Baruch Lanner, the American rabbi who served nearly three years in prison for sexually assaulting students at a Jewish high school in New Jersey, has been granted a temporary residency visa that will allow him to stay in Israel while the country’s Interior Ministry reviews his request for citizenship.
Advocates for sexual abuse victims were aghast at the news, first reported by Haaretz. While Israel’s Law of Return provides every Jew in the world the opportunity to apply for citizenship, Israel has withheld citizenship in the past from those with criminal records who are seen as posing a danger to the Israeli public.
Lanner and his second wife, who was granted citizenship, also appeared in a video for the law firm that is handling the case, which alerted activists to his immigration status. In the video, in which Lanner and his wife’s faces are blurred, Lanner praises the attorney and declares, “I had some legal issues in the United States and I never thought I would be able to make aliyah,” Haaretz reported. The video has since been taken down.
In 2000, following reporting by the New York Jewish Week, Lanner’s former employer, the Orthodox Union, launched a probe indicating that Lanner was responsible for an array of sexual, physical and emotional abuse involving dozens of teenagers in his charge. He was convicted in 2002 of endangering the welfare of two girls during his time as principal of Hillel Yeshiva High School in Deal, New Jersey, in the 1990s.
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