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Chicago Cantor Denies Charges That He and His Wife Ran Brothel

A Chicago-area cantor accused of running a brothel has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In a brief appearance Dec. 26 in Cook County Circuit Court, Cantor Joel Gordon, 52, and his wife Alison Ginsberg, 23, pleaded not guilty to charges of keeping a house of prostitution and, in her case, also to committing acts of prostitution.

In the small, crowded courtroom of Judge Lawrence Terrell, Gordon and Ginsberg requested additional time to review extensive discovery evidence, gathered during a 10-week investigation by an undercover policewoman. The next court date was set for Feb. 27.

The investigation focused on three Cook County apartments used by employees of Golden Touch Massage, said by the Cook County Sheriff’s Police to be a cover for a prostitution operation. The officer applied for a job with Golden Touch and was told she could make between $600 to $1,100 a day, but the activities would be “illegal,” the sheriff’s department said.

Gordon and Ginsberg were arrested Nov. 21 along with several others. Gordon resigned from the Cantors’ Assembly a few days later.

Neither the couple nor their attorney answered questions as they left the courtroom.

Gordon was a cantor at other local Reform congregations before serving Congregation Shirat Emet, in the Chicago suburb of Buffalo Grove, Ill. Shirat Emet disbanded in mid-2000.

The Reform temple grew from about 50 families in 1995, when it broke from Temple Chai in Long Grove, Ill., to more than 275 families in 1997. Key leaders began to leave in 1999 when they wanted to add a rabbi to the professional staff and Gordon rejected the idea.

Two former congregation members attended the Dec. 26 court proceedings.

Sam Bell, an attorney, said, “all who put their trust in him and who knew him feel incredibly betrayed.”

Howard Peritz, another lawyer and one of the original members of Shirat Emet, said of Gordon: “He changed from the person we had all known. He was quick to fly off the handle, and rumors about inappropriate behavior were around for years. We now realize that in starting a congregation around a man, we were canonizing him.”

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