Washington Hebrew Congregation to pay $950,000 in suit over child safety laws

Washington Hebrew Congregation to pay 0,000 in suit over child safety laws


The Jewish Congregation of Washington will pay nearly $1 million to the city and families after a judge ruled that the Northwest Washington synagogue violated the District’s consumer protection law when it failed to enforce certain child safety rules while operating the preschool.

The settlement announced Wednesday ends proceedings in a 2020 lawsuit filed by D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) that alleged the congregation frequently ignored city laws designed to keep children safe. Racine’s lawsuit came on the heels of earlier allegations and a 2019 lawsuit filed by a group of parents who alleged a teacher sexually abused their preschoolers.

A D.C. judge ruled in September that the congregation violated safety regulations by hiring unqualified teachers and teaching assistants, failing to maintain documents showing staff were qualified and operating a summer program without a license. He also ruled that the congregation did not properly report allegations that staff members used physical force with children.

Washington Jewish Congregation violated DC law, judge rules

But the judge, side wall with the congregation, ruled that the District “failed to meet its burden and the court” with respect to a claim that Washington Hebrew violated the city’s Nonprofit Corporations Act. Before the settlement, other charges were set for trial, including an allegation that the synagogue violated a city ordinance requiring at least two adults to be present with minors in licensed child development centers.

The Jewish Congregation of Washington has denied responsibility for the district’s claims and allegations, but said in a statement Wednesday that the settlement allowed the congregation to “avoid ongoing, protracted and costly litigation.” Licensing violations have previously been corrected, according to residency.

The agreement “allows the Jewish Congregation of Washington to close this chapter and move forward,” Washington Jewish President Lewis Wiener said in a statement. “Under outstanding new spiritual and administrative leadership, WHC can continue to grow as a warm, welcoming community open to all who desire to build a meaningful Jewish life.”

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As part of the settlement, the Jewish Congregation of Washington will pay $550,000 to the district — $400,000 in civil penalties and $150,000 up to cover the city’s costs and expenses for the investigation and prosecution.

An additional $300,000 will be paid to families who enroll their children in Washington Jewish’s summer child care program, Camp Keetov, from From 2016 to 2018. The camp had more than 150 children over three summers, according to a release from the Racine township office.

Finally, $100,000 will be paid to a District-approved charity.

Racine said in a statement that the settlement held the synagogue responsible for endangering the city’s “youngest, most vulnerable residents.”

“What happened at the Jewish Congregation of Washington is every parent’s worst nightmare,” Racine said. “Instead of protecting the children in their care, Washington Hebrew ignored the law and failed to report incidents of harm, hired unqualified teachers and operated an unlicensed summer child care center for years.”

The Jewish Congregation of Washington has implemented a corrective action plan from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, which is the District’s equivalent of a state department of education. In 2019, OSSE granted the congregation a license to operate a year-round program, and inspection reports from 2020 and 2021 showed that the congregation was in compliance with OSSE regulations.

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“It is important to note that, occurring nearly four and a half years ago, the violations were administrative in nature,” the Jewish Congregation of Washington said in a statement. “None were related to the alleged surveillance or abuse of children.”

Meanwhile, a separate lawsuit filed by a group of parents against the congregation is ongoing. That lawsuit alleges that leaders at the congregation’s Edlavitch-Tyser Early Childhood Center ignored warning signs as a teacher sexually abused the toddlers.

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A hearing is scheduled for March.

“Our case will continue, as it is important to find some measure of justice for the children who have suffered due to WHC’s neglect and to hold WHC Edlavitch-Tyser Early Childhood Center accountable,” Karen Dunn, an attorney who represents some of the families. , said in a statement. “We look forward to presenting the facts and evidence to the jury at trial.”

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