BALTIMORE — Rabbi Steven (Shmuel) Krawatsky, a middle school Judaic studies teacher at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Pikesville, was fired Jan. 18 after an explosive article was published the previous day by New York Jewish Week tracing a pattern of alleged child sexual abuse by the rabbi, according to a letter the school sent that day to parents.
Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim, in Pikesville, also announced on Jan. 18 that Krawatsky resigned from his position there as head of a teen inclusion minyan.
And, unrelated to the Krawatsky matter, Jonathan Lasson, a high school teacher who previously worked as a psychologist, was also fired from Beth Tfiloh on Jan. 19 after officials learned of an alleged inappropriate relationship with a female patient that led to disciplinary action from the Maryland Board of Examiners of Psychologists.
The Krawatsky allegations date back to 2015 and center around three boys who were campers at Camp Shoresh in Frederick County. At the time, the rabbi, who is 40, was head of the lower boys’ division.
The Jewish Week article details the children’s alleged abuse and the Frederick County Child Protective Services investigation that resulted after the children told their parents.
Asked for comment, Krawatasky’s Frederick-based lawyer, Christopher Rolle, said in an email that Krawatsky “states emphatically that he is innocent of the allegations discussed in the article.”
The CPS investigation initially determined that Krawatsky was “indicated” for sexual abuse, which means there is credible evidence that abuse took place. But after appeals in 2016 by Krawatsky’s attorneys, that determination was downgraded to “unsubstantiated” which, in the parlance of CPS, means there is not enough evidence to determine a finding of “indicated” or “ruled out.”
Camp Shoresh ended Krawatsky’s employment in 2015, and in a 2016 statement, camp leadership said that the camp quickly reported allegations to the Frederick County Department of Social Services and “suspended the employee’s relationship with Shoresh pending resolution of any and all investigations by the appropriate authorities.”
Beth Tfiloh initially placed Krawatsky on leave when the allegations were made, but he was reinstated following the appeal and the “unsubstantiated” determination.
After the Jewish Week story was published on Jan. 17, Beth Tfiloh’s director of education, Zipora Schorr, sent a letter to parents informing them that as “part of ongoing efforts in this area,” the Baltimore Child Abuse Center had performed an audit of school facilities, policies and procedures “to ensure that our school proactively protects its children and responds appropriately to any allegations of child abuse and neglect, and is in full compliance with Maryland mandated reporting laws.” The letter also noted that “Beth Tfiloh was not notified of any further reports regarding this teacher,” following the “unsubstantiated” finding in February 2016.
On Jan. 18, Schorr sent another letter that said that “as a result of the allegations detailed in yesterday’s Jewish Week article, Beth Tfiloh has terminated Rabbi Shmuel Krawatsky’s employment. Rabbi Krawatsky will not be on our premises, and will not have any contact with our students. This decision is in keeping with our school’s commitment to the safety and well-being of our students, which we consider to be paramount.”
On Monday, Beth Tfiloh’s board of trustees held a meeting concerning Krawatsky and the Jewish Week article and subsequently issued a lengthy statement afterward, which said, in part, that “there is much in the article that is incorrect and subject to question.”
Beth Tfiloh reasserted in the statement that it was not privy to the police investigation or the Social Services documentation of the alleged abuse.
“We were informed by letter dated March 22, 2016, that Frederick County law enforcement, the States’ Attorney and Child Protective Services had completed their investigation and ‘have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to substantiate that any criminal offense occurred between the parties and/or any third parties,’ and we were informed that the case was closed with a finding of ‘unsubstantiated.’
“In the absence of any credible evidence from an objective source that he engaged in any inappropriate conduct, Beth Tfiloh had no basis to take any employment action against Rabbi Krawatsky. Contrary to that reported in the article, Beth Tfiloh was never contacted by the Orthodox Union regarding this matter.”
The statement goes on to say that Beth Tfiloh has never received any allegations of misconduct or inappropriate behavior by Krawatsky at Beth Tfiloh’s schools, synagogue, camps or with any child or family, but because of the “explosive nature” of the newly reported allegations and publicity in the Jewish Week article, it was “impossible for Rabbi Krawatsky to effectively carry out his educational duties at Beth Tfiloh.”
Susan C. Ingram is a staff reporter at the Baltimore Jewish Times.