A March 20 court date has been set in Middlesex County Superior Court for an East Brunswick rabbi charged in connection with human trafficking and forced prostitution of a 17-year-old girl.
Rabbi Aryeh Goodman, former executive director of the Chabad of East Brunswick, is charged with one count of engaging in prostitution with a child and one count of endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly having sex in an unnamed East Brunswick hotel with the girl, who is from Lancaster, Pa.
Accompanied by his attorney, Goodman, 35, turned himself in to the East Brunswick Police on Feb. 6. He was later released pending his court appearance before Judge Michael A. Toto, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson Andrea Boulton.
Gabriella Colon, 18, and Richard Ortiz, 23, both of the Bronx, were also arrested in the case and remain in the Middlesex County Jail on 11 criminal charges, including human trafficking, promoting prostitution of a child, criminal restraint, and a number of child pornography offenses, including manufacturing, distribution, and possession of pornography.
Goodman was one of 30 men who allegedly paid to have sex with the 17-year-old girl, according to the prosecutor’s office.
In a previous case, in January 2013, Goodman was extradited to Pennsylvania where he pled guilty to two counts of indecent assault of a person less than 13 years of age. Those offenses involved complaints about several incidents of a sexual nature with a 12-year-old boy, who accused Goodman of the acts while the rabbi was a counselor in the summer of 2001 at Camp Menachem, a Chabad facility in Lackawaxen Township, Pa.
The original indictment charged him with 12 counts; he pled guilty to two and the rest were dismissed. In October 2015, Goodman was sentenced in Pike County, Pa., to 11 to 23 months in prison, and the terms of the sentencing included completing a sex offender counseling course and refraining from having contact with the victim or his family. NJJN was unable to determine how much time Goodman served in prison.
Goodman’s name did not appear on the New Jersey State Police sex offender list available to the public; however, a law enforcement official who asked to remain anonymous told NJJN that offenders are divided into three tiers, with level three being the most serious; only the names of offenders in the top two tiers are available to the public, and Goodman is a tier one offender, according to the official.
In 2006 Goodman and his wife, Ora Malka, launched Chabad of East Brunswick on Lexington Avenue, which focused on education, operating the Chai Early Childhood Center, as well as the Chai Central Hebrew School. The Hebrew school, for children ages 6-14, closed in 2013 after charges against Aryeh Goodman were filed, but the early childhood center remains open.
A parent whose children attend the pre-school and asked to remain anonymous told NJJN that Goodman was not involved in the school, which operated solely under his wife’s control even before the first incident broke in 2013. The parent said the school is filled to capacity with 30 students and has a waiting list.
The parent said Ora Malka Goodman told them her husband had no legal restrictions on contact with children. NJJN couldn’t confirm the accuracy of this statement; however, the law enforcement official said that not all tier one offenders have a stipulation that they cannot have contact with children.
“When the first incident came out five years ago we, as a parent body for the safety of the children and reputation of the school, decided we would make it a rule he could not come” anywhere near the school. Ora Malka Goodman agreed to the parents’ stipulation, according to the source.
The parent added, “He has children at the school and he doesn’t even come to pick them up … he never had an office at the school or had anything to do with the day-to-day running of the school.”
The school is in the Lexington Downs Shopping Center, where Goodman used to run Chai Central Hebrew School and rented office space several stores down from the early childhood center.
The parent said there have been many social media posts claiming, incorrectly, that the rabbi has a large following.
“He doesn’t have a flock or center,” the source said. “He stepped away in 2013.”
The early childhood center employs safety measures. The parent said the one-room school has double glass doors through which visitors must be buzzed in. Teachers meet parents curbside in the morning and walk children into the school; at the end of the day the teachers walk the students out to meet parents.
“The teachers are very protective of the students,” the parent said. “It’s very secure and we all have full confidence our children are safe.”
The Chabad of East Brunswick on Lexington Avenue operated under the auspices of Chabad House-Lubavitch Inc. at Rutgers University until the 2013 case. It is not affiliated with Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn or its Morristown-based seminary, the Rabbinical College of America.
Chabad at Rutgers spokesperson Karen Kessler told NJJN that it has “absolutely no affiliation with the individual charged, nor any knowledge of the incident in question.”
She said Chabad at Rutgers severed its ties with Goodman after the first incident, adding, “Anyone can call themselves Chabad.”
She declined to answer a report received by NJJN from a parent whose daughter lived in the Chabad women’s dormitory from 2012-2017. The former student said that Goodman frequently attended Shabbat services and stayed in the men’s dormitory.
“We do not take attendance nor have a sign in sheet for services,” said Kessler. “We cannot definitively say whether he attended a service in past years.”