A prominent Monsey rabbi who runs a boys school pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning to charges he sexually assaulted a 7-year-old male student repeatedly in his yeshiva office.
Gavriel Bodenheimer, 71, principal of Yeshiva Bais Mikroh for decades, stood shackled at the waist during his arraignment on three counts of first-degree criminal sexual act and one count of first-degree sex abuse.
Judge William Nelson set Bodenheimer's bail at $25,000 cash or bond. The rabbi's lawywer, Deborah Wolikow-Loewenberg, said he would be able to post bail and be released later Tuesday.
"We are going to fight the allegations because they are not true," Wolikow-Loewenberg said after the court session.
Ramapo police arrested Bodenheimer Monday based on a sealed grand jury indictment. He was kept overnight at the Rockland County jail in New City pending his court appearance, when the indictment was unsealed.
The rabbi's arrest resulted from an investigation by police and the Rockland District Attorney's Office Special Victim's Unit.
District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said in a news release that Bodenheimer, while serving as principal of Bais Mikroh, subjected the student to sexual abuse starting when the boy was 7. The sexual assaults took place in the rabbi's school office between Aug. 1, 2009 and July 31, 2010, Zugibe said.
At the court appearance, Wolikow-Loewenberg tried to persuade the judge to release Bodenheimer without bail, saying he had been a fixture in the community his whole life. Prosecutor John McGowan recommended $100,000 bail.
In addition to setting bail, Nelson issued an order directing the rabbi to not contact the victim, identified in court records as "Y.E."
Bodenheimer is due back in court Aug. 26.
Bodenheimer, who had friends and family in the audience, spoke only briefly in court – to confirm his identity and acknowledge the order to stay away from the victim.
Bodenheimer, who has 14 children and 100 grandchildren, has led the Bais Mikroh on Viola Road for decades, educating thousands of Orthodox Jewish boys. Allegations of corporal punishment have dogged the school, with former students making claims on Jewish blogs and news sites.
The rabbi/principal has been active recently in the push to change the state education aid formula to bring more aid to East Ramapo School District, whose board is controlled by Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish residents, and to the private schools.
Kenneth Gribetz, a former county district attorney, said he and his partner, Wolikow-Loewenberg, met with the rabbi's family on Monday to discuss the sex abuse case.
"I am convinced of his innocence," Gribetz told The Journal News/lohud.com. "His reputation is impeccable, without exaggeration. He's a very prominent rabbi."