Suit: Rabbi Molested, Raped Students

Paul Bass Photo A lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses Rabbi Daniel Greer —  who revived a declining neighborhood and has publicly crusaded against gay rights, prostitution, and coed university dorms   —  of repeatedly raping and molesting students at his yeshiva at Elm and Norton streets.

Greer, through his attorney, denied the allegations.

An attorney for Eliyahu Mirlis, the alleged victim, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New Haven.

The suit names Greer and the two schools he founded and runs   —  the Gan School, a mixed-gender elementary school; and the Yeshiva of New Haven, a boarding high school for boys   —  as defendants.

The case has already started fraying a tight-knit religious family community centered around the yeshiva, in the former Roger Sherman School building at 765 Elm St. Through a series of corporations, Greer and his family bought, renovated, and have since rented out some four dozen multi-family homes on surrounding blocks, many of them notable for their eight-foot-high stockade fences. Passionate minyanim, or prayer services, occur daily in the morning and evening on the second floor of the school, which has doubled as a small neighborhood synagogue. Enrollment at the yeshiva dwindled to close to zero in recent months as word about the allegations spread through the Orthodox Jewish community. Officials resigned from the boards of the schools and the real estate corporations.

The fates of both the two schools and the portfolio of around 125 apartments in the neighborhood remain unclear in the wake of the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Mirlis attended the yeshiva and lived in Greer-owned housing from 2001 to 2005.

Greer, who is 75 today and was in his 60s at the time, “repeatedly and continuously sexually abused, exploited, and assaulted” Mirlis during his sophomore through senior years, when he was 15 to 17 years old, according to the complaint. It describes the abuse as “acts of sex ... including forced fellatio, anal sex, fondling and masturbation.”

“Rabbi Greer frequently gave Eli alcohol at the time he raped and assaulted his child victim,” the complaint charges.

“Rabbi Greer showed Eli pornographic films. Rabbi Greer anally raped, sodomized and in other ways sexually assaulted, abused and molested Eli dozens and dozens of times, with each incident lasting on average from one to four hours, and sometimes all night.

“Rabbi Greer raped, sodomized and sexually assaulted, abused and molested Eli on school property, in the bedroom of the Rabbi’s private residence, at motels in Branford, Connecticut and Paoli and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on land in Hamden, Connecticut, and at rental properties in New Haven owned and managed by Yeshiva of New Haven, Inc., The Gan School, Inc., and other non-stock Connecticut corporations of which Rabbi Greer was the President, Director and Treasurer, including properties located at 777 Elm Street, 203, 209 and 211 Norton Street, 139 West Park Avenue, 439 Edgewood Avenue, and 193 Maple Street.”

The school’s “senior officials” “knew and/or should have known that the Rabbi was raping, sodomizing and sexually assaulting, abusing and molesting the minor boy; and they did nothing to stop it,” the complaint charges. “At all relevant times, administrators and officials of The School failed to safeguard the keys to the rental properties, providing Rabbi Greer with multiple places where he could rape and assault his child victim at his leisure without fear of being discovered or stopped.” The complaint specifically cites an unnamed assistant principal as having had knowledge of the abuse but not taking action.

The suit further charges that “during the years prior to his sexual molestation of Eli, Greer sexually abused, molested and exploited at least one other minor boy in the care and custody of The School.”

State law — Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 17-38a — required school officials to notify authorities about suspicions about child abuse taking place, the complaint continues.

“The School employed a pedophile, and allowed that pedophile free reign to gratify his perverse sexual desires by molesting a young vulnerable boy in The School’s care and custody,” the state alleges.

The suit claims that the abuse has left Mirlis with “severe emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, pain and anguish, anxiety, panic, sexual dysfunction, PTSD, depression, hyper-vigilance, shame, and low self-esteem” that have “permanently damaged” his “educational and career prospects.” The suit does not specify an amount sought for damages beyond

Mirlis, who is 28 years old and lives in New Jersey, is represented in the suit by attorney Antonio Ponvert III of the Bridgeport firm Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder.

