Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Fake Rabbi, Jerry Heller Pleads Guilty to Fraud: Why is it so easy to Fake Rabbinical Credentials? We Need More Checks and Balances.


At 8:06 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Fake rabbi pleads guilty to fraud
by James Walsh
December 15, 2004

Jerry Heller, the phony rabbi who illegally married at least 30 couples, pleaded guilty yesterday to a felony fraud charge.

County Court Judge Kenneth Resnik adjourned the case until March 7 when Heller, 72, of Clarkstown, will return for a proceeding to determine how much restitution he will be ordered to pay.

When indicted in October, it was charged that Heller took more than $25,000 for performing marriages between 1998 and 2002, billing between $250 and $1,500 per ceremony.

He also provided signed marriage documents for the couples that certified he was a rabbi, according to Rockland District Attorney Michael Bongiorno.

The charge that Heller pleaded guilty to yesterday, first-degree scheme to defraud, is a felony carrying a maximum prison sentence of four years.

In a plea agreement with prosecutors, however, Heller could avoid jail time by making restitution, serving a term of probation and agreeing not to perform any more marriages, Bongiorno said.

"I'm glad he admitted it, and that taxpayer money won't have to be spent to have this whole story dragged out," said Lori Lazan, who was "married" by Heller in June 1999.

Lazan recalled last night that she and her husband, Steven, who were remarried in January 2003, learned of Heller's arrest from a TV report.

"We couldn't believe this," Lazan, of Franklin Lakes, N.J., recalled. "It was a shock. At first it seemed funny, but then the shock hit. Who would have thought that this weird, bizarre news story, that we'd be part of it?"

She was referred to Heller by an upstate restaurateur who catered her first wedding reception.

The second time around, Lazan found a rabbi through a Hebrew school attended by her daughter.

Although the indictment brought against Heller accused him of marrying at least 30 couples, New York and New Jersey accepted hundreds of marriages that he performed under the guise of a rabbi.

While investigating Heller for nearly two years, the Rockland District Attorney's Office determined that his claims of being a cantor and rabbi were false and that he had submitted forged documents from rabbinical schools to government agencies.

Suspicions about Heller arose in 2001, when he told Jewish jokes and made what were thought to be inappropriate comments during services at a temple in Orange County. He quit the congregation after a member questioned his religious credentials.

At 9:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is more common than what you might think.
Then there are cases where Rabbis will grant ordination to people that never studied at their yeshiva.
To be technical I am listing the four levels of Orthodox ordination:

We have a system today in which there are really 3 levels of smicha and a 4th category that we allow to use the title Rabbi even though they don't really have a smicha and can't give smicha under our system.

All 4 from lowest level to highest:

1) Rav u'manhig
Really just permission to use the title Rabbi. Just a community leader/teacher. No permission to give wide psak and likely no right to give smicha to others.

One caveat, such an individual may have been given a very narrow right by their teacher to give psak in a very narrow area to a very limited degree. Beyond that, they must forward questions to a recognized posek.

The following 3 groups can give smicha at their level and below:

Yoreh Yoreh can give psak except in more specialized areas like Dinei Nidah and can't be a judge.

3) Yadin Yadin can be a judge and rule in dinei Nidah.

4) There is a level of smicha that deals with making rulings in regard to Temple work. Obvously, not as practical an area (for now) and as far as I know is not widely given. Usually, people giving/receiving such smicha today are people who have strong emunah in regard to the immediate comming of the Moshiach.
This is called Yechachin Yechachin
Aproper Orthodox rabbi is a Yorea Yorea


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