A Guide to the Perplexed About Leniency Letters

Imagine a letter written on behalf of a rapist we will call Hershel Shvantz.

letters illustrationTo the Honorable Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman,

I am writing you about Rabbi Hershel Shvantz who pleaded guilty to raping my daughter 3,000,000 times. I have known him for years and have seen nothing but good in his work on behalf of children in our community. Whenever I called him for help, he responded. I was shocked to learn he raped my daughter. That is not the Hershel I know. He admits he made some mistakes. But I believe you should also consider all the good he has done. Please be lenient in proposing his sentence. He has the potential to do a lot of good in the future.

Rabbi Keiyn Rachmonis

William rapfogel sheldon silverAlright, I realize some of you can’t buy the idea of someone raping three million times. But bear with me. Many orthodox Jewish leaders wrote letters to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman requesting leniency for William Rapfogel. He was a man with a $410,000 annual salary for running Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (aka Met Council) who stole over $3,000,000 from Met Council. This same clique raised over $3,000,000 so he could pay back the stolen money, thereby reducing his prison time without giving up his apartment or second home.

All the letters can be seen here. But let me save you the trouble and summarize their main points.

  • I knew Willie and I saw him do all sorts of good things.
  • He made some “mistakes.”
  • He has the potential to do more good.
  • Give the man a break

It is hard to believe these are the leaders who claim to care about our poor. These letters make it clear they don’t care about the weakest, just about their buddies in the leadership clique.

Stop excusesMost of these letters were written by orthodox Jews including important personalities connected at various times to the Orthodox Union (OU), Yeshiva University, Satmar, Hatzalah, local Jewish Community Councils, AIPAC, the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (aka Claims Conference), Agudath Israel of America (aka Agudah), the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (aka Presidents Conference),and  the  orthodox daily newspaper Hamodiah. There were also letters by anti-abuse advocates, politicians representing orthodox districts in Brooklyn, and by prominent communal rabbis including a Hasidic Rebbe.

Menachem Genack & Bill Clinton

Menachem Genack & Bill Clinton

The OU had an outsized representation of its professionals including OU Kosher’s CEO, Rabbi Menachem Genack, former Executive VPs Rabbi Raphael B. Butler (who was faulted for protecting serial child molester Rabbi Boruch Lanner) and Rabbi Steven Weil. To his credit, the current Executive Vice President, Allen Fagin, did not write a letter on behalf of Rapfogel. The lay leaders pleading for Willie include current board chair Howard Tzvi Friedman, past president Julius Berman,  and Honorary Governors Malcolm Hoenlein and Rabbi Haskel Lookstein.

For more of these ugly details see Wayne Barrett’s City & State article, Love Letters For Willie Rapfogel: The “Prince of the Jews” Is Saluted By The Mighty On His Way To Jail. These letters may have succeeded in securing Rapfogel a sweetheart deal according to the companion article, Doubts About Schneiderman’s Deal: Were the financial terms too kind to William Rapfogel and the Met Council on Jewish Poverty?

Click here to read all the letters written on behalf of William Rapfogel.

See also:
The Munkatcher Rebbe Goes to Bat for Charity Thief Willie Rapfogel
I am Shocked, Shocked! (re. OU Kosher CEO Rabbi Menachem Genack and molester defender Rabbi Yisroel Belsky)

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