(JTA) — The man who posed as a rabbi in north-central Poland for several years reportedly disappeared from the community he was serving and deleted his Facebook page.
The man, who called himself Jacoob Ben Nistell, or Yaakav, admitted two weeks ago during an interview that he is not a rabbi. He has served for several years in Poznan, in west-central Poland. He reportedly had worked as a volunteer and was not paid for his services.
Krzysztof Kazmierczak, a reporter for The Voice of Greater Poland, discovered the man is actually named Jacek Niszczota and comes from Ciechanow, a town in north-central Poland. Niszczota had claimed he was from Haifa; it was unclear if he ever lived in or even visited Israel.
Alicja Kobus, head of the Poznan Jewish community and vice president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, reportedly determined after the news of Niszczota’s deception broke that he was a Catholic who had worked as a cook in Ciechanow. Kobus reportedly said Niszczota learned Hebrew and about Jewish prayer by listening to Israel Radio.
“I’m surprised. I never checked his identity document,” Kobus told Glos Wielkopolski earlier this week. “He said he comes from Haifa, his mother still lives there, and he has an Israeli passport and a son in the army. I believed that he is who he says he is because of how he looked and that he was able to pray in Hebrew and knew Jewish customs.”
As the community rabbi, Niszczota led activities about Judaism for children and young people. He also participated in ecumenical prayer services with Polish bishops, and held interfaith meetings with priests and imams on behalf of the Ponzan Jewish community.
It is not known why he engaged in such an elaborate deception.