When people talk about (Rabbi?) Baruch Lanner they immediately go to his history of sexually abusing girls and kicking boys in the testicles in NCSY and in his other roles as an educator and principal. They think of his decades of being allowed to continue until the Jewish Week expose and the OU Special Commission on NCSY. They think of his conviction, time in prison, and the mystery of how he got off the New Jersey sex offender registry though he is on the Florida registry.
I have also heard about another dark side to Lanner, his psychopathic trait of manipulating those he abused and many people he dealt with in NCSY and elsewhere. But for those traits, he could not have succeeded in his career as an abuser spanning over three decades, and probably hundreds of victims.
I feel it is important to better document his manipulations by describing his style and instances of him in action.
This post is a CALL FOR EXAMPLES OF BARUCH LANNER IN ACTION at any point, and about any manipulations, whether or not they involved physical or sexual abuse.
I find that some people just cannot understand how serial molesters manage to have long careers. Others are mystified that such people manage to rehabilitate their image. In my experience the prolific, serial molesters usually are skilled manipulators. I feel collecting such information will help educate the public about specific individuals and will help make us all better able to spot other abusers before they are too far along in their careers. I am even vaguely hopeful that some of Lanner’s supporters will recognize how they have been manipulated and reconsider their stance. It will certainly help survivors and others in the community improve their ability to educate the uninformed about Lanner.
Lanner supporters have been trolling the comments on previous posts. I will exercise my moderation powers to limit this post to the question at hand. Other offenders, other issues, etc, will be blocked. I want to focus on the question at hand; how does Lanner manipulate? I can see the Lanner trolls, sock puppets, and perhaps even Lanner himself in disguise, howling not fair. So be it. I will take that risk, though i am usually open to a fault. In addition, as the volume of comments has exploded I find that violating the rule of confining comments to the topic of the post is degrading the reading experience for others. It just doesn’t work to have twenty or more people talking about ten different topics. I may just create a permanent open thread to cover any topic.
Would it be inappropriate to start with his new marriage? The psychology of the woman who married him? What particular charms did he have to convince a normal woman to marry him? Do we know anything about her? Would this be considered an invasion of her privacy, or, given the circumstances, grist for the mill?? Does she have any children from a prior marriage? (OY)
I am looking for known examples of what he actually did or does. So unless you have verified information I do not feel it would be fair to malign his wife. Naturally, if she were to come here and say things it would be her perogative and presumably an example that deserved serious consideration as true.
I understand and accept your criteria.. But there must be a story there. of his manipulation, but alas we would need an investigative reporter. Marriages are recorded in City Hall, if they had a civil marriage as well as religious. Would make an interesting diversionary project (if my car had not been destroyed by Sandy, NLOL, I would volunteer). I know Elizabeth. (the city). .
I’m not really sure if this qualifies, but as a kid growing up in Teaneck in the 70s and early 80s, I did have direct exposure to BL.
First of all, I never found him charismatic at all. In fact, after attending a couple of NCSY events that he ran, I stopped going all together. I thought he was creepy.
Second of all, as a teenager I worked in the only kosher restaurant in Teaneck, at the time (a pizza shop). I remember BL walking in with 6 – 8 teenage girls and no boys on more than one occasion. This struck me as very odd at the time, but the vocabulary to describe what I felt was not available at the time. I definitely thought it was weird.
B”H I was not abused by BL, although my best friend’s brother was severely abused. This happened after I left Teaneck, so I have no personal knowledge of it.
This article comes from a site call “Sanctuary for the Abused.” I highly recommend that you check out the site. There you can find the answers to the questions posed here.
Thank you. I especially liked the discussion of the role of invalidation in harming victims and making individuals vulnerable to exploitation by weakening self-confidence necessary to ward off exploitation. Invalidation, grooming, and triggers are critical concepts in understanding the world through the eyes of abuse victims/survivors.
