Child Molester Sent to Treatment Center


David Schwartz, a counselor for preschool boys at an
Orthodox music and arts camp, was sentenced to one year in residential
treatment and five years’ probation for molesting a 4-year-old boy in his care
at summer camp. A six-year prison sentence was suspended.

The Jan. 21 sentencing at the Airport Courthouse came after
Schwartz, the 36-year-old father of young children, accepted a plea bargain in
which he pleaded no contest to one felony count of committing lewd acts with a
child. (A plea of no contest in a criminal court is the equivalent of guilty,
but if victims decide to sue Schwartz, they cannot use the criminal plea
against him, according to the district attorney’s office.)

Schwartz will have to register as a sex offender for life,
undergo at least two years of sex offender therapy and is prohibited from being
alone with minor children, including his own, for the period of probation. He
will have to pay restitution to various victims’ funds and pay the therapy and
medical costs of both the 4-year-old victim and another boy.

Prior to his acceptance of the plea bargain, Schwartz had
maintained his innocence. He was arrested Aug. 2, 2002, after two boys came
forward and said Schwartz had molested them at Camp Ruach in Culver City.

Schwartz’s attorney did not return phone calls seeking
comment.

“He deserves much more than what he got. He got away with
it, but the damage is done to our kids and our families forever,” said the
father of one victim.

Assistant District Attorney Mara McIlvain said her office
offered the plea bargain because some of the parents did not want their
children to have to testify.

“Our son was under too much pain and fear to face him.
Taking him to court would take the chance of bringing back the nightmares and
pain, so we had to bargain,” one victim’s mother said. “We had to weigh a lot
of things, and the most important thing was our son.”

While all the boys in the group told stories that indicated
they had been molested and tormented, only two were able to tell their stories
coherently and consistently enough to be considered admissible in court.

Three parents spoke with The Jewish Journal, telling of the
long-lasting pain Schwartz has inflicted on their families. Parents said their
children spoke of being touched and hurt, and watching Schwartz make “white
pee-pee.”

Testimony and physical evidence on at least one boy
indicated that he was sodomized. Schwartz is alleged to have brought a bird
into class and cut off its head in front of the children, telling them that if
they told anyone about what happened, he would do the same to them and their
parents.

Parents said that while in retrospect there were some
indications that things were not right — one boy didn’t want to go to camp,
another said his “tushie” hurt, but the parents thought it was a common rash —
none of the boys said anything directly until after the last day of camp.

Parents said Schwartz, who was in charge of the youngest
group, was sometimes left alone at the camp with the boys, when the older
groups went off-site for swimming or trips.

The director of Camp Ruach could not be reached for comment.

The three families who spoke to The Journal said their sons
are all in therapy.

One parent shared that in therapy, her son drew a picture of
a boy crying, with his mother lying dead next to him.

Some of the boys refuse to go to the bathroom alone, because
the abuse was alleged to have taken place in the bathroom. One of the boys has become
extremely sensitive to seeing animals in pain. All are having nightmares.

Dr. David Fox, a rabbi and clinical psychologist in Beverly
Hills who consulted on this case and on others like it, said the effects of
abuse in young children vary.

“The obvious effects are nightmares, mistrust of certain
adult figures, in some cases nausea as the body becomes the receptacle of the
child’s anxiety, fear and sadness…. We have children at this age who develop
insecurity or conversely can develop self-protective anger to show they are not
going to let this happen again,” Fox said.

The psychologist has often seen depression, as well, and in
extreme cases, children below the age of 6 have been put on suicide watch.

Much of the therapy is still being handled by Stuart House,
a cutting-edge facility where the District Attorney’s Office, therapists and
medical personnel work together on abuse cases to minimize the additional
damage evidence collecting can do to children.

When Schwartz was first arrested, many in the Orthodox
community — those who knew him and those who didn’t — asserted the innocence of
Schwartz, who was a counselor at Camp Ruach for two years and taught middle
school social studies at Yeshivat Yavneh in Hancock Park. Several rabbis who
knew him privately expressed disbelief that he could have perpetrated such
acts.

At a hearing soon after his arrest, at which his bail was
reduced from $1 million to $300,000, Schwartz’s supporters heckled the parents
of the victims, accusing them of harming another Jew. But as details of the
boys’ stories came out, support waned.

At the Jan. 21 sentencing, several prominent Orthodox rabbis
— who had not been supporters of Schwartz — appeared to show support to the
families and to send a message to the community.

“It is important for rabbanim to let it be known that these
things can not be tolerated,” said Rabbi Gershon Bess, one of the most
respected rabbinic figures in the Orthodox community, who spoke at the
sentencing. “It is the obligation of everyone to protect all children, and to
make sure that a person like this is not in a position to hurt other children.”

Bess said he has seen progress in the Orthodox community’s
willingness to not only deal with situations as they arise, but to undertake
proactive measures to educate parents, teachers and children.

“Parents have to realize that unfortunately, these things do
exist and do occur, and it is the obligation of every parent to educate their
children and to develop a very open relationship with children,” said Bess, the
father of nine.

Meanwhile, the victims and parents search for healing,
knowing that Schwartz will be out in a year.

“This guy is extremely dangerous,” one father said. “He is
going to be walking out and getting a job, and with his beard and kippah on his
head, nobody would think of checking his background.”

One mother takes comfort in the thought of eternal justice.

“He can get away with it in the court down here, but not
with the court upstairs. There is a higher authority, and he is going to pay.”