Rabbi Berland, Shuvu Banim, A Disappearance, Religious Extremism, Sexual Assault and Modesty Patrols

From HaAretz – To read the entire article click here.

New True Crime Show Explores ‘Insane’ Story of a Prominent Rabbi, Sexual Assault and a Missing Teen

‘It’s a story you hear and dismiss as an urban legend at first,’ says creator of Israeli docu series delving into the world of Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who served prison time for sexual assault

On the night of January 23, 1986, a 17-year-old yeshiva student disappeared in Jerusalem. Nissim Shitrit was last seen in the area of an ultra-Orthodox community in the Jerusalem Hills. Four months earlier, members of a so-called modesty patrol came to the yeshiva where Shitrit was enrolled. Disguised as yeshiva students, they told the teenager that two well-known rabbis wanted to speak to him about his future. Shitrit went with them to the beach. They began to beat him up, but stopped when a police van drove by.

Shitrit filed a complaint with the police about the attack, telling investigators that his assailants had identified themselves as members of a modesty patrol who told him they came to teach him a lesson for having dared to go out with girls. In his statement, he added that one of his attackers was Shmuel Habany, a known follower of Rabbi Eliezer Berland and a member of the rabbi’s Shuvu Banim Hasidic community in Jerusalem. Habany was arrested, but released after denying a connection to the incident.


Members of Berland’s community are people who became religiously observant and are not wanted in their secular home but also are not welcomed in the Haredi community, which often sees them as unmarriageable. To what extent did that situation allow Berland to wield control over consciousness of his followers?

“It’s easier to take these people, who are tabula rasa in terms of religion, and to tell them things that they’ll consider to be absolute truths. From there it’s easier to also arrive at extremism. Often they actually choose a new identity for themselves, changing their names. With Berland there was also this extremism surrounding the laws of modesty, until at the end he was convicted of sex crimes. I think Berland has obsessions surrounding sexual control, and that’s where all the insanity came from. There are testimonies I was exposed to from additional women who didn’t go to court but testified before a rabbinical tribunal.”

In the movie and beyond, Berland is portrayed as a dangerous man with great influence over his followers. Perhaps law enforcement isn’t dealing with him and his sect in a reasonable manner, even when he preaches violence.

“I can’t understand it. After all he is a spiritual authority who has great influence. It’s like a riddle. I don’t know why and how it happens. I don’t have answers. To come and say that maybe there’s someone in the police who wants to protect Berland? I find that hard to believe. He is a powerful man with connections to a lot of people, including people from the underworld, who are considered his followers.”

Do you think there’s a connection between underworld figures and the fact that the police seem to be lenient toward him?

“If there is, that would be frightening.”

During your research, did you consider whether there are figures in the police who are protecting Berland at some level?

“There’s a young woman who filed a police complaint against Berland for sexual harassment. A woman I know accompanied her. I know that a few hours after the complaint was submitted, Berland was already at Ben-Gurion International Airport and he left on a trip that lasted three years, until he was extradited [here]. People who left Shuvu Banim told me a few times that they had lost their faith in the police because of the way they were treated. There were so many things that Berland did and said, ostensibly including calls to murder someone, and you don’t understand how he wasn’t arrested.”

New investigation

In the wake of your movie’s findings, the police have launched a new investigation into the disappearance of Nissim Shitrit. Do you believe that this time they will investigate the case with the seriousness that it deserves?

“I shall be very disappointed if the case of Nissim and of Avi Edri is not reopened,” Haziza said, referring to a different unsolved murder, carried out in the Jerusalem Hills in 1990 and attributed to the modesty patrols.“If at the end of the new investigation there are no answers, it will surprise and disappoint me very much.”

It’s possible that you’ll be called in and asked about findings in the case. What will happen if you’re asked to testify in a way that involves reporter’s privilege – the protection of confidential sources?

To read the story in its entirety, click here.

