Accountability and transparency within our institutions and leadership.
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1) Marcia Feldman, director of the Iris Berman Nursery School, an affiliate of Kushner’s Livingston shul, the Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center2) Rabbi Yitz Greenman, executive director of Aish New York3) Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, executive director of Chabad’s Living Legacy and Friendship Circle programs in Livingston; 4) Brooklyn Rabbi David S. Helberg,http://www.njjewishnews.com/njjn.com/012005/njkushner.htmlNEW JERSEY JEWISH NEWSTwo images of Kushner emerge in dueling sentencing memorandaby Robert WienerNJJN Staff WriterAn extraordinary plea for leniency by lawyers for Charles Kushner paints the real estate mogul as a man who repents the actions that led to an 18-count guilty plea on tax and obstruction of justice charges and whose sentence should be considered in light of his enormous track record of philanthropy.But the Jan. 12 memorandum, which includes testimonials from scores of individuals who knew Kushner as a friend and benefactor, also gave an opportunity for federal prosecutors to reiterate their description of Kushner as a man capable of “evil” who blames others for his “outrageous criminal conduct.”Weighing those clashing portrayals will be Justice Jose Linares of the United States District Court in Newark, who is scheduled to sentence Kushner on March 4 to a term ranging from 18 months to two years in prison. And for the 700 individuals who wrote testimonials on Kushner’s behalf — ranging from a former U.S. senator to the Archbishop of Newark to the custodian of an Orthodox day school in Livingston named for Kushner’s parents — it is Kushner the philanthropist they hope will win the judge’s favor.Meryl Ehrenkranz of Morristown, a commercial realtor who wrote a letter describing Kushner as always supportive “when it came to my personal charities,” said she had “mixed emotions” when Kushner’s wife, Seryl, “sent a note asking me to write a letter on his behalf. I had mixed emotions because I do not condone what he did. What he did was despicable.”Ehrenkranz, a board member of the Kushner-owned NorCrown Bank, noted that the bank was supportive of JESPY, the South-Orange-based Jewish agency that operates residential homes for people with emotional and physical disabilities. Ehrenkranz is vice chair of the JESPY board.She said Kushner came to the rescue when she asked him to support a project involving another of her pet causes, the Livingston Symphony Orchestra. “I asked him for $10,000 for a children’s concert and he agreed. We wanted to promote classical music for the students at the [Joseph] Kushner [Hebrew] Academy.”Another letter writer was Pat Sebold, Kushner’s neighbor in Livingston and vice president of the Essex County Board of Freeholders. She wrote that “while I fully appreciate the seriousness of his crime and understand that he must pay for it with a period of incarceration, I only hope that he receives the most lenient sentence the Court considers appropriate.Sebold told NJ Jewish News said she “knew it was possible that when I wrote the letter that it would be made public,” but said she was undeterred. “I have known Charlie a very, very long time. He has been a personal friend. I was not going to turn my back on a friend, but I in no way condone his behavior.” Sebold said Kushner “responded when I asked him to help the parents of an autistic kid” who had wanted their son to attend JKHA. The day school has an elementary-school program catering to developmentally challenged children. “They aren’t even Jewish, but they moved here from New York so their kid could go to Kushner, which has an outstanding program for autistic children,” Sebold said. “I can’t even begin to tell you how emotional it was. They cried. I cried. We all cried.”Other letter writers from the Jewish community, included among the 165 letters made public, were Marcia Feldman, director of the Iris Berman Nursery School, an affiliate of Kushner’s Livingston shul, the Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center; Rabbi Yitz Greenman, executive director of Aish New York; Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, executive director of Chabad’s Living Legacy and Friendship Circle programs in Livingston; and Brooklyn Rabbi David S. Helberg, who said that Kushner financed a worldwide effort for a young mother who needed a complete transfusion of a rare blood type. Shades of Rich?The release of the letters, first made public by The Star-Ledger of Newark and The Record of Hackensack, immediately invited comparisons to a 2001 controversy over Marc Rich, the fugitive financier who received a pardon from then-President Bill Clinton. Many were critical of the Jewish communal leaders who wrote letters on Rich’s behalf; New York Times columnist William Safire went so far as to call for the resignation of Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, for his “ethical blindness” in supporting Rich. Foxman later wrote that “I began to question whether a person’s good deeds should overshadow other aspects of his behavior. In hindsight, this case probably should not have had my involvement.”But Union for Reform Judaism president Rabbi Eric Yoffie, who was among those who were critical of those writing Rich testimonials, said the Kushner case is different.In an e-mail responding to NJJN, Yoffie noted that “Rich was a fugitive from justice who had not accepted responsibility for his crimes. Kushner has been convicted [sic], has acknowledged his guilt, and has apologized for his behavior.