Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rabbi Shlomo Erez Elbarnes AKA Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans - Lev Tahor cult leader fights extradition from Canada to Israel


At 7:46 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Government wants anti-Zionist rabbi’s immigration case reheard
By Janice Arnold
Staff Reporter
Canadian Jewish News, Canada
December 23, 2004

The fate of a self-styled chassidic rabbi who, because of his extreme anti-Zionist views, claims his life is in danger if he is deported to his native Israel, is now in the hands of a Federal Court judge.

The Canadian government says the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) erred in granting refugee status to Rabbi Shlomo Erez Elbarnes in October 2003, and wants his case reheard by another panel. He has been living in in Ste. Agathe in the Laurentians for 41/2 years, leading a community of about 30 families.

The government allowed Elbarnes’ refugee claim to be heard, despite the fact that he was convicted in 1994 of kidnapping a 13-year-old boy in the United States, served two years in prison, and was deported to Israel in 2000.

Last week at a judicial review, Judge Michel Beaudry heard Justice Department lawyer Sherry Rafai Far argue that the IRB did not give enough consideration to whether Elbarnes had exhausted recourses open to him in Israel to protect him from the defamation, harassment, threats and physical attacks he allegedly suffered. Elbarnes also alleges that Israel’s intelligence services were working to lay false charges against him and is afraid he may be killed in a “targeted assassination.”

Rafai Far noted that Israel is a democratic country with an independent judiciary, a police review committee, and non-governmental civil rights organizations to which he could complain about persecution.

She also argued that Elbarnes’ claimed fear of persecution is inconsistent with his return to Israel for three weeks in December 2001, after he settled in Canada.

She said the government is not disputing the evidence entered by Elbarnes’ lawyer, Julius Grey.

That evidence is that, during the 1980s before moving to Monsey, N.Y., in 1990, Elbarnes was beaten repeatedly, received death threats and was subject to unrelenting hostility, which the authorities did nothing about. Much of the alleged abuse came from “vigilante”settlers, who are legally armed, Grey noted.

Grey said the police told Elbarnes that he was “crazy” and deserved what he was getting. Elbarnes alleges the Shin Bet, the Israeli secret service, threatened to “frame” him if he didn’t get out of the country. (This testimony was given by a former agent, identified as Mr. Goldman, who is today Elbarnes’ assistant.)

Moreover, Grey said Elbarnes was the target of a “ hostile propaganda campaign” by the Israeli media, pointing to a March 2003 television program that suggested Elbarnes sanctioned the killing of Jews who leave their religion, when, in fact, he was stating that this biblical precept is not applicable today. Grey entered a video of the interview as proof.

Elbarnes, founder of Hisachdus Hayereim (Union of the God-Fearing), actively advocates the dismantling of the State of Israel and the land’s return to Arab domination – but by peaceful means, Grey added.

Grey said countries “at war” tend to restrict liberties and take a dim view of those trying to undermine the state.

“Whether [Elbarnes’] views are right or wrong makes absolutely no difference” as to whether Elbarnes should be accepted as a refugee, Grey told the court. “The question is whether the evidence is reasonable” that Elbarnes faces the possibility of persecution in Israel.

An expert witness, Israeli lawyer Jacob Kaminsky, said it would be “suicide” for Elbarnes to stay in Israel. Another, Université de Montréal historian Yakov Rabkin, testified that, because of the ongoing conflict, Israel is more “authoritarian” and Israeli society is increasingly intolerant of anyone perceived to be playing into the hands of the enemy.

Elbarnes’s brief return to Israel in 2001, Grey said, was before he made a refugee application and his experience at that time confirmed his belief he could not live in Israel.

Elbarnes, 42, was granted refugee status by IRB judge Gilles Ethier, who based his decision on documents, written testimony and the oral testimony of eight witnesses, including Elbarnes’ mother, described as secular, and the abducted boy, now an adult.

Ethier wrote: “The evidence clearly shows that the claimant was persecuted for his opinions… and allows us to conclude that the alleged fear of future persecution is well founded, as the state was unable to and did not want to protect him and even contributed to defaming him as much as possible in the eyes of the public.

“At a time when tensions are exacerbated in Israel, I believe that the claimant would quickly be persecuted there, should he return.”

Ethier cites evidence that, upon his arrival in Israel in May 2000, Elbarnes was informed by “two government agents that he was on a list of potential enemies of the state, that he had to learn a lesson from what had happened to him in the United States and that he had better keep quiet and stop spreading ideas that endangered the country’s security if he did not want to end up in prison.”

Elbarnes left Israel on June 20, 2000 to rejoin his family which had since resettled in Quebec. (Elbarnes has not ceased his anti-Zionist activities here; he has publicly burned the Israeli flag, given media interviews and distributed printed material.)

Elbarnes stayed in Canada on a visitor’s visas that expired in March 2002. His application for residence was turned down when Canadian authorities became aware he had served time in the U.S., according to Ethier. Elbarnes then filed for refugee protection on Jan. 27, 2003.

Ethier decided not to hold Elbarnes’ criminal record against him, in light of the testimony by Shai Fhima Reuven that Elbarnes did not kidnap him but was trying to help him escape an abusive stepfather and that he was grateful to him. Ethier notes that Elbarnes’ sentence was reduced to two years from six by the New York Supreme Court because of what Ethier calls Elbarnes’ “altruistic motivation.”

Beaudry said he will render judgment early in the new year.

At 7:51 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Rabbi (Erez) Shlomo Helbrans/Elbarnes and his Lev Tahor cult

It's a complicated story. Basically, he has a New York criminal record for kidnapping a Bar-Mitvah boy he was tutoring (he claimed he was rescuing the boy). He was sent to jail (judge refused to accept the sweet deal the DA offered him), the government broke their own rules and released him early (a Satmar rabbi did some questionable lobbying on his behalf). He was deported to Israel before an investigation into his release got too far. Recently, he resurfaced in Canada fighting deportaion back to Israel (claims he will be persecuted).

There was a book written on the kidnapping and resulting trial.

The real backstory is that he is an out and out charlaton. He was a long haired Israeli with no connection to the Orthodox world who realized that if he put on a black hat, grew payot and pretended to be the head of a Chasidic dynasty that he could make big bucks. Further by taking an anti-Zionist line he attracted followers from other Chasidic groups. Basically, he preyed on simple right of center Jews who took him at face value with little questioning. Basically, he keeps these followers poor and isolates them from their families. He economically exploits them, sending them around to collect money. The money goes straight into Helbrans' pockets. Helbrans lives in a rich splendor, living in mansions filled with gold and silver. His followers live in poverty. Helbrans followers are on guard to prevent followers leaving or contacting families. They have used violence when family members have tried to see relatives.

Helbrans requires that when his followers get married, the bride must spend the night before her wedding with him. A variation of the "right of first night".

Rabbi Helbrans's group 'Leiv tohor' was involved in a violent ongoing skirmish, with the Kashua community in Monsey. Kashau, has it's own small village in Bedford Hills, NY. At the time about 6 years ago, two of the grand Rabbi's grandsons (at the time he was in his 90s, I believe he has since passed away, he basically was a well-loved decent man, he was one of the few big Rabbonim without a beard as the Nazis had torn his beard out by the roots during the Holocaust), becaome involved with Helbrans. The family name of the Kashau dynasty is Blum. The fathers were very unhappy and claims of brainwashing were made publically. The Kashau community had to kidnap them back late at night. They came in cars broke into the compound and got the 2 sons out. When they got outside they found their cars blocked by cars belonging to Helbrans' goons. The Kashaus rammed their cars to get out.

The Kashau community is a serious, very peaceful, non-political group. So at the time it raised eyebrows, how they would be involved in a violent struggle.

There were 'undererground' letters (pashkevil'n, in yiddish) at the time both against and for Helbrans.

This was really the first time that people in the Orthodox community really started to see Helbrans for what he was. In the past Helbrans always had argued that any dispute he was involved in was political or some sort of power struggle. In this case those arguments didn't work.

Last year, the Vaad Hoaskonim, the rabbinical council of Orthodox communities in Williamsburg, Boro Park, Monsey and Queens, N.Y., issued a ruling that Helbrans’ group “constitutes a great threat, spiritual and physical, to the Torah observant community in general and to every individual in particular.” It forbids the communities to associate with Elbarnes and urges his followers to leave him.