Erskin Felix Sentenced in Murder of Stark, Maintains His Innocence


Erskin Felix Claims he is Innocent and We Think He May Very Have Been Wrongly Convicted

Erskin Felix has maintained his innocence since day one. He said he did not kill Stark. He had the opportunity to plea a deal which he did not take, knowing that were he to be convicted, he would not get off lightly. He has continuously stated that he would not have killed Stark.

We have believed, all along. There were more than a fair share of people who had to gain by Stark’s tragic death.  Menachem Stark was involved with business and real estate partners for whom his death was a payday with a windfall outcome. Many of Stark’s properties have wound up in the hands of those very partners who have since sold them onward and made substantially lucrative deals.

There are things about the case that never made sense. The Van did not initially show signs of Stark or DNA. It was not captured on all of the videos that should have captured it had events been as depicted. A second pass over the van lead to finding DNA; and while the inconsistencies with the evidence have resulted in a partial conviction on evidence tampering, we don’t believe any of it. If the evidence was tampered with, it was not by Felix.

It took hours before the police were called in. Instead, the Shomrim were initially called and they reviewed everything first. The lack of transparency within Shomrim as a general matter leads one to question the actions they took after the initial determination that Stark was missing.

We received information that shortly after his death there were changes to LLC boxes at 199 Lee Avenue, where many of Stark’s properties were registered and where many of his property managers had “suites” (more accurately PO Boxes) including new addresses for some of these managers and companies.

We received information from Stark’s tenants who claimed that there were some very shady dealings; many included coercing them to  to sign documents that they later realized dismantled their rights to their homes, just days after the disappearance but before it was widely known the circumstances of Stark’s death or even that Stark was indeed dead. 

Moreover, while there was supposedly a kidnapping for ransom behind the Stark murder, no official information has ever been disseminated regarding the nature of the ransom except an alleged $20,000 payment. However, Felix had always claimed that this was not true. Why would three men from St. Lucia be involved in anything like this for $20,000? It just makes no sense.

We speculate that the other two “conspirators” were paid handsomely to accept a deal, spend time in prison and come out to find some form of compensation for their troubles waiting. It gives us a few years to figure it all out.

In the meantime, we wish our condolences to the Stark family. The death was tragic and unnecessary and right or wrong in our theories, he should not have died for money or for any other reason. 

We sincerely hope there are others out there who see this as we do. Erskin Felix is, in our opinion, innocent. We hope someone, if not us, manages to figure it all out.

Erskin Felix Sentenced to 24 Years to Life for Murder and Kidnapping of Menachem Stark


Erskin Felix, convicted of the murder and kidnapping of Menachem Stark, was sentenced Thursday to 24 years to life in prison. Five years and five months after Stark’s death, all four men accused of involvement in the crime have now been convicted or pleaded guilty, and sentenced.

In a victim impact statement prior to the sentencing, Mrs. Bashie Stark described the pain her family has experienced since her husband’s death.

“It was Erskin Felix who planned and executed this cruel attack, and it is he who’s responsible for the trauma that my family is suffering to this day and will suffer for the rest of our lives,” said Mrs. Stark, who remained composed throughout the statement. “With the murder of this sweet and gentle man, my loss is huge and my children too are going through life missing that love and security that their devoted father had always provided.”

“Menachem and I always imagined growing old together and watching our children reach adulthood. But in the years that have passed, two of my children got married and Menachem wasn’t there with us. Two grandchildren were born, and Menachem never got to meet them. To hold them. To bounce them on his knee. They will never know his love. My little ones barely remember their father, the man that loved them more than life itself.”

Stark was kidnapped by two men on the night of January 2, 2014, outside his Williamsburg office, and forced into the men’s minivan, in a scene captured on surveillance footage. His body was found in Long Island the next day.

A jury deliberated for less than five hours before convicting Felix, 40, in April, of second-degree murder, first degree kidnapping and tampering with physical evidence. He was acquitted of another first-degree kidnapping charge and a conspiracy charge.