“Now that he is facing sentencing, there is no reason for friends and associates not to share their views with the judge before sentencing.”Kushner, in a letter to Linares dated Nov. 17, 2004, and included as an exhibit by his attorneys, writes that he is “ready to face whatever penalty you deem appropriate for my actions.”“I have chosen to live my life as an Orthodox Jew, a life filled with moral and ethical obligations,” wrote Kushner. “It provides me with a wonderful, meaningful framework within which to lead my life. In addition to violating the laws of our country, I have violated the laws of my Maker and my religion — a sin for which I eternally repent. I have spent many nights questioning how I, a religious Jew, can adequately atone for my sins. Incarceration will not remedy the judgment I will one day face.”‘Horrific nightmare”Federal prosecutors, however, said Kushner has been neither repentant nor cooperative in their ongoing investigation. They alleged that since the guilty plea, Kushner has continued to obstruct the grand jury investigation into the conduct of his associates at the Livingston-based Kushner Companies.“What is truly extraordinary is that Charles Kushner has failed to accept full responsibility for his outrageous criminal conduct,” wrote Christopher Christie, United States attorney for New Jersey, as lead author of the government’s 22-page sentencing memorandum. “The government does not dispute that defendant Charles Kushner has performed charitable acts,” the government’s memorandum continues. “However, these deeds do not mitigate his crimes. The 700 letters that defendant Kushner has submitted to this Court show that when defendant Kushner wanted to be good, he could be very good.“But the charges contained in the Information, to which defendant Kushner pleaded guilty in August, show more starkly that when defendant Kushner wanted to be bad, he was downright evil.”Last August, Kushner, the chair of Kushner Companies, pleaded guilty to 16 counts of assisting in the filing of false tax returns, one count of retaliating against a cooperating witness, and one count of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission. The retaliation charge surrounded charges that Kushner hired a prostitute and arranged that a videotape of her encounter with his brother-in-law, William Schulder, be sent to his wife, Esther Schulder, who is Kushner’s younger sister.The document by Kushner’s lawyers put a family feud among the Kushner siblings at the center of his plea for leniency. The memorandum alleges that after Charles and his late father, Joseph, created Kushner Companies in 1985, Joseph elected “to go into business with Charlie” but not with Charlie’s brother Murray. Murray Kushner then became a “disruptive force,” according to the memo, and enlisted Esther and William Schulder “in his effort to destroy Charlie.”The attorneys’ letter called the feud a “horrific nightmare” and said it created a case in which “there are only victims. Some clearly victimized by Charles Kushner; others, who not criminally responsible before this Court have nevertheless victimized Charles Kushner. None of the participants in this case come into or leave this saga with completely clean hands.”In a separate apology to his sister Esther dated Aug. 31, Kushner writes that “nothing excuses my conduct.”But Christie, in the government’s response, writes that Kushner’s references to his family feud suggest that he “continues to minimize his criminal conduct.” “Nothing belies defendant Kushner’s claims of remorse and contrition more than his attempt to blame his sister and his brother Murray for his videotaping plots. Indeed, defendant Kushner’s sentencing submission suggests that his victims were deserving of the humiliation and retribution that he visited upon them.“Defendant Kushner remains unable to sincerely acknowledge his culpability for the crime.”Like Judge Linares, the public will have to weigh these two very different portayals.“We share in the shame when a person in a position of leadership in the Jewish community acts in a way that is illegal and immoral,” said Rabbi Yoffie, who lives in Westfield. “His acts of tzedaka and other good deeds, no matter how admirable, do not erase the impact of his crimes. Leaders and philanthropists are not judged more lightly in our tradition; we have higher expectations of them, and they are judged more severely.”Robert Wiener can be reached at email@example.com.
