Jewish-Israeli citizen arrested after saying he helps find Palestinians who sell land to Jews

A left-wing Jewish-Israeli activist who was recorded saying he helps Palestinian authorities find and kill Palestinians who sell land to Jews was arrested.

Israeli Police arrested Ezra Nawi, 63, at Ben Gurion International Airport on Monday as he attempted to leave the country for a destination in Europe. He is to be investigated on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a crime.

No order had been issued barring him from leaving the country and he had not been called in for questioning before his arrest, the Times of Israel reported.

In a recording aired Thursday by the television program “Uvda” on Israel’s Channel 2, Nawi is heard speaking about four Palestinian real-estate sellers whom he said mistook him for a Jew interested in buying their property.

“Straight away I give their pictures and phone numbers to the Preventive Security Force,” Nawi, a far-left activist from the pro-Palestinian Taayush group, is heard saying in reference to the Palestinian Authority’s counterintelligence arm. “The Palestinian Authority catches them and kills them. But before it kills them, they get beat up a lot.”

In the Palestinian Authority, the penal code reserves capital punishment for anyone convicted of selling land to Jews. The law, which Palestinian officials defended as designed to prevent takeovers by settlers, has not been implemented in Palestinian courts, where sellers of land to Jews are usually sentenced to several years in prison. However, in recent years several Palestinian have been murdered for selling land. Their murders have remained unsolved.

Nawi was also documented obtaining information from a Palestinian who believed Nawi was a Jew interested in purchasing land. Nawi is seen saying he intends to give the information to Palestinian security officials as well. According to “Uvda,” an activist with the human rights group B’Tselem helped Nawi set up the would-be seller in a sting operation in which the seller would be arrested.

The recordings and footage were collected by right-wing activists who secretly recorded Nawi.

Nawi, who was born in Jerusalem to a family of Jewish Iraqi immigrants, had denied trying to entrap the land broker.

Silver’s arrest a 2nd strike for N.Y. Orthodox power brokers

To critics of Albany’s culture of political corruption, the sight of the powerful longtime speaker of New York’s State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, getting arrested Thursday may have been a sign that even the state’s most powerful politicians are not immune from the long hand of the law.

For New York Jews, the arrest marked the second time in less than 18 months that one of the state’s most visible and well-connected Orthodox Jews was taken into custody on corruption charges.

In fact, the two figures are deeply connected.

The first, William Rapfogel, the longtime CEO of New York’s Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, was arrested in September 2013 for involvement in a kickbacks scheme. He pleaded guilty to helping fleece more than $9 million from the charity, including $1 million that he pocketed himself, and was sentenced last July to 3 ½ years in prison and ordered to pay $3 million in restitution.

Rapfogel’s wife, Judy Rapfogel, is Silver’s chief of staff. After her husband’s arrest, Judy Rapfogel claimed she had no knowledge of her husband’s criminal malfeasance, and she remained on Silver’s staff.

Silver and William Rapfogel lived in the same neighborhood and went to the same shul, the Bialystoker Synagogue on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The two men often sat together in the sanctuary on Shabbat morning, though in recent years Silver began going to the early minyan on Saturday mornings, a neighborhood insider who declined to be identified told JTA.

Rapfogel’s eldest son, Michael Rapfogel, works for real estate developer Bruce Ratner, who has been on the receiving end of numerous favorable decisions by the Public Authorities Control Board, over which Silver has significant control. In 2006, Silver’s intervention helped secure a lucrative tax break for Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, even though that tax break actually was being phased out, The New York Times reported.

The criminal complaint filed this week against Silver by the U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges that Silver was “on retainer to a mammoth real estate developer” while his office was passing legislation affecting that developer’s business, meeting with lobbyists paid for by the developer and “deliberately keeping secret from the public any information about this lucrative side-deal, in violation of the law.” The complaint does not identify the real estate developer by name.

The heart of the charge against Silver is that he received nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for his official acts – especially in matters relating to real estate and health care funding — and that he hid the money by disguising it as income from a law practice focused on personal injury matters.

Silver amassed a tremendous personal fortune through the abuse of political power, Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.

“As today’s charges make clear, the show-me-the-money culture of Albany has been perpetuated and promoted at the very top of the political food chain,” Bharara said.

“And as the charges also show, the greedy art of secret self-reward was practiced with particular cleverness and cynicism by the speaker himself,” he said. “Politicians are supposed to be on the people’s payroll, not on secret retainer to wealthy special interests they do favors for.”

Silver, 70, faces two counts of honest services fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, one count of extortion under color of official right and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. Each of the five counts carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Honest services fraud refers to the failure to provide the public with honest services, usually due to bribes or kickbacks.

Silver denied the allegations, saying, “I hope I’ll be vindicated,” before surrendering to authorities Thursday morning, according to The New York Times. His lawyers called the criminal charges “meritless.”

