CHOSEN PEOPLE RAN THE TOMBS
By DAN MANGAN, NY Post
Jail chaplain Rabbi Leib Glanz wielded such power that correction officers who crossed him or any of the favored Jewish inmates would get transferred from the Tombs at his behest, a former inmate and officers told The Post.
"If an inmate had a problem with an officer, that problem disappeared -- that officer wasn't there anymore," said ex-con Robert Feder, 50, who did a stint in the Tombs last summer. "This was standard procedure."
And the politically connected Glanz called the shots even when it came to which correction officers were posted near his office, where the rabbi allowed observant Jewish inmates to hang out unsupervised, Feder said.
"They didn't supervise us. We did what we wanted to do," Feder said. "The rabbi controlled the whole jail."
Several correction officers backed up Feder's account, which emerged after Glanz resigned for organizing a bar mitzvah in the lower-Manhattan jail for an inmate's son.
"He's had people transferred before -- just for telling him no. Because they were doing their job," said one officer who asked to not be identified.
A retired mid-level Tombs supervisor said: "We knew we couldn't fight Glanz. He did whatever he wanted."
The retiree said Glanz could get officers transferred to Rikers Island.
Glanz and other Correction brass are being investigated for the bar mitzvah and for the rabbi's coddling of Jewish inmates. Glanz's lawyer had no comment for this article. "I have never run into what I saw at the Tombs," Feder said about his decade in New York prisons and jails.
"These guys [inmates] lived like King Farouk," said Feder, who has done time for assault, attempted burglary and attempted forgery.
"Other guys were placing bets at racetracks and calling bookies" in Glanz's office, where inmates also enjoyed "TVs, DVDs, video . . . complete cable," Feder said. Glanz regularly treated the inmates to food "from fancy restaurants," Feder said. "I never ate so good in my life."
When he was transferred to an upstate prison, Feder said, Glanz "was very kind to call the rabbi [at that prison] to arrange transportation."
When he arrived at the prison, "there was the rabbi standing there, waiting for me," Feder said. "I felt like John Gotti."
Additional reporting by Perry Chiaramonte
Here is today's NY Times report, which seems to heavily borrow from last week's Forward's report posted below it:
A Rabbi With Earthly Connection
By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM, NY Times
The Satmar rabbis, with graying beards and long black coats, crowded around a dining room table in Williamsburg that was heavy with fruit and rugelach cookies.
Their guests were the new superintendent of the New York State Police and State Senator Eric Adams, who represents a nearby Brooklyn neighborhood.
The mood was festive, the banter lively, but to the point.
Senator Adams, a Democrat, said he hoped his governor, David A. Paterson, would have the community’s support when he runs for election in 2010.
Rabbi Leib Glanz responded for the Satmars, a Hasidic sect. He told the senator that the Satmars had a history of helping elect African-American candidates, citing an instance when they even backed one over a Jew. Then he praised the governor, who he noted had succeeded Eliot Spitzer “without an election.”
In this, Rabbi Glanz said, he saw the hand of God.
“You know,” he said, in a voice that blended the inflection of Yiddish with the cadence of Brooklyn, “God works in mysterious ways.”
The spring 2008 meeting, captured on video, provides a sense of the style and reach of Rabbi Glanz, who resigned last week as a part-time city chaplain after it was revealed he had arranged a lavish six-hour bar mitzvah party in a New York City jail for the son of a prisoner.
To the uninitiated, Rabbi Glanz’s ability to pull off such an outlandish event may seem wondrous. Certainly, concern over how the celebration came to be authorized, as it was by top Correction Department officials, has resulted in multiple investigations.
But interviews and city records show that Rabbi Glanz has a long history of access and influence, of seeking favors and performing them, and of acting as a liaison between the insular world of the Satmars and elected officials.
For two decades, he has been something of a Satmar master of ceremonies, arranging official tours of the community, based in Williamsburg, translating Yiddish for political leaders, charming mayors and their aides with gifts, then soliciting money and support for his sect’s priorities.
A rumpled 51-year-old who often juggles cellphones and has favored a sport utility vehicle equipped with lights and sirens, Rabbi Glanz was on the tarmac when Bob Dole landed in New York in 1996 as the Republican presidential nominee. He was invited to the V.I.P. suite when Rudolph W. Giuliani was elected mayor — he invited Mr. Giuliani to his Williamsburg home several times — and he once had a standing Friday meeting with Mr. Giuliani’s chief of staff.
Rabbi Glanz’s star dimmed after the death of the Satmar grand rebbe in 2006, when a split in the Satmar leadership left his role in the community somewhat diminished.
