A 22-year-old American yeshiva student who filmed a vigilante attack on a suspected child molester in Jerusalem says he wanted to increase awareness of the man’s crimes, and to “make people aware that this is an option” in dealing with a suspected child rapist walking freely in Israel’s capital.
Footage of alleged child rapist Avrohom Mondrowitz being assaulted on the streets of Jerusalem spread quickly through Jewish media, garnering almost 25,000 views on Youtube as of Thursday afternoon.
“Following him around, or vigilante [action]… It will make him less comfortable walking the streets. I want parents to be able to protect their children,” the student, who asked to be identified only as “Isaac,” told The Times of Israel Thursday. Still, he qualified, “People have to be careful about vigilante activities.”
Mondrowitz worked in Brooklyn as a counselor for troubled religious boys, presenting fake academic credentials and gaining the trust of local parents. But his work, which allowed him to be alone with hundreds of boys, was allegedly a cover for serial molestation and rape over many years. A Jewish sexual abuse activist told the Jewish Week that he estimated that Mondrowitz had victimized as many as 300 boys by the time he fled for Israel.
Isaac’s footage, uploaded by Algemeiner, shows Mondrowitz walking through the streets of Nachlaot, an eclectic central-Jerusalem neighborhood. Isaac said that he was coming back from shopping at the nearby Machane Yehuda market last Thursday when he and Mondrowitz walked past each other.
“I saw him, I recognized him, and it took me about a second for his name to dawn on me,” he recalled. He had not followed the case especially closely, but “because of the nature of the crimes, the details stuck in my mind. His image stuck in my mind.
“I said, ‘Avrohom.’ He turned and said, ‘Yes, who are you?’ I told him I knew who he was and that he was in the news. He responded, in a heavy New York accent, with something like, ‘Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t.’”
Isaac then pulled out his cellphone and did a Google search on Mondrowitz to verify he had the right man. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after. He started walking away.”
Isaac began to follow Mondrowitz through the alleys of Nachlaot, filming him. At one point, another man rushed the suspected rapist and knocked his hat off. Isaac said he had no idea who the assailant was. “I was focused on videoing him,” he explained. “The guy who went after him seemed to know who he was… Likely, once I called attention to him, he recognized him.”
The footage shows the vigilante letting Mondrowitz go, then charging back and knocking him to the ground. Passersby try to intervene, and the cameraman and the assailant explain to them that Mondrowitz raped over 100 boys in New York.
Isaac said he quickly left the scene and walked back to where he had left his shopping cart, while the assailant made off down an alley. A woman who witnessed the incident stopped him to ask what had happened. Isaac said no police arrived while he was still around.
“I wanted to bring awareness to him,” he explained, “to what he’s done, to the fact that he lives freely and openly, to the fact that he still has access to children and is still a danger, to the injustice that has been done for almost 30 years — and he’s probably done more crimes.”
Isaac said he also wanted to bring attention to child abuse “in the frum, in the Haredi community… There has been a spotlight on the issue recently. It’s good to keep momentum going.”
In 1984, police broke into Mondrowitz’s home, finding a stash of child pornography and lists bearing the names of hundreds of local boys. But Mondrowitz managed to escape the long arm of the law, fleeing to Canada, and then to Israel, just before his dark secret was discovered.
Mondrowitz was indicted on 14 counts in absentia by a Brooklyn grand jury in 1985, including five counts of sodomy in the first degree and eight charges of first-degree sexual assault. The case hinged on the testimony of four Italian-American boys, ranging in age from 11 to 16, who said they were molested by Mondrowitz.
Extradition attempts failed that year because, according to the existing treaty between Israel and the United States, sodomy was not an extraditable offense. Efforts to extradite Mondrowitz were dropped in 1993.
In 1996, Mondrowitz was given Israeli citizenship.
In 2005, the extradition treaty between Israel and the US was amended, making extraditable any crime punishable by more than a year in prison in both countries. The amendment went into effect in 2007, and Mondrowitz’s home was searched. Israeli police found four child pornography files on his computer.
Mondrowitz was arrested and jailed until 2010, when the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that extraditing him more than two decades after the initial request was a violation of due process, overturning a lower court ruling.
In June of 2012, the New York Post published an article on Mandrowitz’s life as a free man in Israel, along with a photograph of him walking while clad in a tallit.
Mondrowitz has sought work in Israel as a child psychologist, continuing to use his fake degrees. The Jewish Week published a 2006 document Mondrowitz wrote in which he talks about hormonal changes in a 15-year-old patient’s body, and his “sexual self-stimulation.” He also advised a Bnei Brak resident who works with at-risk religious boys.
“Let him face the justice system,” Isaac urged. “Let him face the charges.”