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Family defends Orthodox 'rabbi' accused of sexually abusing adopted sons, faking disability and Jewish conversion

Composite screenshot of ABC 7 Chicago YouTube video

The family of a Texas man accused of sexually assaulting several of his nine adopted sons has come to his defense.

Last month, Hayim Nissim Cohen, 38, was arrested after his 17-year-old adopted son made an anonymous phone call to the "Blind Skinned Beauty" podcast and claimed that his father had molested him since he was first adopted six years ago. Police were able to trace the call to a boy living in Cohen's house, at which point, the boy told officers that he and his brothers had been repeatedly assaulted.

Cohen has adopted nine boys, six of whom are still minors, and until recently had been chronicling their family life on various social media accounts, garnering a sizeable audience. His TikTok account, @our_unique_family, has nearly 200,000 followers. Cohen has presented himself as a Hasidic Jew who made it his life's mission to "to ensure that Jewish foster children are placed in Jewish homes."

The 17-year-old boy's accusations have shattered that image of a happy, observant, "unique" Jewish home, and Harris County prosecutors have followed up those accusations with some serious charges, including several counts of sexual assault of a child and sexual abuse of a child.

However, despite the heinous charges against him, several family members have publicly declared their continued support for Cohen. Cohen's oldest son, Avshalom, 22, stated unequivocally: "My father never abused me. He's a great father that would never hurt any of us. If I saw anything out of order by anyone, I would have done everything in my power to protect my brothers."

Cohen's mother, Corina Lujan, 71, suggested that if her son had molested the boys, some of the them would have likely reported that abuse to their therapist, whom they used to see weekly. "If this alleged sexual abuse had gone on for years as claimed by the prosecutor, why didn't any therapist notice it or know about it?" Lujan asked rhetorically.

Though Lujan was also adamant in her belief in her son's innocence, she did reveal that Cohen, born Jeffrey Vejil, is not a Hasidic Jew from New York City, but a Texas native and a former altar boy in the Catholic church who once dreamed of becoming a priest.

"He came to us one day and said, 'I'm going to convert to Judaism,'" she said, adding that she thought his conversion was "beautiful."

Various Jewish groups have taken issue with Cohen's assumed Jewish identity. One member of the Orthodox Jewish community in Houston, where Cohen now lives, said that many in the community had distrusted Cohen for a long time. "He claimed he was one of those guys who throws rocks on Shabbos, but he doesn’t speak a word of Hebrew or a word of Yiddish," the man said.

"He showed up and claimed some references and assumed no one would check. One of the rabbis checked the references in New York, and it didn’t check out," the man continued.

"This guy made up a whole backstory," he added. "He’s a very smart guy. This guy is a Ted Bundy-level sociopath. He’s very intelligent, very conniving, very manipulative."

At least one of Cohen's sons seems to agree. "[E]verything he does is fake," the juvenile said, including the wheelchair and oxygen tanks Cohen sometimes uses in public and in videos.

Cohen, who has referred to himself as a rabbi in several interviews, is also still fighting other allegations of indecency with a child after a foreign exchange student from Spain claimed that Cohen was repeatedly sexually inappropriate with him while he lived with the family in 2018. The exchange student was then 15 but is now almost 20.

"There were so many red flags," said Sherry Chandler, an attorney who filed a civil suit in 2021 on behalf of the exchange student. "We all suspected [Cohen] is a pedophile. You don’t just start one day. We all suspected the other kids were getting abused."

Despite these repeated allegations of chronic sexual abuse, Cohen's family is standing by his side. Both Cohen's son, Avshalom, and his mother, Corina, believe that his 17-year-old accuser suffers from multiple personality disorders, autism, and other cognitive issues, the Daily Mail reported.

"He can change his personality in a split second and go from talking in Chinese to doing high kicks with his legs in the air," Corina Lujan said. "He has some problems. And I think he's convinced his younger siblings into believing they were molested by their father."

Cohen's six minor children have since been placed in foster care while his legal proceedings continue.

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