Silver has been honored by Jewish federations, the Council of Jewish Organizations and a host of organizations associated with various ethnic groups in New York City, hospitals and lower Manhattan, where Silver lives. Silver also received an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University, from which he graduated college in 1965.

Silver also was a mainstay of New York legislative missions to Israel. The Facebook page of the National Association of Jewish Legislators features of a photo from last August of Silver flanked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in front of Jerusalem’s Big Apple Pizza shop. In the shot, the salt-and-pepper-haired Silver wears a big smile. Around New York, the speaker is better known for his heavy jowls, deep baritone, laconic speech and hard stares.

This is not the first time Silver has found himself caught up in a scandal. But, as with the Rapfogel scheme, Silver has been more of a peripheral figure to scandal rather than the main act.

Twice, Silver came under heavy fire for mishandling of allegations of sexual misbehavior against associates.

In 2012, Silver paid more than $100,000 to settle with two women who claimed they were sexually harassed by State Assemblyman Vito Lopez of Brooklyn. Silver never disclosed the payments or the allegations to the assembly’s ethics committee. Then, later that year, two additional women came forward with public allegations that Lopez groped, intimidated and manipulated them. That prompted disclosures about Silver’s secret settlement with the first two women.

Silver stripped Lopez of several senior positions and acknowledged that “mistakes were made” in failing to disclose the initial allegations to the ethics committee, but, as he had many times over the years, ignored calls that he step down. Lopez resigned the following year.

In 2001, one of Silver’s staffers, Elizabeth Crothers, came to him claiming that she had been raped by Silver’s top legal aide, Michael Boxley. Silver’s response was to put out a statement support Boxley. Crothers never filed a criminal charge, and internal assembly investigation was inconclusive. But in 2003 Boxley was charged with rape by another female staffer, and eventually pleaded guilty to a sexual misdemeanor charge. And in 2006, Silver and assembly leaders paid $500,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by an unnamed woman who accused Silver of bungling the Crothers allegations and abiding a culture of sexual harassment in the assembly.

After Silver apologized for making mistakes in the Lopez case, Crothers told the N.Y. Daily News that Silver needed to do more than apologize.

“People are saying he apologized and admitted he made a mistake,” Crothers said to the newspaper in May 2013. “How many times do you get to do it? When is the tipping point? We all make mistakes and there are consequences to them. Silver hasn’t gotten any of the consequences.”

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Randi Weingarten arrested at Garner protest

Several prominent rabbis and the president of a national teachers union were arrested Thursday night while protesting police brutality.

Rabbis Sharon Kleinbaum, Jill Jacobs and Shai Held, along with Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, were taken into custody for blocking traffic to protest a grand jury’s decision not to indict the New York police officer who choked Staten Island resident Eric Garner to death. The protests, held on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, were organized by the group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.

Kleinbaum is the longtime rabbi at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the country’s largest LGBT synagogue, and is also Weingarten’s partner. Directly before the protest, she was honored by JFREJ with a Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker Award at nearby Congregation B’nai Jeshurun.

Attendees at the ceremony read the names of more than 20 black males who had been killed by New York police, followed by the phrase, “I am responsible.” They then marched to the nearby intersection at 96th Street and Broadway — blocking traffic and holding protest signs.

Protesters recited the Mourner’s Kaddish along with chants and songs. (A video of the group saying Kaddish can be seen here.)

Jacobs is the executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and a prominent social activist. Arrestee Held is co-founder and dean of the educational organization Mechon Hadar and teaches at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary.

Ten women arrested at Western Wall for praying with prayer shawls

Ten women participating in a women's prayer service with hundreds of worshippers and supporters at the Western Wall were arrested for wearing prayer shawls.

Those arrested Monday morning included Israeli-American Rabbi Susan Silverman, sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, and her 17-year-old daughter Hallel Abramovitz; Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of the Women of the Wall, who has been arrested several times in recent months; and two U.S. rabbis, Debra Cantor of B'nai Tikvoh-Sholom in Bloomfield, Conn., and Robin Fryer Bodzin of the Israel Center of Conservative Judaism in Queens, NY.

The women had gathered at the back of the women's section, as they have at the beginning of every new Jewish month since 1988, for Rosh Chodesh services for the new Jewish month of Adar. It was the largest number of participants for the monthly event since its inception, organizers told Israeli media.

The women were joined on the other side of the mechitza, the barrier which separates the sexes at the Wall, by a number of male supporters, including six former Israel Defense Forces paratroopers who had been among those that liberated the Western Wall during the Six Day War in 1967.  One of the paratroopers was Dr. Yitzhak Yifat of Jerusalem, who is famous as one of the three paratroopers in the iconic photograph of three soldiers standing at the Western Wall shortly after its liberation. Yifat is the middle paratrooper in the photo by David Rubinger.

