A Brooklyn rabbi who had fled to Israel in 2010 to escape arrest on charges of sexually assaulting children was arraigned in a Brooklyn courthouse on Thursday.
Gershon Kranczer, 65, had eluded authorities for years in Israel before being arrested in January 2020. He was denied bail in his first US court hearing, which took place a day after Kranczer was extradited from Israel.
Israel has become a haven for dozens of Jewish sexual abusers fleeing charges in recent years, particularly those in the ultra-Orthodox community who are aided by Israeli friends or relatives.
In another prominent recent case, Malka Leifer, a former principal of a Jewish school in Australia, was extradited in January to face prosecution there for sexually abusing students at her school nearly eight years after fleeing to Israel.
Kranczer was the principal of a Brooklyn yeshiva before fleeing to Israel, where he did not immigrate or have a residency permit, amid a criminal investigation in 2010. The US Justice Department asked Israel to extradite Kranczer for years, but Israeli authorities tried and failed to find him until January 2020, when he was arrested.
While Kranczer’s identity was revealed in the American press shortly after he fled the country, the Justice Ministry has placed a gag order barring the publication of the man’s name in order to protect the identities of the alleged victims.
The arrest ended an over four-year manhunt that began in 2015 after the Justice Ministry said that it had received a request from the US to extradite the suspect. American media reports, however, said that the request had been filed in 2011. A Justice Ministry official did not respond to a request for clarification on the matter.
According to the American extradition request, the suspect abused his female relatives in his Brooklyn home from 1996 to 2004 while the girls were minors. In October 2010, one of the alleged victims came forward and the NYPD opened an investigation. “That same day, the man’s wife drove him to JFK airport and from there he flew to Israel,” the Justice Ministry statement alleged. Local reports from the time said that the suspect’s wife had ferried her 20-year-old son together with his father, as the former was alleged to have taken part in the abuse along with at least two of his brothers.
The suspect’s tourist visa expired several months after his entry and he has been residing illegally in Israel ever since, the Justice Ministry said in a January statement.
Shana Aaronson, who heads the Magen organization which supports victims of sexual assault told The Times of Israel in January that the case demonstrated the need for Israel to vet individuals who arrive from abroad. “As it currently stands, it’s just open season here and people can come and live here regardless of what they’ve done,” she fumed. “The efforts that have to go into getting anyone to even pay attention are unbelievable and shocking.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement last Thursday that Kranczer would be charged with “second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child, second-degree criminal sexual act and second-degree sexual abuse.”
Gonzalez said the abuse of the two children occurred on multiple occasions between August 1996 and February 2003 beginning when the children were 6 and 11 years old.