Satmar schoolteacher dragged 10-year-old boy up flight of stairs by the neck

Police said that Mendel Furst, a teacher at a Satmar yeshiva in Lakewood, left the boy with “scratches and bruising” before the boy fled home for safety.

Satmar Yeshiva in Lakewood NJ. Credit: Shtetl

Jul 9, 2024 2:42 PM


A schoolteacher at a Satmar boys’ school in Lakewood grabbed a 10-year-old boy by the neck and dragged him up a stairwell, leaving scratches and bruising around the boy’s neck, Lakewood police wrote in an incident report in January.

The teacher, Mendel Furst, was seen in surveillance video committing the offense in the process of scolding the boy on Nov. 12, 2023, police said. Furst allegedly dragged the boy to a private office, where the boy was alone with Furst before “fleeing to his home nearby for safety.”

Neither the Lakewood police nor the prosecutor’s office has fulfilled Shtetl’s request for the surveillance video, but in a memo obtained by Shtetl, the attorney for the alleged victim’s family described what he saw when allowed to view the footage. 

A man’s “right hand was wrapped around the child's hand in a head lock of the child,” the attorney, Terrance Turnbach, wrote. “At one point in time on the video, the child's feet are actually in the air while being restrained in the above manner.”

“The child was visibly carried up the staircase in this manner while the Rabbi was chanting ‘What do you say to the wicked, there will be no peace to the wicked’ in Hebrew in a sing song chant,” Turnbach added.

The alleged incident, which has not been previously reported, took place at a Satmar elementary school on Princeton Avenue in Lakewood, New Jersey, a heavily Haredi area. The police department detective who wrote the complaint accused Furst of “cruelty and neglect to a child,” according to documents obtained by Shtetl from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office through the New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act.

A man who answered the phone at the Satmar school where the alleged abuse took place said in a phone call with Shtetl in March that the story was “not true.” He declined to explain further, and he said no one at the school, known officially as Satmar Cheder United Talmudical, would agree to speak.

In many parts of the Haredi community, reporting abuse within the community to secular authorities can result in acts of intimidation and reprisals. Children may even be expelled from school for a parent violating a community norm.

Rabbi Yedidya Einhorn, the head of the school, did not immediately respond to outreach from Shtetl on Monday asking if Furst was still employed at the school and if the alleged victim was still a student there. Furst could not be reached for comment on this story.

In New Jersey, corporal punishment is illegal in public and private schools alike. State law also holds that “any person who shall abuse, be cruel to or neglectful of any child” is guilty of a crime. Furst, 44, was summoned to appear in Ocean County Superior Court on Feb. 29. The outcome of the court appearance remains unclear. Furst is scheduled to appear again in court on July 10.

Lakewood became a Haredi enclave when Litvish Jews began moving there in the mid-20th century; since then, the town’s Litvish and Hasidic populations have grown as high birth rates and increasing rent prices have pushed many Haredim out of Brooklyn.

A 2022 report by the New York Times found that teachers at Haredi boys’ schools routinely used corporal punishment, a charge that Haredi leaders denied. Yeshiva graduates interviewed by the Times described being kicked, dragged, and made to bleed by their teachers, and said they also witnessed such actions taken against their classmates. Some parents sought to prevent abuse by offering teachers private tips, often as much as $100 at a time. The Times also found that corporal punishment has declined in recent years.