The arrests reportedly were made at the end of service, after most of the participants and media had left the Western Wall Plaza. Police had stood on the sidelines as the women prayed and then danced in a circle holding their prayer shawls, according to Haaretz.

The women's prayer group moved its Torah reading from the Wall to outside the Old City of Jerusalem police department, where the arrested women were taken.

In 2003, Israel's Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallit prayer shawls, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall.

Women participating in the Rosh Chodesh service have been arrested nearly every month since June for wearing prayer shawls or for “disturbing public order.”

Jewish school teacher arrested on possession of child pornography

A teacher at a Jewish elementary school in the New York area has been arrested on charges of possessing child pornography.

Evan Zauder, a sixth grade teacher at the Modern Orthodox school Yeshivat Noam in Paramus, N.J., was arrested after the FBI reportedly raided his Manhattan department and discovered on his computer hundreds of images and videos of boys engaged in sex acts. His bail hearing is set for Friday. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and a maximum fine of $250,000.

The Forward reported that Rabbi Chaim Hagler, principal of Yeshivat Noam, was unavailable for comment, but issued a statement to parents May 2 stating that the school had “no reason to believe that any of our students are in any way involved or directly affected.”

Zauder is also a rabbinical student at Yeshiva University. The Forward quoted Y.U.‘s spokesman, Mayer Fertig, as saying that he was “saddened and dismayed” by the charges.

Following the news of Zauder’s arrest, Rabbi Shaul Feldman, director of the U.S. and Canadian wing of the Orthodox youth movement Bnei Akiva, issued a mass email message to parents informing them about the arrest and Zauder’s stint the past two summers as a head counselor on the organization’s Israel summer tour. “We learned of this arrest in the news and have not been contacted by the authorities,” Feldman said. “This arrest is not related to his employment at Bnei Akiva and we have no reason to believe any inappropriate behavior occurred while he was employed in any of our programs or camps.”

UPDATE: Shooter of Trayvon Martin arrested, charged with murder

A Florida prosecutor filed a murder charge on Wednesday against the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed unarmed, black teenager Trayvon Martin in a case that has captivated the United States and prompted civil rights demonstrations.

George Zimmerman, 28, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Martin, according to Angela Corey, the special prosecutor appointed by Florida’s governor to investigate the racially charged case.

Corey said at a news conference on Wednesday that Zimmerman turned himself in to authorities, who then arrested him. He remains in police custody.

Zimmerman, who is white Hispanic, said he acted in self-defense during a confrontation in a gated community in the central Florida city of Sanford on Feb. 26. Police declined to arrest Zimmerman, citing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people to use deadly force when they believe they are in danger of getting killed or suffering great bodily harm.

The shooting that took place 45 days ago received only scant local media attention at first and went unnoticed nationally until Martin’s parents and lawyers kept making public calls for Zimmerman’s arrest, eventually leading to a fire storm of media coverage, and celebrity tweets, and a comment from President Barack Obama: “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”

The disputed facts of the case have been picked apart endlessly by television commentators while dominating the headlines and reigniting a national discussion about guns, self-defense laws and what it means to be black in America.

Zimmerman went into hiding shortly after the shooting.

Zimmerman’s relatives and supporters say he is not racist and has been unfairly vilified. They said he feared for his life during his altercation with Martin and was justified in using deadly force.

Suspect arrested in mosque arson

Police have arrested an 18-year-old Jewish male in connection with the arson of a mosque in a Bedouin Arab town in northern Israel.

Police confirmed that they made the arrest several hours after the attack and that the suspect since then has been held in prison, according to reports.

The mosque in Tuba-Zangariyye was set alight Oct. 2, destroying holy books and prayer rugs.

Graffiti, including the words “price tag” and “Palmer,” were spray-painted on the walls of the mosque.

Price tag refers to the strategy that extremist settlers have adopted to exact a price in attacks on Palestinians in retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or for Palestinian attacks on Jews. Palmer likely refers to Israeli Asher Palmer, who was killed Sept. 23 along with his infant son after a rock thrown in an apparent terrorist attack crashed through the windshield of his car, causing him to lose control of the vehicle, which then flipped over.

Israeli and Jewish leaders around the world, as well as the governments of several countries, condemned the arson attack. 

A U.S. State Department statement Tuesday “strongly” condemning the arson noted “that the Israeli Government also strongly condemned the attacks, and we endorse stepped-up efforts by law enforcement authorities to act vigorously to bring to justice those responsible for this heinous act and similar attacks that have taken place in the West Bank.”

Major U.S. Jewish groups, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the foreign policy umbrella body, also have condemned the arson.

A New Israel Fund appeal to Jewish clergy to condemn the mosque’s burning and to thank Israel’s leadership for speaking out against it garnered nearly 400 signatures within three hours.

