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This article was published 22/2/2018 (1342 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A rabbi whom police say molested minors in incidents from 1993 to 1999 was helping to run an Orthodox Jewish school in Winnipeg for several years after the alleged sex crimes, according to a 2011 newspaper interview.
Chabad-Lubavitch of Winnipeg said this week Yacov Simmonds, 42, was employed at its Jewish learning centre after the alleged crimes occurred as director of development — a fundraiser — rather than in the school with children.
But in a 2011 interview with Hamodia, a Hebrew daily newspaper published in Jerusalem with a daily English edition in the U.S. and weekly English-language editions in England and Israel, Simmonds talked about his involvement in the day-to-day operations of the Winnipeg school.
"We are running a day school that has classes through seventh grade," he said in the full-page article headlined, Winnipeg: Past, Present and Future.
"We have adult night classes and a very successful summer yeshiva (Orthodox Jewish school)... There are many young people here who are thirsty for knowledge," Simmonds is quoted as saying.
Simmonds has been charged with three counts of sexual assault, three counts of sexual interference and two counts of invitation to sexual touching. The alleged victims are three females.
Police issued a warrant this past October for Simmonds, who is presumed innocent. Investigators believe he fled to the United States and "is aware of the warrant and is actively evading police," a statement issued by the Winnipeg Police Service said.
On Thursday, someone with knowledge of the circumstances said Simmonds "had nothing to do with the running of the school," but may have occasionally worked a day or two as a substitute teacher.
The centre is attended mainly by children of staff and other more Orthodox Jews "who aren’t comfortable with the level of observance at Gray Academy (of Jewish Education)."
The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Simmonds’ wife and children are believed to be in the Detroit area while he has gone into hiding.
Messages are circulating through the Jewish community, advising people to be on the lookout for Simmonds.
"There is a Canadian warrant for his arrest, but he must first be found," one blogger posted. The blog post calls on anyone with knowledge of Simmonds’ whereabouts to get in touch with Winnipeg police. "Do not engage in any vigilante actions or even confront him, which will just up the likelihood that he will flee again."
Police in Winnipeg said because it’s an active investigation they couldn’t comment on whether or not they are looking at any extradition arrangements to bring Simmonds to Canada to face the charges, should he be found in the U.S.
The Chabad-Lubavitch board of directors said earlier it broke ties with Simmonds before he was charged by police.
"The matter was brought to our attention in January 2016, after which the centre concluded an agreement to terminate Rabbi Simmonds’ employment," the board said in a statement.
In the August 2016 Chabad-Lubavitch newsletter, the board said Simmonds was "embarking on a career change" and expressed its gratitude for his years of service.
The community wasn’t informed about the allegations, but the tight network of learning centres in Canada and United States would be made aware of them, and Simmonds wouldn’t be allowed to work in another lubavitch, the source said Thursday.
However, the headquarters for the worldwide lubavitch movement, based in Morristown, N.J. — the Rabbinical College of America — still listed Simmonds as a lubavitch representative on its website Thursday. The college did not respond for a request to comment.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.