But in the last four months of last year, Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, who handles political relationships for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, met three times with the rabbi, who also found a way to regularly park in the correction commissioner’s spot at the Manhattan jail where he worked.
Nothing about Rabbi Glanz and his penchant for favor trading became an issue until this year, when it was disclosed that he had arranged for roughly 60 guests to celebrate, in jail, an important event in the life of an Orthodox prisoner convicted in a $1.7 million fraud. The prisoner, Tuvia Stern, had been a fugitive for nearly two decades, hiding out in South America. Along with the guests, a special feast and a singer made it into the city jail system.
“Pushing the envelope was always his thing, but I don’t think he was a guy who intended to cause people any harm,” said Michael A. Fragin, who worked in Jewish communities for Mr. Bloomberg’s 2005 campaign. “This is the problem: He always erred on the side of helping a little bit too much.”
Indeed, the bar mitzvah celebration seemed to breach not only security, but the sense of equal treatment that jails must maintain to avoid inmate unrest. City investigators and Manhattan prosecutors are reviewing the matter, along with the rabbi’s role in the transfer of Jewish prisoners from Rikers Island to the more hospitable Manhattan jail, known as the Tombs, where he worked.
The rabbi, Mr. Fragin said, “is the type of person who would go anywhere any time to help somebody — I would never question his motivations, even in this case,” adding that he helped Jews and gentiles alike.
The rabbi, through several intermediaries, and his lawyer, Richard A. Finkel, both declined to be interviewed.
One part of the rabbi’s success is his ability to interpret for outsiders a highly ordered world of prayer and study that governs everything from clothing to the separation between men and women.
“If you’re going up Everest,” Mr. Fragin noted, “you need a guide. If you want to get inside — politically, governmentally — the Hasidic community, you need a guy like Glanz to help you along.”
Rabbi Glanz, several associates said, is known for his warm words and his willingness to show up wherever and whenever to help people in need.
But another core reason for his success is his ability to leverage access into power, to convert his role as a spokesman for the Satmars — the largest Hasidic sect and one known to vote reliably and, some say, uniformly — into a tool of political alliances and favors.
Several current and former Correction Department officials have said the rabbi’s ability to win special treatment for Hasidic and other Orthodox inmates was partly rooted in the perception that he had political influence — in the agency and at City Hall — that could help their careers, a perception that they said he went to some lengths to foster.
Many of Rabbi Glanz’s associates agree that he is a gifted administrator, a master of logistics. He arranged for ferries that carried 10,000 Satmars from Williamsburg to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center for the sect’s annual dinner in 1997. His standing in the jail system is, in many ways, a response to the fact that he does things, like hold rooftop barbecues, for correction officers and their superiors.
Rabbi Glanz’s route into public life began in the mid-1980s when he ran the bus system for Satmar yeshivas. By 1989, he was running the entire school system, the United Talmudical Academy, a $35 million operation that served 8,000 children in 17 separate buildings.
He was eventually forced out of that job and allied with a less powerful Satmar faction, but one that retains power.
That power was evident in the spring of 2008 at the meeting with the new state police superintendent, recorded by the Yeshiva World News Web site, when Senator Adams asked the Satmar to back Governor Paterson.
“We have to make sure we give him all the support he has so he can stay our governor,” the senator said. “As long as he’s our governor, and I’m your senator, this community will be blessed.”
The group, including Rabbi Glanz, broke into applause.
Now the Forward's report published last week:
Posh Prison Parties Just the Latest Act for Satmar Power Broker
By Nathaniel Popper, The Forward
Published June 17, 2009, issue of June 26, 2009.
Long before he managed to organize a lavish bar mitzvah inside a New York City jail, Rabbi Leib Glanz developed a reputation for making things happen within New York’s ultra-Orthodox Satmar community.
“He’s involved in any and every situation,” said Moshe Indig, a Satmar community leader. “You name it, he’s involved in it.”
Those favors caught up with Glanz when the New York Post published a series of articles about the extras that Glanz had given to Jewish inmates in New York City prisons. The most explosive allegation is that Glanz helped a Satmar inmate hold lavish parties inside the Manhattan Detention Center for his son’s bar mitzvah and his daughter’s engagement.
In the wake of the allegations and with a city investigation under way, Glanz resigned his post as a prison chaplain — but he will not have to give up his numerous positions inside the Satmar community, helping religious agencies win money and good will from elected officials. The case shines a spotlight on the internal workings of the Satmar community and the backroom deals that have turned Glanz into such a revered figure in large segments of his community.
“Your average Hasidic person or business just doesn’t have great tools to deal with the outside world effectively,” said Michael Fragin, a Jewish political consultant in New York. “Here’s a guy who can be a very effective advocate.”
