A 63-year-old Teaneck Rabbi is accused of sexually abusing two 13-year-old boys from Israel who were staying with him as part of a scholarship program, authorities said Tuesday.
Uzi Rivlin, who is married, met the boys through the Scholarship Fund for the Advancement of Children in Israel, which he partly sponsors, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said in a statement. The program brings children from Israel to stay in the United States over the summers.
Molinelli said the two boys separately reported the sexual abuse to Israeli police, who notified the FBI, which contacted authorities in Teaneck and Bergen County. One boy reported the abuse took place during a visit in the summer of 2009 and the other told police he was abused in summer 2010, prosecutors said.
While staying at his Lindbergh Boulevard home, the boys told police Rivlin “touched them in a sexual manner,” Molinelli said in the statement.
According to a July 2010 article in the Jewish Standard, Rivlin started the scholarship program to help children in Israel. He organized bar mitzvahs at area synagogues for disadvantaged Israeli children, the report said.
Rivlin is a teacher at Congregation Beth Abraham in Tarrytown N.Y., according to an updated statement from the prosecutor's office. An earlier statement e-mailed to media by the prosecutor's office said Rivlin was employed as a teacher at Congregation Beth Aaron in Teaneck, however, Rabbi Laurence Rothwachs emphatically denied that Rivlin was ever formally employed at the congregation.
"Rabbi Rivlin has never been employed by the synagogue nor has he ever been associated with the shul in any official capacity," Rothwachs said in a phone interview Tuesday.
When reached for comment Tuesday night, Molinelli first said Rivlin told authorities he worked part-time at Beth Aaron for 12-years teaching Hebrew and Israeli studies on Sundays and Mondays. However, a copy of the media statement posted on the prosecutor's office website was updated late Tuesday to list Rivlin as working at Beth Abraham. It was not clear if Rivlin would remain employed.
Rabbi David Holtz, of Beth Abraham, confirmed Rivlin was a teacher at the congregation but declined to comment on the allegations.
"I actually have no idea what his employment status is," Holtz said, noting the school year had not started yet.
Rabbi Jordan Yasgur, who has worked with Rivlin, defended his former colleague and said there should not be a rush to judgment.
"I don't believe the allegations," Yasgur said. "The matter has to be properly dealt with."
No one answered the door at Rivlin's home Tuesday night and neighbors said they didn't see him much.
Rivlin was arrested Tuesday by Teaneck and Bergen County investigators. He is charged with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual contact and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, prosecutors said.
He was held at the Bergen County Jail on $175,000 bail with no ten percent option, officials said. He was also ordered not to have any contact with the alleged victims or anyone under 18.
Molinelli said investigators were working to determine if other children could have been victimized.