In 2016, Steve Levick, an owner of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team who had amassed a tidy fortune on Wall Street, called Richie Gersten, the executive director of Brant Lake Camp, the picturesque boys’ camp in the Adirondacks that for generations has hosted the sons of New York’s most prominent Jewish families, including those of Ralph Lauren and Jerry Seinfeld.
From the outside, it appeared that Levick was living the Brant Lake dream. But in fact Levick, who had been thinking a lot about his childhood summers at the camp, given that its centennial was approaching, was calling to tell Gersten a secret that he had been carrying for 48 years: In 1968, when Levick was a 10-year-old camper, he was repeatedly molested by a 16-year-old Brant Lake counselor-in-training named Alan Monasch, who the camp had suggested be his Hebrew tutor when Levick’s mother called, asking them to find someone who could fill that role.
Instead, Levick told Gersten, Monasch had largely used those one-on-one sessions, which took place on his bed, in the partitioned-off counselor area in the back of his bunk, to molest Levick, who at the time was one of the smallest boys in camp. Monasch “would tell me that we had to get undressed and then get under the covers,” Levick recalls. “He would touch me and have me touch him. Counselors were gods. You did whatever a counselor said. He also made me promise never to tell anyone what we were doing. That’s how it went all summer.”
What’s more, Levick told Gersten that, five years earlier, in 2011, after he had been diagnosed with lymphoma and was feeling reflective in the face of his mortality, he had reached out to Monasch on Facebook and, in an extraordinary exchange of instant messages, he and Monasch had discussed, albeit in euphemistic terms, what Monasch had done to him.
Levick went on to tell Gersten—who had been his bunk counselor in the summer of 1971—that he was not looking for retribution. In fact, he says, “I went out of my way to put Richie at ease,” says Levick. “There was no ‘Gotcha.’ It was really just a public service. I said, ‘I’m not going to sue anybody. I’m calling so you get a heads-up that this is out there.’ I said, ‘Richie, my life has turned out wonderful,’ and his answer to me was, ‘Go back to your wonderful life and I’ll take care of this.’” Gersten, says Levick, also promised him that Monasch would “never be on the grounds again.”
Yet something about the conversation didn’t sit right with Levick.
“I got off the phone and looked at my wife, and I said, ‘This guy is such a schmuck,’” says Levick of Gersten. “‘He doesn’t care.’ My assumption was that the news I’d been molested would be a shock to him. As far as I know, I’m the first person in Brant Lake history to ever have this happen.”
But in the months that followed, no one from Brant Lake reached out to Levick to inquire about his allegations or even ask for copies of the instant messages that he and Monasch had exchanged, some of which are featured later in this story.
Monasch, who had practically grown up at Brant Lake (his mother worked in the camp office as its bookkeeper), died at age 69 after a brief illness this past October before Air Mail was able to contact him.
Still, what continues to haunt Levick is the thought that, had Gersten done a thorough investigation of his allegations, Gersten might have instituted new Brant Lake safeguards that could have—at least in theory—better protected campers from sexual predators. (Richie Gersten did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story. In 1968, when Levick was molested, Richie Gersten’s father, “Bobby G.” Gersten, was executive director of the camp.)
The tragedy is that it seems Gersten did not begin taking action on this front until the summer of 2018, after a nine-year-old Brant Laker (as previously reported by Air Mail) sent a letter home to his parents that included this line about Dylan Stolz, who was then a 33-year veteran employee of the camp and an assistant director: “Dear Mom, Dad and [sibling], I miss you guys so much. Dylan touched my penis. Evry thing [sic] is good except for that.”
“That didn’t have to happen to him,” says Levick of the nine-year-old, whose parents then called up Brant Lake’s local police department, thereby initiating a criminal investigation into Stolz who, as it turned out, had many additional victims at the camp. The investigation led to two trials, one of which was declared a mistrial, and the other of which was settled on the day it was set to begin, with Stolz entering an Alford plea and being sentenced to four and a half years in prison, where he remains.
Tragically, a Brant Laker who was not part of the case but was molested by Stolz, took his own life by jumping off the roof of his family’s Park Avenue apartment building in April 2021. He was 12 years old.
“Richie could have listened,” says Levick. “This could have been stopped.”
