During a Hasidic teenager’s first day at a new Brooklyn yeshiva last year, the head of the school approached him to talk about arranging his marriage.
“He told me, ‘Wow, you’re so cute. You’re going to find a girl fast,’” said the former student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I was 16.”
He added: “If I would have stayed, it would have happened.”
That head of school, Rabbi Yoel Roth, and the school he runs, Yeshiva Tiferes Hatorah in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, are now the subject of investigations by the New York Police Department and the Administration for Children’s Services, the Forward has learned, after stories of Roth marrying off people as young as 15 erupted on social media in the last month. New York State requires people to be 18 to legally marry, or 17 with the consent of the Supreme Court or family court.
In interviews this week, siblings and witnesses of the rabbi’s acolytes and others familiar with his operations described Roth as the Pied Piper of Hasidic Brooklyn who is brainwashing children who look like they have not yet gone through puberty into religious engagement and wedding ceremonies.
“This is a real cult,” said one Hasidic woman in Brooklyn who said she has multiple siblings who joined Roth’s community, describing some as still “full-fledged” adherents. She spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her siblings. “It was only once they got really hurt and they left, that those cult-like characteristics really — you could see it.”
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