Did I read that correctly? You say Lanner is not listed on the New Jersey registry but is on the Florida registry. Huh??? How can a convicted sex offender in New Jersey not be listed on its registry? That sounds more than just creepy!
Yes, you are reading me correctly! See Hella Winston’s 2009 article.
It is a mystery for which no one has found the answer. I will guess a mixture of good lawyering and proteksia. Since the article was written energetic efforts were undertaken and he was put back on the Florida registry. (He has a son in Boca Raton and spent some time there after his release. I hear he also hung out with his old buddy, Richard (Ricky or Rich) Andron.)
This is his Florida registry status.
See Shmarya Rosenberg’s account on Failed Messiah in Dec. 2009. His postings were based in part on an alarm raised by Vicki Polin of the Awareness Center who first raised the alarm.
At the time of that posting readers were urged to write letters to the Governor (then Corzine) and the prosecutor. I commented on Failed Messiah,
I take it back — that is EXTREMELY creepy!!! He just magically disappeared from the NJ registry. Did the Jewish Week ever follow-up?
If you read the Jewish Week article you will see where their reporter, Hella Winston, reached a dead end. To the best of my knowledge, she has not gotten any additional information since then.
One critical point was his choice of Elizabeth as the place he moved to after jail. Not Bergen County where his offenses were too well known, and not Monmouth County where he was convicted for molesting a girl in a yeshiva in Deal. Thus he was dealing with a prosecutor who had nothing on him except his conviction record. However, even on that basis alone he should have been on the registry. I suspect letters from some of the most respectable rabbis asserting his complete turnaround and change and perhaps some implied community safeguards. While that should not affect decisions, it can sway them in a situation where he found some legal ambiguity.
To see how Lanner or his acolytes spin the story, go to the post by David Cheifetz, “Yeshiva University’s HS Principal Regularly Hosts a Sex Offender in Public.” There are comments by a “joanne berger” who claims to be on the staff of the prosecutor’s office in Union County and to have been involved in the reclassification. There is no such person in that office, or as an attorney anywhere in NJ.
She offers a claim that amounts to, his offenses are not as bad as claimed. This is an excellent example of Lanner’s manipulations. It’s a 1, 2. First find a way off the registry, then claim it shows he is not as bad as claimed. Then add on three, as you can see in “her” subsequent comments, denigrate his opponents as vengeful, hysterical, and devoid of balanced judgment.
Somebody from a NJ prosecutor’s office is commenting on this?! C’mon. Which bridge is she selling?
No, she’s not in the NJ prosecutor’s office. She’s a fictional person; her name isn’t even in the NJ Bar Association directory.
@Yerachmiel: “I hear [Baruch Lanner] also hung out with his old buddy, Richard (Ricky or Rich) Andron.”
What is the basis for saying that Lanner and Andron had been buddies? I haven’t seen that anywhere.
He was a master manipulator, because I never saw any untoward behavior at all in 4 years in NCSY (except sometimes loud, bombastic, uncouth behavior, but he was hardly alone in those traits). This despite the fact I knew some of his victims quite well, even during the time he was abusing them (early 1980s). I didn’t hear anything from any of them until the 1989 bais din, when one of my closest friends at that time surprised me by telling me she was testifying.
The loud bombastic behavior had the effect of making it easy to explain anomalies of all sorts as “Just Baruch being Baruch.” As a student in RIETS he walked around the beis midrash swinging a bat close to people’s heads. He was seen as wacky, but he was also getting people used to him being outrageous and getting away with it. You have to believe some folks were made very uncomfortable by having a bat swung near their head. The strange question is why was such a nutjob given smichah. I think that part of the answer is that he was “a very effective youth kiruv worker.” In practice, I think those who sponsored his career were content to endorse his manipulations because they believed he would put it at the service of their goals.