Felix is believed to have masterminded a plan to kidnap Stark and hold him for ransom, claiming Stark owed him money. Felix managed construction sites on properties owned by Stark, a real-estate developer. Stark was friendly with Felix, according to testimony by Mrs. Stark, and had also hired Felix to do contracting work on his home some years earlier.

According to testimony by Erskin’s cousin Kendel Felix, Erskin and Kendel carried out the kidnapping, then drove to the home of Erskin’s brother Kendall Felix and picked him up, and then picked up another cousin, Irvine Henry. The plan went awry when the group suddenly realized that Menachem was no longer breathing; Erskin had unintentionally suffocated Menachem, who was already bound and gagged, when he had kneeled on Menachem’s chest.

Erskin and Irvine left the vehicle and returned to the area of Menachem’s office – likely to retrieve a tracking device Erskin had placed under Menachem’s vehicle weeks earlier – but, fearing being seen, went home. Meanwhile, Kendall and Kendel drove the minivan with Menachem’s body to Long Island, where they put him in a dumpster and burned him.

Kendel was convicted in September 2016 of felony murder and kidnapping. The other three were arrested shortly thereafter, and Kendel then reached a deal to cooperate with against Erskin for a reduced sentence.

Kendel was sentenced in May to the minimum of 15 years to life.

To continue reading click here.



Man convicted in kidnapping, murder of Menachem Stark gets 15 years

‘Mastermind’ of 2014 kidnapping and murder sentenced to 24 years to life in prison



The Stark Murder -There is Far TOO Much That Makes No Legitimate Sense – Properties and Partners…


Kendall Felix Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy in Menachem Stark Murder


An alleged co-conspirator in the Menachem Stark, Hy”d, murder case has pleaded guilty.

Kendall Felix pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy in the second degree and will be sentenced March 27 to between 2-1/3 and seven years in prison.

His brother Erskin Felix, has been charged with murder in the case; jury selection in his trial is expected to begin Monday. Their cousin Kendel Felix was found guilty in September 2016 of second-degree murder and kidnapping. Kendel has not yet been sentenced, as it is believed that he has been cooperating with the prosecution in the case against his cousins.

A fourth man, Irvine Henry, facing charges of conspiracy, hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence, is also believed to be cooperating with prosecutors.

Stark, a real-estate developer, was kidnapped and killed in January 2014. In a confession by Kendel Felix played during his trial, Kendel said he was approached by Erskin, who asked for Kendel’s help in kidnapping Stark – whom both worked for – and forcing him to pay money Erskin said Stark owed him.

According to Kendel’s confession, he drove the minivan, while Erskin held down Stark in the back. They drove to the home of Henry; upon arriving, they realized Stark was no longer breathing.

It is believed that Erskin accidentally suffocated Stark while either sitting on him or covering his face.

To read the remainder of the article click here.

Covlin Murder Trial – Accused of Killing Wife and Questions of Autopsy… Not Kosher

Rod Covlin at his trial.

Juror faints during gruesome testimony in wife-murder trial

A Manhattan juror suddenly fainted in his seat Wednesday as graphic autopsy photos of victim Shele Danishefsky were displayed on a large monitor at the murder trial of her estranged husband.

With accused killer Rod Covlin looking on, Senior Medical Examiner Jonathan Hayes was in the midst of testifying about the disturbing images when juror No. 8’s head suddenly flopped forward.

“He needs medical help!” screamed another panelist as Hayes quickly exited the stand to tend to the stricken juror — all with an image of Danishefsky’s fractured hyoid bone, which anchors the tongue, projecting onto a screen.

Another juror, who happened to be a nurse, also rushed to the man’s side.

The judge halted the proceeding, and the sickened juror was removed from the courtroom for treatment.

The jurist reassured the gallery that the man had regained his wits but dismissed him and swapped in an alternate.

As the juror left court he said that he had in part fainted in reaction to the gruesome photographs — which included an image of Danishefsky’s neck peeled back to expose underlying muscles.

