One of the area’s most prominent gymnastics coaches said that during her decades-long association with Joseph Lewin, she never heard anything to indicate he might be sexually abusing youngsters.
Jamie Winkler, co-owner of Galaxy Gymnastics in Orangeburg, trained with Lewin in Westchester, N.Y., when she was a child and later watched him work with other young students.
“I’m shocked to hear the allegations against him,” Winkler said Friday, the day after Ramapo police announced Lewin’s arrest on accusations of sexually abusing at least five youngsters under 13 from 2001-2014.
“I’ve known Joe for over 40 years and my experience with him has always been positive and I’ve never heard anything like this before,” Winkler said. “He was always positive and a great role model for the kids.”
Winkler trains competitive gymnasts and is the former coach of three high school girls gymnastics teams — Clarkstown, Nyack and Tappan Zee in New York.
Lewin, who she said specialized in recreational and not competitive gymnastics, never worked at Galaxy.
“I’ve seen him teaching. He didn’t have a team but taught gymnastics for many years and anything I’ve ever heard was always positive,” said Winkler, who said she’d been out of contact with Lewin for about 10 or 15 years. Lewin, of Port Chester, N.Y., also known as Joseph Lewandoski, is charged with five counts of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child and first-degree sexual abuse, both felonies.
The crimes Lewin is accused of took place at The Gym (also known as Joe’s Gym) at 143 Route 59 in Hillburn; and The Gym at 7-11 Suffern Place in Suffern.
Both gyms, which are no longer in business, were popular training facilities for serious athletes.
Suffern High School’s girls varsity gymnastics team practiced at both facilities from about 2005 to 2008. Lewin also trained a member of the U.S. men’s gymnastics team and a national 11-and-under weightlifting champion at his gyms.
“Gymnastics, like weightlifting, is an individual sport,” Lewin said in a 2003 interview with The Journal News. “In those, a child understands failure, and that’s a progressive level. Once you know the formula, failure becomes success, and a child must understand that.”
Lewin also said that even the most talented child can be hindered if his parents are not “physically smart,” knowing how much their child can handle.
He worked at other gymnastics facilities in Rockland and elsewhere and police were concerned there might be more victims.