Moshav resident arrested for accidentally starting Jerusalem fire

A moshav resident was arrested on suspicion of starting a forest fire that led to the evacuation of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum.

The fire was likely started by accident as the man, who lives near Jerusalem, burned garbage in his backyard and the wind carried the flames away. The man’s age, 50, was given but his name was withheld.

Arson originally had been suspected since the fire appeared to have started in several locations.

The fire was under control by Sunday night after burning nearly 40 acres of the Jerusalem Forest and forcing the evacuation of Yad Vashem and some streets in Jerusalem neighborhoods. It reportedly began in four areas of the forest simultaneously on Sunday afternoon, leading to the arson suspicion.

Twenty-three firefighting units and 60 firefighters from the Jewish National Fund, as well as four firefighting planes, fought the fire. At least five people were treated for smoke inhalation, according to reports.

The fire approached the Har Nof and Bayit Vegan neighborhoods of Jerusalem and an oil refinery. Some homes were evacuated as a precaution and the area around the refinery was secured. Yad Vashem employees reportedly were prepared for an emergency evacuation of the museum’s most important artifacts, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The Israeli military was mobilized to help battle the blaze.

Islamic Movement head Salah arrested in Britain

The head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, was arrested in London while on a speaking tour and will be deported.

Salah reportedly entered the country despite being banned from travel to Britain due to his anti-Semitic views.

Britain’s Home Office told reporters that a full investigation has been launched to discover how he entered the country, and that steps were being take to deport him.

“Since Salah received the invitation to come to Britain, the Jewish lobby went crazy and did everything in its power to prevent the visit, so that the Zionist narrative remains the only narrative,” the Islamic Movement said in a statement.

Salah reportedly was arrested late Tuesday night in London following a lecture. He was scheduled to speak in Wednesday night at a program at the Houses of Parliament that had been widely advertised, according to Al-Jazeera. .

Salah was jailed in Israel in 2010 for spitting at an Israeli policeman. He was also detained last year after participating in the Gaza-bound flotilla.

Australian man arrested in Israel for spying for Hamas

An Australian citizen was arrested by Israel and charged with spying for Hamas.

Iaad Rashid Abu Arja, 46, a computer expert, was indicted in Petah Tikvah District Court last week, accused of being recruited by the banned Islamic organization.

Israeli prosecutors allege Abu Arja, who holds dual Australian and Saudi citizenship, was asked to provide intelligence and surveillance information on key technology companies in Israel. He also holds a Jordanian passport.

Hamas believes the Israeli companies are developing technology to intercept missiles fired from Gaza.

The indictment, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, says: “The main purpose of the visit to Israel was to see how easily he gets in and out. He was asked as a computer man to meet local companies (involved in developing Israel’s anti-missile technology), to photograph them and to get maps with directions to these companies.”

It also alleges he contacted Hamas while living in Australia in 2007 and went to Syria in 2008 for military training. Last year he allegedly went to Saudi Arabia where he met a senior Hamas official who asked him to test whether he could easily enter Israel.

Abu Arja was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport when he tried to enter the country last month. He is due to appear in court in June.

Hamas’s military wing is proscribed in Australia.

N.J. man arrested for threatening ADL official

A New Jersey man with ties to neo-Nazi organizations was arrested and charged with threatening an Anti-Defamation League official.

A New Jersey man with ties to neo-Nazi organizations was arrested and charged with threatening the director of the New York regional office of the Anti-Defamation League.

Jacques Pluss, 57, of Ridgewood was arrested Wednesday by New Jersey State Police following a SWAT team raid on his apartment, according to reports.

Pluss was charged with bias intimidation and harassment, and for weapons possession after he was found to possess three rifles despite a restraining order that prohibits him from owning weapons. He also frequently visited neo-Nazi websites, police told the Ridgewood News.

He allegedly sent several threats to the director of the New York regional office of the Anti-Defamation League.

Holocaust archives volunteer arrested for document theft

A volunteer at a private Holocaust archives in Texas was arrested for stealing documents and selling them online.

Mansal Denton, 20, was a volunteer for a year-and-a-half at the Mazal Holocaust Library in San Antonio of the largest privately held Holocaust archives in the world, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Retired Mexico City businessman Harry Mazal, 73, owns the archives. He reportedly spent $1 million collecting the documents.

While scanning documents to post on the archive’s website, Denton allegedly stole the documents. In December, Mazal found some of the missing documents for sale by Denton on line. 

Denton continued to return to the archives until last week. He was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree felony theft.

Among the items Denton is believed to have stolen, the Chronicle reported, were a handwritten letter by Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler, a diary kept by Himmler’s daughter and documents related to the Nuremberg War Crimes trials.

Israeli Bedouin arrested for rape by deception

An Israeli Bedouin was arrested on charges of rape and impersonating a Jewish pilot.

