Bronx man sues SAR for sex abuse
Former SAR Academy student alleges that incidents happened in middle school
BY JASON COHEN
A Jewish day school in Riverdale
that has been accused of sexual abuse
multiple times, including cases in February
2020 and others in 2019, has another
case on its hands.
On Aug. 24, Marsh Law Firm fi led a
lawsuit on behalf of Thomas Eckmann
against Salanter Akiba Riverdale
Academy (SAR) at 655 West 254th St.
The lawsuit alleged that Eckmann was
sexually abused by one of its assistant
principals, teachers and school administrators,
Stanley Rosenfeld and one of
its teachers and rabbis, Rabbi Sheldon
Schwartz, all while the school failed to
“We have to show that the institution
acted unreasonably,” said Jennifer
Freeman, a lawyer with Marsh. “I
try to look at the positive that we’re
really affecting valuable change for
Freeman said that since the
Child Victim Act was passed last
year, the number of reported cases
The CVA opened a historic oneyear
one-time window for victims and
survivors of childhood sexual abuse
in the State of New York to pursue
lapsed claims. Prior to the passage of
the CVA, plaintiff’s claims were timebarred
the day plaintiff turned 22
years old. The enactment of the CVA
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BRONX TIMES REPORTER,16 SEPTEMBER 4-10, 2020 BTR
allows plaintiffs, for the fi rst time
in their lives, to pursue restorative
justice in New York.
Eckmann, 56, a Navy veteran, grew
up in Riverdale, but has spent the past
25 years in California. His alleged
abuse happened in middle school but
he never disclosed it to anyone, not
even his parents.
He told the Bronx Times he thought
about the abuse many times over
the years, but it was not until 2018
when the wheels got in motion. It was
then when he received a letter from
SAR saying an internal investigation
was being done into the school
It asked if any former students had
anything they wanted to add and that
quickly opened old wounds.
“It was very emotional,” he recalled.
“I was sobbing I couldn’t even
see the screen as I was typing.”
Eckmann shortly received a
call from a staffer at SAR who
“They seemed to appreciate me coming
forward,” he said “To me it seemed
like it was a widespread thing.”
Reliving the alleged abuse was not
easy. He recalled how students used to
spend Shabbat with Rosenfeld and parents
trusted him. It was there where he
and other kids were taken advantage
of by their teacher.
Eckmann said he was just 11 or 12
when this happened and it ruined his
childhood. He had heard rumors of
Rosenfeld doing this to other kids, yet
never knew if the rumors were true.
“I was just kind of shocked, scared
and embarrassed,” he said. “At that
time I really didn’t know who I could
speak to. I really didn’t feel comfortable
speaking with any of the staff.”
He shared that what hurt even more
was the fact that when he was older, he
discovered that Rosenfeld was caught
by the school for abuse, was fi red
and then repeated his lewd behavior
at a synagogue.
“It makes me very angry to know
that nothing happened,” he commented.
“Mentally and emotionally
it’s nothing you can really get over.”
He hoped that by working with
Freeman and her colleagues there
can be some closure to this dark chapter
in his life. According to Eckmann,
the staff at Marsh has been extremely
professional and supportive.
“I feel like I am not alone in this,” he
said. “The school is a good institution.
I wouldn’t want to see it closed. It’s just
how the administration ran it.”
In 2018, T and M Protection Resources
did an eight month investigation
into the sexual abuse allegations
at SAR. They heard from 39 witnesses,
but believed that the report understated
the incidence of sexual abuse.
It found there is credible evidence
to support a fi nding that Rosenfeld engaged
in sexual assault as well as inappropriate
physical and sexual contact
with 12 SAR students and one non-
SAR student. In addition, the evidence
supports the conclusion that Rosenfeld’s
misconduct became known to
Rabbi Schwartz when two students
informed him that Rosenfeld had inappropriately
touched them and that
Rabbi Schwartz failed to report this to
the SAR administration.
T&M found that the school was also
made aware of Rosenfeld’s sexual misconduct
when Rabbi Chwat was informed
by a teacher that she had observed
Rosenfeld touching a boy in an
offi ce at the school, and that notwithstanding
this disclosure, Rosenfeld returned
to teach at SAR in 1986. During
the course of this investigation,
T&M also learned that Schwartz was
present at Rosenfeld’s home when the
sexual abuse of students occurred and
that Schwartz engaged in inappropriate
behavior with students at SAR.
Rosenfeld currently resides in a
nursing home in Providence, Rhode Island
and is listed on the Rhode Island
Sex Offender registry as a Level III
The Bronx Times made multiple
attempts to contact staff from SAR
Academy, but none of them responded
Photo courtesy of Marsh Law Firm
Jennifer Freeman one of the lawyers repreANTIQUES
senting Eckmann. Courtesy of Marsh Law Firm
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