A Houston rabbi who rose to social media fame for adopting nine boys as a single father was arrested after one of his sons accused him of years of sexual abuse.
Hayim Nissim Cohen, 38, was charged in February with sexual assault and ongoing sexual abuse of a child under the age of 17 after one of his sons called on a podcast to report the abuse.
The 17-year-old boy alleged that Cohen abused some of his brothers and sometimes threatened to kill them if they ever revealed the abuse. Six of Cohen’s children have since been removed from their homes and placed under protective care.
It wasn’t the first time Cohen had been charged with assault. He was out on bail due to a 2019 case in which he was accused of sexual contact by a student, now 20 years old, who was staying with Cohen on an exchange program from Spain.
Cohen has also been accused of faking his Jewish heritage and his alleged disabilities. He regularly poses for photos while hooked up to an oxygen tank and confined to a wheelchair.
Hayim Nissim Cohen, 38, was charged in February with sexual assault and ongoing sexual abuse of a child under 17 years old
Hayim Nissim Cohen, 38, with his adopted sons, many of whom said he sexually assaulted them
Calling into a podcast recording on Feb. 1, the unnamed boy accused Cohen of sexual misconduct, using the word “rape” to describe the abuse he had experienced since being adopted at age 11.
He said he used a burner phone to avoid being discovered by Cohen, and that he planned to wait until he was 18 to report the abuse to police. He said he wanted to remain anonymous until then for fear of Cohen.
The podcasters later called the police who were able to trace the phone and then went to the boy. He initially denied making the allegations, but later “became visibly frightened, shaking and kept his head down” when police played him a recording of the conversation.
He eventually admitted he was the one who called, telling police he was “not brave enough to say anything” about the abuse. ABC 7.
Harris County District Attorney’s Crimes Against Children Division lead prosecutor Janna Oswald detailed some of the allegations against Cohen to the Houston Chronicle, saying he allegedly locked the boys in a room for long periods of the day and then forced them to to let in. in sexual acts when he released them.
A 16-year-old victim said Cohen would pepper spray them if they refused to comply.
Oswald alleged that Cohen deliberately used the guise of religion and a social media facade to hide his true nature and crimes.
Hayim Nissim Cohen, 38, has also been accused of making up his Jewish heritage and past
The house in Houston where Hayim Nissim Cohen lived with his nine adopted sons
Hayim Nissim Cohen with his adoptive sons. He has also been accused of faking disabilities
That social media presence included a TikTok page with more than 200,000 followers, along with highly viewed YouTube, Facebook and Instagram profiles.
On that basis, Cohen and his family would show their religious lifestyle, and the adoption patriarch advocated for single men to adopt children.
“Our mission is to provide support and understanding from a Jewish perspective. Our goal is to reach out to other homeschooling families to create a network,” Cohen wrote on his website.
“We are open to compliance at all levels. Feel free to contact us for any questions or suggestions!’
But some accused Cohen of fabricating that religious lifestyle and background.
In numerous interviews, Cohen recounted growing up in the Hasidic community in New York City, where he said he spoke Yiddish and became a rabbi.
But records showed that he was in fact from Odessa, Texas and that his real name was Jeffrey Lujan Vejil, according to Reduxx.
Hayim Nissim Cohen with his nine adopted sons. His 17-year-old first accused him of assault
Hayim Nissim Cohen is an outspoken advocate of single men adopting sons
Hayim Nissim Cohen in a social media post with his adopted sons
On social media and in public, Cohen often appeared in a wheelchair and wearing an oxygen mask. His own adopted sons said even that was a fabrication, with one boy telling KTRK “everything (Cohen) does is fake.”
“The (teen) stated that (Cohen) only uses his wheelchair when people pass by or when he is in public,” Cohen’s charging document read. “The (teenager) has stated that (Cohen) has six oxygen bottles and is not using them and that (Cohen) only coughs uncontrollably when he is in court.”
The attorney who represented exchange student Cohen was charged with molestation in 2019, told ABC13 the charges against him came as no surprise.
“There were so many red flags,” Sherry Chandler said.
“We all suspected that (Cohen) is a pedophile. You don’t just start one day. We all suspected that the other children were being abused.’
In that case, the student complained to Sharpstown High School about Cohen’s behavior.
The student is suing Cohen and the group that placed him in his home, according to ABC 13.