The man, 43, is an Israel Air Forces reserves officer from northern Israel who reportedly is married with children and comes from a prominent Bedouin family, Haaretz reported. A gag order issued Sunday by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court prevents him from being identified.

Three women filed complaints against the man, who identified himself as Daniel Tamir and said he was an Israeli Air Force pilot on his profile for the dating service Love Me.

None of the women accused him of assaulting them. A fourth woman is due to be questioned by police, Haaretz reported.

He is being charged with rape based on a 2008 ruling by Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein that rape can be charged in instances where a women had sex with a man due to misrepresentations he made about himself.

The man told police he never told the women he was Jewish or a pilot. He also said that the women misrepresented themselves; for example, one of the women, 59, said in her profile that she was 42.

Last July, a Jerusalem court sentenced Sabbar Kashur, 30, an Arab from Jerusalem, to 18 months in prison as part of a plea bargain for rape by deception. Kashur was accused of introducing himself as a Jewish bachelor seeking a serious relationship in order to have sex with a Jewish woman.

Teen arrested after admitting to starting Israeli fire

A 14-year-old resident of the Druze village of Ussfiya was arrested after admitting to starting the fire that destroyed much of the Carmel Forest.

The teen reportedly said he was smoking a nargila water pipe and threw a live coal into an open area before returning to school.

The arrest was announced hours after two teenage brothers from the same village arrested over the weekend on suspicion of negligence in starting the fire were released from detention by a Haifa court. The teens had been accused of lighting a bonfire near their home that sparked the blaze.

Also Monday, the number of Israelis killed in the fire rose to 42 with the death of Haifa Police Chief Ahuva Tomer.

Thousands attended the Monday afternoon funeral of Tomer, the police chief since March 2009 and the highest-ranking female officer in the Israel Police.

She was burned over 90 percent of her body last week after trying to assist prison guard cadets riding in a bus that caught fire while on its way to evacuate a prison in the path of the blaze. Most of the bus passengers and three volunteer rescuers died in the fire in northern Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ordered the Finance Ministry to provide nearly $700 immediately to each member of families who will be prevented from returning to their damaged homes for at least the next month.

The funds are designated for basic, emergency necessities such as clothing and shoes, and school supplies.

The allocation came during a special Knesset hearing on the fire and its consequences, which opened with a moment of silence.

Later in the day, Netanyahu ordered the creation of a national firefighting command under the authority of the Prime Minister’s Office.

He also appointed Netanya Mayor Miriam Fierberg to head a task force in charge of managing assistance for those whose homes were damaged in the fires.

Worker employed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s wife is arrested

Israeli police arrested a foreign worker accused of being employed illegally by Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s wife.

The Filipina, known as Virginia, was arrested Sunday in Tel Aviv in a joint raid with the Oz immigration unit, Haaretz reported.

Barak’s wife, Nili Priel, admitted last week that she had illegally employed a foreign worker a year after it was revealed that the woman worked as a housekeeper in the Barak-Priel household.

The woman had been employed legally in Israel as a caretaker, but remained cleaning houses after her license expired, according to reports.

Priel made her confession after the case was closed for lack of evidence. The case was reopened recently by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein shortly before the worker was arrested. She was located by a reporter for Israel Radio.

Priel’s request that she be levied a fine in order to end the case was rejected. A full investigation is now in the offing.

Report: Defeated Ahmadinejad rival arrested in Iran

Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi was reportedly arrested Saturday following the reformist’s defeat at the polls by hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Supporters of Mousavi, the main challenger to Ahmadinejad, responded to the election with the most serious unrest in Tehran in a decade and charged that the result was the work of a dictatorship.

Mousavi’s arrest was reported by an unofficial source, according to whom the presidential hopeful was arrested en route to the home of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Read the full story at

Charismatic Rabbi Faces Charges

Michael Ozair is, by many accounts, charming, charismatic and an excellent teacher.

He is also in jail.

The once-popular instructor at schools like Shalhevet High School on Fairfax Avenue and Sinai Akiba Academy on Wilshire Boulevard, who was an active participant in the Happy Minyan at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, was arrested earlier this month and charged Aug. 15 with the 1997 sexual molestation of a then-14-year-old girl. At press time, he was in custody at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, with bail set at $95,000. A preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 4.

The complaint first came to the attention of the Los Angeles Police Department about a year ago, according to Lt. Dan Mulrenin, who oversees the LAPD’s Sexually Exploited Child Unit.

"The reason it waited so long is because the victim was apparently in therapy and did not report this to the police until Aug. 22, 2001," Mulrenin said. "There is one additional victim, but that victim has refused to cooperate and does not want to pursue this matter."