Rabbi Greer, who has maintained a confident position of innocence amid the allegations, referred a request for comment for this article to his attorney, William Ward.

Ward denied the accusations on Greer’s behalf in a conversation late Tuesday morning with the Independent.

“It only takes a moment to make allegations with despicable indifference to the consequences of the damage they would cause to my client, his family, and his reputation that he spent a lifetime building in his community. This is a difficult time for my client and his family. But I would remind the public to ask for evidence before rushing to judgment, as my client is now burdened with the task of proving something did not happen 14 years ago, as alleged by Mr. Mirlis,” Ward said.

“Ask yourself why Mr. Mirlis would wait 14 years. Ask yourself why Mr. Mirlis, well into his adulthood, repeatedly honored the man he now accuses. Ask yourself why Mr. Mirlis, an Orthodox Jew, would not seek redress form a rabbinical arbitration court. Ask yourself why Mr. Mirlis’s first stop was his lawyer’s office to seek money. And finally ask yourself why his attorney would issue a press release.”

Attorney Ponvert responded that victims of childhood sexual abuse often take years to come to grips with what happened to them and come forward with allegations, and in the meantime may maintain contact with their abusers. He said his client felt his best chance for justice lay in the civil courts.

“The waiting, first of all, is a well-known consequence of the infliction of childhood sexual abuse. If children were able to understand what was happening to them when they were being groomed and manipulated by an adult for that adult’s sexual gratification—if the children understood that at the time most of these would be reported when they happened. That doesn’t usually happen, because adults who sexually molest children tend to be very persuasive, very calculated, and very adept at choosing vulnerable victims who do not have the ability to get out of the relationship,” Ponvert said.

He said that one reason Mirlis “waited 14 years was because of the power that this man held over him. This your rabbi. This is the principal of your school. This is a 60-year-old man who is showing affection to you you’re not getting anywhere else in the world. He’s chosen you. You now have this person who has chosen you for this special relationship which he is telling you every day that it occurs is healthy and good. The time lag between that and the reporting is evidence of how good a molester and manipulator that Greer is.”

Police Will Look Into Case

The statute of limitations to file a federal suit is 30 years from the time of the alleged incident. The same is true for the state of Connecticut to pursue criminal charges, under the Connecticut General Statutes section 54-193a.

Ponvert said Mirlis has not sought to pursue criminal charges. But if the police or state’s attorney decide to pursue an investigation, “obviously my client will fully cooperate,” Ponvert said.

Upon the announcement of this information, the department will be reaching out to the plaintiff’s attorney,” Police Chief Dean Esserman told the Independent Tuesday.

Ponvert said his client chose a lawsuit rather than a criminal complaint to pursue his complaint because “he has the ability to attempt to control getting justice in the civil arena.”

The assistant principal named in the lawsuit did not return calls for this story. He has retained a local attorney, who, according to a secretary, is out of the country and unavailable. The assistant stepped down from his job in 2015.

Neighborhood Builder

Paul Bass File Photo Since Daniel Greer returned to New Haven in the 1970s, he has fought to create and preserve his visions of both urban neighborhoods and sexual morality.

Greer first came to New Haven to attend Yale Law School, where he roomed with future California governor and presidential candidate Jerry Brown. He then moved to New York City, where he served as an official (deputy commissioner for ports and terminals) for Mayor John Lindsay. He also led a successful campaign to force the United States to pressure the Soviet Union into allowing Jewish “refuseniks” to emigrate here and start new, freer lives.

Back in New Haven, he set out to create a walkable, safe enclave in the Edgewood neighborhood where he and his wife could create an Orthodox school for their children and other Jewish children.

His success in stabilizing a declining neighborhood has inspired clergy from other faiths to try the same approach in other parts of town plagued by absentee slumlords.

From the start, Greer understood the need for political and community ties to succeed with his mission. He cultivated corporate donors, some of whom could contribute to his group’s not-for-profit real-estate efforts through the state Neighborhood Assistance Act. The annual yeshiva community dinner has honored leaders in the broader community and drawn political leaders from throughout the state.

