Daily Israel Report

Prison Rabbi Resigns for Bar Mitzvah Behind Bars

What's wrong with dancing the hora and eating herring at a bar mitzvah? Not when it's held in jail. The rabbi who organized the party resigned.
By Avraham Zuroff
First Publish: 6/18/2009, 6:39 AM

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The jailhouse rabbi who organized a lavish bar mitzvah party for a convict’s son has resigned. Rabbi Leib Glanz, a part-time corrections rabbi, organized a bar mitzvah for the son of Tuvia Stern, who is serving time for grand larceny charges. More than 60 guests attended a catered party in the prison’s gymnasium, where they danced the hora and heard religious entertainer Yaakov Shwekey sing at the Manhattan Detention Center.

Guests were allowed to bring their cell phones and use metal forks and knives, both violations of prison policy.

Rabbi Chaim David Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, said that Glanz’s treatment was due to his being "gold-hearted." Rabbi Zwiebel added, "He has a long track record of humanitarian work on behalf of the community."

Media reports that a Muslim chaplain, Imam Umar Abdul-Jalil, assisted Rabbi Glanz in preparing the bar mitzvah arrangements. In 2006, Abdul-Jalil was suspended for two weeks for making a speech in which he said, “The greatest terrorists in the world are in the White House” and for remarks about “Zionists in the media.” Despite Abdul-Jalil’s anti-Zionist stance, he apparently had a soft spot for bar mitzvah parties, which typically include herring and potato kugel.

The party was held in December and it only became recently known through an anonymous letter to the city’s Department of Investigation, a watchdog organization. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that there was probably a misjudgment and the city is investigating. “Oy vey, as they say,” the Jewish mayor of 'the Big Apple' said on his weekly radio show.