Police and prosecutors were guarded about who initiated the charges — three counts of a lewd act on a child and one count of oral copulation of a child under 16. Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, said that in general "when allegations of rape or sexual assault occur, the victims are taken to the hospital and there are a long list of questions they must undergo. With an older case, we have to have independent corroboration, someone who can testify. It cannot just be the word of the victim." Robison also mentioned that "by law, there are people who are mandated reporters [of sexual assault], including clergy. So if the victim were to tell a teacher or a therapist or a clergy member about the attack, [that person] would have to report it."

Ozair, 33, could not be reached for comment and his attorney, Daniel Hustwit, did not return repeated calls from The Jewish Journal.

This is the third arrest of a rabbi charged with child molestation this year. What makes this case unique was the esteem with which Ozair was held by a variety of influential people and organizations. In addition to his involvement in the Happy Minyan (of which he was not the leader, members insisted, despite press reports to the contrary), Ozair led the Mystical Wednesdays program for OLAM for about a year, from summer 2000 until 2001. He was featured in an OLAM Magazine article titled "You Had Me at Shalom" (which characterized Ozair as "the cool, charismatic, ex-Dead Head and self-acknowledged Seeker of Truth") and in a June 2000 Jewish Journal article about an event called "Building Bridges of Spiritual Unity." Ozair also was scheduled to lead a Yom Kippur spiritual service at the Roxbury Park Community Center in Beverly Hills.

Ozair’s problems began to surface several years ago. In June 1997, the year of the alleged incident, he left his full-time teaching position with Sinai Akiba. It was not until September 1998 that he landed another teaching position, this time with Shalhevet. However, his employment was terminated for undisclosed reasons in August 2000, according to Shalhevet president Dr. Jerry Friedman. Ozair then returned to Sinai Akiba for a brief stint in early 2001, said headmaster Rabbi Laurence Scheindlin.

"He was coming once a week to do some work on tefillah with some of the classes," Scheindlin said.

Both Friedman and Scheindlin stated that there were never any complaints about Ozair’s behavior at their respective schools. Indeed, a number of people interviewed noted that parents and students at each school were fans of Ozair.

"To his credit, there are a number of students on whom he had a very positive influence at Sinai Akiba," said Rabbi Steven Weil, leader of Beth Jacob. "He launched them on a path of morality, decency and theological searching. Many of these young men have become outstanding stars in the community."

Despite the rabbi’s popularity, Weil said leaders at his shul decided to expel Ozair last year.

"He was banned from Beth Jacob Congregation over a year ago by myself and by Marvin Komorsky, our executive director, because we felt he was a threat," Weil said. "We were concerned for the safety and well-being of certain individuals in the community."

Weil said he was saddened to see an organization like the Happy Minyan, which has operated out of Beth Jacob for about eight years, taken in by someone like Ozair.

"Because they are such a welcoming, open community, they attract people who are often needy or searching. Unfortunately, such people can often be taken advantage of," Weil said.

Although Weil declined to elaborate whom the congregation was protecting with Ozair’s expulsion, some people close to Ozair have said that it was around the same time that Ozair’s marriage fell apart and that his wife and children sought protection at a battered women’s shelter.

An incident last year might also provide some insight: According to Sgt. Steven Seeger of the Beverly Hills Police Department, Ozair turned himself in to that department on Aug. 15, 2001, and was briefly in custody on a probable cause warrant.

"This was in regard to a warrant issued for his arrest under Penal Code Section 422, making a threat, which means making a credible, criminal threat to do harm to someone else," explained Seeger, adding that an underlying crime report showed the initial complaint that led to the warrant involved a charge that Ozair had made a threatening phone call or calls. The case was dropped within days by the district attorney’s office because of insufficient evidence.

(Several sources also questioned Ozair’s credentials as a rabbi. Ozair’s Web site states that "his rabbinical training was at Kol Yaacov Torah Center in Monsey, N.Y." However, administrators at Kol Yaacov tell a different story, saying he applied to the school and visited it in August 1997, but never enrolled.

"He said he wanted to try it out, so he popped in for a couple of hours a week for about six weeks, but he was never officially accepted as a student," said Rabbi Leib Tropper, the school’s educational director.)

Douglas Schiller, like other members of the Happy Minyan, was reluctant to discuss Ozair, who was one of the group’s founders and mainstays.

"I can see easily why somebody would call him charismatic or a good teacher," Schiller said. "I think we’re all surprised and saddened by what has happened."

Weil said it was important to see that it is possible for a person to have good qualities and still commit a crime.

"These people, the Baruch Lanners and the Michael Ozairs, are multidimensional individuals, which is why the Ozair incident has been very painful to many people whose lives he touched in a legitimate sincere way," Weil said.

The Man Behind the JDL

In the FBI’s dossier he is listed as Irving David Rubin, 56, a self-described conservative Republican, Air Force veteran, married for 21 years and the father of two children.