http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/corruption/stories/20050113sl_kushner_letters.htmlREAD THE LETTERS See some of the letters written on behalf of Charles Kushner, asking a judge for a lenient sentence for the Livingston developer. • Kushner asks sister for forgivenesshttp://nj.com/news/ledger/widetable.ssf?/news/ledger/stories/0113page1.html• Charles Kushner (pdf)http://nj.com/news/ledger/stories/ckushner.pdf• His wife, Seryl (pdf)http://nj.com/news/ledger/stories/skushner.pdf• Alan & Brenda Freeman. Alan is a VP for Bed, Bath & Beyond (pdf)http://nj.com/news/ledger/stories/freeman.pdf• Finn Wentworth, YankeeNets president (pdf)http://nj.com/news/ledger/stories/wentworth.pdf• Marcia Feldman, W. Orange nursery school director (pdf)http://nj.com/news/ledger/stories/MarciaFeldman.pdf• Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum (pdf)http://nj.com/news/ledger/stories/RabbiZalmanGrossbaum.pdf• Rabbi Yitz Greenman (pdf)http://nj.com/news/ledger/stories/RabbiYitzGreenman.pdf• Businessmen Joseph Stein Jr. & Alfred P. Miller (pdf)http://nj.com/news/ledger/stories/Stein&Miller.pdf• Eleonore Cohen, former Livingston council member (pdf)http://nj.com/news/ledger/stories/EleonoreCohen.pdf• Bernadette Teminello, NJ educator (pdf)http://nj.com/news/ledger/stories/BernadetteTerminello.pdfKushner's write-in bid for leniency Developer asks sister's forgiveness as letters seek court's mercy Thursday, January 13, 2005BY JOHN P. MARTIN Star-Ledger Staff READ THE LETTERS See some of the letters written on behalf of Charles Kushner, asking a judge for a lenient sentence for the Livingston developer. • Kushner asks sister for forgiveness• Charles Kushner (pdf)• His wife, Seryl (pdf)• Alan & Brenda Freeman. Alan is a VP for Bed, Bath & Beyond (pdf)• Finn Wentworth, YankeeNets president (pdf)• Marcia Feldman, W. Orange nursery school director (pdf)• Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum (pdf)• Rabbi Yitz Greenman (pdf)• Businessmen Joseph Stein Jr. & Alfred P. Miller (pdf)• Eleonore Cohen, former Livingston council member (pdf)• Bernadette Teminello, NJ educator (pdf) Seeking to minimize his prison term, attorneys for convicted multimillionaire Charles Kushner yesterday released 165 letters designed to portray the disgraced developer as an extraordinarily kind-hearted citizen who has rescued strangers from death and whose life has been a near nonstop parade of good deeds. The letters include testimonials from Kushner's relatives, employees, public figures and other supporters. Two are apologies from Kushner himself -- one to his sentencing judge and the other to his sister, who helped engineer his downfall last summer after Kushner sent her a videotape of her husband having sex with a prostitute he had hired. "We were once the envy of the community and now we are a tragic story," the prominent Democrat Party donor said in the five-page missive to his sister, Esther Schulder. "Mom and Dad are crying. I visit their gravesites often and ask for their forgiveness for making them failures in death while they were such successes in life." The letters are among more than 700 filed by the defense team -- along with a 151-page memo that calls Kushner a hero, a genius, brilliant and "truly amazing" -- in a bid to persuade U.S. District Judge Jose Linares to limit Kushner's prison term to 18 months. The defense filing sparked an equally passionate response from prosecutors, who say Kushner continues to stifle an ongoing probe into his company's finances and deserves a term as stiff as 33 months. "Defendant Kushner's offenses were crimes of greed, power and excess," the three assistant U.S. attorneys wrote. "They are emblematic of an individual who believed that he had become so powerful that even the laws of the United States were no impediment to his ambition or will." They contend the letters mischaracterize a ruthless businessmen who used other people's money as his own, set up his sister's husband in a lurid sex trap and continues to obstruct the investigation into a family-run empire that owns or manages $3 billion worth of property. The government lawyers acknowledged Kushner's record of charitable contributions, but said the charges "show more starkly that when defendant Kushner wanted to be bad, he was downright evil." Their dueling submissions highlighted what has become an extraordinarily tense behind-the-scenes battle over the fate of one of the region's most prominent politically active businessmen and philanthropists. Kushner, 50, a Livingston resident and the largest individual contributor to former Gov. James E. McGreevey, admitted in August that he had cheated on his taxes and had hidden illegal campaign donations by making them in the names of his business partners. He also acknowledged that he retaliated against a cooperating FBI witness -- his sister's husband, William Schulder -- by luring Schulder into a tryst with a prostitute, then sending a tape of the encounter to the sister, Esther. His sentencing had been set for Tuesday. But acting on a request from the attorneys, Linares