“You Can Have Some Candy if You Touch Me”
Indeed, just two months before the nine-year-old sent home his incriminating letter, a former Brant Lake counselor sent Gersten an e-mail warning him that she and “multiple” other former counselors were concerned that Stolz might be behaving inappropriately with campers. As Air Mail reported in 2020, this former counselor even laid out specifics, noting that Stolz often brought some of the camp’s youngest boys down to his house/office at night to watch TV as a “reward” for good behavior. One night, this former Brant Lake counselor reported, another counselor had even walked in on Stolz “cuddling” on the couch in his private quarters with two campers behind a closed door. When the counselor entered, Stolz jumped up.
She pleaded with Gersten to open his eyes and act.
“No adult, no matter how long they’ve worked at BLC, should be so blindly trusted that they’re allowed to be alone with kids at night in a closed space,” she wrote. “In light of the recent news about Larry Nassar, I want to urge you to please, please err on the side of caution and take action here. The mentality that ‘if anything were going on we would have known by now’ has proved to be disastrously misguided.”
Or, in the words of one former Brant Lake parent, “The Gersten family is to camp as the Sacklers are to pharma, putting profits ahead of – in this case – children’s safety and health.”
“He would tell me that we had to get undressed and then get under the covers,” Levick recalls. “He would touch me and have me touch him.”
As it turns out, around the same time that Gersten was receiving this warning about Stolz, he was also getting a panicked phone call from a mother who was about to send her son to Brant Lake for the first time.
“I had a nightmare one night,” this mother shared with Air Mail via text, “and I called richy [sic] in April  and said i am worried about a sexual predator at camp. And it was dylan [Stolz] in my dream bc i had seen him when we visited [Brant Lake, as prospective parents, in the summer of 2017] and i didn’t like him… and i didn’t mention dylan, just the dream and richy said there has never been one accusation in 100 years or 99.”
Interestingly, this same line—that no one had ever alleged any kind of sexual abuse at Brant Lake Camp before—was also parroted by a director of Brant Lake Camp when he went to the home of a prospective camp family to make his pitch in the winter of 2017.
“I asked if any camper had ever died,” this mother recalls, and the director, she says, said no. “My husband then asked, ‘Has anyone ever alleged any kind of sexual abuse?’ The director was like, ‘No,’ and he launched into, they don’t just have college kids working as counselors, they have key staff. ‘Key staff, key staff, key staff.’ And, of course, Dylan was key staff.”
And yet there was more. As Air Mail previously reported, in the same April 2018 e-mail to Richie Gersten in which the former counselor detailed her and her colleagues’ concerns about Stolz’s behavior, she also noted that a few counselors had brought these concerns to the attention of Mani Cadet, who at the time was the head of the Soph A boys, who are some of Brant Lake’s youngest campers.
Cadet, however, she reported, dismissed these fears out of hand, saying, “Dylan does that, don’t worry. It’s not your concern.”
What’s more, she told Gersten, other counselors who were junior to Cadet said that he had made explicitly sexual comments to them, remarks such as “You can have some candy if you touch me” and “You must have a big d***. I’m going to see it before the summer is over.” (Cadet declined to comment for this story.)
But most stunning of all, to Levick, was this: Even after the former counselor’s concerns about Stolz proved to be prescient, Gersten decided to ignore her allegations that Cadet was not only an enabler of Stolz’s abuse, but also a sexual harasser of some of the young male Brant Lake counselors who reported to him—and rehired him nonetheless. Cadet is currently back at Brant Lake, working as the “Frosh/Soph Group Head.”
“Enough stuff is mentioned that casts doubt on whether Cadet should be around kids,” says Levick of the former Brant Lake counselor’s e-mail. “Yet there he is again at the camp in a senior position in charge of the youngest guys? He’s in charge of the eight-year-olds. How brazen is that, that they felt this was O.K.?”
And so, last summer, on July 20, just three days after the fifth installment of our series on sex abuse at Brant Lake was published, Levick contacted Air Mail via e-mail: “Add my name, 1968,” he wrote, and a few months later he decided he was ready. It was time to publicly share his story.
“Secrets Like That Are Dangerous to Keep”
On December 22, 2011, Steve Levick instant messaged Alan Monasch for the very first time: “Were you a counselor at Brant Lake Camp?”