He served on city boards and commissions. He played an important role as a member of the Board of Police Commissioners in hearings that exposed massive illegal NHPD wiretapping of government dissidents and political opponents. He later served on the Redevelopment Authority board as well.

Greer and the Gan School’s members and supporters organized neighborhood campaigns and got out the vote for candidates in ward elections. Working with police and prosecutors, Greer and his allies successfully pressed for the shutdown of a brothel and publicly posted the names of johns arrested for patronizing street hookers, sweeping public prostitution from the neighborhood. After Greer’s son was assaulted during an uptick in crime, his organization formed an armed “defense patrol” along with the Guardian Angels. The patrol, though short-lived, made national news and forced the city to police the neighborhood better.

Most recently, Greer blasted city officials for ending a lease for a police substation at a Greer-owned building at Whalley and Norton, and for not taking action against commercial slumlords in the neighborhood.

Greer was also outspoken about sexual mores. He railed to a crowd against the evils of homosexuality and gay marriage at a rally at the state capitol. Gan members also testified in New Haven against a domestic partnership law.

Jew vs. Jew

When Greer’s daughter attended Yale, he led a legal fight in 1997 against co-ed dorms, which he depicted as dens of immorality. He didn’t prevail in court. But he embarrassed Yale with national news coverage of the “Yale 5” case, including a lengthy New York Times Magazine story that author Samuel Freedman expanded into a central part of his book Jew vs. Jew.

In recent weeks, Greer has threatened legal action against a local blogger, Lawrence Dressler, who has published accusations against Greer on his site.

Ward, Greer’s attorney, sent an April 18 cease-and-desist letter to Dressler, who used to pray at the yeshiva minyan and launched the blog after serving 20 months in prison on a mortgage fraud-related charge. The letter requested that Dressler publish a “retraction and apology” for what he’d written about Greer and the yeshiva, and refrain from making “any further false statements about Rabbi Greer and the Yeshiva of New Haven.” He also called the accusations “defamatory.”

“These statements have caused great distress to my client and have damaged the reputation of the Yeshiva and Rabbi Greer,” Ward wrote.

Joseph Merly, an attorney in the New Haven law firm headed by John R. Williams, responded on April 20 with a letter written on Dressler’s behalf. “Mr. Dressler has no intention of retracting any statements ...” the letter informed Ward. “The statements which Mr. Dressler made are completely true and accurate and as you know, truth is the best defense to a claim of defamation. In fact, Mr. Dressler intends to expand his efforts to bring forth victims of your clients and publishing their stories and to continue alerting the community to your clients’ crimes.”

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posted by: LivingInNewHaven on May 3, 2016  9:47am

Jesus.  New Haven’s very own Jerry Sandusky.
I am praying for the victims in this disgusting reality.  Unfortunately, there will probably be more victims that come forward.  😢😢😡😡

posted by: Elizabethaiken on May 3, 2016  10:38am

OMG. This is terrible. If it is true, I do not understand how it could have gone on undetected.

posted by: JohnTulin on May 3, 2016  11:00am

Anyone who is shacked by this hasn’t been paying attention.  Scandals like these have emerged in many orthodox communities (see Bklyn, Australia, more)....just a matter of time before the community circles its wagons to protect this man of god.

posted by: AliceB on May 3, 2016  11:13am

This is so obviously a false accusation.  The abuse is said to have taken place from an hour to all night; hundreds of times. Greer was over 60 and not an idle man. He worked; he had a life. Does anyone really believe this nonsense????
Isn’t it more than obvious why this is being done to Greer????  I don’t agree with most of what Greer stands for but to try to ruin a man’s reputation because of his beliefs is wrong.

posted by: EPDP on May 3, 2016  11:16am

This is “local blogger” Lawrence Dressler mentioned in the article, read more on my web site:

http://www.larrynoodles.com/new.html

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on May 3, 2016  11:32am

I am not sure why all the laudatory paragraphs are included in this story. We all know Rabbi Greer is an upstanding individual.