Justice Ruth Pickholz denied defense lawyer Robert Gottlieb’s motion for a mistrial over the incident.

In earlier testimony, Hayes said he received Danishefsky’s body Jan. 1, 2010, a day after the banker was found face-down in the bathtub by her 9-year-old daughter in her Upper West Side home.

“When I opened up the [body] bag I immediately said, we need an autopsy,” Hayes told the jury. “I was struck by the injuries she had on her face. She had scratches on her face.”

Riveted jurors were shown autopsy photos of Danishefsky’s face marred by bright red scratches and cuts on her nose, lower eyelids, cheeks and lips.

Read the remainder of the New York Post article here.



Man accused of killing wife might have killed her in chokehold: prosecutors

Man accused of killing rich ex-wife talked to mistress about finding corpse: testimony

Gruesome photos of woman found dead in bathtub emerge during trial

Jurors in ‘wife-killer’ case see tub where banker-mom was found dead


Unsolved Cases No. 2 – Chaim Weiss – 32 Years Later and Still Unsolved


Dear Reader:

To be clear, the following theory contains no accusations. It is one of many theories. We do not suggest a guilty party, though the Wiki page at the bottom does list a student who attended the Mesivta at the same time as Chaim Weiss – just pointing to attendance, nothing more. We have a running theory. It is similar to the one posted by the Reddit user at the very bottom of this post.

One year ago Mr Weiss spoke to Mary Murphy of Pix II (see below) and stated that he wanted to put his child’s soul to rest. We believe he should live to see the resolution of his son’s murder. We also believe that the investigation is not being completed because someone hopes that enough time will pass that its relevance will be diminished. 

To Mr. Weiss, we are sorry for your loss. We believe that there is an answer and we further believe that someone knows it and is simply not speaking. There are a lot of bloggers and journalists working to solve this case where law enforcement has failed you. We think that FailedMessiah may have had the answer, part of the reason for the demise of that site, though we cannot substantiate that for certain.

This case, among many involving the ultra-Orthodox community remains unsolved in large part, we theorize, because the community has people bought and paid for, including law enforcement members.  

The Chaim Weiss case seems like it should have been a no-brainer. People close to the case have told us over the years that some of the former students are now addicts or committed suicide. One does not become an addict unless there are harrowing traumas leading to addiction. Suicide raises similar core analyses. We theorize that there was a trauma suffered by students at the Mesivta of Long Beach. We are not suggesting that this applies to all students. This is being written to help solve a crime, specifically not to defame, particularly when what happened or may have happened to the children in attendance is a travesty. That it has been covered up all these years is simply a tragedy of epic proportions.

Why would a Rabbi be completely unwilling to discuss the death (murder) of a child within his care.  Why would passing a lie detector test administered years ago be the definitive response regarding the students and the rabbis? We do not believe it was a janitor. Nor do we believe that what transpired afterwards had anything to do with Jewish customs. Once you have murdered a child, the rest of the associated Mitzvot are really irrelevant.  He was allegedly bludgeoned to death, first reported as a single wound and then as multiple cuts. We believe that the weapon at the time was a candlestick or something like it, which is the reason why candles were burned (though that may seem to be far-fetched). The kids would not have had access to a hatchet unless it was given to someone to perform an intentional and premeditated act. 

We hope law enforcement will pursue this case. It is about time that Chaim Weiss’ father finds peace.


Exclusive: Dad of 15-year-old killed in LI Yeshiva dorm haunted by mysterious events leading up to 1986 murder

Nassau County, NY – 31 years after his son was brutally murdered in his yeshiva dormitory, the father of the slain teen has finally given his first public interview in the hopes that someone will come forward with new information.

As previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2mQD2Qt) 15 year old Chaim Weiss of Staten Island was bludgeoned to death on Halloween night 1986 in his room at the Torah High School in Long Beach.