There are rumours that Satmar has put a hit on him.

Helbrans has followers world-wide and has moved back and forth through Israel, Europe, Canada and the US.

At 8:05 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Among those fooled by Shlomo Helbrans, Marvin Schick who apparently will defend anything that has the outward appearance of Orthodoxy before making basic inquiries:

Vantage Point: Injustice For Shlomo Helbrans
by Marvin Schick
New York Jewish Week
December 22, 1994

In the Brooklyn courthouse where Lemrick Nelson was acquitted for murder, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans has been convicted of kidnapping young Shai Fhima. The jury deliberated for two hours, this after a five-week trial of two defendants, sharply conflicting evidence, a record that ran to 2,500 pages exclusive of exhibits and assorted complexities which should have required careful attention.

The jury issue is one of several reasons why I believe that Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans is the victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice. He is not guilty of the crime for which he has been convicted. My hope, expressed without optimism, is that one of our defense organizations or the New York Jewish Community Relations Council will conduct an independent review by a panel comprised of fair-minded people who, without fear or favor, will report their findings.

The basic facts of the case alone suggest that the verdict is wrong. These include the sad facts about Shai's family, his mother's decision to bring her son to Rabbi Helbrans for bar mitzvah instruction and Shai's strong testimony on behalf of Rabbi Helbrans that was unshaken by a zealous prosecutor's sharp cross-examination.

Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans' fate may mean little to us. There is a lamentable tendency to believe -- even welcome -- everything bad that is said about chasidim and to ignore their difficulties. It is now broadly acknowledged that the Jewish response to the Crown Heights riots was weak because our community could not empathize with Lubavitch. This is bigotry and also another story, yet it has a bearing on the Helbrans case.

Already there is evidence of this attitude, as in the unpardonable comment of Rabbi Daniel Syme of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, as quoted in this newspaper: "Kidnapping is kidnapping. I'm disappointed to hear anyone in the Jewish community would justify that act as a humanitarian act."

In fact, the case raises disquieting issues that transcend Rabbi Helbrans' situation. There is the important matter of jury composition. There has been low-key talk within Jewish organizations about whether Orthodox Jews can get a fair shake from Brooklyn juries, especially when they have been the victims. The Nelson case was the most stunning of the lot, but it wasn't an aberration. The Nelson jurors, incidentally, established a new meaning for the great right of a trial by one's peers when in an unparalleled obscene gesture they had a celebratory dinner with the defense.

The Helbrans jury consisted of nine blacks and three others whose ethnicity seems to be in dispute, except that by no stretch of the imagination can they be regarded as the defendant's peers. If I were asked whether such a jury could render a fair verdict, I would answer that perhaps it could, but that would scarcely satisfy Rabbi Helbrans' constitutional rights. Because he is a member of a small and insular religious group with distinctive dress, lifestyle and attitudes, he must be provided with an extra measure of legal protection. He wasn't.

This standard is not my concoction. It's been the standard of American constitutional law for a half-century, from nearly the time when it was announced by Justice Stone in his epic footnote 4 in United States vs. Carolene Products (1938).

In each case, the totality of circumstances must be weighed, primarily whether those discreet racial and religious factors which might engender prejudice were highlighted or muted. In my view, both the judge and prosecutor failed the test, the latter by purposefully making the chasidic character of the defendants a central factor and the judge by failing to rein him in.

The judge was Thaddeus Owens. In another publicized case, he gave the lightest tap on the wrist to two fellows who pleaded guilty to burning the Torah scrolls of a Brooklyn synagogue. In Helbrans, he issued a tidal wave of rulings that hamstrung the defense and he allowed the prosecutor to make pointedly ethnic statements, especially in his summation. Judge Owens' overall attitude was questionable, as I believe is exemplified by this exchange with Paul Rooney, Rabbi Helbrans' attorney. It took place after the conviction and dealt with the issue of bail.

Owens: "If he were anyone but Rabbi Helbrans, he would be considered a poor risk, am I right? Forget about the fact that he was a rabbi. Suppose he was somebody by the name of Clarence Jackson from Putnam Avenue in Brooklyn, what would you say?"

Rooney: "I got to deal with what we have here."

Owens: "No, he's from Putnam Avenue and Lexington."

Rooney: "Depends upon the roots."

Owens: "Putnam and Malcolm X Boulevard, Clarence Jackson, and you have the same argument from me. What would you say? Would you say he was a poor risk?" (pp. 2,676-2,777 of the transcript)

As for the prosecutor, his display of zealotry throughout was topped off by a long inflammatory summation -- which Judge Owens allowed, despite repeated defense objections -- that was replete with nasty comments and abusive of the chasidic community. The aim was to convince the jury that no youngster would voluntarily choose to give up the free lifestyle to become one of "them."

At one point, and as one of many possible illustrations, the prosecutor contended:

"It doesn't make a difference what Shai said. It doesn't make a difference this victim coming in here and saying that he was not kidnapped and that the defendants had nothing to do with the kidnapping. He said this because Shai is one of them. He went from this to this [pointing to pictures], and he went from her to them." (p. 2,534)

The first "this" was a picture of Shai Fhima as he looked prior to becoming observant; the second was a picture of how he looks as an Orthodox Jew. And this dialogue took place in a courtroom in Brooklyn, and for this Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans stands convicted of kidnapping.

The prosecutor's prejudicial conduct brings us to the question of the jury's composition. The prosecutor played on the tendency to regard the likes of Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans as deviants whose religious calling mandates that they kidnap children in order to make them Orthodox.

This must concern all of us. Shai Fhima ran away from his mother's home twice before Rabbi Helbrans was in the picture. Rabbi Helbrans came into the picture because Mrs. Fhima brought her son to him. The boy became Orthodox -- not chasidic -- on his own volition.

It is frightening to contemplate the implications of this conviction.

It is frightening to contemplate what our community's silence would mean in the face of an egregious miscarriage of justice.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Among those fooled by Shlomo Helbrans, Agudath Israel and David Zwiebel who apparently will also defend anything that has the outward appearance of Orthodoxy before making basic inquiries:

Agudah Perks Up Over Sentencing Of Chasidic Rabbi
Forward (New York)
November 25, 1994

NEW YORK -- Charges of anti-Chasidic bias are spurring an investigation by Agudath Israel of America into the mysterious case of Shai Fhima Reuven, the Orthodox teenager whose mentor received a stiff jail sentence this week for kidnapping the youth.

Unfair Smear

The Orthodox watchdog group has received allegations that Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, who was sentenced on Tuesday to 4 to 12 years in prison, may have been unfairly smeared by both the prosecution and the judge because of his religious identity and the fact that members of his breakaway Chasidic sect often accompanied him to the courtroom in traditional black garb.

The case of Mr. Fhima has been daunting from the start. He ran away from home when he was 13, after his mother sent him for bar mitzvah classes with Rabbi Helbrans. Now 15, he has insisted that he left to escape his parents' abuse and has denied that Rabbi Helbrans held him against his will. Yet, throughout the trial, the youth was portrayed as the victim of a "cult."

Hard to Swallow

Rabbi Helbrans' lawyer, Paul Rooney, has indicated an appeal will be filed imminently. Mr. Rooney told the Forward he views this case as "nothing less than an attack on the Chasidim." Some of the most prominent Orthodox attorneys in this country, from the general counsel of Agudah to Nathan Lewin, the famed constitutional lawyer, seemed to be rallying around Rabbi Helbrans. Mr. Lewin said the defendant was convicted "solely because he is a Chasidic rabbi who does not abide by conventional lifestyle in the United States."

"We don't know Rabbi Helbrans personally, but I get very nervous when I hear the word `cult' used to describe the Chasidic lifestyle," David Zwiebel, the general counsel of Agudath Israel told the Forward. "And I think there may have been a problem in terms of bias -- it may well be that in the eyes of the judge and the jury, it may have appeared to be a cult-like situation. But as a member of the Orthodox community, it is hard for me to swallow that."

Mr. Zwiebel said there were ramifications of the case that went beyond charges of bias. He said that Agudah was interested in what to do in cases of young people who wish to be more religious than their parents or family. "You have children who are technically minors but have strong feelings about how they want to conduct their lives, and it is impossible for them to observe their religion as they would like to within the familial setting. The question is whether or not this boy's wishes are legally irrelevant," Mr. Zwiebel observed.