However, if the accusations are true, Rabbi Greer committed heinous crimes. Why water them down?

posted by: Brutus2011 on May 3, 2016  11:33am

Is there another way this could have been reported?

I am not advocating protecting a person guilty of these acts but isn’t he innocent until proven guilty?

As it stands now, most who read this will think its true because it is “in print.”

I find this story to be troubling and not because of the alleged conduct although of course the alleged conduct is troubling.

It will be interesting to read the comments as they come in.

posted by: 3jan46 on May 3, 2016  11:58am

To Alice B
60 year olds ain’t dead yet!

posted by: theNEWnewhaven on May 3, 2016  11:59am

GOOOOD GRIEF!!!!  If this is true,....wow.

I do not like anything he stands for and I wouldn’t mind those properties going into the hands of live-in residents…but I would hate to think these accusations could have been falsely reported.

posted by: westville man on May 3, 2016  12:27pm

If the allegations are true,  there will be more to follow.  These types of cases are usually have many, many victims, tragically.

posted by: tmctague on May 3, 2016  3:08pm

I disagree with the subheading Neighborhood Builder, regardless of the context of this article.

posted by: AliceB on May 3, 2016  3:44pm

To 3Jan46:  I am not implying that Greer is or was incapable only that the amount of time would not be feasible for someone half his age to sustain along with also living a busy life.  The logistics don’t add up.  This is where these type of allegations become suspect.  I just don’t understand why people cannot wait to believe the worst before the facts are in. Innocent until PROVEN GUILTY.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on May 3, 2016  4:22pm

The Rabbi will have a presumption of innocence available to him if this matter results in a criminal prosecution.
If more victims come forward, the “real estate empire” will go to pay the survivors for the trauma they’ll tote around for the rest of their lives.
Stop asking why children/ women/ victims in general don’t go directly to the authorities.
They are in shock.
They are ashamed and feel responsible.
They are usually threatened as to what will happen if they fail to keep the secret.
They are told they will not be believed.
They are made to feel responsible for damage that could come to the abuser.
The real question is: why don’t we keep vulnerable people safe????
How many people knew about these rumors and for how long? Did any of them act???
No. They just moved on and left it to the victims to figure out how to handle things.
People knew about Sandusky.
People knew about Hastert.
People always know and they are complicit by their silence and their failure to act.
It takes a village to let children be abused.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on May 3, 2016  4:45pm

A real ugliness here is society’s willingness to deny the heinousness of a sex crime against a child,—by preferring to shove it under the rug.

In doing so, further injury is done to childhood victims, as their realities are questioned, and they are made to feel less safe.

Sure, Rabbi Greer could be innocent. But what would motivate the plaintiff and attorney to go to such great lengths, and to suffer the public humiliation involved in a trial?

Again, as someone else said, if this is genuine, there are likely more than the two victims described in NHI’s article.

posted by: Esbey on May 3, 2016  5:29pm

@Dwightsteeter is correct about how child abuse victims respond years later.  So, please stop attacking alleged victims with stuff like “this can’t be true because it happened years ago.”  Also, the “busy man” stuff is nonsense.  There are 168 hours in every week.  Plenty of very busy Catholic priests did horrible things and a busy rabbi has the same opportunity. 

That doesn’t prove guilt, and the Rabbi deserves a fair trial and the presumption of innocence in any criminal matter, should one be brought.  In a civil case, the standard is preponderance of evidence, there is no presumption of innocence.  In the court of public opinion,  I think “clear preponderance of evidence” is a fair standard, one that fair publications like the NHI can help us to judge. 

