Rabbi Steven (Shmuel) Krawatsky, a middle school Judaic studies teacher at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Pikesville, was fired on Thursday, Jan. 18 following an explosive investigative piece published the previous day by The New York Jewish Week about a pattern of alleged child sexual abuse by the rabbi. In addition, Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim announced on that same Thursday that Krawatsky had resigned from his position there as head of a teen inclusion minyan.
A high school teacher, Dr. Jonathan Lasson, was also fired from Beth Tfiloh, on Jan. 19, after officials learned of an alleged inappropriate relationship with a female patient from his psychology practice that led to disciplinary action from the Maryland Board of Examiners of Psychologists.
The Krawatasky allegations date back to 2015 and center around three young boys who were campers at Camp Shoresh in Frederick County, where the rabbi, who is 40, was then head of the lower boys’ division.
The Jewish Week story details the children’s alleged abuse and the Frederick County Child Protective Services and police investigations that resulted after they told their parents Krawatsky’s Frederick-based attorney, Christopher Rolle, wrote in an email that Krawatsky “states emphatically that he is innocent of the allegations discussed in the article.”
The CPS investigation initially determined that Krawatsky was “indicated” for sexual abuse, which means there is credible evidence that abuse took place. But following appeals in 2016 by Krawatsky’s attorneys, that determination was downgraded to “unsubstantiated,” which, in the parlance of CPS, means there is not enough evidence to determine a finding of “indicated” or “ruled out.”
Camp Shoresh terminated Krawatsky’s employment in 2015, and in a 2016 statement, camp leadership said that the camp quickly reported allegations to the Frederick County Department of Social Services and “suspended the employee’s relationship with Shoresh pending resolution of any and all investigations by the appropriate authorities.”
Beth Tfiloh initially placed Krawatsky on leave when the allegations were made, but he was reinstated following the appeal and the “unsubstantiated” determination.
After The Jewish Week story was published on Jan. 17, Beth Tfiloh’s director of education, Zipora Schorr, sent a letter to parents informing them that as “part of ongoing efforts in this area,” the Baltimore Child Abuse Center had performed an audit of school facilities, policies and procedures “to ensure that our school proactively protects its children and responds appropriately to any allegations of child abuse and neglect, and is in full compliance with Maryland mandated reporting laws.” The letter also noted that “Beth Tfiloh was not notified of any further reports regarding this teacher,” following the “unsubstantiated” finding in February 2016.
On Jan. 18, Schorr sent another letter that said that “as a result of the allegations detailed in yesterday’s Jewish Week article, Beth Tfiloh has terminated Rabbi Shmuel Krawatsky’s employment. Rabbi Krawatsky will not be on our premises, and will not have any contact with our students. This decision is in keeping with our school’s commitment to the safety and well-being of our students, which we consider to be paramount.”
On the evening of Jan. 22, Beth Tfiloh’s board of trustees held a meeting concerning Krawatsky and The Jewish Week article and subsequently issued a lengthy statement that night, which said, in part, that “there is much in the article that is incorrect and subject to question.”
[pullquote]”This decision is in keeping with our school’s commitment to the safety and well-being of our students.” — Zipora Schorr, Beth Tfiloh[/pullquote]
Beth Tfiloh reasserted in the statement that it was not privy to the police investigation or the Social Services documentation of the alleged abuse.
“We were informed by letter dated March 22, 2016 that Frederick County law enforcement, the States’ Attorney and Child Protective Services had completed their investigation and ‘have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to substantiate that any criminal offense occurred between the parties and/or any third parties,’ and we were informed that the case was closed with a finding of ‘unsubstantiated.’
“In the absence of any credible evidence from an objective source that he engaged in any inappropriate conduct, Beth Tfiloh had no basis to take any employment action against Rabbi Krawatsky. Contrary to that reported in the article, Beth Tfiloh was never contacted by the Orthodox Union regarding this matter.”
The statement goes on to say that Beth Tfiloh has never received any allegations of misconduct or inappropriate behavior by Krawatsky at BT’s schools, synagogue, camps or with any child or family, but because of the “explosive nature” of the newly reported allegations and publicity in The Jewish Week article, it was “impossible for Rabbi Krawatsky to effectively carry out his educational duties at Beth Tfiloh.”
Krawatsky was also employed to work with teens at Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim. When JT requested information about his employment status there, the congregation responded with a letter that had also been sent to congregants. In that letter, board chair Shimmy Messing and president Richard Buck said that “the individual” had resigned from his job at the shul. The letter said that the Pikesville synagogue “is committed to the safety and well-being of its children. We recognize that sexual abuse is a terrible crime that permanently scars its victims. We also recognize the need to work with law enforcement regarding claims of abuse and impropriety.”
The letter notes that when the synagogue leadership found out about the allegations, it spoke to people who “painted a very different picture than that depicted in a recent publication.” The synagogue determined that “the individual” could remain at the shul in a limited capacity in a group setting with other adults present, but the letter ends saying that “the individual has resigned from his employment with the shul. This should in no way be considered an indication of guilt or innocence.”
Meanwhile, Beth Tfiloh learned from a recent blog post that Dr. Jonathan Lasson, a Judaic studies and neuropsychology teacher at the high school, had entered a consent order with the Maryland Board of Examiners of Psychologists in late 2017. The consent order stemmed from a complaint to his adult psychology practice by a female patient that Lasson allegedly “took advantage of her vulnerabilities, engaged in multiple relationships with her, failed to maintain confidentiality and did not obtain her informed consent before beginning treatment.” The patient also alleged that Lasson hugged her on multiple occasions, which violated Orthodox Jewish practices about physical contact between unrelated men and women.
The school issued a statement on Jan. 22 following the board meeting saying that Lasson was hired before the consent order determination and that Lasson did not disclose to Beth Tfiloh the Board of Examiner’s investigation or its subsequent decision to discipline Lasson. The consent order included a two-year probation, an ethics tutorial and clinical supervision by a board-approved psychologist supervisor.
The statement said that after careful review of Lasson’s consent order, the board of trustees’ executive committee “determined that Dr. Lasson would no longer work at Beth Tfiloh.”