Three years ago I wrote about a Hasidic Boro Park shul that was a hangout for molesters. Who knew that the most prominent known teen molester in the Modern Orthodox world, Baruch Lanner, would also retain some of his stature even after being convicted of molesting a young teen girl. And yet he does.
In a speech delivered yesterday to the Annual Meeting of the Rabbinical Council of America, David Cheifetz asked,
How is it possible that the current principal of MTA [Rabbi Michael Taubes], YU’s high school, regularly hosts Baruch Lanner in his shul, and even had him in his home at a community open house on Purim this year, as an honored guest, at the same time that YU is diligently investigating the accusations about George Finkelstein and others?
With that in mind, I invite you to read about the Boro Park shul where this also goes on.
The Shul for Scandal: Where the Molesters Prey (1st posted 2/2/10)
In Vilna there was a shul for tailors, another for shoemakers and so on. In this way working men got to pick their chazzan and President. Boro Park has a shul for molesters, Congregation Shomer Shabbos. For most folks in Boro Park it is like a fast food restaurant, a place to get a quick chassidish nusach minyan any time of the day. But for molesters it is more like an open house, a place to hang out, renew connections with their peers, refurbish their reputations as frum leit, and brush against boys and lure them to a private location.
The outstanding molester and swindler, Rabbi Yechiel (Jerry) Brauner led services this year on Tisha B’Av, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He is also rumored to have keys to the closets. He is on the sex offender registry and is not supposed to be in the shul after 7:30. But he gets plenty done before then, especially in the dark days of winter.
Rabbi Boruch Lebovits also davens at Shomer Shabbos. These days he has not had as much time because he is on trial for molesting three boys. When he isn’t in court he is busy ducking the WPIX reporter who wants to interview him about allegations printed in the NY Post that he molested Motty Borger. When Lebovits was last photographed at Shomer Shabbos, he was posturing in front of the paroches. You can see the words shevisi hashem lanegdi (before G-d) , but not the word tamid (always).
A newly identified member of the Shomer Shabbos club is Rabbi Dovid Greenfeld who is awaiting trial for assaulting a boy in a mikvah. A Boro Park resident reports that on Jan 24, “Dovid Greenfeld prayed mincha and maariv at Congregation Shomer Shabbos. Shmone esrei took him between fifteen and twenty minutes, he davened so farfrumt and yelled out “omein yehe shmei rabboh” like the biggest tzadik.”
This is not a new story. Chaptzem first revealed it in 2007. In December of 2008 they initiated a petition that got 145 signatures calling on the shul to exercise some responsibility. The shul lowered Jerry Brauner’s profile for a while. But after a few months he was known to have keys to the closet and these days he leads important services and still carries on.
The Shul likes to claim that everyone needs a place to daven. But where does it say that someone like Jerry Brauner should become the shliach tzibur. The shliach tzibur should be person of good character acceptable to all. In truth not everyone is welcome at Shomer Shabbos. Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg is not welcome. His crime: attacking child molestation!
If they want to stay open they should take responsibility for monitoring the premises. Installing video cameras with tape backups would discourage molesters and assist in their prosecution. Alternatively, the shul should just declare it is not a safe place for minors.
Community residents should tell the administration that they will not support the shul unless it starts acting responsibly. I believe the shul will change course when attendance and contributions start dropping. You can contact the administrator at the address and phone number below and let him know you intend to cut back your contributions.Moshe Metzger, Administrator Congregation Shomer Shabbos 1280 53rd Street Boro Park, NY 11219 (718) 438-9810/437-1428
If you contact the administrator, please share your experiences in the comments section.