The Washington Hebrew Congregation claims that parents forfeited their right to sue over sex abuse.

(For Immediate Release September 15, 2022) 

A prominent Reform synagogue in the District has argued that parents suing over alleged child sex abuse surrendered their right to bring a lawsuit when they signed activity waivers upon enrolling their children in school, court documents show. To us, this is a legal dodge that demonstrates that synagogue leaders care more about their pocketbooks than they do the protection of children, and we hope local parents and parishioners join us in our outrage at this argument.

In 2019, a group of parents filed a lawsuit against the Washington Hebrew Congregation, alleging that authorities at the Edlavitch-Tyser Early Childhood Center ignored warning flags while a teacher sexually abused youngsters. According to the lawsuit, the employee was also permitted to be alone with pupils, despite District standards requiring at least two workers to be present with toddlers in registered child development facilities.

What has astonished us in this lengthy lawsuit is the attorneys for the Washington Hebrew Congregation filed a move for summary judgment in July, asking the court to rule before a trial. The school's counsel contended that by signing the waiver form, parents forfeited their right to sue.

This is, in our opinion, a terrible attempt to stifle the voices of survivors and their families. The entire congregation at Washington Hebrew should demand the best interest of children but instead sit on the sidelines and allow their attorney to slap the faces of those who suffered the alleged horror.

According to Asher Lovy, Director of Community Organizing at ZA'AKAH, who is fiscally sponsored by SNAP, "For a school to claim, essentially, that being sexually abused is a regular function of a child's school experience is not only shocking but indicative of exactly the kind of culture that leads to those kids having been sexually abused. If Washington Hebrew Congregation truly believes that sexual abuse is a reasonable function of their school, perhaps they should include that in their future advertisement and count the seconds until they're shuttered."

It has also been reported that following a high-profile investigation in 2018, D.C. police said there was “insufficient probable cause” to make an arrest. Fourteen children were allegedly abused, according to court documents.

To us, this maneuver by defense counsel is an attempt to divert attention away from the fact that the individuals who brought forth the allegations are suffering as a result of their own church or congregation's actions to cover up the atrocities. As we continue to assist victims and their families, it becomes evident by the day that no institution is exempt from child abuse. We fully support them and ask the court to dismiss this heinous request.

CONTACT: Becky Ianni, SNAP Virginia Leader  ([email protected], 703-801-6044) Asher Lovy, Director of Community Organizing at ZA'AKAH ( [email protected]) Mike McDonnell, Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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