On that point, I find it interesting that many of those who know the Rabbi best are not standing by him:

“Enrollment at the yeshiva dwindled to close to zero in recent months as word about the allegations spread through the Orthodox Jewish community. Officials resigned from the boards of the schools and the real estate corporations.”

posted by: EPDP on May 3, 2016  6:08pm

If the victims were seeing therapists all these years, it is not easy to fool a therapist.  The Greer school has always been a dysfunctional place.  They sought out kids with problems.  It was very small. Kids never lasted more than a year at the school.  I had friends and family who went to the school.  I have known these people for years.  There is something not right over there.  Everything was under the control of Rabbi Greer.  The type of control he exerted was beyond micro-management.  He was from the “old school” and believed in the good old days of corporal punishment.  Factor in the insular Orthodox Jewish community, where everything is kept quiet, and you have a recipe for something like this to happen.  I have been writing about this school for several weeks now on my blog:  http://www.larrynoodles.com/new.html

posted by: EPDP on May 3, 2016  6:39pm

Why didn’t Rabbi Greer take me to religious court when he accused me of defaming him when I wrote about him in my blog.  He had his lawyer send me a threatening letter that he was going to sue me.  Nowhere did his letter mention anything about taking me to “religious court.”  http://www.larrynoodles.com

posted by: Dwightstreeter on May 3, 2016  7:34pm

Larry Noodles is my favorite felon.

posted by: 06511 on May 3, 2016  7:47pm

“Ask yourself why Mr. Mirlis, an Orthodox Jew, would not seek redress form a rabbinical arbitration court.”

Answer: because he was allegedly being raped by a rabbi, who was presumably using all the trappings of religious authority and orthodoxy to enable his crimes.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 3, 2016  8:54pm

If the allegations against Greer are true, Noodles has found a great path to a redemption story and a radio hosting gig on NHI.

I am surprised that Paul would actually allow him to promote his blog in the comments section when there was a link in the story, But other things puzzle me about how at NHI , sometimes peoples names are omitted based on personal favor and bias.

I just don’t know what to believe here.  There are liars at every level.

posted by: Fire18 on May 3, 2016  10:26pm

sigh. 

  Not to defend any sort of heinous act of child molestation, but why is this all said WITHOUT anyone
actually knowing if it actually happened.
  Were you there? Were any of us?

  Again, not to defend this type of thing, it should be investigated to the fullest extent, but to have a field day with things that we don’t even know are true??

  It may be true, and it may not be, but one thing is for certain, the courts are chock-full of suits against people that are completely false. And knowing that…this still being publicized even though the damages against Daniel Greer are practically irreversible, not to mention innocent bystanders!?!?

  A wise person knows that we are all connected, which why we want to be so so sooo careful before accusing someone. Especially of something like this!!!!

  Someone that is smart knows how to get the truth, take action, remove the threat, and begin healing the situation, without throwing knives into the backs of innocent bystanders. 

  Before we start reveling in unproven material, take a step back and see if it’s true first.
We are humans after all…gifted with wisdom and intelligence

posted by: A.T. on May 4, 2016  8:50am

Who are the innocent bystanders you are referring to, Fire18?

These are very serious allegations with a great deal of detail. If any of it is true, it is better to be aware that a child predator may be living in our midst. He is the head of a rather insular community, after all. Until the allegations came out, he ran a school for children. In my mind, those children and any others he has access to need the most protection.

posted by: westville man on May 4, 2016  8:54am

Fire 18.  I hear you on your comment about waiting for a full inquiry.  I hope he is innocent.  Knowing what I know about the expense and difficulty of bringing these types of suit, and the high profile attorney handling the case (he had to weigh the evidence before filing),  it doesn’t look good for Greer.  Sure, it’s all speculation, but I know which side I would bet on.  And like I said,  I’ll speculate further that there are other victims to follow.