A day later, Monasch replied. “I certainly was, a CIT, actually, and I remember you very well, Stephen. I taught you Hebrew reading in the summer of 1968, when you were a Junior A, in Bunk 10, think [sic], and I was with the Soph As. How are you? How has your life gone since then?”
“It’s not been easy to figure out what to write to you,” Levick finally replied, six weeks later, on February 8. “I don’t have many recollections from that age period but I do remember bits and pieces of the summer you tutored me and what I remember is that you paid special attention to me but that some of our interactions were inappropriate. I do remember that you once said to me don’t tell anyone anything and I never did, and at that age I couldn’t have kept a secret about anything yet our interactions I never spoke about.... My hope is that the interactions between us that were not appropriate were not repeated by you towards anyone else and that for you it was about figuring yourself out, for me at 10 that level of emotional and physical was beyond my scope as it would be for any 10 or 11 year old.”
Less than an hour later, Monasch responded.
“I hear you, Stephen. I certainly remember that I paid special attention to you and that I used the fact that I was being paid to tutor you as a way both of getting you out of activities you didn’t want to go to and getting myself out of the Soph group and away, specifically, from the counselor I was a CIT under and the head of the Soph group, both of whom I was uncomfortable around because of what I saw as their inappropriateness with the boys they were charged with caring for. And I was uncomfortable with the behavior towards me of certain of the counselors I myself had had while a camper. If my behavior made you as uncomfortable as their behavior made me, I am truly, deeply sorry because I know how that feels and I hear how you say it felt to you. And if I told you not to tell, I hereby release you from that, if you haven’t already released yourself from it; I tell about my camp experiences with counselors’ inappropriate behavior because secrets like that are dangerous to keep.”
That Gersten never asked to see these messages, which not only contain potentially incriminating information about Monasch but also seem to hint at an extensive and multi-generational culture of sexual abuse at Brant Lake Camp, is troubling.
“I might have been the first call about Alan Monasch,” says Levick, but based on how Gersten responded to his allegation he believes, “I wasn’t the first call they got about something like this.... They were so scared about their brand and that Brant Lake should be untarnished.”
A few months after Levick shared his secret with Gersten, he received a mass e-mail from Brant Lake—a cheery invitation to view photos on Facebook from the camp’s 100th-anniversary celebration. When Levick went on the site, he was shocked by what he saw: a group photograph dated August 28, 2016 that featured not only a gray-haired 60-something-year-old Monasch inside the Brant Lake Camp clubhouse, but also Richie Gersten, standing just feet away.
“It’s almost like Richie was thumbing his nose at what I told him,” said Levick. “I would have expected such a minimum amount of behavior from Richie and he went so the opposite way, and it’s detrimental to other people’s health.”
About six weeks later, despite his anger, Levick went to the Manhattan venue where Brant Lake was hosting another centennial celebration. He went in part to see old friends; after all, excluding the horror of what Monasch had done to him, Levick loved the camp and its competitive sports, and attributes much of his success on Wall Street to the lessons about drive and teamwork that he learned there.
One night, this former Brant Lake counselor reported, another counselor had even walked in on Stolz “cuddling” on the couch in his private quarters with two campers behind a closed door.
“When you played on the field,” said Levick, “everything was about your team at the moment.” By the time he arrived at the trading and clearing firm Spear, Leeds & Kellogg at the end of 1990, Levick says, “I really knew how to work as part of an organization, and Brant Lake contributed to that. I learned competition correctly.”
But that night, Levick was determined to confront what he has come to see as the dark aspect of Brant Lake’s greatness, a flip side that he believes is embodied in Richie Gersten himself.
“He didn’t want to talk to me,” said Levick, recalling how Gersten practically ran away as he approached. But when he did finally manage to get Gersten’s attention, and reminded him of the promise he had made about Monasch not being allowed on Brant Lake’s grounds, Gersten, says Levick, “basically said, ‘My bad,’ in sort of a dismissive way.” (Gersten did not respond to requests for comment.)
