Rabbi Baruch Lanner, in a New Jersey state prison for three years, will be on parole for four years. New Jersey Department of corrections
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After serving nearly three years for sexually assaulting two teenage girls in his charge in the mid-1990s, Rabbi Baruch Lanner, the former yeshiva principal and a longtime leader of the Orthodox Union’s National Conference of Synagogue Youth, is scheduled to be released from a New Jersey state prison next week, The Jewish Week has learned.
The rabbi, 58, was sentenced to up to seven years and has been in custody at Southwoods State Prison in Bridgeton for 35 months, following his conviction for criminal sexual contact.
The response to the recent news reports I’ve written, with a sense of sadness, about Rabbi Baruch Lanner, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) and the Orthodox Union (OU) has been overwhelming — hundreds of letters, e-mails and phone calls from all over the United States and from Israel. In light of the unprecedented interest in this issue, I’ll offer a bit of background and a few observations.
It began almost innocently. In the fall of 1995, on her first day of high school, “Marcia” — not her real name — was happy to be at Hillel, a coed yeshiva in Deal, N.J. A graduate of Shalom Torah, an elementary school in East Windsor, the 14-year-old chose Hillel in part because it seemed an ideal place to continue her quest toward becoming more observant after being actively involved in NCSY, an Orthodox youth group, over the previous two years.
The nation’s largest synagogue-sponsored chapter of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth seceded this week from the youth arm of the Orthodox Union, sending a powerful message to national leadership over how the Baruch Lanner situation was handled over the years and indicating the crisis is not over.Even after Rabbi Lanner’s resignation as NCSY director of regions was announced last Friday, wide-scale communal fallout continued from The Jewish Week’s special report on the rabbi’s alleged long-term abuse of teens — physical, emotional, psychological and se
Richard Joel, who was named this week to chair a special Orthodox Union commission investigating its role regarding Rabbi Baruch Lanner, pledged a “full and open” inquiry aimed at ultimately “restoring confidence” in the organization and its youth arm, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY).Joel, president of Hillel, the Jewish campus organization, will head an eight-member commission of respected men and women in the Orthodox community.
When Sara J. was a senior in high school and active participant in the National Conference of Synagogue Youth in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, the culminating Shabbaton of the year was an all-night session for more than 100 teens. She recalled that during the awards ceremony, an emotional high point, an adviser of the Orthodox Union-sponsored group “praised me for defying my parents by choosing to study at a yeshiva in Israel for a year rather than start college at home.”“Defiance of parents,” Sara, who asked that her name not be used, said recently.
Heading into the home stretch of his three-year presidency of UJA-Federation of New York, James Tisch remains committed to increasing donors and dollars by simplifying the goal of the complex organization.“We help Jews in need — in New York, Israel and around the world,” he asserted during an interview at his office at the Loews Corp., where he is president and CEO. He has tried to keep the charity focused, rejecting proposals that it make a priority of religious or political initiatives such as revitalizing synagogues or supporting tuition vouchers for day schools.
There was one brief but telling moment of dramatic confrontation Sunday night between Rabbi Mordechai Willig and one of his critics over his conduct as the lead judge in a 1989 bet din dealing with abuse charges against Rabbi Baruch Lanner.
Rabbi Baruch Lanner’s attorney this week went public in seeking to portray his client as the victim of an “atmosphere” that fosters a sense of “guilt by innuendo.”
In a lengthy letter to The Jewish Week, Nathan Dershowitz of the New York City law firm Dershowitz, Eiger & Adelson sought to distinguish between the criminal charges Rabbi Lanner faced in New Jersey last year and other accusations that have been made against him.