Washington Hebrew inquiry moves into fifth month

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Washington Hebrew Congregation. File photo.

More than four months after receiving a tip about possible sexual abuse at the Washington Hebrew Congregation, Metropolitan Police are still investigating.

Alaina Gertz, a public affairs specialist for the police, confirmed that the investigation was ongoing and that no further information could be shared. She added that the investigation would eventually be closed, whether an arrest is made or not.


Bryant Madden — a vice president at Levick, the public relations firm the synagogue retained back in August when the investigation was opened — said that the congregation couldn’t characterize the investigation other than to say that it was fully cooperating, though he also said that the subject of the investigation was placed on administrative leave back in August and then terminated shortly thereafter.

Three congregants reached by Washington Jewish Week said they either did not know or would not speak about the status of the investigation and whether an arrest is forthcoming.

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Police got involved when they received a tip on their child abuse hotline on Aug. 15. In the subsequent incident report, police wrote that the reported conduct occurred between Sept. 2, 2017, and Aug. 15, 2018. Detective Sarah Buc was the responding officer.
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.”
Signed by Rabbi Bruce Lustig, congregation President Neil Shapiro and ECC Head of Schools DJ Jensen, the letter does not identify 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.”
The following week, 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 added 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 was also “created to assist parents, teachers, and students in the hallways as well as to monitor teacher movement outside
the classroom.”
Neither the police nor the synagogue
offered any estimate of when the investigation would ultimately conclude. n

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