Authorities said that Weiss’s body was moved from his bed to the floor after his death and that someone had lit a yahrtzeit candle in Weiss’ room, where a window had been left open despite the cold temperatures.

Weiss’s father, Anton, has revealed for the first time to PIX 11 News (http://bit.ly/2mPossB) that several unusual incidents had taken place in the months leading up to his son’s murder.

Chaim had called home from camp crying in July, saying that he wanted to come home, the first such call Chaim had ever made to his parents. Weiss said that just weeks later, yeshiva principal Rabbi Avrom Cooper called on two separate occasions, asking to speak to Chaim who was away in Europe visiting his grandparents. When Chaim returned home, his parents drove him to Borough Park to speak to Rabbi Cooper.



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Suppression of Free Speech and Press – By Murder or Lawsuit?

Free Speech Should Not Be Allowed to Die, Neither by Murder nor by Lawsuit, A Segue into the Death of Seven Journalists

A funny thing happened in August. After months of not blogging, we got back in the saddle and started posting articles again. Why? Because journalistic integrity came into question. We were threatened and that has to mean something. 
Despite being asked to remove an article and doing so, one of two that had been published in 2016, LostMessiah’s name, along with that of an online blogger, was unceremoniously dragged into a lawsuit. The subject of the lawsuit? Hard to tell. It appears to be the remaining article.
The blogger had facilitated the takedown in good faith at the request of the attorneys representing the subjects of that blog. Why? Because, well… there seemed to be more important fish to fry and a single article’s removal at the behest of an allegedly prominent family did not seem like it was worth a fight. If we took it down, however disheartening that would be, the situation would be resolved. Who really has the time? Or the money?  
It didn’t go away. It might have been worth the fight on that day in August.
To resurrect what would otherwise be a problem with the Statute of Limitations, (one year from date of publication in New York) the Complaint in the lawsuit appears to allege that the subject article was taken down by WordPress and that the alleged blogger republished. It was neither taken down by WordPress, nor was it then republished by LostMessiah. The complaint also alleges, both unequivocally and incorrectly we must add, that the blogger is LostMessiah AND another website, WebActivism.
Anonymity in this space, blogging about oligarchs and diamond dealers, Congo miners and allegedly corrupt police officers can be a dangerous thing. We valued and continue to value our anonymity for that reason. Our absence worried our readers. To our readers, it was borne of time constraints not of safety, fear or reprisals nor payment. We will be asking for financial assistance from our readers. For that we apologize in advance.

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“Reputed Landlord” v. “Pillar of the Community” – The Night Menachem Stark Died…



Menachem Stark’s wife recalls night he “never came home”


The night Menachem Stark died, he should have been at a wedding, his wife told a Brooklyn court.

Vashi Stark testified Wednesday about the night her husband was killed in an attempted shakedown, during the trial against his alleged killer, construction worker Kendel Felix. “I was expecting him to be home by 11,” the widow told the jury, according to the New York Post, “or 11:30 at the latest.”

By then, Stark, the now-infamous developer and landlord, had already been abducted outside his Williamsburg office, bound and stuffed into a Dodge Caravan, and suffocated. His body was later found, partially-burned, in a dumpster in Great Neck.

The court viewed footage of that grisly scene, filmed by then-NYPD detective Bruce Schurman. Members of Stark’s family cried as the footage played and some got up to leave, the New York Post reported.

Felix, who confessed to the murder and implicated two accomplices, had worked construction on Stark’s properties, and may have worked for a contractor to whom Stark owed $20,000. Felix told police the abduction had been an attempt to “scare” the businessman and his death was an accident.

Stark, a member of the Satmar community, got in early in the Williamsburg gentrification-driven real-estate boom. He had at one point amassed a portfolio of about 1,000 units in the Williamsburg-Greenpoint area, together with his partner Israel Perlmutter, but ran into financial trouble after the 2008 crash, according to The Real Deal. He was millions of dollars in debt and embroiled in a number of financial and legal disputes at the time of his death.

Continue reading here.