Charged again

Charged again

Teaneck restaurateur Shalom Yehudiel is back in jail

Shalom Yehudiel
Shalom Yehudiel

The founder of the Teaneck restaurant called The Humble Toast has been humbled once again.

On Tuesday, restaurateur Shalom Yehudiel was in the Bergen County jail. He had surrendered himself following his indictment, on August 31, on charges that he had sexually assaulted and endangered the welfare of a child.

A judge had dismissed an earlier indictment on these charges on August 7, after Mr. Yehudiel’s attorneys successfully argued that the grand jury proceedings in that indictment were tainted. Prosecutors had told the grand jury about evidence from a surveillance system in the Humble Toast, but they were unable to provide the defense with a copy of the surveillance recording, which the FBI had obtained.

The charges were dismissed without prejudice, which means that they could be brought up again.

Recently, a second grand jury considered the same charges against Mr. Yehudiel, and it chose to charge him.

The alleged victim in those indictments was a Humble Toast employee who was 15 and 16 at the time of the alleged assaults, which took place in November 2021.

Within 24 hours of the dismissal of the first indictment, Mr. Yehudiel was released from home confinement. Then he was arrested at Kennedy airport. He apparently was on his way to Thailand; he had a one-way ticket there.

That arrest was on a warrant for allegations of a separate series of sexual assaults that allegedly took place beginning in 2016 at Fair Lawn’s Temple Anshei Lubavitch synagogue against Elisheva Akselrod, who was 14 years old then. (While court records maintain the anonymity of minors alleging abuse, Ms. Akselrod, now 21, has chosen not to be anonymous. Instead, she has gone public with her name and her story.)

After the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office declined to prosecute her allegations, Ms. Akselrod sued Mr. Yehudiel for civil damages. That suit, and the protests by advocates for sexual assault victims in the Orthodox community that accompanied it, led the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County, which supervises restaurants’ kashrut, to demand that Mr. Yehudiel not step foot in either the Humble Toast or his second Teaneck kosher restaurant, La Cucina di Nava.

Mr. Yehudiel sold the restaurants after his initial indictment.

The assault on the Humble Toast employee allegedly took place several months after Ms. Akselrod first filed her suit against Mr. Yehudiel — which, according to Asher Lovy, founder of Za’akah, the organization devoted to helping survivors of sexual violence that organized the November 2021 protests outside the Humble Toast — should have led the RCBC immediately to take steps to assure the safety of minors whom Mr. Yehudiel employed.

Mr. Yehudiel has not yet been indicted for the Fair Lawn allegations. Those allegations are being pursued by an official with the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, after Ms. Axelrod’s attorney convinced state officials that the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, having failed to properly investigate her initial complaint, could not be trusted to prosecute it anew.

For his part, Mr. Yehudiel maintains his innocence.

“Mr. Yehudiel beat these wrongful charges once and will do it again,” his attorneys,  Lee Vartan and Zach Intrater, said in a statement. “The State has just recycled the same flawed indictment with the same factual and legal holes. This case, like the first, will be dismissed.”

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