By Shira Hanau
Rabbi Shlomo Adelman returned to his position leading a Modern Orthodox yeshiva in New Jersey in October, just weeks being placed on leave following an allegation that he had molested a camper decades earlier.
So it came as a surprise on Wednesday morning when parents at Torah Academy of Bergen County woke up to an email announcing Adelman’s resignation as head of school, effective immediately.
The email, which came from the school’s board and included a lengthy note from Adelman, did not directly address the allegations or the investigation that the school said it had conducted before returning Adelman to his role.
“Unfortunately, over the past six months, because of issues in my personal life, I have found myself unable to devote my full attention to my duties at TABC,” Adelman wrote in the letter. “The students and parents of TABC deserve a Head of School who is not distracted by outside issues and, at this time, I cannot make the full-time commitment that the job requires and that the Yeshiva deserves.”
A screenshot of the email was shared by Asher Lovy, an advocate for victims of sexual abuse in the Orthodox community.
Adelman had been placed on paid leave in September amid public revelations that a lawsuit had been filed against him in July 2021 alleging child sex abuse more than 30 years earlier. According to the lawsuit, Adelman was accused of molesting Joseph Kastner at Camp Mogen Avraham in upstate New York in 1990. According to the suit, Adelman was a counselor in a bunk near Kastner, a camper at the time.
The lawsuit was filed under New York State’s Child Victims Act, which reopened the statute of limitations to allow victims of sexual abuse to sue their alleged abusers. Details about it and other lawsuits garnered attention after the window to sue closed in August.
Through his lawyer, Adelman denied the allegation in the lawsuit. The school placed him on leave for the start of the school year while a law firm it had recruited to conduct an investigation completed its work.
The school returned Adelman to his position in October. That was after “the conclusion of a thorough and independent investigation” and “consultation with counsel and a panel comprised of a local, highly respected rabbinic scholar and known experts in the fields of mental health and child welfare,” Azi Mandel, the president of the school’s board of directors, wrote in an email to parents at the time, according to the Jewish Standard.
In recent months, attention to how allegations of abuse are handled in Orthodox communities has only grown stronger, with the response to a Haaretz investigation that leveled accusations against Chaim Walder, a popular haredi children’s book author. After a Brooklyn bookstore owner announced that he would no longer sell Walder’s work, a cascade of action against him followed. (Walder died by suicide last month.)
The response to the allegations against Walder has caused Lovy and others to wonder whether a tendency in some parts of the Orthodox world to downplay or ignore allegations of sexual abuse might be changing.
Adelman was appointed as head of school at the Torah Academy of Bergen County, known as TABC, in 2020. He previously led a Jewish school on Long Island and worked in day schools in Texas.
Adelman’s biography was no longer on the school’s website as of Wednesday morning.