Complicated Case

Still, Mr. Zwiebel cautioned that this was a complicated case, and his organization was also interested by the issues of parental authority; the young boy's mother said her authority crumbled in the face of the charismatic, forceful Rabbi Helbrans.

Mr. Lewin told the Forward he had been troubled by the press coverage in the case, which he said seemed clearly biased against the Chasidim. He said that he, too, would be examining the trial transcripts for evidence of religious bias.

Mr. Rooney, meanwhile, expressed bitterness against the prosecutor from the Brooklyn district attorney's office, saying he had preyed on the public's bias against the black-garbed black hats who often joined Rabbi Helbrans in the courtroom. "In the summation, he [the prosecutor] described them [the Chasidim] as `these people,' but `these people' were not on trial -- this rabbi was on trial."

At 8:33 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

The sexual abuse allegations:

Israeli Teen Shai Fhima Says He Was Sexually Abused by Haredi Captors
by Sue Fishkoff
March 22, 1994
The Jerusalem Post

SHAI Fhima, the 15-year-old Israeli teen who spent the last two years in hiding with various haredi families in upstate New York, has accused his captors of sexually abusing him.

Shai, who was reunited with his father, Michael Reuven, and mother, Hana Fhima last Thursday after a contentious custody battle in Rockland County Family Court, told his father about the abuse Saturday night.

He was then reportedly afraid of his parents' angry reactions, so he called a cab in the middle of the night to return to Rabbi Aryeh Zaks, his first court-appointed guardian in Monsey, New York.

Police stopped the cab, and Shai and his parents were back in Rockland County Court yesterday. Michael Reuven told reporters, "He was sexually abused in that place for two years and they don't want him to get any treatment. I want the judge to send him for psychiatric evaluation. This is a brainwashed kid."

Shai disappeared from his secular home in April 1992, on his way to bar mitzva lessons with Brooklyn Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, head of a renegade Satmar sect. He resurfaced last month, saying he had left home voluntarily to lead an Orthodox lifestyle. Helbrans and a follower pled guilty two weeks ago to reduced charges of conspiracy to kidnap.

Last Thursday, a judge awarded joint custody to Shai's parents, who agreed to return to Israel and allow Shai to follow Orthodox Judaism. But observers noticed that Shai appeared distant, with erratic behavior.

Judge Separates Teen-ager From Parents
by Marlene Aig
March 24, 1994
The Associated Press

NEW CITY, N.Y. (AP) - A Jewish teen-ager who was recently reunited with his parents after disappearing for two years in a struggle over religious training will be separated from them again, a judge decided Thursday.

Fifteen-year-old Shai Fhima, who ran away from his parents Monday, will live with an Orthodox Jewish family in Rockland County, said Family Court Judge Bernard Stanger. The judge didn't identify the family. He said Fhima's parents and his religious teacher would have restricted visiting privileges.

Fhima disappeared for nearly two years after leaving his mother's Ramsey, N.J., home to study for his bar mitzvah in New York City with a Hasidic rabbi, Shlomo Helbrans.

He resurfaced last month in Rockland County as Helbrans was about to go on trial on kidnapping charges. Helbrans pleaded guilty to conspiracy and is awaiting sentencing.

Last week, Stanger awarded custody to Fhima's father, Michael Reuven, and granted the mother, Hana Fhima, unlimited visitation. The parents are divorced and Reuven lives in Israel but has been staying in New Jersey.

Stanger is scheduled to decide April 4 whether the case ultimately should be settled in New York, New Jersey or Israel. Reuven, Fhima and Mrs. Fhima are Israeli citizens.

"The Israeli government should insist we all go back," Reuven said after a closed hearing Thursday.

When Fhima ran away Monday, he claimed that his parents were not Orthodox enough. His parents countered that their son had willingly put aside his religious ways during the four days he had been reunited with them and told them he had been sexually abused during his two-year disappearance.

Fhima was heading toward the home of his religious teacher, Rabbi Aryeh Zaks, when police caught up with him Monday.

Fhima issued a statement Thursday saying he was never sexually abused by the Hasidim or Orthodox Jews. He said his mother had physically abused him and interfered with his leading a religious life.

Allegations of Mrs. Fhima's physical abuse were investigated and found untrue by Rockland County Child Protective Services.

At 8:48 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

The political influence:

Allegations of favorable treatment of kidnapper seem to go nowhere ALBANY -- Convicted kidnapper Shlomo Helbrans seems to have vanished from New York, as has the federal inquiry into whether influe; nce- peddling helped him get breaks in the state's criminal justice system.
by James M. Odato
Times Union
November 24, 2003

Helbrans isn't a household name, but in the 1990s, he touched off a firestorm after he was sent to prison on his felony conviction. Helbrans, a rabbi and citizen of Israel, served about two years and was deported, state and federal officials say.

Federal prosecutors alleged he got preferential treatment because of his ties to a politically connected group of Hasidic Jews. As of 1998, the U.S. attorney was pursuing those allegations but there is no evidence that the inquiry is ongoing. The U.S. attorney's records on the inquiry are confidential, lawyers close to the case say.

"He was removed from this country," presumably to his homeland, said Mark Thorn, a Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesperson, said. Details of his removal from the United States are sketchy because the BCIS won't open the Helbrans file, citing privacy laws.

After taking a young Jewish boy from his mother and keeping him while on the lam for two years, Helbrans benefited from supporters after his arrest, including Leon Perlmutter of Brooklyn, a fund- raiser for Gov. George Pataki.

Perlmutter, a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidic sect, which tends to vote in a bloc for candidates suggested by religious leaders, pressed state officials to help Helbrans, according to published reports and interviews.

Helbrans was sentenced to up to 12 years in prison, but won an appeal in 1996 for a reduced sentence of 2 to 6 years. Three days later, he was put in a work-release program by the Department of Correctional Services, unusual treatment for a felon targeted for deportation, federal prosecutors argued at the time.

After their protest, he was moved back to prison. But the case rose to near scandal with suspicions that the Pataki administration was providing Helbrans special treatment. Helbrans, who had three penalties for several problems while in prison, including unauthorized jewelry and an "unhygienic act," served until two weeks after his eligibility for parole.

Rabbi convicted of kidnapping deported to Israel
Jerusalem Post Staff
May 14, 2000

NEW YORK - Shlomo Helbrans, a haredi rabbi who was appealing his conviction of kidnaping an Israeli-born bar mitzva student, was quietly deported last week to Israel, The New York Times reported. Helbrans had once said his life would be endangered if he were repatriated.

Helbrans, who came to the US in 1990, was convicted in 1994 by a Brooklyn court of kidnaping Shai Fhima Reuven. The boy was 13 when he disappeared in 1992, while studying at Helbrans's yeshiva. He resurfaced in 1994 claiming that he had run away from a secular family that abused him. His mother, in turn, accused Helbrans of brainwashing the boy.

The case attracted wide attention in the US as an American battle between haredi and secular Israelis over the control of a child.

Immigration officials on Thursday deported Helbrans, 38, on two grounds: that he entered the US illegally, and that convicted felons can be deported.

Helbrans was paroled in late 1996 after two years in prison. His early parole led to a federal investigation, which is continuing, of whether state officials had been improperly influenced by the haredi community, according to the Times.

Helbrans's wife, Malka, was arrested separately, charged with obstructing governmental affairs and striking a federal agent.

The family, which includes six children, has been living in Monsey, New York.

Helbrans, convicted in Fhima kidnapping, is deported 6 years later
Associated Press Newswires
May 12, 2000

SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. (AP) - A Hasidic rabbi convicted of kidnapping a boy to get him a religious upbringing has been deported, his lawyer says.

Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans of Monsey was arrested Wednesday night in Spring Valley at what he thought would be a meeting with his parole officer, said Mark Thorn, a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. On Thursday, the rabbi was put on a plane to Israel, his lawyer, Ronald Russo, told The New York Times. The INS would not confirm the deportation.

Helbrans was convicted in 1994 for kidnapping Shai Fhima, a student at Helbrans' Brooklyn yeshiva, allegedly because he felt Fhima's mother and stepfather were not raising him properly.