I remember Baruch told a story in which he went to his rebbe (he may have implied it was Rabbi Soloveitchik in this story, but I don’t remember) and his physics professor to determine his future role in life. According to this, his physics teacher told him he was talented but he would never be a great physicist, while his rebbe told him he had a chance to be a world-class talmid chacham – so he chose the talmid chacham path. The story had the effect of showcasing both humility (not a “great physicist”) and his Torah prowess.
He also used typical kiruv manipulation techniques, reading aloud to sobbing teens a letter written by one of his students to the student’s tiny daughter, who died of leukemia.
Finally, even late in the game he tried to manipulate his sentencing by claiming that his going to jail would destroy his mother, a Holocaust survivor.
His plea for mercy on his mother a holocaust survivor reminds me of the classic example of chutzpah, the man who murders his parents and asks for mercy on an orphan. If he cared for her and cared about his misdeeds he would have pled guilty and spared his victim the ordeal of a trial. But even he knew he could not sustain a comeback plan if he admitted guilt.
I went to a handful of NJ NCSY Shabbatons in the mid 80s as a low-level advisor. I never had any personal interaction with BL, so my observations are those of a distant observer.
Something that bothered me about those weekends was the glorification of teenage rebellion against their parents, in the name of becoming more religious. I remember a havdalah speech in which a girl attending the event was singled out for praise for defying her parents by coming. I’m pretty sure it was BL giving the speech, but if it wasn’t him, it was done with his approval. Without knowing anything about the abuse going on, I was concerned about the advisors trying to drive a wedge between these vulnerable teens and their families. And of course, as tesyaa has mentioned, the emotional manipulation of the havdalah ceremony and “pass the candle” was textbook, and often involved the participants breaking down in tears.
At a Shabbaton, during down times, BL would “hold court”, sitting in a circle with his acolytes. Like a rebbe.
I always have read about pedophiles that they are “charming” and “groom” their victims. I don’t know what he was like one on one, but “charming” is not a word I would use to describe his public persona. As others have mentioned, it was brash, aggressive, loud. He had a tremendous stage presence. When he spoke, he owned the room. But he never struck me as a nice person, and I steered clear.
Another memory: I heard whispers about a person in power abusing the girls at NCSY. Nobody breathed his name. I remember a friend of mine saying, “Everybody knows about it, no one is doing anything”. There was a feeling of total powerlessness and resignation.
I think you are undertaking an important endeavor: everyone must learn from Lanner’s history, and as a community we must say “Never again”. However, I think it’s just as important to understand the psychology of his enablers, and of his victims, because without those factors he couldn’t have gotten away with it for so long.
I would also advise caution in looking too closely for a smoking gun in his general behavior. I think everybody who knew him agrees that he did a lot of good and influenced many people to embrace a religious lifestyle which they hold dear to this day. Many of his students — and victims — became rabbis, scholars, and leaders. Many of his leadership qualities are found in successful mentors and influential speakers who are completely sincere and would never hurt a fly. The question in my mind is what are the subtle differences, and what brought him over to the “dark side”? Is there a way to tell when influence and guidance is turning into manipulation and exploitation? What safeguards and checks and balances need to be in place for everyone, because you may never see the next Lanner coming?
Something that bothered me about those weekends was the glorification of teenage rebellion against their parents, in the name of becoming more religious.
KM, that was what NCSY was all about. Whether Baruch was the driver of that approach or not I can’t say, because others told me they personally experienced this in other NCSY regions. And of course, this is a kiruv tactic used to this day. See anti-kiruv blogs for more details.
Yup, I spent years feeling guilty for not defying my parents MORE.
If this is still being done then the whole kiruv industry needs to do a cheshbon nefesh. I think in the case of Etz Chayim NCSY it set the stage for kids being abused.
I came to NCSY as an FFB college kid. I grew up having “kibud av v’aym” drummed into me. Hearing a rabbi encouraging kids to disobey their parents was shocking.
