Rabbi Baruch Lanner, once one of America’s most
prominent Modern Orthodox youth leaders, was sentenced
Friday to serve seven years in a New Jersey state prison
for sexually abusing two teenaged girls.
rabbi, 52, was taken away in handcuffs Friday from the
Monmouth County courtroom in Freehold, N.J., after
delivering an emotional plea for mercy that invoked the
Holocaust, God and his young grandchild.
room was so quiet you could hear the click of the
handcuffs,” said an observer who was in the courtroom.
“I am not a monster,” Rabbi Lanner declared,
according to published reports.
He admitted to
having poor judgment but stopped short of apologizing to
the two victims.
His defense team, including new
member Nathan Dershowitz, brother of the famed attorney
Alan Dershowitz, filed an appeal asking that Rabbi
Lanner be allowed to remain free on bail pending an
appeal of his conviction, which could take months.
Judge Mary Catherine Cuff of the Appellate
Division of New Jersey Superior Court was expected to
rule on the request this week.
could have received up to 20 years, according to
Monmouth County Prosecutor Peter Boser. Defense
attorneys had asked for a four-year sentence. The actual
sentence was for 18 years but the rabbi is to serve four
sentences concurrently, meaning he would spend up to
seven years in jail. He must spend at least a year and
10 months in prison before being considered for parole.
Rabbi Lanner, a divorced father of three from
Fair Lawn, N.J., was convicted in June of endangering
the welfare of the two girls — 14 and 15 years old — and
sexually touching one of them in the early 1990s when he
was principal of the Hillel Yeshiva in Ocean Township,
At the same time, Rabbi Lanner was a
national director of the National Council of Synagogue
Youth, the teenage outreach division of the Orthodox
Union, the world’s largest Orthodox synagogue
The OU has admitted it failed to
stop the rabbi despite years of warning signals.
New Jersey law enforcement authorities began
investigating abuse complaints following an
investigative series by The Jewish Week in June 2000.
The series detailed accounts by former students who
accused Rabbi Lanner of sexual and other abuse.
The students were routinely ignored by teachers
and other rabbis, many of whom supported Rabbi Lanner
and praised his charismatic ability to lead children to
greater religious observance.
After the first
story appeared, Lanner resigned as NCSY’s director of
regions. Since then he has been silent on the charges
and declaring his innocence. He refused to talk to the
media during the trial in June.
On Friday, Rabbi
Lanner for the first time publicly spoke about the case
before being sentenced by Superior Court Judge Paul
“After lengthy introspection and
self-evaluation, I stand before you shattered and
destroyed,” he said, according to press reports.
“I am a religious person, despite whatever
mistakes I have been accused or found guilty of. … I am
not a monster, certainly not cold-hearted, and I don’t
isolate and destroy children.”
He lamented his
fate, saying that he is “a social outcast shunned by
all. I teach no one, I study with no one. And the
greatest tragedy of all, I learn from no one.”
Acknowledging that he will be barred from
teaching children, Rabbi Lanner, who taught at The
Frisch School in Paramus, N.J., in the 1980s, said:
“Never again will I be entrusted with the greatest gift
of all — the heart, mind and potential of a youngster.
He did not directly admit guilt to the charges,
but said: “I brought this upon myself ... by poor
judgment combined with impulsive behavior.”
Invoking God, he said: “I desecrated His great
name. It is for this I am truly sorry and beg the
forgiveness of all.”
Rabbi Lanner also said that
he believes what happened to him is just. “Everything
comes from the hands of God, and God is just.”
He regretted that his mother, a Holocaust
survivor, had to be put through a second devastating
trauma and that his newborn grandson would go through
life with the name Lanner.
Asking the judge for
mercy before his sentencing, Rabbi Lanner said
tearfully: “Even as I mourn and pity my own wretched
fate, my greatest anguish is for my innocent family.
Your honor, what can you do to me that can possibly
rival what I’ve done to myself?
according to press reports, said Rabbi Lanner deserved
to go to jail “for abusing his position and inflicting
emotional trauma on both these girls.”
said he found the victims to be credible witnesses.
“They both suffered greatly as a result of Rabbi
While acknowledging that the
rabbi also has helped many children with their religious
studies, Chaiet added that “along the way, he has
apparently abused, battered and taken advantage of a
number of people.”
Rabbi Lanner is subject to
New Jersey’s Megan’s Law, which requires that a sex
offender register with the local police authorities and
the information be made available to his neighbors.
See more complete story in the Oct. 11 Jewish