him.” Since all of the alleged abuse took place over 20 years ago, Kolko managed to escape any criminal charges from his victim’s allegations. That all changed in December 7, when a nine-year-old boy claimed that the rabbi had sexually abused him. Kolko, 60, of the 1200 block of East 22nd Street, was charged with four counts of sex abuse and endangering the welfare of a minor. Upon his arrest, officials at Yeshiva Torah Temimah told reporters that Rabbi Kolko was no longer affiliated with the school. In previous interviews, school officials claimed that they never looked into any of the allegations against Kolko because they were never given enough evidence to warrant an investigation.

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