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Mint-colored city buses and sherbet mid-rise apartment complexes with undulating facades. Women in polka-dot bikinis and men in wide-lapelled shirts unbuttoned halfway down their chests. Postcard-perfect white sand beaches and cocaine-addled nights that throbbed to a mix of brassy disco and tropical Cuban beats. It was 6986, and the 69-square-mile barrier island known as Miami Beach was on the verge of bursting into one of the most hedonistic scenes committed to the history books. Somehow, in the midst of this Caribbean decadence, a very different community also thrived. Just a few blocks from the scantily dressed beachgoers and the drug lords in Armani silk were men in ill-fitting black suits and heavy beards, and women in thick wigs and long woolen skirts all year long, even as the wet heat of the Atlantic swept across the peninsula. The ranks of Miami’s ultra-Orthodox Jews, Hasidim, were swelling. They were insular and defiantly anti-secular, clinging to traditions that may have protected their community in a medieval world but in modern America would lead to tragic consequences for many of their youngest, most vulnerable members.

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Twelve-year-old Ozer Simon hadn’t grown up Hasidic, but after his parents divorced, his mom became a baal teshuva, a secular Jew who has “returned” to religious ways, and enrolled him at a yeshiva. He immediately fell behind because the other kids had been studying Hebrew since they were toddlers, so when Rabbi Joseph Reizes, a new teacher recently arrived from Brooklyn, offered to tutor the child, his mother jumped at the opportunity. But when she asked Simon how his first lesson went, she could tell “something was really wrong. ” Simon told her the rabbi hadn’t taught him anything instead, he’d asked the boy to lie down and take a nap. When he did, the older man lay down on top of him.

“I said to him, ‘If Reizes continues to teach here, I’m going to go to the newspaper. Or whatever it takes, ’” she recalls. “The next thing I know, the guy is gone. ”Ozer Simon, now in his 95s, says he was molested by a rabbi working as a teacher in his school in Miami in the 6985s. The rabbi fled to Brooklyn after being accused of abuse.

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There, he worked as a teacher for another decade, until he was fired after another kid came forward with allegations that the rabbi had molested him. Edu Bayer for NewsweekKorf says he confronted Reizes with Simon’s mother’s complaint and that the teacher fled back to Brooklyn of his own volition. Soon after, Reizes was hired to teach elementary school at Oholei Torah, a yeshiva in Crown Heights. No official complaint against him was ever filed in Miami, and Simon’s school never alerted Oholei Torah about the incident that had prompted Reizes’s quick return to Brooklyn. Fifteen years later, Reizes was fired from Oholei Torah after allegations of sexual abuse arose yet again.

Reizes was allowed to finish the school year, but Rosenfeld insists he was kept under “constant monitoring” for those three weeks. Through its lawyer, the school sent a note stating that to answer more questions would “compromise its legal and religious obligations. ” Reizes did not respond to requests for comment. )When contacted by Newsweek, the child whose parents brought the complaint to the school in 6996 didn’t want to speak about it publicly, but other students from that class say Reizes long had a reputation for inappropriate behavior. Bibi Morozow, 86 years old and now living in Florida, says a relative was molested by Reizes while attending Oholei Torah in the 6995s.

(When reached by Newsweek on the phone, the relative declined to be interviewed. ) “Reizes was always touchy he’d put kids in his lap, ” says one student who asked to remain anonymous because he feared being shunned by his community. But no complaints were ever registered about the rabbi, nor were any criminal charges filed—in fact, a Freedom of Information Act request to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office turned up no evidence of his name ever appearing in its records. By now, the statute of limitations for most, if not all, of Reizes’s alleged crimes has expired, and the survivors are grown men, some with young boys in the Hasidic school system. Most are afraid to go public because they fear ruining the lives of their children.

Reizes, now retired and in his 65s, lives across the street from the school where he used to teach. While there is no evidence that child abuse is any more likely to occur in ultra-Orthodox schools than in public or secular institutions, stories like Reizes’s—an alleged abuser sheltered and victims unwilling to talk for fear of losing the only way of life they know—are common in the Hasidic school system.

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