Fhima testified he had gone voluntarily with Helbrans.

The conviction, which Helbrans is appealing, sparked a deportation order.

Helbrans was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison but released after serving only two.

New York Daily News
July 26,1999

A Hasidic rabbi imprisoned in an infamous kidnapping won early release after the state Parole Board chairman told a parole commissioner that Gov. Pataki's office "had an interest in the case," according to court records and sources.

An influential Pataki fund-raiser also intervened in the case of Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, seeking an early release hearing, according to the papers and sources.

Helbrans was convicted in 1994 in the widely publicized abduction of Jewish teenager Shai Fhima Reuven, and was paroled in 1996 at his first hearing.

The actions by Parole Board Chairman Brion Travis and fund-raiser Leon Perlmutter are described in court papers filed in Brooklyn Federal Court in the ongoing perjury and obstruction of justice trial of Parole Board Commissioner Sean McSherry.

McSherry is accused of lying to a federal grand jury investigating allegations that administration officials traded parole favors for campaign contributions.

Pataki spokesman Michael McKeon has denied wrongdoing on behalf of administration officials and said the investigation is politically motivated.

McSherry's trial begins its second week today. Although Helbrans is not named in court papers, several sources familiar with his parole indicated a key case cited by prosecutors is his.

McSherry did not sit on the Helbrans case, which was included in a broader probe of the parole favors-for-cash investigation.

Details of the broader investigation that included the allegations about Halbrans were revealed in a July 6 letter to the court from Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Macht.

The letter described some evidence that Macht said he expected to present at McSherry's trial, including testimony about influence in a case that several sources said was Helbrans'.

"The government intends to call a commissioner who would testify that . . . he was contacted by chairman Travis about a case that he was about to hear . . . and told that the "Second Floor" {the governor's office} had an interest in the case," the letter said.

Travis didn't return a call to his home, and Helbrans could not be reached.

Perlmutter's lawyer declined comment.

The Hotline
April 27, 1998

A federal grand jury is investigating "possible parole improprieties dogging" Gov. George Pataki's (R) admin. The probe began in '97, when the family of an inmate "walked into Police Headquarters" to report "a Pataki political supporter" told them campaign contribs "could win parole for their son." John Kim won parole "supported by an aide to" Pataki "and one of his campaign fund-raisers." GOP fundraiser Yung Soo Yoo urged Kim's father, Rev. Nam Soo Kim to donate $1K to Pataki's campaign. But Kim said "he contributed out of a sense of civic involvement, not to aid his son." The families of two other Korean-American inmates told authorities they "contributed to the Pataki campaign at Yoo's suggestion to help their sons" (Rashbaum, Robbins & Flynn, New York Daily News, 4/46).

Federal prosecutors are also investigating if Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, "imprisoned in a widely publicized kidnapping case," received "lenient treatment" after "appeals were made on his behalf" by Pataki fundraiser Leon Perlmutter. Prosecutor Alan Vinegrad said "prison officials told him" a 6/98 transfer to a work release program was "ordered by senior state officials": "The way this information was conveyed to me left me with the distinct impression that his treatment in the prison system was not considered routine." The 11/98 decision to parole Helbrans came "at about the same time" the board released two other inmates in cases that are also being scrutinized by prosecutors. Perlmutter "lobbied state officials on behalf of all three inmates." Pataki officials "strenuously denied" anyone received favorable treatment because of campaign contribs (Levy, New York Times, 4/26).

Vallone, in a statement: "The state is literally gushing with examples of the Pataki Administration's efforts to link fundraising with public policy ... George Pataki has hung a for sale sign on our prison system" (release, 4/26).

Suspected fund-raisers influence on parole board focus of fed inquiry
Associated Press Newswires
April 26, 1998

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Federal prosecutors are examining whether the Pataki administration gave special treatment to an imprisoned rabbi after a fund-raiser for the Republican governor pleaded for leniency.

State prison officials denied any wrongdoing and said they have followed regulations. And answering a question about the probe at a Sunday press conference on his budget, Gov. Pataki denied any parolees were getting special treatment because of connections to fund-raisers.

"Of course not. It's nonsense," Pataki said.

Both The New York Times and the New York Daily News reported details of the federal probe in their Sunday editions.

State records show that prison officials moved Hasidic rabbi Shlomo Helbrans from prison into a work release program in June 1996. The state quickly canceled the transfer once federal immigration officials indicated they were interested in his potential deportation, Department of Correctional Services spokesman James Flateau.

Helbrans had been convicted of kidnapping a boy, Shai Fhima Reuven, in order to give him a religious upbringing. He had been sentenced to four-to-12 years, but that was later reduced by a state appeals court.

He has since been released on parole.

Alan Vinegrad, a prosecutor in the case, said that the prison administrators told him the transfer was ordered by senior state officials.

"When I spoke to the state correction officials about this, it was made clear to me that the decision to place him in the work-release program had been made at high levels," Vinegrad said. "The way this information was conveyed to me left me with the distinct impression that his treatment in prison was not considered routine."

The state Parole Board's release of two other inmates is also being examined by prosecutors, according to the Times report.

The fund-raiser, Leon Perlmutter, is a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect, a group courted by both Democratic and Republican officials. Officials involved in the inquiry said Perlmutter lobbied state officials on behalf of all three inmates.

Pataki administration officials denied that anyone received lenient treatment because of lobbying by campaign contributors.

"There was no special treatment to get," Flateau said. "Under the law, the nonviolent crime he was convicted of is work-release eligible. It was the guy's first offense."

Flateau said that Vinegrad may have misunderstood when told about involvement by high-ranking officials because senior staff often monitor the work-release program to ensure it is used correctly to reduce prison overcrowding.

He added that the corrections commissioner's office had yet to receive any request for information from prosecutors regarding the Helbrans' case despite the report of an ongoing investigation.

"If this is supposed to be this big case, then why hasn't he been deported yet? Why is he still on the streets of New York?" Flateau said.

An immigration judge has ordered Helbrans's deportation, but he is fighting the decision. Helbrans now runs a yeshiva in upstate New York. He said he doesn't know if Perlmutter acted on his behalf, but said he never received special treatment.

Perlmutter could not be reached for comment.

Helbrans' case drew widespread attention after his 1994 conviction for kidnapping Shai Fhima, a student at Helbrans' Brooklyn yeshiva. Helbrans allegedly felt Fhima's mother and stepfather were not raising him properly.

Fhima testified he had gone voluntarily with Helbrans.

The Daily News reported that the federal investigation is also looking into the cases of three Korean immigrants whose parents allegedly sought leniency from the state Parole Board.

One of the Korean immigrants, John Kim, was released in 1996 after being convicted of three armed robberies. His father, the Rev. Nam Soo Kim, donated $1,000 to Pataki's campaign in 1995, but said it was out of a sense of civic duty.

The family of James Jhang, who was arrested with Kim, gave $12,000 to Pataki's campaign. And after Bo Young Chung was convicted of murder, his family gave $9,500 to the Pataki campaign. Pataki officials returned the money, and Chung's parole was denied last year. Jhang has yet to come up for possible parole.

The Kims got the support of a family friend, Grace Koh, who is the governor's adviser on Asian-American affairs, the Daily News reported. Koh spoke to parole officials on Kim's behalf, the Rev. Kim said.

A spokesman for the governor said the contacts by Koh were routine inquiries on behalf on a Asian-American constituent.

Associated Press
Buffalo News
April 27, 1998

More details came out Sunday about a federal probe into allegations that the Pataki administration may have provided special treatment to prison inmates who had connections to fund-raisers for Gov. Pataki.

Prison officials denied wrongdoing and said they have followed prison regulations.

At a news conference Sunday on the state budget, Pataki denied any parolees were getting special treatment because of connections to fund-raisers.

"Of course not. It's nonsense," he said.

Sunday, the New York Times reported federal prosecutors are examining whether state officials gave special treatment to an imprisoned rabbi after a Pataki fund-raiser pleaded for leniency.

State records show prison officials moved Hasidic Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans from prison into a work-release program in June 1996.

The state quickly canceled the transfer once federal immigration officials indicated they might seek to deport him, said James Flateau, spokesman for the state Department of Correctional Services.

