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Ex-Hebrew school teacher charged with possessing child porn

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Stephen Joseph Schacter
Stephen Joseph Schacter

Former students of Stephen Joseph Schacter are being encouraged to come forward to aid in a Toronto police investigation.

Schacter, 55, was arrested Dec. 16 and charged with possession of child pornography.

Five weeks earlier, police responded to a call about a man viewing child pornography on a public computer at the Employment and Social Services Centre at Lawrence Square. The man reportedly fled the scene.

Schacter was a teacher at Eitz Chaim Schools between 1986 and 2004, an office administrator and supply teacher at United Synagogue Day School (now Robbins Hebrew Academy) between 2005 and 2009, and was a private tutor from 2009 until 2011.

In a statement, Toronto Police Service said that after executing a search warrant in North York, “a review of the seized evidence has police concerned that he may have had inappropriate contact with students in the past.”

Schacter has no prior criminal record, police told the Toronto Sun.

In a statement to The CJN, Eitz Chaim executive director Elias Levy said the school “is supporting the police in their investigation in every way possible and we will update the community with any additional information as soon it becomes available.

“The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority,” the statement added. “We have a thorough and rigorous screening process in place for hiring staff, which includes a full police check as well as a vulnerable sector screening test that is regulated by the police.

“We are encouraging parents of students and student alumni who may have had contact with this individual to contact us and the Toronto Police Service immediately at 416-808-8500, or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), or online at www.222tips.com.”

Levy said he would not answer further questions. The quote provided “will stand as our media statement.”

It’s the second time in recent memory that Eitz Chaim has dealt with sex-related charges against a former teacher. In 2014, Heshi Nussbaum pleaded guilty to indecent assault against a male. Nussbaum worked as a teacher at the school in the 1970s, and the alleged assaults took place between 1972 and 1975.

Claire Sumerlus, head of school at Robbins Hebrew Academy, said she wanted to avoid any comments that might “jeopardize” the police investigation into Schacter.

“What I can tell you though is that Mr. Schacter was an employee at the school when I arrived in March 2009, and he was one of a number of staff that were laid off in a restructuring in June 2009,” Sumerlus told The CJN via email.

Robbins Hebrew Academy “places the greatest emphasis on the safety, security and well-being of our students,” Sumerlus went on. “We can assure parents that the screening process for potential employees is extremely stringent and includes detailed police background checks, including a vulnerable sector screening.”

Earlier, Sumerlus told the Toronto Sun that Schacter worked at two now-defunct USDS campuses — the Richmond Hill campus from 2005 to 2006 as a supply teacher, and the Bayview campus from 2006 to 2009, in the office and as a supply teacher.

The school is “conducting a review as to understand the circumstances around his departure,” she told the Sun.

Asked for a comment, Daniel Held, executive director of the Julia and Henry Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education, forwarded a statement on behalf of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto: “There is nothing more important than the welfare and safety of the students, who are always our primary concern. We have been in direct communication with the schools’ administration and we know they are offering the police their full and complete support during this investigation.

“We are here to assist the schools in any way possible and we encourage any parents of students and/or student alumni who have been in contact with Mr. Schacter to immediately contact Toronto Police Service.”

Schacter is scheduled to appear in court again on Jan. 21.

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