Father, Sons Face Sex-Abuse Claims

By Tamer El-Ghobashy and Alison Fox (Wall Street Journal)
December 3, 2010

The former rabbi of a Brooklyn school for boys is believed to have fled to Israel after police identified him and three of his sons as suspects in the sexual abuse of the rabbi's four daughters, authorities said Friday.

Gershon Kranczer, 58 years old, allegedly boarded a flight from Kennedy Airport destined for Israel on Monday along with his 21-year-old son Asher, after an informant told police that Mr. Kranczer had allegedly engaged in a prolonged sexual relationship with at least one of his daughters, police said. Asher, who a law-enforcement official said is legally blind, is being investigated in the sexual abuse of three of his sisters, police said.

"We are seeking the exact whereabouts and return from Israel of the two men," top NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said.

Two other sons, Yechezkel, 24, and a 15-year-old whose name was being withheld by authorities because of his age, have been arrested and charged with sexually abusing their sisters, police said.

Yechezkel, who recently got married and moved out of the family's two-story house, has been charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse. The 15-year-old son has been charged with the sexual abuse of his 8-year-old sister. It wasn't known immediately whether the two had attorneys; they were awaiting arraignment late Friday.

Mr. Browne said the department has a good working relationship with Israeli authorities in addition to an extradition agreement. An NYPD detective stationed in Tel Aviv is assisting the Israelis in their search for the suspects, Mr. Browne said.Mr. Kranczer and his wife have 14 children, ranging in age from 8 to 28, police said. The mother hasn't been named as a suspect and police are investigating if she was aware of the alleged abuse, police said. The children under 18 have been removed from the family's home and placed into the care of the Administration for Children's Services, police said.

The allegations came to light when a 20-year-old daughter, who works as a teacher's aide at a yeshiva, confided to a staff member there that she had been raped by her father repeatedly over the course of 15 years, police said. The coworker alerted authorities.

Police said the investigation revealed that Mr. Kranczer and his three sons allegedly sexually abused four girls who are now 20, 19, 17 and 8 years old.

Police said Mr. Kranczer resigned from his position at a yeshiva three months ago. An online guide to Brooklyn yeshivas listed him as the rabbi of Yeshiva Tehila L'Dovid, a school for boys with learning disabilities between the ages of 5 and 18 in Midwood. Property records list Mr. Kranczer as the executive director and principal of the school. School officials didn't respond to a request for comment.

A law enforcement official described the family's home as "utilitarian" and configured in a way to accommodate a large family. It has a big kitchen and rooms outfitted with several bunk beds, the official said.

The family consists of seven male and seven female children, the official said. The eldest, a 28-year-old man, is learning disabled and did not live in the home, the official said. A 14-year-old boy is also learning disabled, but lived with the parents, the official said.

Police said the investigation into the sexual abuse is continuing and did not rule out the possibility that other children were molested.

Friends of the family expressed disbelief at the accusations.

Faigie Sherman, 52, said the children "are happy, they play together." "They're an amazing family," said Ms. Sherman, who said moved down the block from the Kranczers 27 years ago. "I can't fathom such a thing. If the way I see the kids is any indication I would say it's not possible."