To everyone else he is Irv Rubin, chairman of the Jewish Defense League, an acute embarrassment to most mainstream Jewish organizations, whose “contemptible activities,” in the words of the Anti-Defamation League, have cumulated in “a long track record of intimidation and bullying tactics.”

By his own count, Rubin has been arrested 40 times, and he and his associate, Earl Krugel, are now sitting in a federal detention center in downtown Los Angeles. They are charged with conspiracy to blow up a mosque, the building housing a Muslim organization and the offices of a congressman of Lebanese descent.

The roots of Rubin’s aggressive stance and militant outlook can perhaps be traced to his Montreal childhood, where, he says, his mother told him to get out and fight a kid who had called him a dirty Jew.

At age 16, he and his family moved to the San Fernando Valley, and five years later, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Discharged, he proudly served as a page at the 1964 Republican Convention in San Francisco, which nominated Sen. Barry Goldwater as its presidential standard bearer.

Rubin’s life took another turn — permanently — when he heard a speech by Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1971 and was enthralled when the rabbi declared, “Don’t sit down and have a cup of coffee with a Nazi. Don’t try to be a nice guy. Smash him.”

Kahane also perceived the United States as the likely site of a future Holocaust.

The tall, husky Rubin loved the message. He joined Kahane’s Jewish Defense League and soon participated in protests on behalf of Soviet Jews, duked it out with neo-Nazis and, just as quickly, was arrested on an attempted murder charge in the case of a Nazi he had confronted in a Hollywood television studio.

In 1978, he got his first national exposure at a news conference protesting a neo-Nazi march in Skokie, Ill. In a typically flamboyant gesture, Rubin held up five $100 bills as the proffered reward to anyone who maimed or killed a Nazi party member.

With a keen ear for the effective soundbite, Rubin offered to raise the reward to $1,000 “if they bring us [a Nazi’s] ears. This is not said in jest, we are deadly serious.”

Kahane, Rubin’s role model, resigned as head of the JDL in 1974, after moving to Israel, where he formed the Kach Party. He was elected to the Knesset in 1984 on a platform that included the incendiary plan of transferring or expelling all Arabs from Israel.

Kahane was designated a racist by Israeli authorities and forbidden to run in the 1988 elections. In November, 1990, Kahane was assassinated in New York by Egyptian-born extremist El Sayyid Nosair.

(In an odd twist, a 1998 Associated Press report has surfaced, linking tapes and books on military techniques found in Nosair’s apartment to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network. The AP story noted that “the killing of Kahane was at first viewed as an isolated attack, but now is seen as the kickoff of a U.S. terrorism campaign by militant Islamic fundamentalists.”)

The slain rabbi’s son, Binyamin Ze’ev Kahane, took over leadership of the Kach Party and formed another organization, Kahane Chai.

Both organizations were labeled “terrorist” by the Israeli government and outlawed. The younger Kahane and his wife were killed Dec. 31, 2000, in a West Bank ambush.

Back in the United States, Rubin stepped into the JDL power vacuum and became its “national chairman” in 1985. The title was a bit grandiose, because the JDL, with modest membership in the best of times, had split into two groups.

The New York wing, renamed the Jewish Defense Organization, was led by Mordechai Levy. Rubin and Levy have become bitter enemies, exchanging accusations and subpoenas over the years.

In 1989, Levy was convicted of firing an AR-25 aimed at Rubin in Manhattan.

Currently, Rubin goes by the title “chairman” of the JDL. In his first year as JDL leader, the organization came under investigation in the Oct. 11, 1985, murder of Alex Odeh, an Arab American activist killed in a bomb blast at his Santa Ana office.

Rubin denied responsibility but said that Odeh “got exactly what he deserved.” The JDL leader has since said repeatedly that he regretted making the statement, because it alienated would-be supporters and lessened his credibility.

When Rubin’s arrest was initially announced last week without the charges being specified, there was widespread speculation that it was connected with the Odeh case. The belief was shared by Sammy Odeh, the victim’s brother, who told The Journal that the killers of his brother would finally be brought to justice.

Over the past decades, the JDL has struck out against perceived softness in the Israeli government and American Jewish organizations, as much as against Nazis and other anti-Semites.

For instance, the JDL Web site marked the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist by stating, “We feel Yigal Amir wasted his precious life. Taking the life of Rabin was not worth Amir spending the rest of his life in an Israeli prison … The Israeli people would have taken Rabin out of office.”

In the same vein, the JDL hailed Dr. Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Arabs praying in a Hebron mosque in 1994, as one of its charter members.

One of the closest observers of Kahane and Rubin has been the ADL, which compiled a report of 21 densely packed pages listing the JDL’s violent acts in Israel and the United States between 1969 and 1995. Rubin, in return, has frequently attacked the ADL in JDL leaflets and at public meetings.