There are many people who will tell you that you don’t need to obey/honor your parents if they are telling you to violate the Torah. So if your parents don’t keep kosher or want you to travel on Shabbos, it is a mitzvah to disobey. It’s only a short step from there to say if your parents don’t want you to attend a religious event, or even a religious college, it is a mitzvah to cut yourself off.
FYI, my own parents already kept kosher, attended an Orthodox shul, and didn’t require me to violate the Sabbath. I had it very easy, but I still felt guilty that I didn’t defy them when they insisted that I forgo Stern for a better college.
Those days are long ago, of course.
From the name of the following blog, it obviously has an (ahem) agenda. Taking it with that grain of salt, a lot of what the author says sounds realistic to me, from my experiences in NCSY and from hearing other people’s stories.
I should add that I know others working in the kiruv industry who are fine, upstanding, sincere people who do NOT encourage people to reject their parents or their non-frum friends and family.
Of course I have an agenda. No apologies. We all have agendas. I make it clear in my masthead and in the stuff at the bottom of every web page (except the home page). I also have articulated my Jewish Ethos. https://frumfollies.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/my-jewish-ethos/
I think tesyaa was talking about the StopKiruvNow blog.
Duh! Thank you for pointing out to me that I missed the boat. Sorry.
I don’t have a problem with kiruv marketed for college students, as opposed to high school kids. They are adults and should be able to think for themselves. A former Dartmouth president, James O. Freedman, said in a 2002 commencement speech that “the purpose of a college education is to question your father’s values”.
Should children brought up in frum hes question their parents’ values?
Should parents brought up in frum Homes question their parents’ values?
Cult leaders work at cutting off their followers from outside influences. Genuine inspirational leaders enlarge the sphere of influence instead of alienating old connections, especially critical ones, such as family.
It is true that Lanner was a life-line for some kids with terrible family situations. But he did it at a steep price, including in many cases acquiescing to his control and even his sexual desires,
See “Beware the Charismatic Rabbi” for insights into how to distinguish legitimate charm and charisma from the kind of manipulation that usually leads to trouble of all sorts,
So now the beloved teacher, who is able to inspire kids to learn is a red flag? The teacher who goes above and beyond to give the school a little extra time and effort is a potential abuser? I can’t say I agree.
When checking out a new school for one of my kids, I often hear other parents rave about teachers having kids over at their house for Shabbos. In recent years I’ve started to be wary of such endorsements, as a result of a growing awareness of abuse. But I’m convinced that the overwhelming majority of teachers who invite kids over whether for a meal or a full weekend have only the best intentions.
I should add that I’m talking about teachers who invite the whole class. A one-on-one invitation is creepy.
I agree, the hallmark distinguishing a manipulator or groomer from a warm charismatic teacher we want is whether they are reaching out to all students rather than playing favorites. Another clue is whether they also have solid mature emotional peer relationships with adults. And I dont mean, supervisors who value you for your kiruv results and look away when people raise issues about tactics.
I also feel the same way about warnings about adults who prefer the company of kids. We want educators who like spending time with kids. But they should also like spending time in genuine peer relationships with adults. If they don’t we have to be attentive to the possibility that this preference masks a certain immaturity.
On failedmessiah, I remember reading a guest post describing Lanner’s cultism. I also recall reading an insightful article on grooming and cultism in Horace Mann, although I don’t remember where I read it — it may have a link from here.
There was a lengthy intriguing article about Horace Mann in the New Yorker.
Yes. That’s the one I was referring to. Thanks.
Thank you for excavating these links. Rabbi Baruch Lanner – An Eyewitness Account of Manipulation, Violence and Abuse in the Name of Kiruv by Yochanan Lavie on Failed Messiah is outstanding for the detail and insight, mostly about traits unrelated to sexual abuse. He does provide a better context for his “kneeing” boys in the testicles, and his cult-like control.
There is also an excellent post on the difference between healthy kiruv and deceptive manipulative kiruv. See Shmuley Yanklowitz, “Dishonest Kiruv! The Building of Responsible Jewish Outreach Movements” in the LA Jewish Journal.