Rabbi Helbrans had been convicted of kidnapping a boy, Shai Fhima Reuven, to give him a religious upbringing.

Alan Vinegrad, a prosecutor in the case, told the Times the prison officials told him the transfer was ordered by senior state officials.

Rabbi Helbrans was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison, but that was later reduced by a state appeals court, and he was placed into a work-release program.

At that point, immigration officials notified the state, and he was pulled out of the program, Flateau said. Rabbi Helbrans has since been released on parole.

The state Parole Board's release of two other inmates at that time is also being examined by prosecutors, the Times reported.

The fund-raiser, Leon Perlmutter, is a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect. Officials involved in the inquiry said Perlmutter lobbied state officials on behalf of all three inmates.

Pataki administration officials denied that anyone received lenient treatment because of lobbying by campaign contributors.

Feds probe inmate's treatment
by CLIFFORD J. LEVY New York Times
April 26, 1998
Times Union (Albany, NY)

Did Pataki officials, at behest of fund-raiser, intervene to get rabbi out of prison?

NEW YORK -- Federal prosecutors are examining whether state officials gave lenient treatment to a Hasidic rabbi imprisoned in a publicized kidnapping case, after appeals were made on his behalf by a fund-raiser for Gov. George Pataki's campaign, officials and others involved in the inquiry say.

State records show that prison officials moved the rabbi, Shlomo Helbrans, from prison into a work-release program even though he was ineligible for the transfer because federal immigration officials wanted to deport him. The transfer in June 1996 was rescinded after a federal prosecutor, who had brought charges against Helbrans, protested to state prison officials.

The inquiry into the case of Helbrans, who was convicted of kidnapping a teenager, Shai Fhima Reuven, in 1994, represents a broadening of the investigation by the U.S. attorney's office into fund raising by Pataki's campaign.

The prosecutor who successfully intervened after Helbrans was moved to work-release, Alan Vinegrad, said in an interview that prison officials told him the transfer had been ordered by senior state officials.

"When I spoke to the state correction officials about this, it was made clear to me that the decision to place him in the work-release program had been made at high levels," said Vinegrad, who is now a lawyer in private practice. "The way this information was conveyed to me left me with the distinct impression that his treatment in the prison system was not considered routine."

The state Parole Board later released Helbrans, who was convicted of what is considered to be a violent crime under state law, in his first appearance before the panel. The decision to parole Helbrans, made over the objections of federal and state prosecutors, came in November 1996. At about the same time, the board released two other inmates in cases that are also being scrutinized by prosecutors, according to interviews with officials and others in Albany and New York City who are involved in the inquiry.

The fund-raiser, Leon Perlmutter of Brooklyn, is a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidic sect, a group that has long been courted by both Democratic and Republican officials. Perlmutter lobbied state officials on behalf of all three inmates, according to the interviews.

Pataki administration officials strenuously denied that anyone received favorable treatment because of lobbying by fund-raisers or campaign contributors. They said that after an extensive review of the file of Helbrans, they were certain his case was handled appropriately.

"The decision on his work-release was no different than that for any other inmate," said Jim Flateau, a spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services.

Flateau suggested that Vinegrad misunderstood the prison officials when they referred to high-ranking officials. Flateau said senior officials closely monitor the work-release program because, when used correctly, it helps reduce prison overcrowding.

Besides the case involving Helbrans, federal prosecutors are looking at those of two convicted Israeli drug dealers who were paroled and deported in November 1996, as well as the cases of two Korean immigrants still in prison. Parents of the Koreans sought leniency from the Parole Board, though it was not granted.

But prosecutors do not appear to believe that there was a widespread effort to grant favors in the state's criminal justice system, officials involved in the case say.

William J. Muller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn, has refused to respond to questions about the case, but others involved in the inquiry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the office was examining how Helbrans was treated.

The case of Helbrans and Shai Fhima Reuven attracted widespread attention. The crime occurred after Shai's mother, who is not an Orthodox Jew, entrusted him to the rabbi for bar mitzvah instruction. The authorities charged Helbrans with keeping Shai away from his family for two years in order to educate him as a Hasidic Jew.

In an interview, Helbrans, a leader of an offshoot of the Satmar sect, acknowledged that Perlmutter had visited him several times in prison. He said Perlmutter had advised him on legal and prison matters and had acted as an advocate for him before prison and other state officials, seeking to insure, for example, that he received kosher food.

Helbrans, who is now running a yeshiva in upstate New York while he fights deportation, said he did not know if Perlmutter had influenced the decisions to put him in the work-release program or grant him parole. But he added, "I didn't receive any kind of special treatment."

Zenia Mucha, a spokeswoman for Pataki, declined to comment on Helbrans or Perlmutter.

Perlmutter did not respond to three messages left for him with family members at his home in Brooklyn. He is well known in the Satmar community for raising money for both political and charitable causes.

One contributor who gave to the Pataki campaign in response to Perlmutter's appeals was a Satmar businessman named Abraham Lefkowitz, who donated a total of $45,000 individually and through his company in 1994, according to records and an aide to Lefkowitz.

Helbrans was originally sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison, after a joint federal-state prosecution, but on June 17, 1996, an appeals court reduced the sentence to 2 to 6 years. Three days later he was put in the work-release program, which is for prisoners who are less than two years away from the possibility of parole. Under the program, inmates are freed from prison as long as they have a job, and they are required to report regularly to correctional officials.

A day later, Vinegrad, the federal prosecutor, demanded that the transfer be rescinded. Vinegrad said last week that he could not understand how Helbrans, an Israeli citizen, was allowed into the program because he had been convicted of a violent felony and because federal immigration officials wanted to deport him. On June 24, 1996, prison officials relented.

Flateau, the corrections department spokesman, at first blamed the department for what he termed a low-level "administrative error" in granting Helbrans work-release. He said the department had discovered the mistake on its own and rectified it, denying that Vinegrad had anything to do with it.

In a subsequent conversation, Flateau conceded that Vinegrad had intervened, but he added that the department now believed that federal immigration officials were at fault. He said the federal officials had not properly notified the department that they wanted to deport Helbrans.

Flateau also said that while Helbrans had been convicted of second-degree kidnapping, which is a violent crime under state law, the department had determined that the crime the rabbi had committed was not violent in nature, so he was eligible for work-release.

Mark Thorn, a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, declined to comment, saying that the agency does not discuss pending cases. An immigration judge has ordered that Helbrans be deported. He is appealing the decision.

Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit group that monitors conditions in the state's prisons, said he was surprised to learn that a person convicted of second-degree kidnapping was allowed into the work-release program.

"Our understanding is that anyone convicted of a violent offense is, flat out, not considered for work release," Gangi said.

New York Daily News
April 26, 1998

When armed robber John Kim tried to win release from state prison in 1996, he had two big assets: a model record as an inmate and politically connected allies who contacted parole officials on his behalf.

Convicted of terrorizing Queens residents and businessmen in three holdups, Kim faced the Parole Board supported by an aide to Gov. Pataki and one of his campaign fund-raisers.

The board ruled in Kim's favor, releasing him four years into a four-to-12-year sentence, over the objections of prosecutors.

How that happened is part of a federal grand jury investigation into possible parole improprieties that is dogging the Pataki administration.

The News reported last month that prosecutors are investigating the cases of two convicted Israeli drug smugglers paroled and deported after businessman and Pataki fund-raiser Leon Perlmutter sought their release.

Also under review is Perlmutter's role in the case of Shlomo Helbrans, a Hasidic rabbi imprisoned in a high-profile kidnapping case and quickly freed on work release. His release was later rescinded.

Pataki administration officials have denied wrongdoing in the early release cases and say they are cooperating with the grand jury.

The federal investigation began a year ago, when the family of a state prison inmate walked into Police Headquarters to report they had been told by a Pataki political supporter that campaign contributions could win parole for their son.

Part of the probe has focused on Kim, arrested in 1992 as a member of a teenage gang that preyed on Korean-Americans.

In one case, Kim, 17, and two other youths held up a Northern Blvd. bar. In a second, Kim stun-gunned a store owner. In a third, Sarah Choi, 8, and her sister Mina, 13, were terrorized at gunpoint while Kim and the gang ransacked their Queens home.

"They tied them up with sneaker strings," said Joseph Choi, the girls' father. "He aimed a gun at them and laid them on the floor and put a blanket over their faces."

