The Jewish Jailhouse Rock
June 15, 2009
Back in the day of when the likes of Bugsy Siegel, Moe Dalitz, Abe [Kid Twist] Relis and Louis Lepke were kings of the prisons, religion could be a wonderful thing.
This was especially true around Passover when Jewish heavyweights in the slammer were able to import bushels of food and sweet wine from the outside while every con on the inside tried to convert to Judaism for the seder feast, which, in some joints, lasted eight days.
How little times have changed.
As the Post’s Dan Mangan and Reuven Blau reported last week in delicious detail, a prison rabbi convinced the Department of Correction’s head chaplain to allow a rich Jewish prisoner to throw a bar mitzvah party last December for his son inside the Manhattan jail known as The Tombs.
The behind-bars celebration included a band, a popular Orthodox singer, and a caterer who supplied kosher food for 60 guests. For six hours, they partied in the jailhouse gym, dancing the hora.
If that party wasn’t wild enough, DOC officials then allowed the prisoner, Tuvia Stern, to hold a jailhouse engagement party for his daughter Breindy four months later.
So is Stern some falsely accused Jewish Robin Hood, deserving of divine rabbinical intervention that Bugsy, Lepke or Kid Twist might envy?
Reader, you decide. In 1989, he was indicted with his brother Ephraim for stealing $1.7 million through a leaseback scam that targeted Morgan Guaranty Trust. While out on $250,000 bail, he fled to Brazil with his wife and five children. He spent the next 17 years on the lam.
Nabbed while trying to enter England in 2006, Stern was returned to the United States last year. He pleaded guilty in early 2009 to bail jumping and grand larceny. After hosting his daughter’s engagement party inside the Tombs, he was sent upstate to Woodbourne Correctional Facility.
The only ingredient absent in this farce is the Anti-Defamation League’s requesting leniency from President Obama, as its head, Abraham Foxman, did in 2000 with President Bill Clinton for financial scammer and lamister, Marc Rich. Clinton pardoned Rich just before leaving office.
O.K., now let’s examine some of the players here. First, there’s Rabbi Leib Glanz, who brokered Stern’s special treatment. Glanz has been a power in the prison system since his appointment by former mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Glanz performed both the invocation and benediction for the December 2001 renaming of the Manhattan jail, which, for a short while, became The Bernard B. Kerik Correction Complex. A Bronx State Court erased the honor bestowed upon the former Corrections and Police Commissioner.
Currently under federal indictment for fraud and income tax evasion, Kerik did not return a phone call seeking comment, although a subsequent email arrived from an anonymous Kerik aide that had a familiar ring: “Say what you will, under our administration [meaning Kerik's in the NYDOC], nothing but good things happened. Violence down, Overtime down,Morale up.”
As for the prison system’s chaplain who approved the Stern parties, he is Assistant Commissioner for Ministerial Services Umar Abdul-Jalil — a Muslim and a source of controversy throughout the prison system.
In 2006, he made a speech in Arizona, saying that Muslims were being tortured in city jails and that “the greatest terrorists in the world occupy the White House.”
The following year, he made a similar speech to inmates at Woodbourne, adding that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly regarded Arab youths who followed Muslim practices as potential terrorists.
Nonetheless, after Jalil’s Arizona speech, Correction Commissioner Martin Horn promoted him to Assistant Commissioner.
Now here is where it becomes even more interesting.
There exists in our burg a Correction Department insider who is a modern-day version of Frank Serpico, known as The Architect of Chaos.
In 2002, he exposed Anthony Serra, a top Correction Department official, who was convicted of grand larceny and conflict of interest for forcing underlings to renovate his home. Serra, who was sentenced to a year in prison, was also accused of forcing underlings to volunteer in the reelection campaign of then Republican Governor George Pataki. Horn’s predecessor, Commissioner William Frazer, was forced to resign over the scandal.
The Architect of Chaos is also familiar with many of the details of the Tuvia Stern catering saga. He alleges that Horn promoted Jalil to Assistant Commissioner without the required probe by the city’s Department of Investigation. Such an investigation might have alerted the public to the fact that Jalil served 14 years in jail on drug charges and is on lifetime parole.
If Jalil was not vetted by DOI, this mimics Giuliani’s appointment of Kerik to police commissioner, which also happened without DOI vetting.
The Architect of Chaos adds that after Jalil’s Woodbourne speech, Horn took no action, despite an FBI memo warning that Jalil was spewing venom in the prisons.
Supposedly, Horn learned of the memo through the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorist Task Force. Horn has denied knowing of the memo.
Horn and other top echelon Correction officials have professed outrage and ignorance over the Tombs’ transformation into Stern’s private catering hall. They apparently feel this is an incident of minor import since they have merely suspended Glanz and Jalil for two weeks.
Instead, other Correction sources say they appear to be scapegoating Correction Chief Peter Curcio, who is said to be in a power struggle with his brother-in-law, Chief Patrick Walsh, who has the support of top Correction officials.
Horn, meanwhile, has resigned to take a professorship at John Jay College. Perhaps he can explain his promotion of Jalil to his students.
Meanwhile, the Architect has contacted the Bloomberg administration about the Stern bar mitzvah and engagement party.
Through this column, he has issued a warning: If the administration makes Curcio a scapegoat, he promises more chaos.