yesterday agreed to delay the hearing until March 4. Prosecutors complained that the Kushner Cos.' have refused to turn over documents, despite countless subpoena requests. They also cast doubt on assertions by Kushner that he has destroyed all photographs and videos of Schulder's sex tryst. First Assistant U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra told the judge the government could call about six witnesses to prove its claim in an evidentiary hearing. Kushner attorneys Benjamin Brafman, Alfred DeCotiis and Jeffrey Smith denied the allegations, but asked for more time to resolve the matter. Brafman said Kushner Cos. employees and attorneys have "moved heaven and earth" to respond to what he said was a mammoth request for records. "We're talking about enough records to fill this courthouse," he said. Linares reluctantly agreed to the request for more time. "This is the last time this matter will be adjourned," he said. Acting on a request from The Star-Ledger and the Record of Hackensack, the judge also ordered both sides to release versions of their previously sealed memos and any letters referenced in the memos. In his 28-page ruling, Linares declared that the memoranda "are indisputably judicial records" available to the public, as are letters referenced within them. Kushner's attorneys had fought to keep the letters private, contending that many were written by citizens who didn't realize their sentiments would be made public. In their memo, Kushner's attorneys said that he agreed to let his defense team file such letters only with "great reluctance," insisting instead that his philanthropy and good works remain private. But the avalanche of correspondence -- which exponentially exceeds the number of letters in a typical criminal case -- suggested that there were few people who hadn't been touched by Kushner's kindness. A janitor at the Kushner Hebrew Academy, Nymaa Abraham, wrote that Kushner paid for him to travel to see his dying, 99-year-old father in Africa. A receptionist, Crystal Johnson, reported that Kushner paid for her cancer treatment and her mother's neurosurgery. Rabbi David Helberg said that Kushner funded a worldwide search for a rare blood type to save a young mother in Chicago whom he had never met. "All of us would like to think of ourselves as good sons or daughters to our parents," his lawyers wrote. "Charlie was simply better than all of us." The letters also included correspondence from well-known New Jerseyans, from the Newark Diocese Archbishop John J. Myers, to IDT Corp. Chairman Howard Jonas, to former Newark mayoral candidate, Cory Booker. "Charlie has helped fuel my hope, as well as made me believe that even in the often questionable world of New Jersey politics, there are still spirits who don't simply act in their self interest," Booker said. The defense attorneys packed their memo with headlines such as "To Charles Kushner, Performing Acts of Kindness is Like Breathing" and "Charlie Kushner Treats Every Kushner Companies Employee with Dignity, Respect and Compassion." The first letter filed came from Seryl Kushner, his wife of 32 years. In it, she recalled that Kushner showed up on their first date holding a bouquet of "semi-dead" lavender mums. "Charlie explained that as he was walking to get his car, he saw a poor elderly woman selling the flowers on the street," Seryl Kushner wrote. "Feeling compassion for this woman, who was too proud to beg, Charlie could not help but buy all of her flowers." In their reply, prosecutors complained that the campaign to portray Kushner as saintly was audacious and inaccurate and masked a man "motivated by power, greed and a desire to wield illegitimate influence over people and events." They contended the memos and letters minimize Kushner's crime and exaggerate his philanthropy, which at times was surreptitiously funded through his partnerships and claimed as business expenses. "Giving is certainly easier when some of the money comes from unwitting business partners and can be converted into illegitimate tax benefits," said the memo by Marra, Scott Resnik and Thomas Eicher. They also argued that Kushner not only has failed to show remorse, but that he still assigns some blame to his siblings. In his letter, Kushner told the judge that his older brother Murray "tried to destroy my life" and mentions that he "could go on for pages to tell your Honor about the acts that Murray and even Esther, at Murray's insistence, have done to my own family." But Kushner concluded that such venting "would not be helpful." Instead, he asked for forgiveness. "I have spent many nights questioning how I, a religious Jew, can adequately atone for my sins," he wrote. "Incarceration will not remedy the judgement I will one day face." John P. Martin covers federal courts and law enforcement. He can be reached at (973) 622-3405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Kushner has 730 letters of support from community leaders.How many does Rabbi Slifkin have?I guess we see the community's priorities.
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