Kim's father is the Rev. Nam Soo Kim, pastor of the Full Gospel Church of New York, one of the city's largest Korean-American congregations. Known as a humanitarian who helps the hungry, the respected minister almost resigned when his son was arrested.

"In Korean culture, if an official man of the community cannot control his son, he is not qualified to be pastor," the minister said.

John Kim was sentenced under a plea bargain and was shipped to the Greene Correctional Facility upstate. He was a model inmate, earning top Correction Department ratings as he concentrated on his studies.

But even with his clean record, Kim faced tough odds for parole in 1996. The Queens district attorney's office vehemently objected, calling him a predator who should serve his maximum term.

At the same time, Pataki was pushing to outlaw parole for violent felons.

That year, nearly two of every three violent felons were denied parole. Many had been convicted of just one crime. To represent his son, the Rev. Kim hired attorney Edward Hammock, a former Parole Board chairman. They gathered more than 100 letters of support, including one from the cop who arrested John Kim and another from the shop owner who had been hurt.

"If a young man is trying to turn his life around, I don't want to be the one getting in the way of that," said store owner Myung Kim, no relation.

Kim's father also turned to Yung Soo Yoo, a former Korean CIA agent who had survived a 1984 fraud conviction to become a stalwart fund-raiser for Republicans, including Pataki. The governor, in turn, had appointed Yoo to his transition team.

At Yoo's suggestion, the Rev. Kim donated $1,000 to Pataki's campaign in 1995. He said he contributed out of a sense of civic involvement, not to aid his son.

Yoo, who has an optical equipment business, wrote parole officials saying he would give John Kim a job upon release, according to the Rev. Kim.

The minister said he wanted to show that his son could get a stable job far from his old gang. John Kim didn't take the job, deciding to attend college instead.

The families of two other Korean-American inmates have told authorities that they contributed to the Pataki campaign at Yoo's suggestion to help their sons. The family of James Jhang, arrested with Kim, gave $12,000 to Pataki's campaign. The family of Bo Young Chung, convicted of a pool hall murder, gave $9,500.

Jhang has not come up for parole. Chung's parole was denied last year.

Pataki officials, who refunded the money, said these cases demonstrate that no one bought his way out of jail. Yoo has not returned phone calls.

In their bid, the Kims also enlisted the support of a family friend, Grace Koh, a member of their church who serves as the governor's $41,000-a-year adviser on Asian-American affairs.

Koh wrote a letter to the Parole Board on John Kim's behalf. She also called parole officials to make sure the parole hearing did not go forward until the Kims had all the evidence they wanted to put before the board, the Rev. Kim said. "I talked to her and said, 'Please help with this family business,' " he said. "I feel sorry I did this to her {now}."

Koh said she wrote the letter on her personal stationery, using her Korean name so it would be clear the letter was not official. As for her phone call, the governor's office described it as a routine inquiry on behalf of an Asian-American constituent.

"It is perfectly appropriate and consistent with her job," said Pataki spokesman Mike McKeon.

Kim ultimately won his freedom when a three-member Parole Board panel voted unanimously in his favor. The board has refused to release a transcript of the hearing, but a spokesman said Kim was released on the merits.

The decision surprised the district attorney.

"For someone to go upstate with three major violent felonies and treated as an adult, and to be paroled in their first appearance, generally, that doesn't happen," said Charles Walsh, the senior assistant district attorney who handled the case,

But Hammock said his client, who is doing well at a New Jersey college, didn't need improper help.

"Yes, there were problems," said Hammock, "but this is a kid who had really turned his life around."

That is little solace to Joseph Choi. He has moved his family far from the city where his daughters were endangered.

"I'm basically appalled by this news," he said of Kim's release. "This is a serious crime. How come this guy got out so early?"

Rabbi fighting extradition
The Jerusalem Post
May 22, 1997

NEW YORK - Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, an Israeli haredi rabbi who was convicted of kidnapping a bar mitzva student, is fighting the US government's order to deport him, contending that he would be endangered if he returned to Israel.

Helbrans spent less than two years in jail for kidnapping Shai Fhima-Reuven, who was 13 when he first disappeared in April 1992, after his mother sent him to study for his bar mitzva with Helbrans in Brooklyn.

The boy, from a troubled secular family with a history of abuse, turned up several years later as an observant Jew, after spending time with Helbrans and his associates in Monsey, New York, and Paris. The case attracted wide attention in the US as a bizarre view of a battle between haredi and secular Israelis over the control of a child, waged on American soil.

Helbrans was convicted in 1994, and a US immigration court on March 26 ordered him deported. Under US law, a non-citizen can be deported after conviction of a crime of violence and "moral turpitude."

"We are not sure how {the court} can say this involved violence in view of the fact that there was no physical contact between Rabbi Helbrans and the boy," said Helbrans' lawyer, Michael Wildes. "The boy did not feel threatened."

Wildes contends that the US government is going to extensive lengths to deport Helbrans, a view shared by Helbrans's supporters in Brooklyn's haredi communities. One, who did not want to be identified by name, also suggested that New York Consul General Colette Avital, who was expected to leave the US after the defeat of the Labor Party in last May's election, had delayed her long- anticipated return to Israel until Helbrans was deported. However, the arrival of Avital's successor, Shmuel Siso, is imminent.

Helbrans has been described as a "right-wing anti- Zionist" who leads his own small sect, which has common cause with Satmar hassidism. "My beliefs are far from being popular in America and are even less so in Israel," he told New York magazine. "If I was to return there, it would definitely be the end of me. Doesn't the American government understand that?"

However, there is no testimony on record about his fear of returning to Israel, and it was not clear whom he feared might want to do him harm.

However, the New York Jewish Week reported that Helbrans might be under investigation in Israel in several instances similar to the Fhima-Reuven kidnapping case.

At 8:58 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>He reportedly was
>under investigation there for similar abductions
>before he fled to the United States in 1990.

Kidnapping Trial in NY: A Battle Over Jewish Souls
by Jonathan Mark
Jewish Advocate (Boston)
March 4, 1993

The alleged kidnapping of Shai Fhima, the 13-year-old son of secular Israelis, by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, an ultra-Orthodox haredi Israeli now living in Monsey, N.Y., is just the latest battle in "the culture war" raging between those two Jewish camps, says one Orthodox observer.

Samuel Heilman, author of Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra-Orthodox Jewry, and a professor at the Graduate Center of City University, added that "this happens in Israel a lot...because they are fighting over souls," both individual and national.

Indeed, much of what has happened in Israel is attributed to Helbrans as well. He reportedly was under investigation there for similar abductions before he fled to the United States in 1990.

Helbrans, however, seems to be a lone ranger, disavowed even within the Satmar community he claims as his inspiration. Rabbi Hertz Frankel, spokesman for the Satmar rebbe, Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum, told the Jewish Week: "I'm making it clear to the whole world that Satmar has absolutely nothing to do with this case or with this yeshiva or with this person or with the boy. It's absolutely false and unfair to drag in the Satmar community."

Frankel said that just because Helbrans has been linked to Satmar and adopted Satmar characteristics, "there is no reason to say that the Satmar community sanctions his behavior or his program or his organization. We have enough enemies."

Frankel explained that thousands of Chasidim protested at the courthouse simply in reaction to what they felt was insensitivity of having Helbrans, 30, and his wife arrested on the eve of the Sabbath, especially when that meant separating Malka Helbrans, 31, from her three-week-old baby, whom she is nursing.

"If these people were arrested in any other circumstance they would not have a dozen people" demonstrating on their behalf, added Frankel.

There are three parents involved on behalf of Shai: Michael Reuven, the natural father; Hana Fhima, the mother; and Jacky Fhima, the stepfather.

In early 1992, Shai's parents hired Helbrans to tutor the child for his bar mitzvah. Reuven told reporters that shortly thereafter, when Hana went to pick up Shai from Helbrans, Shai backed away from his mother, saying: "I can't go with you. I have to pray for your soul or you will burn in hell."

Shai disappeared on April 4, 1992. Helbrans was arrested a few days later, but charges were dropped for lack of evidence. Since then there reportedly have been scattered communication and negotiation between Helbrans and Shai's parents that is the basis for the Feb. 16 charges of kidnapping and conspiracy.

