French Jewish lawmaker and advocate for community urges public not to jump to conclusions.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
French police arrested 16 teachers and staff at a respected Orthodox Jewish boarding school near Paris on charges that they had abused students and confiscated their personal identification documents, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported.
Forty-two minors at Yeshiva Beth Yossef, an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva attended by students from both France and other countries, including the U.S. and Israel, are now being held in a child welfare facility as French authorities attempt to make contact with their families.
Laureline Peyrefitte, the prosecutor of the Meaux municipality, which has jurisdiction over Beth Yossef, said in a statement that the school had held “in abusive conditions many underage American and Israeli children who do not speak French.”
She added that alleged crimes at the school included “deprivation of care and food…confiscation of IDs, unsuitable living conditions, denial of access to education and other services without the possibility of allowing [students] to return to their families, and aggravated violence.”
AFP reported that French police first began investigating Beth Yossef in July 2021, when a student fled the facility and sought help at the American embassy in Paris.
Israeli journalists caught wind of the story, and some have been piecing together testimonies from former pupils who attended Beth Yossef.
“We found ourselves with around 30 witness accounts dating back to the 2000s from former pupils saying they suffered violence,” Israeli documentary filmmaker Dubi Kroitoru told AFP.
Kroitoru said he sent all the information he gathered about Beth Yossef to French police several months ago.
But Meyer Habib, a lawmaker who has long served as an advocate for France’s Jewish communities, said that the public should not jump to conclusions.
While he acknowledged that the allegations against the school are disturbing, he suggested to JTA that there are “all kinds of claims circulating” and that the matter could possibly be “a case of students settling scores with teachers.”