Whether it’s middle age or a change in tactics, in the last few years, Rubin seems to have become less publicly aggressive and has appeared in three-piece suits at public forums hosted by such institutions as the liberal University Synagogue.

One who got to know both Kahane and Rubin in the 1960s and ’70s was Si Frumkin. All three were involved in protests and demonstrations on behalf of Soviet Jews.

“You can approach a problem with a rapier or a club,” Frumkin observed. The National Council for Soviet Jews “used the rapier; JDL used a club. I can’t say which method was more effective.”

Comparing the two JDL leaders, Frumkin said that Kahane “was a PR genius. Rubin had the same fire in the belly as Kahane but is not as charismatic,”

With the name recognition created by Kahane, “the JDL should have become a well-known, large and well-financed organization, but now it seems to have trouble even attracting young people,” Frumkin said.

Although the charges currently leveled at Rubin and Krugel can carry a 35-year prison sentence, few knowledgeable lawyers expect their conviction.

While the JDL has been investigated on murder and attempted murder charges a number of times, Rubin has never been convicted of a felony.

“He [Rubin] has the uncanny ability to come right to the line and he doesn’t cross it.” Roger J. Diamond, one of Rubin’s previous lawyers, told The New York Times, “If he didn’t come close, he wouldn’t have been charged.”

The latest posting on the JDL Web site calls the current charges an “obvious act of governmental appeasement of the Muslim community. Please rest assured that Irv and Earl will be cleared of any wrongdoing when they have their day in court.”

Activism Unites A Community

The 600 men and women attending Shabbat services at the Eretz Cultural Center stood for a minute’s silence as a man on the bema slowly read the names of the 13 Jews arrested as “Zionist spies” by Iran and facing possible death sentences.

It was a quiet moment for the congregation of Iranian Jewish immigrants, who have been on an emotional roller coaster for the last three months, fearing and hoping for the fate of relatives and friends imprisoned in the city of Shiraz.

Rep. Brad Sherman, who has spearheaded a congressional resolution calling for national and international pressure on Iran to release the prisoners, reflected the anxiety.

“A great atrocity may occur,” warned the Sherman Oaks Democrat. “The government of Iran must be shown that it will pay a severe price for every day that the hostages are held.”

The American Jewish community, at its most unified and effective when confronting a crisis, has rallied in support of the prisoners, whose ages range from 16 to 49.

After months of behind-the-scenes maneuvering, while the status of the prisoners remained in doubt, practically every major national Jewish organization raised its voice and mobilized its contacts two weeks ago, after Tehran formally announced the espionage charges.

As the result of such pressures and petitions, the U.S. State Department, key European nations, and the Vatican have interceded for the 13 Jews, held on what are universally considered trumped-up charges.

Most observers believe that the prisoners are pawns in a power struggle between Iran’s fundamentalist hard-liners and the more moderate views of President Mohammad Khatami.

While the dire fate facing the prisoners has unified the American Jewish community, it has also revealed fissures in the 30,000-strong Iranian Jewish community in Los Angeles, the largest such concentration in the United States.

The split is basically between two groups, the more establishment Iranian American Jewish Federation, and the newer Council of Iranian Jewish Organizations.

During the three months from the arrests in March to the spy charges in June, the Federation, in common with American Jewish organizations, pursued a policy of quiet diplomacy as the most effective way to influence Tehran.

The Council, which includes organizations that split off from the Federation, advocated high visibility pressure tactics from the beginning. It was largely the Council members, organized as the Committee for Religious Minority Rights in Iran, who flooded Sherman’s office with calls and letters urging congressional action.

Although both sides now agree on an aggressive public approach, since announcement of the espionage charges, the antagonism between them is of longer standing.

The Federation consists of 16 organizations, said Sam Kermanian, its secretary-general, while the Council is made up of seven organizations. Each side claims to represent the larger part of the Iranian Jewish community.

While Kermanian sought to minimize the friction between the groups, and deplored any “public fighting,” Council leaders were more outspoken.

Council spokesperson Pooya Dayanim and George Haroonian both described the Federation group as “elitist,” and representing mainly the wealthy Iranian enclaves in Beverly Hills and Trousdale Estates.

“Our divergence with the Federation goes deeper than the matter of the 13 prisoners, but the case highlights the failure of a philosophy of keeping silent,” said Dayanim, a 27-year-old lawyer.

Haroonian saw the campaign to free the prisoners as a turning point in the community’s attitude. “From now on, you’ll see more activism and involvement,” he said.

Support for the Council’s activist stance was expressed by Si Frumkin of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews.

“We went through the same struggles with the American Jewish establishment when we wanted to protest the Soviet Union’s oppression of its Jews,” he said.

The UCSJ has launched a 100,000-name petition drive on behalf of the Iranian prisoners, and through its offices in St. Petersburg and Moscow, has lobbied the Russian government to intercede with Tehran.