The campaign against “mushroom synagogues” received a set-back, it was disclosed yesterday, when a loophole was discovered in the enforcement powers of a law recently passed to aid the fight.
This law is Section 925-B of the Penal Code. Introduced by State Senator Lazarus Joseph in Albany on April 20 and subsequently signed by Governor Lehman, it makes it a misdemeanor to sell tickets to services in “non-legitimate places of worship.”
The loophole in the enforcement powers of this laws was disclosed during a conversation between Assistant District Attorney Martin Kraus, who is waging the campaign against “mushroom synagogues” in the Bronx, and a Jewish Daily Bulletin reporter.
Reiterating previous statements, Mr. Kraus was outlining the procedure to be used by the District Attorney’s office in making prosecutions. “Warnings would first be issued to exploiters of these “mushroom synagogues,” he said. “Then, if these warnings are not heeded, misdemeanor warrants as provided by the Joseph Law will be sworn out for the exploiters.”
“But understand,” the Assistant District Attorney continued, “that before these so-called ‘mushroom synagogues’ can be classified as such we must ascertain certain qualifications. We can take no action if the synagogue organization is legitimate. That is, it must not be a money-making proposition, the men in charge must be responsible Jewish leaders in the community, and the temporary synagogue must be incorporated under the State laws, or an annex of an incorporated congregation.”
“Isn’t it a fact that incorporations are easily secured?” Mr. Kraus was asked. “And doesn’t this present a loophole to any group who wish to organize a ‘mustroom synagogue?'”
Mr. Kraus’ reply was evasive. He would not commit himself as to the facility of obtaining incorporations of “mushroom synagogues,” since this was outside his range.
Instead Mr. Kraus insisted that “his office would cooperate to the fullest” with other agencies which are waging the combat against those who represent themselves as rabbis before the holidays and who conduct services in movie theaters and dance halls.