While this post is focused on Lanner manipulations, I just remembered an interesting twist on those tactics by Nechemya Weberman. He was a Satmar insider, a “torah therapist” working with teens, mostly girls, who were rebellious. He specialized in both deepening the alienation of the girls from their parents and alienating the parents from their kids.
In “How an Entire Community Of Sheep Were Deceived By Weberman” Mrs. Pearl Engelman of Satmar and an activist against abuse, describes the following:
This past Monday, May 14th, I received a call from an unknown woman asking if she could speak with me confidentially. When I assented she said “my daughter was sexually abused by Nechemia Weberman!” I listened in shock as she told me “when my daughter was 15 years old she began to dress differently than our family’s dress code and my husband and I were very worried about what this signified. We were advised to take her to Nechemia Weberman, the chassidishe (Hasidic) therapist for “troublesome” girls. We trusted Weberman fully, as he was also my husband’s good friend. During the 2 something years my daughter was in “therapy” with him she did not tell us what went on during almost every session.” I glanced at the caller ID and realized she was calling from upstate NY. My caller continued – “After my daughter’s wedding, one day she told me,
Mommy if you would know what Necehmia Weberman did to me you would kill yourself! He showed me sex videos, he made me do ——- to him, he did —— to me, and he told me that I should never, ever tell anyone because no one would ever believe me as I was known as a “troublemaker” and he was known as a very chosheve (prominent) person; I would have no credibility and would only damage my reputation further! He tried to convince me that no one understood me, cared for me or loved me as he did. For sure my parents did not understand me or love me!
To say the caller took my breath away is an understatement. Listening to the sorrowful tone of her voice was awful. Then she said “in hindsight I now remember that whenever I called him for a progress report or an update on my daughter a strange thing happened. He would actually instigate me against my daughter! I used to wonder why doesn’t he say something like – Don’t worry – we are working with her – there is hope for improvement – instead he would say what an ‘azas ponim (brazen girl) she was, how she would burn in gehenim (hell) for her behavior!’ I would be so very angry at her and she at me; we were going at each other all the time.”
As someone who knew Lanner his current actions prove what kind of a manipulator he was, is and will always be. If he really wanted to live in peace he would not live in NJ now. ( I believe according to his parole terms he needed to live in NJ but now that he claims to be totally free he should move out of NJ) In addition his asking Rabbi Teitz to be his messader kidushin and showing up by his friends in Teaneck, knowing full well that will have to pay the price for his having spent time there is all part of his manipulative personality. He is enjoying watching his friends pay the price for there pity, cause lets ne honest he really has few friends left , he only has former friends that have pity on him. I I am sure he calls the few friends that have pity on him an hour before Shabbos and tells them that they owe it to his new wife to invite them or else who knows maybe his new wife will leave him.
In the early 1980s, having Baruch Lanner come to a local event was considered a coup. He was so charismatic and inspiring. So it was a big deal that he was willing to come to an event in my town. But he would only agree to come to that event if he could take a particular female NCSYer to dinner afterwards, alone.
She was 14 years old.
It seems so unbelievable now that our local chapter administration agreed to his condition. But they did.
I attended The Frisch School as a freshman in 1979, a daughter of Holocaust survivors and a conservative Jew.
I recall the freshman retreat, the green bologna and the food poisoning that followed.
I also remember Baruch Lanner.
Standing in the middle of a circle of female students holding candles, Rabbi Lanner proceeded to chastise and berate his “congregation” for not being observant enough..for extreme disobedience..followed by his slamming down of the book which he was holding aloft..assumedly a holy volume.
Young women were crying..sobbing. To me it was a bizarre scene.
Immediately following, Rabbi Lanner sought me out. Calling me by my Hebrew name, he asked “How did that make you feel?” Out of fear, I responded “Good, I guess.” He responded…”Don’t you want to feel like that all the time?” This memory still gives me an eerie feeling.
