Sexual abuse alleged at D.C. Jewish preschool

Washington Hebrew Congregation on Aug. 15 “became aware of allegations that an employee at the may have engaged in inappropriate conduct involving one or more children,” according to a letter sent to families.
Photo courtesy of Washington Hebrew Congregation

Police are investigating possible sexual abuse at Washington Hebrew Congregation’s early childhood center.

A letter sent on Aug. 19 from the synagogue to parents at the Edlavitch-Tyser Early Childhood Center, which cares for children between 6 months and 5 years old, said the synagogue on Aug. 15 “became aware of allegations that an employee … may have engaged in inappropriate conduct involving one or more children.”

According to a police report, the alleged conduct began Sept. 2, 2017, and ended Aug. 15 at 5:18 p.m. A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Department said an investigation is ongoing and being carried out by Det. Sarah Buc.

The letter, signed by Rabbi Bruce Lustig, congregation President Neil Shapiro and ECC Head of Schools DJ Jensen, declines to name the employee, citing the synagogue’s cooperation with police.

“These allegations and the necessary investigations are painful for everyone,” they wrote. “But as a sacred community and congregation we seek to provide support to all as we face these challenges. We seek both justice and compassion as our tradition demands.”

On Aug. 23, synagogue leaders held an informational meeting with current and alumni parents, and in a follow-up email offered counseling resources via the Baltimore Child Abuse Center. In the email, Lustig, Shapiro and Jensen also wrote about operational changes to the “before- and after-care program,” stipulating that in the future, every child will have a specific classroom assigned to him or her for early morning care or “after-care” from 3:30 to 6 p.m.

Additionally, the early childhood center will add more personnel to ensure that “children are supervised by at least two teachers at all times” and “to provide oversight in various ‘specialty activity’ areas, including the construction room, art room, bike room, nap time, and STEM work station.”

A receptionist position will also “be created to assist parents, teachers, and students in the hallways as well as to monitor teacher movement outside the classroom.”

Since the allegations, the synagogue has begun its own internal investigation and retained Levick — a public relations firm — to help with its public response.

“We are deeply troubled by the allegations and are addressing them utilizing internal and external resources,” the Aug. 19 letter to parents reads. “Likewise, we are working closely with the affected families to provide information, counseling, and support. We are also committed to ensuring that students returning to the ECC in the fall and their families know that they are returning to a safe and secure environment.”

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