Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Update:Fake Rabbi, Jerry Heller guilty of fraud,sentenced to repay $30K, previously guilty of criminal impersonation, fired for affair with congregant


At 6:21 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

see also:


Phony rabbi ordered to pay more than $30,000
(Original publication: April 5, 2005)

NEW CITY — A Clarkstown cantor who performed thousands of weddings was sentenced yesterday to repay more than $30,000 to dozens of people who believed they were being married by a rabbi.

Jerry Heller, 72, who worked for decades in New York and New Jersey, maintained after court that he had legally married thousands of couples. He declined to comment during the sentencing.

"As far as I am concerned, every cantor in the United States is entitled to marry couples," Heller said. "I never performed a wedding that in my mind I thought was illegal. There have been thousands of marriages."

A cantor is a singer at Jewish religious services.

Heller pleaded guilty in December to first-degree scheme to defraud for performing 35 marriages between 1998 and 2002. He also signed marriage documents that certified he was a rabbi.

Rockland County Judge Kenneth Resnik sentenced Heller to five years' probation and ordered him to repay $31,237 plus interest over 54 months.

"I would have been happier if he was put behind bars," said Rob Dellagrecca, who paid Heller for his New City wedding. "If he doesn't ever perform marriages again, that's the bottom line. He still thinks he didn't do anything wrong."


'Golden voice rabbi' quits under a cloud
By Sam Leith in New York
(Filed: 07/02/2002)

A SINGING rabbi who told Jewish jokes instead of preaching a sermon has left his synagogue in New York state in acrimonious circumstances.

The congregation of the Temple Beth El in Port Jervis thought they had found the perfect rabbi when they hired Jerry Heller, 69, through a talent agency for cantors - Jewish liturgical singers.

He spoke of a showbusiness past and entranced the congregation with renditions of devotional songs to the extent that he was known as "the Rabbi with the Golden Voice".

But a bankruptcy lawyer, Vern Lazaroff, noticed that Mr Heller struggled to pronounce Hebrew words, failed to put on his prayer shawl and forgot to say a blessing before cutting the challah, traditional ceremonial bread.

Once, instead of delivering a sermon, he treated his baffled congregation to a reading from a book of Jewish jokes.

Mr Lazaroff finally hired a private detective.

He found that Mr Heller had once been sentenced to community service for criminal impersonation and had been fired from his last job as a cantor at a temple elsewhere in New York state after an affair with a member of the congregation.

Daily News (New York)
October 31, 2004 Sunday
Page 57


A 72-YEAR-OLD MAN accused of posing as a rabbi has been indicted on charges he illegally married at least 30 couples in New York and New Jersey and pocketed $25,000 in marriage fees, officials said.

Jerry Heller pleaded not guilty Thursday to 14 felony counts, including fraud and grand larceny, stemming from at least 30 marriages he presided over between November 1998 and March 2002, Rockland County District Attorney Michael Bongiorno said.

Bongiorno's office launched an investigation of Heller two years ago after he left an upstate synagogue as its cantor when his credentials and demeanor were called into question.

The probe found that Heller had submitted forged documents from rabbinical schools. "It's our position that he's not certified to perform weddings as a clergyman," Bongiorno said.

But Heller attorney Jeffrey Schwartz said Heller was certified by a rabbinical institute that existed even before the formation of Israel in 1948.

"The DA believes that because this institute doesn't exist today, and because of that, they believe it never existed," Schwartz told The Journal News in Westchester County. "The reason the DA doesn't believe he is a rabbi and a cantor is out of ignorance."

Heller's victims said his faked credentials cause them pain and confusion.

"He caused a lot of anguish in my life," said Steven Lazan, 46, whose June 1999 wedding to his wife, Lori, in Harrison, Westchester County, was performed by Heller.

"My initial reaction was a little bit of humor, because I never felt that I wasn't married anyway. But my wife is more religious, and she felt terribly defrauded," Lazan said.

The couple was remarried by a local rabbi last year after learning Heller's credentials were under scrutiny.

"I'm not sure jail time would be the right thing," Lazan said of Heller's potential punishment. "Community service and personal apologies to the people that he defrauded would be the best thing."

At 6:45 PM, Blogger TRES CEE said...

i am not sure that is all bad,


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