Washington Hebrew Congregation to pay $950K in child safety lawsuit

D.C.'s Attorney General Karl Racine says the Washington Hebrew Congregation, a synagogue that also runs a childcare center, will have to pay nearly a million dollars after claims of creating an environment that put children at risk for abuse.

The District sued the congregation, saying it violated a D.C. law requiring at least two adults to be in the room with minors. The settlement both parties reached specifically stated that WHC denies liability for the OAG’s allegations. 

"What happened at Washington Hebrew Congregation is every parent’s worst nightmare," AG Racine said in a statement. "Instead of protecting the children under their care, Washington Hebrew disregarded the law and failed to report incidents of harm, hired unqualified teachers, and ran an unlicensed summer childcare center for years. Today, we’re holding them accountable for putting D.C.’s youngest, most vulnerable residents in harm’s way." 

READ MORE: Families file lawsuit against Washington Hebrew Congregation preschool over alleged child sex abuse

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In September, WHC was found liable in D.C. court for violating several of the District's childcare center regulations.

On Wednesday, Racine's Office announced that the WHC has agreed to dish out $950,000 in total payments. Families who enrolled their children in WHC's summer childcare program, Camp Keetov, during the summers of 2016-2018 will receive $300,000; $100,000 is allocated for an approved D.C. charity; and $550,000 will be paid to the city for civil penalties and legal costs. 

WHC must also stop all practices that violate D.C.'s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

In a statement shared with FOX 5, WHC said that the court has already found that since the alleged violations, WHC has implemented OSSE’s Corrective Action Plan, and complied with OSSE regulations.

READ MORE: Preschool accused of overlooking abuse puts leader on leave

"The lawsuit asserted WHC’s Edlavitch-Tyser Early Childhood Center and Camp Keetov had not followed certain regulations established by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). It is important to note that, occurring nearly four and a half years ago, the violations were administrative in nature. Not one was related to the supervision or alleged abuse of children. In an earlier ruling on the OAG’s claims, the court specifically found that WHC had already remedied the alleged administrative violations," the statement reads.

WHC President Lewis Wiener added: "We are pleased that Washington Hebrew Congregation and the D.C. Attorney General have reached an agreement and that a significant portion of the settlement funds will go to a D.C. charity and families whose children attended Camp Keetov in 2016, 2017, and 2018. We’re proud of our Edlavitch-Tyser Early Childhood Center and its educators, who provide a warm, engaging environment where children can feel safe as they discover the world around them.

"The same values we hold in high regard as adults — kindness, compassion, and community — are part of the very foundation of our early childhood centers," he continued. "The settlement with the D.C. OAG allows Washington Hebrew Congregation to close this chapter and move forward. Under outstanding new spiritual and administrative leadership, WHC can continue to grow as a warm, welcoming community, open to all who wish to build a meaningful Jewish life."

Read the full settlement agreement below: