FOUR RABBINICAL STUDENTS CHARGED WITH GUN SMUGGLING
As unlikely as it may seem, four Rabbinical students of Mesifta Torah Vodaath in Brooklyn, NY did get into gun related legal trouble and that isn’t the most unusual part of this story. The events as related in a page two article in the New York Times tells of Isaac Flam (22), Motel Lichensztan (21), David Ringelheim (21) and Nathan Shenker (19) who were all charged with violations of various gun possesion charges after being caught discharging firearms within city limits.
The New York Times article goes on to explain that the four bochrim explained to police officers that they were celebrating Lag B’Omer , which the paper describes as the “Jewish equivalent to the American Fourth of July”, by engaging in some inner city target practice, shooting at tin cans in Elizabeth, New Jersey. But this was more than the story of a few Yeshiva boys letting off steam, in fact their actions were both brave and noble, as this was May of 1948 and the just established state of Israel was fighting for her survival. It turns out that the young men had taken time off from their rabbinical studies to purchase and gather weapons to be smuggled to Israel to help the struggling Jewish state in its war of Independence. Or as the boys explained to the court they “intended to send them to Palestine when the arms embargo is lifted”. They had been caught testing the weapons before shipping them to the fight.
In fact a rash of similar cases, with normally meticulously law abiding Jewish citizens being charged with gun running related charges was rampant in the New York Area
in the spring of 1948. The same edition of the New York Times included a story about Joseph Untermayer, 19 years old and his father, prominent poet Louis Untermayer, having been arrested on April 27th on charges of illegally possessing firearms and ammunition.
The article explains that this high society father son team were taken into custody “after the police alleged they had cached rifles, revolvers, hand grenades and thousands of rounds of ammunition in bales of food and clothing for consignment to Palestine.”
While acknowledging guilt, the Untermeyer’s lawyer, the very well connected Paul O’Dweyer (brother of the mayor of New York City) sought dismissal of charges on various technicalities, saying “Though these defendants had been actively engaged in sending arms and ammunition to Israel it would be a worthwhile act.”
The gun smuggling Yeshiva Boys were let off with a fine and a warning and the mayor’s brother succeeded in having all charges against the Untermeyers dismissed.