Eight Families Sue D.C. Synagogue for Enabling Teacher’s ‘Systemic and Regular’ Sexual Abuse of Young Children at Jewish Preschool

Former Vermont photographer Jordan Silverman. (Photo: Burlington Free Press)

Eight families say a teacher at a Jewish preschool in Washington repeatedly sexually abused their children over the past two years, and they contend the school’s leader and a prominent synagogue did nothing about it despite warnings.

Claims of sexual abuse against children ages 2 to 4 are outlined in a civil lawsuit filed late Monday against the Washington Hebrew Congregation, which operates the Edlavitch Tyser Early Childhood Center, and its head of schools, Deborah “DJ” Schneider Jensen.

The suit, filed in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, alleges the defendants enabled sexual abuse of children by the same man – Jordan Silverman, an assistant teacher who arrived at the preschool in 2016 after a long career as a photographer in Vermont.

Attorneys for the parents and children say the abuse, which spanned from March 2016 to August 2018 on the preschool’s campus, included the “most grievous, demeaning and damaging forms of sexual abuse” and was “systemic and regular.” The victims were girls and boys, they say.

The lawsuit’s 23 plaintiffs – children and their parents – are pursuing several claims of negligence, arguing the school and Jensen are liable for allowing the abuse to persist. They contend that Silverman was “allowed and encouraged” to be alone with the children with no other adult present. They say that violated a Washington “two-deep” policy that requires at least two adults to be present with children at all times at licensed child development centers.

“Essential protection against abuse of this type in a child-caring environment requires visibility and accountability of all adults present at all times,” the lawsuit reads. “Defendants provided for neither.”

The suit, which lists seven children only as Jane and John Does and keeps the parents anonymous as well, seeks an amount of compensation to be determined by a jury for damages, both monetary and non-monetary.

In August, The Washington Post reported that District of Columbia police were investigating allegations of sexual abuse at the Washington Hebrew Congregation preschool.

A statement on behalf of Washington Hebrew Congregation in response to the lawsuit said the synagogue is “carefully reviewing the complaint.” The temple’s leaders say they reported the sexual abuse allegations in August as soon as they learned of them and have “continually and fully cooperated” with the criminal investigation.

“Child safety has always been our top priority,” the statement reads. It rejects allegations that the early childhood center violated the law or state regulations.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Joey Garrison