“Clearly There’s a Pattern of Abuse at the Camp”
Meanwhile, more men have come forward detailing claims of being sexually abused at the camp. In April, Dwight Schine filed suit against Brant Lake, alleging that in 1973, when he was just eight years old, his counselor propositioned him for oral sex. “He said if I give him a blow job, he would give me candy,” Schine recalled. According to Schine, his counselor said this same line two nights in a row, and desperately wanting the candy, which was essentially contraband at the camp, Schine obliged.
After this experience, Schine says, he became a bedwetter and remained one until he was 12 or 13 years old. “I didn’t talk about [the abuse] until I was in my 50s,” he said. “I was ashamed and traumatized.” Schine has Asperger’s, as well as physical and mental-health issues, and currently resides in an independent-living facility on Long Island.
“I think [Dwight’s counselor] saw a kid with special needs and took advantage,” says Schine’s attorney, Jeffrey Dean. “Clearly there’s a pattern of abuse at the camp.... They’re still running today—which boggles my mind. I hope that by bringing this to the forefront of the general public, parents will see this and understand the ramifications.”
In addition to the Schine case, there are currently four other sexual-abuse lawsuits against Brant Lake Camp including one filed by a man who, as a six-year-old in 1960, came home from camp with mono. On May 16, in a sworn deposition, this man testified that as a Brant Lake camper he was “deceived, taken to shower rooms where he wasn’t supposed to go and fondled and a whole routine was done. [The counselor would] wash my hair and after he washes my hair, then he washed my penis. And then there was the kissing game…there were two counselors who would fondle me in the shower.”
He also reported a counselor gave him “a blow job in the CIT room” and then “he wanted to take pictures of me afterwards, to remember me by. So there were naked pictures of me.”
This man, who filed his suit anonymously under the Child Victims Act, testified that in connection with his case, he had received a letter from Gersten.
“It’s the son,” the man said. “It’s the same family. One hundred years of victim shaming. Everyone who went to [Gersten’s father’s] funeral should know what happened to me while his father was supposed to protect me.”
There are three other lawsuits on file against Brant Lake: that of a man who, as a nine-year-old, was allegedly molested by longtime Brant Lake counselor Peter Barnes, in 1977; that of a man who, as a nine-year-old in 1982, was allegedly orally raped by two Brant Lake counselors whom he also witnessed sexually assault other campers when those counselors initiated him, and the others, into a “secret club” wherein they were all forced to “perform the act of masturbation” on each other, including the counselors; and finally, that of the letter writer, who was molested by Dylan Stolz. (An additional claim against Brant Lake, brought by another Stolz victim, was settled for $500,000 in 2021.)
“You must have a big d***. I’m going to see it before the summer is over.”
According to some of the lawyers representing the Brant Lake victims, it had seemed, at least until recently, that a couple of these cases were moving towards settlement. But now, they all seem to be moving ahead with litigation due to Brant Lake’s insistence—at least according to one victim’s lawyer—that the camp either had no insurance long ago, or if they did, they cannot find it. And regardless, as at least one Brant Lake attorney has claimed, the camp does not have money for settlements.
But according to Dun & Bradstreet, a database that collects the financials of private companies, Brant Lake—whose tuition for this summer season is $14,350 per camper—has annual revenue of $8.6 million. And then there is the value of the camp itself, which, even if it were not to be sold, could, at least in theory, be borrowed against.
According to the Warren County GIS map which uses data from 2022, and which determines how much property tax Brant Lake must pay, the camp has a “full market value” of $7.2 million. (That said, tax roll estimates tend to be conservative.) It’s also worth noting that when New York state prohibited the operation of sleepaway camps due to Covid, Brant Lake Camp Inc. received $826,031 in PPP loans, and Brant Lake Maintenance Contracting Corp., which is located at the same address as the camp, received $286,282 in PPP loans. (The entire sum of $1.1 million in loans has been forgiven.)
All that said, one of the biggest, and perhaps most important, questions of all may be not just how these lawsuits get resolved, and at what financial cost—even if Brant Lake were to prevail in all five lawsuits, their litigation fees alone could be significant—but whether Gersten will be able to maintain his leadership of the camp.
In the wake of the major sexual-abuse scandals of the last two decades, such as those involving the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, and U.S.A. Gymnastics, there now seems to be far less cultural tolerance for sexual abuse of children—so much so that one can’t help but wonder whether Gersten’s actions, or rather inaction, could thwart his ability to ensure that his thirtysomething son, Max, who is currently a director at the camp, will one day inherit the mantle of leadership.
