Jailhouse rabbi resigns, faces criminal investigation


The nearly week-long saga of the prison rabbi who presided over a lavish jailhouse bar-mitzvah may be coming to a close. Last week the New York Post broke the story of the bar-mitzvah soiree and the subsequent suspension of Rabbi Leib Glanz, the prison chaplain who signed off on the affair. Today, the Post reports that Glanz, a prominent Satmar hasid, has resigned along with Peter Curcio, a department of corrections chief.

In case you missed it, the story in brief is this: Tuvia Stern, a financial scam artist who spent two decades as a fugitive, was permitted to host a six-hour bar-mitzvah party in the jail gymnasium, including the use of an outside kosher caterer. Guests dined on fine china and danced the hora, according to reports. The event was such a success that months later, Stern held another party in the jail, this time an engagemet party for his daughter.

A number of interesting details have emerged in the course of the media frenzy that followed the Post’s initial revelation. The Times reported that Glanz was known to use his influence to have Jewish inmates transferred to more hospitable quarters, and once there, invited them to his office for kosher treats and the use of his telephone. The Times also found that Glanz met several times in late 2008 with Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, who is in charge of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political operation, though the reasons for the meetings are not entirely clear. Glanz is also under investigation for possible criminal conduct relating to the bar-mitzvah, in particular whether or not department officials were paid off.

But perhaps the juiciest nugget in the pile is this: ultimate responsibility for the bar-mitzvah appears to lie with a Muslim chaplain, Imam Umar Abdul-Jalil, who has his own checkered history. In 2006, he was suspended for two weeks after he made a speech in which he said "the greatest terrorists in the world occupy the White House," and referred to "Zionists of the media."

So if there’s a silver lining in all this, perhaps it’s that the anti-Zionist imam and the anti-Zionist rabbi can at least agree that a Jewish convict deserves to celebrate his son’s bar-mitzvah in high-style — even if it’s in the city lockup.

Recommended from JTA