Feb 19, 2020
Tel Aviv — It’s a tense stakeout, waiting for Jimmy Julius Karow to appear. He is a wanted man and is considered dangerous. Accused of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl in Oregon in 2000, he fled to Israel before authorities in the U.S. could apprehend him or figure out where he went. Karow has been running from U.S. law enforcement ever since. Currently INTERPOL, an inter-governmental policing organization that works with 194 countries, has a Red Notice to alert police worldwide that he’s a fugitive.
Two years after he fled the U.S., Karow was convicted by an Israeli court of child molestation in a separate case. He served time and was released. Now another alleged Israeli victim has come forward, saying he began abusing her when she was 5-years-old, and continued for years.
Karow has successfully evaded authorities by moving between communities in Israel for almost two decades, and he is not alone.
A widespread problem
A CBS News investigation has found that many accused American pedophiles flee to Israel, and bringing them to justice can be difficult.
Jewish Community Watch (JCW), an American organization that tracks accused pedophiles, has been trying for years to find Karow and help bring him to justice.
JCW says Karow and other wanted men and women have been able to exploit a right known as the Law of Return, whereby any Jewish person can move to Israel and automatically gain citizenship.
Since the small organization started tracking accused pedophiles in 2014, it says more than 60 have fled from the U.S. to Israel. Given its limited resources to identify these individuals, JCW says the actual number is likely much larger.
“The same thing that is going on in the Catholic Church right now around the world, the exact same thing is happening in our community,” JCW’s founder Meyer Seewald told CBS News. “The cover-ups are the same, the stigma, the shame.”
Seewald says tightly-knit Jewish communities across the U.S. will sometimes meet accusations against a member with incredulity, and that can have a chilling effect.
“Everyone goes and surrounds this individual and supports him because they can’t believe a person can do such a crime. They take the abuser’s side and the abuse continues,” Seewald says. “They put him in another community. A few years later, he’s done the same thing and we hear more allegations that the person is abusing children. Victims don’t want to come forward when they see that.”
JCW says the majority of its cases originate from modern Orthodox to Ultra-orthodox Jewish enclaves in the U.S., but that it happens across the wider Jewish community. Because perpetrators can’t be held accountable unless victims come forward, many cases are believed to go unreported. To try to get them out into the light, JCW holds awareness events across the U.S., and offers victims of sexual abuse advice and emotional support.
Mendy Hauck decided to come forward after receiving support from JCW. The father of two says he was just 8-years-old when he was molested by a teacher at his Orthodox Jewish School in Los Angeles. Hauck says the abuse started one day when a friend brought in cookies for his birthday.
“I actually went ahead and reached for the biggest cookie and he said, ‘Put it back and you could come back by recess and get your cookie,'” Hauck said. “So after he handed out the rest of the cookies to the other classmates, I had to stay behind if I wanted my cookie, and I did. He called me up to his desk… and that’s when he started… rubbing me.”
His alleged abuser is Mordechai Yomtov, a then-35-year-old Hebrew teacher.
“I jumped backwards like a step or two and he grabbed my hair and said, ‘it’s fine, you can come close. I won’t hurt you. There is nothing wrong,’ and he did it again,” Hauck recalls.
When the year finished, Hauck moved on to the next grade. That’s when Yomtov’s crimes caught up to him. In 2001, police arrested and charged him with committing lewd acts with three of his other students, ranging in age from 8 to 10. But Hauck never told anyone about his ordeal until years later.
Yomtov eventually pled guilty, served time in jail and was released on probation. But once free, he violated his probation by fleeing to Israel via Mexico.
While Aaronson puts blame on Jewish communities in the U.S. and the U.S. government for not aggressively pursuing extraditions, she says Israeli authorities have also failed to prioritize the hunt for suspects.
JCW says the problem reaches into the upper echelons of Israeli politics as well. They note that Yaakov Litzman, leader of an ultra-orthodox alliance in Israel’s legislature and the current minister of health, has been accused of preventing the deportation of a Malka Leifer, a former head teacher at a Jewish school in Australia, where she is wanted on multiple charges of child sexual abuse.