To Steve Levick, the answer to the question of whether another Gersten should be put in charge of the camp is simple: “Max could either be the devil or the best guy ever, but unfortunately you have to err on the side of caution. You have to do a clean sweep. Otherwise, there are those that are still getting away with it.... they’re still protected. There is only one path, and it doesn’t run through the Gerstens. This was ego. They were supposed to be the guardians of these kids, but instead they were the enablers of their molesters.”
While Levick still has no plans to sue Brant Lake Camp, he says he is willing to testify on behalf of those who are suing as to what happened when he reported his abuse to Gersten in 2016. “I didn’t record my call,” he says, “but if Richie and I were the last two people on earth, he knows.”
“You need to remove the Gerstens to save the camp,” says Levick. Or, to put it another way, he says, if Brant Lake were “a real business,” Gersten would be fired. “Even if you founded the company, you’d be fired. They did it to the guy from Uber. Corporate America is shameless. A hint of a problem and the C.E.O. is out.” But given that Brant Lake is privately owned, the publicly traded company rules of engagement may not apply.
For now, what is clear is that Brant Lake, whose Web site advertises it as “one of the oldest single-family owned camps in the country,” has at least one owner who is not a Gersten, and does not work at the camp during the summer. That not-in-residence owner is Keith Klein, who also owns Camp Laurel, and Camp Laurel South. According to Town & Country, Camp Laurel has “two fully equipped kitchens for budding Bourdains,” as well as a roller hockey arena and equestrian facilities for 22 horses. “Sending a child to summer camp is a tremendous act of faith by parents,” Camp Laurel noted in a sailing-instructor-job listing it posted in 2019. “At Laurel we take that responsibility very seriously.”
Air Mail reached out to Klein to share with him some of the details of this story and ask what he thought of how Gersten seems to have handled Levick’s sexual-abuse allegations. Did Klein approve of Gersten’s alleged inaction? Or might he, as a fellow owner of Brant Lake, have handled these allegations differently?
Klein was also asked what the Camp Laurel and Camp Laurel South communities made of the fact that he, in addition to owning those camps, was also an owner of a camp in the midst of five sexual-abuse lawsuits. Was there any concern about his involvement with Brant Lake? And to what extent, if any, does he have say over how Brant Lake is run? (Klein did not respond to requests for comment.)
According to a message that Richie Gersten posted on Brant Lake’s Facebook page in 2013, Klein, who is his good friend, worked at Brant Lake for “a couple of summers” decades ago and purchased a “small portion of ownership stock” in the camp from the two children of Gersten’s cousin, Karen Gerstenzang Meltzer. Meltzer, who died this past November at age 86, had been an owner-director of Brant Lake since 1961, when she, together with “Bobby G,” who was her first cousin, took over operating the camp from her father, who was one of Brant Lake’s founders. However, whether Meltzer retained Brant Lake shares upon her death, and if so, to whom she bequeathed them, is unclear.
For now, Brant Lake is in the midst of its 105th summer season. Back in April, Gersten wrote, as part of an Alumni Update, “We are happy to tell you that enrollment is strong.” But it is difficult to discern, in the absence of public data, just how strong “strong” really means. If word of mouth is any guide, whereas Brant Lake once topped the prospective-camp lists of a certain kind of Type A and well-off Manhattan, Long Island, or Westchester Jewish family that had a sporty son, this may no longer be the case—or at least it may not be for those whose families do not already have a pre-existing alumni connection to the camp.
“When people ask me specifically about Brant Lake,” one camp consultant told Air Mail, “I tell them about the molestation that’s happened because I think as a mom I have to let people know. It’s not about business to me.... It’s about the human piece. They thank me.”
“The molesting was a big secret,” says Levick. “Unless you were in on the secret, it didn’t exist. Your experience was only the other stuff. It’s like a Grisham novel. You only find out the truth on page 100, and then you’re in and it’s too late.”
Johanna Berkman is an investigative journalist who lives in New York. You can read her profile of Jumi Bello, the writer whose plagiarism scandal rocked the publishing world, here