Within the same year, Lanner would approach me in the hallway to congratulate me on a recent break up. A break up devastating to my teenage soul.
He called out to me by my Hebrew name, claiming he had “Heard the good news”…. The good news? How mean…how malicious…how insensitive…how unkind.
At the end of my school year, and with all the strength and courage I could muster, I told my parents if they made me go back to Frisch, they would never see me again. The evil was palpable. I never went back.
A few years later, Lanner spotted me outside of my new school…he remembered me…he approached me. And calling me by my Hebrew name, he commented on how developed I had become as a woman and how a former classmate was still “a little girl”. I was recently shocked to learn of the events that were simultaneously occurring, including the particular abuse of another classmate. I fell to my knees in gratitude for the rescue.
As an adult, I would journey to find a Judaism contrary to the one presented by Lanner. I am a proud and loving Jew. I keep Kosher and hold the Sabbath dear. I am these things in spite of the man who became my icon for religious hypocrisy over 30 years ago. In rejecting his brand of Judaism and thereby Judaism as a whole… what I saw and still see as kosher void of kindness… I can say that I am who I am because of not wanting to be him. L’Chaim.
I am so confused. Didn’t Lanner like boys?
No. His sexual interest involved girls. He was emotionally abusive to both and was physically violent to boys including publicly kicking them in the groin.
Yes, Lanner likes girls and I am not the only girl who escaped Frisch in the summer of 1980. I was one of a mass exodus as my closest girlfriends and I dispersed throughout Bergen County to schools more loving, nurturing…and safe.
Frisch was not a peaceful place. I have heard it described as a jungle… And Lanner was not in charge.
Menahem Maier was. And as leader, he witnessed Lanner’s violence daily.
Lanner may have committed his most perverted acts in private, but his hostilities were mainstays in the halls of The Frisch School and within its classrooms.
For Meier to have witnessed, permitted or even encouraged Lanner’s methods, he would have had to have been either afraid of Lanner…or likeminded. I believe he was both.
The Menahem Maier I remember was selective with his kindness and shared Lanner’s disdain for all things “unfrum”… including me. In an environment where “unfrum” meant “troublemaker”, this camaraderie likely supported Lanner’s methods of keeping his victims quiet, leaving vulnerable all children in the category of needing correction, discipline or in Meier’s own words, of “profound threat.”
In an article published in 1997, The Dual Identity of Jews, Maier writes:
“I fully understand the challenges of living in an open and free society. In such a society, assimilation is a real and profound threat. To combat the attractions of a free society, with its permissive attitude highlighting the commonality of all of humankind, the Torah educator seeks to strengthen and reinforce the Jewish identity of his students. The Torah educator feels responsible to protect his students from the infiltration of alien values by building a wall of insulation around them. “
Abusers do not act alone. They require likeminded individuals who fear them and for longevity, they require a blind eye.
At Frisch, Lanner was able to function freely in part because he and Maier shared a common goal…an “alien” free environment. It would have been far kinder for them to have just asked us to leave. In fact, when Maier spotted me at his school during a basketball game and after I responded “no” to his question, “Are you shomer shabbos yet?” ….he did just that. He informed me that Frisch was not a public place….that I was not welcome there.
And so, bringing the discussion back to protecting our children….
If we want our children to be safe…to be protected.. we may simply need to put them in an environment where they are loved ..and shown Love. Where they are wanted.
I graduated Frisch in 1979 and I was on Regional Board of NCSY.It is all true, I remember when he was angry at a friend of mine and opened a car door and kicked her out and made her walk on Route 4 (the highway) alone at night. Rabbi Meier and Rabbi Yudin were on his side the whole time. They also adored another sex offender..Shlomo Carlebach. The emotional manipulation you heard about NCSY..all true. And he was cruel to,his girlfriend who he married later..Bobbi Stiefel.