Mordechai Weisz, 19, from Williamsburg, a student of Helbrans, has also been charged as Helbrans' partner in the crime.

The three pled not-guilty to the two-count indictment, which can result in a prison terms of up to 25 years. Bail was set at $250,000 for Helbrans and $100,000 for Weisz; Mrs. Helbrans was released on her own recognizance. A return date of March 2 was set.

The rabbi's bail was paid by the Central Rabbinical Congress, a right-wing group based in Brooklyn that paid $100,000 in cash and offered $150,000 in collateral.

Although other haredim were not specifically named in the indictment, the defendants were said to have acted "in concert with other persons" to abduct Shai Fhima.

The indictment stated that on or about March 15, 1992, Malka Helbrans attempted to prevent Hana Fhima from obtaining custody of Shai; that on April 4, 1992, Weisz took custody of Shai Fhima; and that on May 3, 1992, Rabbi Helbrans offered money to Hana Fhima to relinquish legal custody of her son.

Splitting his time between Monsey in Rockland County and Borough Park, the Brooklyn neighborhood comprising many haredi- affiliated sects, Helbrans became the guru of some 70 families, while teaching some 40 students in a small Brooklyn yeshiva, Lev Tahor ("Pure Heart").

Although Helbrans says that he modeled his Orthodoxy after the Satmars, Frankel, the Satmar rebbe's spokesman, pointed out that whereas Helbrans seeks followers, "Satmar does not proselytize at all. Anyone who knows Satmar knows that we're not looking for candidates. Satmar has its own tzoras," says Frankel. "We have a school system of 16,000 and a $55 million budget for education. We're looking for new boys? For converts? For baal teshuvah? We're not."

With Helbrans under arrest, and his tactics now disowned by the Satmar and haredi communities, many observers explained that while the haredim may be winning recent skirmishes within the Orthodox domain, they may be in retreat and losing the ultimate battle for the Jewish soul: After all, they say, the major question is not only why that community cannot produce the missing Shai Fhima, but how they could produce someone such as Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans in the first place.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

The violent nature of this cult:
>She has not heard from her son since, and the
>parents' attempts to find him there have been
>forcefully repelled by yeshiva residents, one
>of whom has been charged with attempted murder
>for a knife attack that sliced off one of Mr.
>Fhima's fingers.

12 Kidnapped or Converted? [Schlomo Helbrans, Hassidic Rabbi.
Jacky, Hana, and Shai Fhima]
From "Kidnapped or Converted.9.' by Mary B .W. Tabor, New York
Times, 8/2/92, 37, 43

The parents of a 13-year-old Brooklyn boy missing
for four months say that he has been kidnapped by
Schlomo Helbrans, a Hassidic Rabbi who was teaching
Shai Fhima in preparation for the boy's bar mitzvah. The
rabbi, in turn, has accused Jacky and Hana Fhima, both non-
religious Jews, of abusing Shai. The Fhimas believe that the
rabbi had become obsessed with converting their son to his
ultra-orthodox ways.

The Brooklyn District Attorney's office -- which brought
kidnapping charges against the rabbi last spring, then dropped
them, citing insufficient evidence -- speculates that Shai may
have run away to live a more religious life than his parents
would have wanted. But federal prosecutors have now taken
up the case, believing the boy may, indeed, have been
kidnapped, a charge the rabbi denies.

Police in Israel are also investigating, saying the Fhima
case is just one of a series of reported abductions linked to
the rabbi and his yeshiva [school], Lev Tahor (pure heart) which
the rabbi describes as loosely affiliated with the anti-Zionist
Satmar Hassidim. A Satmar spokesman said that Rabbi
Helbrans "has his own constituency. But we don't know too
much about it." Helbrans said that while helping non-religious
Jews become religious was one of the most important acts for
a Hassidic rabbi, he could not break civil law to do it.

According to the Fhimas, the rabbi took an immediate
interest in Shai when they met at the yeshiva. "The Rabbi
said, 'I see light on your face. I want to know what big things
you are going to do,' "said Hana Fhima.

The next day she said she received the first of dozens of
calls from the rabbi and his associates pressing her to leave
Shai at the yeshiva and move to Brooklyn from New Milford,
NJ. Refusing this, they nonetheless allowed Shai to stay at
the yeshiva for a week, but when after three weeks the rabbi
refused to give the boy up, the parents had to get the police
to help remove him from the school. Shai then tried to run away
back to Brooklyn, but the police found him and returned him
home. "I believe the Rabbi brainwashed him," Mrs. Fhima
said. In the end, she let a young Hassidle man who had
befriended Shai take the boy to Brooklyn for a night, on
condition that he not be taken to the yeshiva. She has not
heard from her son since, and the parents' attempts to find
him there have been forcefully repelled by yeshiva residents, one
of whom has been charged with attempted murder for a knife
attack that sliced off one of Mr. Fhima's fingers.

At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like more info on the prima nocte stuff. Is theis hearsay or did you have this from people who left Lev Tohor? Does Helbrans actually do something..?

At 10:20 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>I would like more info on the prima nocte stuff.

The right of prima nocte or "first night". Giving nobles the sexual rights to any female commoner in their territory on her wedding night. The bride avoids violence between her husband and the English soldiers by going with the lord willingly.
See: the movie Braveheart

>Is theis hearsay or did you have this from people
>who left Lev Tohor?

I've spoken to a Rabbi who was involved in getting people out of this cult. These are obviously people from Jewish groups who do not speak to the press.

>Does Helbrans actually do something..?

Helbrans has a variation on this where the young bride-to-be has to spend the night before her wedding at his home. Obviously, he doesn't advertise that sex is involved. But that is exactly what is involved, he has sex with these women, who revere him as their Grand Rebbe.

At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ME:I''ll add an interestring factoid to you.Rabbi Bloom's, who is still alive btw(you should do basic research, you know)grandaughter married a guy T....r, daughter of rabbi blooms son from Monsey, this Teller who btw is a fine man according to everybody, was somehow brainwashed into becoming helbranses follower. His reward:marrying helbranz's 17 year old daughter. His wife would not take a divorce so they got a heter, he is 40 with 6 kids.
About right of the first night:This is absolute garbage. I DON'T LIKE THE MAN, but this is simply not true.
Hey, another follower from williamsburg with five kids, recently married another teenage daughter of helbranz. he is 37

At 11:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

btw, where did you get that Rabbi bloom does not have a beard?
You are mixing him up with the Kalover rebbe from Israel

At 11:39 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>Rabbi Bloom's, who is still alive btw(you should do basic
>research, you know)
>btw, where did you get that Rabbi bloom does not have a beard?
>You are mixing him up with the Kalover rebbe from Israel

Thanks, Anonymous. You are correct (see 2nd comment in this thread). In trying to put basic background up about the Kashau community, I got the Kashau (sometimes spelled Kasho) Rebbe (Rabbi Rafael Blum) and the Kalover Rebbe mixed-up. I appologize to my readers for the mistake.

>About right of the first night:This is absolute garbage. I DON'T
>LIKE THE MAN, but this is simply not true.

My sources are very good on this. Former members of the cult/Rabbonim who helped get them out.

Anonymous, I'd appreciate any information you could post about the Blum family, Helbrans/Elbarnes and certainly more detail about the Heter (heter meah rabbonim?) mentioned.

At 11:41 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

For basic background on the Blum family:

Orthodox community mourns loss
(Original publication: November 26, 2003)

BEDFORD — Members of a local Orthodox Jewish community yesterday were continuing to mourn the loss of their chief rabbi's great-grandson.

Two-year-old Gavriel IIiovits died Sunday after he was hit by a school bus at Heyward Street and Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn about 3:20 p.m., said Officer Gerard Cole, a spokesman for the New York City Police Department. The child had just gotten off the bus.

The accident remains under investigation, Cole said.

Rabbi Abraham Blum, the boy's great-uncle, who lives and teaches at Kasho, an Orthodox Jewish community off Haines Road in Bedford Hills, said Gavriel was the great-grandson of Grand Rabbi Rafael Blum — a world-renowned authority on rabbinical law.

The elder Blum, who also lives in the Bedford Hills Hasidic community, could not immediately be reached for comment yesterday.

