Less than two weeks after an East Windsor rabbi and youth educator in Marlboro was charged with sexually assaulting a 12-year-old boy in 2012, a second alleged victim came forward and accused the rabbi of similar charges regarding incidents that occurred between 2010 and 2011.
Rabbi Menachem Chinn, 36, a teacher at Shalom Torah Academy in Morganville and director of the Twin Rivers chapter of the National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), has been held in the Mercer County Correctional Center since April 20 when he was arrested in his home and charged with one count of endangering the welfare of a child and one count of sexual assault.
The victim alleges that Chinn touched him inappropriately on one occasion in 2012 at the rabbi’s residence, according to a press release issued by the Office of the Mercer County Prosecutor, which conducted a joint investigation between its special victims unit and the East Windsor police. No reason was given for why the boy was at Chinn’s home that evening, and NJ1015.com reported that it was unclear if the boy was a student at Shalom Torah. A detention hearing was held April 26 in Mercer County Superior Court where a judge ordered that Chinn remain in prison.
New charges against Chinn — an additional count of endangering the welfare of a child and another of sexual assault — were filed May 2 after the second victim, now an adult, told authorities Chinn had inappropriate sexual contact with him at Chinn’s home numerous times between July 2010 and May 2011, according to a press release from Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri and East Windsor Police Chief James A. Geary. Chinn was the victim’s teacher and the youth had also been a member of Chinn’s NCSY chapter.
Following the initial allegations, The Trentonian interviewed Chinn’s wife, Ruth, who called the charges “ridiculous.” She told the newspaper that she recalled the 2012 incident in question, and said that “a bunch of kids” were in the couple’s basement for a youth program when one of the boys screamed in pain from an apparent leg cramp, and thinks her husband massaged the boy’s foot to work the cramp out.
“It’s on the bottom of your foot. Nowhere near anything private,” she told The Trentonian, which reported that the Chinns have six children.
NJJN left multiple voicemail messages at the Chinn’s home, but the calls were not returned as of press time.
NCSY, the youth movement affiliated with the Orthodox Union, placed Chinn on leave immediately after he was arrested, pending the results of the investigation. An NCSY New Jersey website that had listed him as “Twin Rivers Director” was taken down some days later. In a statement released shortly thereafter, NCSY wrote that it was “shocked” to learn of his arrest.
“The safety and well-being of NCSY participants is the organization’s utmost priority at all times,” according to the statement. “NCSY has zero tolerance whatsoever for improper or illegal behavior. Toward that end, NCSY maintains robust policies and procedures for its entire staff, including appropriate behavioral standards, criminal background checks, and an ombudsmen hotline that is checked multiple times daily, and extensive staff training. Any and all complaints are thoroughly investigated by seasoned professionals, who at all times are prepared to refer matters to the criminal justice system.”
Chinn had been affiliated with NCSY for 15 years, during which time the organization said it had not been made aware of any complaints about his conduct.
Avital Chizhik, director of media strategy for the OU, said the “first priority was to send a letter out to parents.” She said an interim advisor will be appointed in Chinn’s place and NCSY will cooperate with the investigation.
Chizhik and NCSY New Jersey regional director Rabbi Ethan Katz held an event in East Windsor on May 4 to discuss the situation with parents and youth in the community, and to respond to any questions or concerns they might have. A few days after the meeting, Chizhik released the following statement: “Last week’s event was a regularly scheduled evening learning program, with a professional social worker present. Concerns were expressed and discussed, but no further complaints were received.”
Katz said he will be in contact with local religious and lay leaders and will be prepared to discuss future programming.
NCSY adopted strict standards of conduct in the wake of a scandal involving Rabbi Baruch Lanner, the former NJ regional NCSY director and principal at Hillel Yeshiva High School in Deal. In 2000, Lanner resigned from the OU following a New York Jewish Week report documenting his long history of emotional and sexual abuse of young people of both genders. In an earlier version of this story, NJJN reported that Lanner was convicted of sexually abusing two teenage girls at the Deal school 2002, however an appellate court ruled in 2005 that he should only have been convicted of abusing one of the girls. The other abuse conviction was upheld and Lanner served three years of a seven-year sentence beginning in 2005 before he was released on parole in 2008.
A subsequent investigation by the OU found the abuse had gone on for decades and had been covered up by religious authorities. The organization now has an extensive manual of conduct, standards, and behavior, last updated in September, which includes detailed descriptions of inappropriate actions that constitute sexual harassment or abuse. According to the statement, it’s commitment to the “physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of all NCSY professionals, volunteers, and NCSYers is non-negotiable.”
“In both word and deed, all persons involved with NCSY are expected to comport themselves according to halakhic [Jewish law] standards regarding modesty and matters of a personal or sexual nature. Moreover, involvement with NCSY demands a commitment to refrain from any action or word that is injurious or demeaning toward a person of the same or opposite gender.”
The school’s website had listed him as a youth advisor and instructor for sixth- and seventh-grade boys. The entire staff listing has since been taken down and the school failed to return repeated calls for comment.
Anyone with information on the Chinn case should contact Mercer County Prosecutor’s Detective Alicia Bergondo at 609 989-6568 or East Windsor Detective Thomas Meyer at 609 448-5678.