The report in the metropolitan press that an investigation of 600 rabbis in New York City is being conducted for the Federal Grand Jury regarding sacramental wine abuses was denied by Major Mills, New York Prohibtion Administrator, when interviewed yesterday by the representative of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
“Our office has no intention of prosecuting any of the rabbis who distribute wine for sacramental purposes,” Major Mills stated. “We did not make out an affidavit against these rabbis as the newspapers reported. I never stated to any press representative that I intend to investigate the activities of six hundred rabbis.
“The truth of the matter is that I have started a fight against a ring of sacramental wine swindlers which conducts its activity in New York and endeavors to obtain wine under false pretenses. Three of such swindlers were detected and I hope to locate the rest of the ring shortly. This, however, has nothing to do with the real rabbis who are entitled under the law to obtain wine permits. I am ready to assist these rabbis at any time if they will submit to the prohibition office a list of the members of their congregations and if these lists will be certified by the president of the respective congregations,” he stated.
As an indication that the prohibition office intends no reprisals against rabbis, Major Mills referred to the fact that eighty rabbis in New York City have appeared in the prohibition office and submitted lists of their congregation members. These rabbis received during September permits for 4,821 gallons of wine for sacramental purposes, he stated.
“The rabbis will have to appear before me. They need not be afraid of having an inadequate knowledge of English because we have able interpreters here,” Major Mills stated.
The “Jewish Daily News,” the Orthodox Yiddish daily, charges that the reports circulated through the metropolitan press concerning the investigation of 600 rabbis is “nothing but a publicity stunt for the prohibition director or an attempt on the part of the prohibition office to throw the suspicion of bootlegging on the New York rabbinate. The report that the prohibition office has investigated a congregation and found that the rabbi issued more wine permits than the number of members in his congregation has for its purpose a confusion of the issue, As the rabbis declared, the permit which the prohibition office issues, distinctly includes both “members” and “worshippers,” the latter meaning those who come to the synagogue to pray although they are not permanent members of the congregation. That fact is that in all synagogues the membership is small and the non-members who attend are in the majority.
“The indicted persons are not rabbis but so-called “reverends” and even they were released without bail,” the paper states.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.