Glanz’s background has been somewhat of a mystery since stories emerged about his work as a prison chaplain. An article in The New York Times quoted many city officials who were aware of Glanz’s influence in the prison system, but the article noted that none of the officials “could say from where such power might emanate.” The intrigue was ramped up when news emerged that Glanz had regular meetings with New York’s deputy mayor, Kevin Sheekey.
In fact, Glanz carried a dizzying array of titles in his Satmar community — the largest ultra-Orthodox community in the world — at the same time that he held the city job of prison chaplain. He has been a manager of one of the biggest Satmar real estate projects, while holding leadership roles in two of the largest Satmar social service organizations and leading fundraisers for city officials.
Gershom Schlesinger, another Satmar leader who is close to Glanz, said, “Everyone knows Rabbi Glanz is the most important person in the community.”
While some dispute that description, in the 1980s Glanz was a big deal, leading the central school system for the Satmar community. Glanz left his position as administrator of Brooklyn’s United Talmudical Academy in 2000, under circumstances that remain murky to many observers and that almost no one wanted to discuss.
“It was inside politics,” Indig said.
Glanz did not respond to e-mails requesting comment.
Glanz’s influence is best understood in terms of the divided politics of the movement. Since the death in 2006 of the Satmar Grand Rebbe, Moses Teitelbaum, the Satmar community has been divided between two of Teitelbaum’s sons who claim to be the new chief rabbi.
Glanz initially was affiliated with the younger of these two sons, Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum, who has his power base in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. After leaving the United Talmudical Academy, Glanz switched his support to the other son, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, whose supporters are based in the upstate New York town of Kiryas Joel.
Some say that Glanz’s affiliation with Aaron Teitelbaum led to trouble for him in his prison chaplain’s job.
“Supposedly, I hear rumors that some of the Zallies were talking against him,” said Isaac Weinberger, an Aaron supporter, using a nickname for Zalman Teitelbaum. “They couldn’t take that he became so powerful on our side, and they wanted to get rid of him.”
Supporters of Zalman vehemently deny this, and reports indicate that the agency that runs the prison chaplaincy was riven by political infighting.
In recent years, though, Glanz has become an increasingly important aide to Aaron Teitelbaum. Schlesinger, a leader in the Aaron faction, said that Glanz has become a Brooklyn emissary for Aaron, who lives upstate.
“He is kind of the ambassador for the rabbi in Williamsburg,” said Schlesinger, who is on the board of a social service organization that is affiliated with Aaron.
Glanz has been central in building up a new infrastructure for Aaron’s community in Brooklyn. At the same time, he has been seen as a political fixer. A number of political insiders said that it was Glanz who arranged last fall for Aaron’s followers to support Daniel Squadron, a young upstart candidate for State Senate who ran against, and eventually beat, a veteran incumbent backed by Zalman’s supporters.
“That was a very shrewd political move on Glanz’s part,” Fragin said. “In the political community, Glanz is a go-to guy. He’s a guy that you want to know — who you gotta know — who will always be helpful.”
But even before his problems as a chaplain, Glanz’s mixture of roles was not working seamlessly. Last year, a new social service organization headed by Glanz and aligned with Aaron won a $205,000 grant from the New York City Council. In the end, the grant was withdrawn because Glanz’s organization had not been set up properly.
Glanz’s position in the midst of these power politics was evident in the scrambling by others to respond to his problems. Most non-Satmar Jewish officials declined to comment on Glanz for fear of offending Satmar leaders. At the same time, the leading ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization, Agudath Israel of America, drafted a letter in support of Glanz.
The draft of the letter, which had not been sent out as of press time, said that Glanz may have crossed lines but that the signatories to the letter “have no doubt that any such improprieties were nothing more than lapses of judgment; and that they emanated from a good place, a heart overflowing with empathy and concern.”
The bar mitzvah that Glanz helped to organize in the Manhattan prison known as the Tombs was for Tuvia Stern, a fellow Satmar adherent who is in jail on charges of bank fraud and fleeing the country.
Glanz was questioned by the New York City Department of Investigation, and his resignation came a day after a longtime Corrections Department chief, Peter Curcio, who was responsible for security in the jails, resigned.
Catered kosher food and silverware were brought into the prison gymnasium, according to press reports, and a popular Hasidic singer performed for the guests. Among Satmar leaders, the bar mitzvah is seen as the highest achievement in a life of helping others.
“It’s the best of the best that any public servant could have done,” Schlesinger said. “The rabbi believes that part of the rehabilitation of an inmate should be a very close family connection — which we all stand for. We are a close-knit community.”