The suit alleges that a man hired as a cantor at Temple Am David had previously sexually assaulted boys “by using positions of trust, including positions at other temples.”
PROVIDENCE — A lawyer who has handled priest abuse cases in Rhode Island filed a lawsuit yesterday against a Jewish congregation in Warwick, claiming a former religion instructor victimized other children before molesting a 12-year-old boy who was preparing for his bar mitzvah at Temple Am David.
Stanley Rosenfeld, 72, of Hillside Avenue, pleaded no contest in 2001 to two counts of second-degree child molestation and was given a 10-year suspended sentence. After violating probation, he was sent to prison for 18 months, court records show.
Yesterday, Providence lawyer Timothy J. Conlon filed a lawsuit in Superior Court on behalf of the victim and his mother, who are identified in court papers as John and Jane Doe.
The complaint claims that Temple Am David knew, or should have known, that Rosenfeld had previously sexually assaulted boys “by using positions of trust, including positions at other temples.”
The suit mentions no other cases in which Rosenfeld was convicted of molestation, but it cites a probation report that says: “When asked if he had molested children while teaching in New York, [Rosenfeld] stated, ‘There have been other incidents, but I was never charged.’ “
While not naming any other synagogues, the suit targets as-yet-unnamed “individuals and entities that engaged Rosenfeld as a teacher or other person in a position of trust as to children, and failed to appropriately report his misconduct.”
“At the heart of the claims against the temple is the allegation that other Jewish synagogues had problems with Rosenfeld, but he was allowed to move from one to another and offend again,” Conlon said in a statement.
Conlon, who in 2002 handled nearly 40 priest abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, said, “We are familiar with the problem religious institutions have had controlling child molesters who want to use a position of trust to abuse children. The Jewish community needs to understand that this problem is more widespread than anyone might like to think.”
An official at Temple Am David said he could not comment because he had not seen the lawsuit as of yesterday afternoon.
When asked to comment on the suit, Rosenfeld said, “This was settled in court, and I am still serving probation. I am in counseling therapy, and I have no contact with children — no one-on-one contact with children.” He said he is no longer an instructor at Temple Am David.
The temple, at 40 Gardiner St. in Warwick, employed Rosenfeld’s wife, Ann Lea Adler, as a religion school instructor in 1998, and, based on her recommendation, hired Rosenfeld as a “cantor, Jewish religious clergyman and religious instructor,” according to the suit, which names Rosenfeld’s wife as a defendant.
The suit claims the temple hired Rosenfeld without a formal interview, screening or review process, and without a background check.
As the alleged victim’s bar mitzvah was approaching, the temple referred the boy to Rosenfeld as his instructor, and Rosenfeld molested the boy over about six months during “private, closed-door ‘tutoring’ sessions at the temple,” the suit states.
The suit claims Rosenfeld “has acknowledged other victims within this state as well as victims in different states, demonstrating his clear propensity to commit these crimes against minors.”
To support that claim, the suit cites the probation report, which was written by probation officer Sharon Turner of the sex offender unit on Nov. 14, 2001.
The report says that in August 2001, Rosenfeld “admitted to constantly having to ‘fight his desire for boys.’ He said he often looks at children when driving and had ‘considered what it would be like to pursue a child’ but that he has never acted on this desire.”
The report says that, “When asked if he had molested both male and female children, [Rosenfeld] responded that his ‘preferred prey’ is adolescent boys.”
The suit says Rosenfeld completed the Rhode Island assessment of sex offender risk form and scored in the “high re-offense” category. “He is one of only 22 ‘high risk offenders’ in Rhode Island listed on the Rhode Island Parole Board’s Web site,” the suit states.
The Web site, www.paroleboard.ri.gov, contains a photo of Rosenfeld, who is described as being 5-foot-9, 240 pounds, with gray hair and hazel eyes. It says Rosenfeld is under probation supervision until May 2011.
In a 2001 Journal story, the police said Rosenfeld grew up in New York City, worked in the New York public school system for about 20 years and worked for about 10 years at a private Jewish academy in New York.
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