Top Syrian Rabbi Avoids Jail
Kassin, 89, was at center of scheme that resulted in ‘09 N.J. arrests
A federal judge decided this morning that Saul Kassin, the spiritual leader of Brooklyn and New Jersey’s Syrian Jewish community, is, at 89, too old to go to prison. Instead, the white-bearded rabbi—who was arrested two years ago in a vast sting operation that took down the Syrian community’s most revered religious leaders along with roughly a dozen northern New Jersey elected politicians, including the mayors of Secaucus and Hoboken—will have to forfeit $367,500 seized from the charity he used as a front for a money-laundering operation and pay an additional $36,000 in fines. He will also undergo two years of unsupervised probation.
Kassin pleaded guilty in March to taking “donations,” no questions asked, of money that he was told was made illegally and then issuing clean checks from the account of his Magen Israel Society—less 10 percent. The rabbi’s cut helped finance various social services in the Syrian community. Accordingly, he asked the judge to return the forfeited money to the charity so it could be used to benefit his constituents. “I want that money back to donate it,” the rabbi said this morning in court. “They kept it for two years almost—it’s enough.”
The judge, Joel Pisano, denied this request. “At the end of the day,” the judge said, “the reason the charity does not have the $367,500 is because of you.”