(many of the comments on any particular story for NHI are based on conjecture, opinion and speculation)

posted by: EPDP on May 4, 2016  10:56am

This is Larry Noodles.  I feel it is necessary to respond to the unprovoked personal attack hurled against me by Bill Saunders:  First off, I am not looking for personal redemption from anyone in the human world.  Secondly, hosting a radio show for Paul Bass would be a waste of my talents.  I am currently negotiating a multi million dollar contract with Howard Stern and Sirius Radio.  Third, I don’t think Paul Bass is promoting my blog when I put a link in my comments.  I only put the link when I think it is related to the comment.  When I made numerous comments about King Salovey and the Yale Evil Empire, I didn’t put any links to my blog.  I think what this really comes down to is that Bill Saunders is jealous of me because I have a catchy nickname that I obtained in Federal prison, and Bill Saunders never did any time in Federal prison.  If it makes you feel any better Bill, Federal prison is not that great.  I did not enjoy it in the least, despite what the media tries to portray.

posted by: EPDP on May 4, 2016  11:52am

If Rabbi Greer is indeed innocent, and he knows he is innocent, then this lawsuit should be of no relevance to his life.  People who know Rabbi Greer well, and believe he is innocent, would come forward and vigorously defend him.  But nobody has publicly come forward to defend Rabbi Greer.  Rabbi Greer’s wife, sibling, and many children have not come forward publicly to defend him, let alone his friends.  Rabbi Greer has a rolodex of many people who have donated to his non-profits for many years.  Why are none of these people coming forward and defending Rabbi Greer?  People who have known Rabbi Greer for many years.  Not one rabbi has come forward to publicly defend Rabbi Greer.  Surely these people must know his character traits.  Rabbi Greer has known prominent judges and politicians for many years.  The silence is deafening. Fire18 has not come forward publicly to defend Rabbi Greer.  Why not reveal your real name Fire18?  People file frivolous lawsuits all the time.  But the victim here lives in a very insular religious community in which even mentioning the topic of molestation by a rabbi is taboo, and can subject the victim and his family to personal attacks and fallout from other members of the religious community.  The victim here should be commended for his bravery in coming forward, despite the pain and suffering it will bring upon him and his family.  As this lawsuit drags on for years this victim will never have closure.  The victim will be subjected to depositions, a trial, and will have to relive past pain and trauma.  The only “damages” Rabbi Greer will suffer will be the loss of money, big deal. No money in the world will ever compensate this victim for the trauma he endured.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 4, 2016  1:15pm

EPDP,

Believe me, I have plenty of catch nicknames that I didn’t need to serve time in the joint to get.

If you re-read my comment, I think you will see that it is more of a gripe against Paul Bass’s uneven hand when it comes to reporting crime in the community.  The fact the you are a repeated recipient of this press largesse makes me wonder as well, but ultimately that has nothing to do with you, it has to do with NHI.

[Paul: We named the plaintiff because the plaintiff came forward and wanted to be named and gave permission. Otherwise we wouldn’t name a victim. I know that grey areas are harder to follow than “never name someone” or “always name someone,” but we do see grey and try to navigate it.]

posted by: AliceB on May 4, 2016  1:52pm

My God, the witch hunt has begun. Why has nobody come forward?  There may be any number of reasons.  Maybe they were all told not to acknowledge the allegations; maybe they know once they put themselves out there they, too, will be attacked and accused.  That is what happens. By the way assuming Greer is innocent how does one get their reputation back???

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on May 4, 2016  5:22pm

@ Alice,

Presuming the young man filed his lawsuit because he was in fact molested, how does the victim ever get back his:

1. His good name, given his name is out there just as much.

2. His sense of self, and trust in others?

3. A normal sexuality?

Honestly, by even suggesting that the plaintiff might be a kook, aren’t you compounding the crime that was likely committed?

The plaintiff deserves to be heard, respected, and if there is merit in the suit, believed. Society owes him that much.

posted by: Fire18 on May 4, 2016  5:24pm

To Alice B:  My point exactly! This feels like a witch hunt!

Again, NOT to DEFEND any type horrible unspeakable act of hideous molestation, but no matter how much it looks to have evidence one way or the other, IF he is innocent, HOW does he get his reputation back?  Not to mention innocent bystanders… and you ask who the innocent bystanders are?  What do you think this is doing for his grandchildren?  At this point they’ll be branded as coming from “THAT” family.  If he is innocent, I don’t see how they will EVER recover their reputation.

No matter if he is innocent or guilty, this could have been done in a much more discreet but effective and mature manner, rather than this 5th grade stuff.