"He was very young ... He was probably the cream of the crop in his classroom," Abraham Blum, Rafael Blum's son, said of Gavriel yesterday. "We accept the loss, accept it and thank the Lord for whatever he gives us and go on."

Miriam Blum, the boy's great-aunt, echoed the rabbi's sentiments.

"It's not easy. We know everything is from above. We have no questions to ask, just to accept," she said. "We're all very sorry and sad."

Miriam Blum remembered her grand-nephew as an "adorable, adorable child."

"He was only, like, 2 1/2, not even 3 years old, but he was a very, very smart, bright child, and beautiful," she said.

Kasho is named for the third largest city in the former Czechoslovakia, where Rafael Blum had once presided over one of the largest Hasidic communities, according to "A Brief History of Bedford Hills," a 1998 book by Jaap Ketting.

Abraham Blum said his father fled that country's communist regime in 1948 and came to Brooklyn. He founded Kasho in the late 1970s, his son said.

About five years ago, the community was estimated to have about 700 or 800 people, but Abraham Blum said its current population was probably a little bit larger now.

Tears at funeral of crushed tot

Mourners carry coffin containing Gabriel Illiowitz, 2, at outdoor funeral yesterday in front of synagogue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Sorrow hung over a Brooklyn Hasidic community yesterday as hundreds of mourners flooded the streets to mourn little Gabriel Illiowitz, the toddler run over by his school bus Sunday.
More than 400 relatives and friends gathered outside a modest synagogue in Williamsburg and prayed over a pine coffin on Hooper St.

The coffin, draped in black cloth, was just big enough to hold the small body of 2-year-old Gabriel, the great-grandson of a prominent rabbi.

"This was God's will," Gabriel's father, Joel Illiowitz, said in Yiddish over a public address system.

Fighting tears, Gabriel's mother, Ritzi Illiowitz, stood up the block with other Hasidic women while the men gathered separately to the south. Clutching a white tissue, the mother rubbed her face and slowly shook her head.

Only a day earlier, she had met Gabriel and his older brother as they stepped off the bus from their yeshiva, Talmud Torah of Kasho.

Ritzi Illiowitz lost track of Gabriel while the bus pulled away from Bedford Ave. and Heyward St. Somehow, Gabriel tumbled under the rear wheels of the bus and was crushed, friends said yesterday.

The driver, whom the yeshiva refused to identify, did not realize he had hit Gabriel and dropped off more of the 35 students aboard the bus, cops said.

"It's a loss for the mother and the father. It's a loss for the entire community," Rabbi Leib Glanz said during Gabriel's funeral outside the Nachlei Emunah Kretchnef temple. "We are strong believers that nothing happens without a reason."

Several men in the funeral crowd held cell phones above their heads so people who could not attend could listen to the prayers.

Gabriel was at least the third Hasidic boy in Brooklyn to be hit and killed by a private school bus in the past three years.

Drivers of public school buses must take state safety courses before getting behind the wheel.

But drivers for yeshivas and other private schools are not required to take the courses until next July, when a new state law kicks in.

"The training is as lax today as it ever was," said state Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn), who fought for the new law.

David Taub, the administrator of Gabriel's yeshiva, defended the bus driver yesterday, calling him very responsible.

"The guy has a clean driving record," Taub said. He did not know if the driver had taken the state safety courses.

At 2:36 PM, Blogger greenhaven said...

It's about Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans. I've spent some time with him behind the bars upstate New York. It's absolutely clear to me that this man is of great decency and is very honest believer. If he were a chatlaton he would choose a more acceptable line of teaching (not that of anti-zionist). The more acceptable teaching - the wider it spreads, more followers - more money and other material benefits. From my seeing him in those years in prison I conclude that he is a true G-d fearing man and a great rabbi. I wasn't brainwashed by the rabbi and made my opinion basically upon his everyday behaviour (you know, there you can't hide your true inside behind some mask for long and people see what you really are). What Rabbi Helbrans would have never done is something (to his consideratoin) against G-d's will. Therefore, knowing him, I just can't believe in all that dirt you're writing about Rabbi Helbrans and Lev Tohor.
P.S. I apologize for my English - I'm Russan.

At 12:50 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>It's about Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans. I've spent some time with him
>behind the bars upstate New York. It's absolutely clear to me
>that this man is of great decency and is very honest believer.

Dude, you are not a good judge of character. He lives in opulence. His followers are kept in abject poverty and are sent out to collect money for him. Can't you see that?

>If he were a chatlaton he would choose a more acceptable line
>of teaching (not that of anti-zionist).

Wrong. Look at the wealth he's amassed from simple, good people who are too simple to see behind this mask of righteousness he wears pretending to be the head of some great Hasidic dynasty (which he's totally made up).

I wonder how suprised they would be to see his chiloni mother who testified at his extradition hearing. He's a complete charlaton.

>The more acceptable teaching - the wider it spreads,

But the less isolated the followers.

>more followers - more money and other material benefits.

He's doing quite fine with the ones he has.

>From my seeing him in those years in prison I conclude
>that he is a true G-d fearing man and a great rabbi.

Wrong, but what were you doing visiting him in prison?

>I wasn't brainwashed by the rabbi and made my opinion
>basically upon his everyday behaviour (you know, there
>you can't hide your true inside behind some mask for
>long and people see what you really are).

Of course you can. Behind every rasha there are friends and relatives who claim they never saw that side of the person.

>What Rabbi Helbrans would have never done is something
>(to his consideratoin) against G-d's will. Therefore,
>knowing him, I just can't believe in all that dirt
>you're writing about Rabbi Helbrans and Lev Tohor.
>P.S. I apologize for my English - I'm Russan.

The english wasn't bad.

I suggest you do some research and open your mind. He's a complete and total charlaton.

At 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was not visiting R. Helbrans in prison - I was doing time upstate, DUDE. So I saw Rabbi Helbrans for a few years every day and had had enough time to make my opinion about who he really was. The occasions and evidence were more than enough (one of many examples: once he was doing 30 days in the bin for disobeying an officer's order which was in conflict with his religious way of life). And don't tell ME about character charging, bro - after being several years locked up you're becoming expert in that.
P.S. About his parents: R. Helbrans openly talked about their secularity and that he even had a serious conflict with them when he was young regarding his turning religious the Orthodox way.

At 5:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once more, excuse my English: in the message above I've made an error - I typed "charging" instead of "judging".

At 9:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know R. Helbrans and his followers personally for several years now. The Rabbi does not in opulence. There is no gold in the Rabbi's house. However, you will find many silver judaicia items as customary among all Hassidic families. The community lives in poverty, and they too have silver in their homes. The life of these simple G-d fearing Jews is unlike the modern orthodox American Jews. People can not understand their way of life, so they criticize. I have relatives who are against the Rabbi. They have no facts to base their hatred upon. They have never met or spoke to the Rabbi (for fear of being brain-washed). They have heard all the ridiculous rumors being spread, like the ones on this web-site. There are no facts that support any of them. Just plain dirty lies. Why? Because the Rabbi stands up for what he believes in, contradictory to common Modern Orthodox values. Anyone who knows R. Helbrans personally will tell you what a sincere good hearted person he is. This is the reason why people say he "brain-washes". Because after hearing 2 completely opposite reports, the only conclusion is that the one who has a positive report must have brain washed. Of course, if someone is a spiritual leader, the members of the following will make sure their leader has what to eat. Show me one political or rabbinical leader who does not receive monetary support (unless independently wealthy). The Rabbi does not like the fact that many of his follwoers are "collectors". Do you how many that had good jobs and were fired because of their affiliation. Hence, another rumor. They seek jobs but are discriminated against. I have seen this with my own eyes. I have a lot more to write, but I have to stop somewhere. The Rabbi and his followers should be prosperous and live to see the downfall of all their enemies. Amen!

At 9:49 PM, Anonymous Lie Hater said...

I know Shai Fimah. Do you know how??? I met him in Quebec. He was staying by the Rabbi's house about 2 years ago. He came back to the Rabbi for advice and to help out the Rabbi's followers. Ask him yourself! Did you see the New York Times article, a interview with Shai Fimah. He told the Times that the whole thing was hogwash.

BTW-The Rabbi only has 1 daughter in her teens. There was no other marriage besides for R. Teller. This is another made up story.


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