Orthodox Organization Defends Chaplain Accused of Favoring Jewish Inmates

By Nathaniel Popper

Published June 16, 2009.
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The nation’s leading ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization is preparing to go to bat for a disgraced prison chaplain who is accused of giving favors to Jewish inmates.

Agudath Israel of America has drafted a letter to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressing support for Rabbi Leib Glanz, a rabbi affiliated with the Satmar Hasidic movement who is a chaplain in New York City jails. News reports over the last week have indicated that Glanz gave favors to Jewish prisoners and allowed a wealthy Jewish inmate to hold lavish catered parties in the prison for his son’s bar mitzvah and his daughter’s engagement.

A draft of the letter—which has not yet been sent—says that the groups signing onto it are concerned with “the tenor of media reports about Rabbi Leib Glanz.”

“The reports in the media pillory Rabbi Glanz, in the most cynical and derogatory fashion imaginable, for his role in accommodating Jewish prisoners’ religious requirements and helping them participate, personally or vicariously, in milestone family celebrations,” the draft letter says.

While Glanz’s action’s may have crossed lines, the draft letter states, “We also have no doubt that any such improprieties were nothing more than lapses of judgment; and that they emanated from a good place, a heart overflowing with empathy and concern.”

Rabbi David Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel, said that he drafted the letter, but he added that it was still being refined.

“It is not inconceivable at the end of the day that the letter won’t go,” Zwiebel said.

An email listing the organizations that have signed onto the letter included a number of ultra-Orthodox organizations based in Brooklyn. The list also included the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. Officials at both organizations said that they had not, in fact, signed onto the letter and did not plan to.

A top official of New York City’s Department of Corrections has resigned over the scandal. But thus far, Glanz has only been suspended from his job for two weeks.


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