After Guns, Drugs Seized, Chabad Rabbi Defends Youth Center
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After Guns, Drugs Seized, Chabad Rabbi Defends Youth Center

Says discovery of loaded assault rifle and drug paraphernalia was a “horrible surprise”; defends arrested volunteer.

Amy Sara Clark writes about politics and education. A Columbia Journalism School graduate, she's worked at CBS News, The Journal News, The Jersey Journal, Mom365, JTA and Prospect Heights Patch. She comes to journalism from academia where she earned a master's degree in European History with a focus on Vichy France.

The head of a Crown Heights youth center where police discovered a loaded AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle and a stash of drugs Tuesday defended the 11-year-old organization and the volunteer arrested in connection with the crime.

“This came as a horrible surprise,” said Rabbi Moishe Feiglin, who started The Aliya Institute, an organization for disaffected Jewish youth, in 2003.

Someone from the center called the cops after discovering the illegal goods following a tip, Rabbi Feiglin said in an emailed statement to The Jewish Week.

Besides the semi-automatic, the stash included marijuana, drug paraphernalia and other drugs, according to the NYPD. Psychedelic mushrooms, hallucinogenic pills and a bag of acid, were also found, The Daily News reported.

Aaron Akaberi, 28, was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged with several drug and weapon possession charges, police said.

Rabbi Feiglin said that Akaberi was storing some things at the center, but that he “personally went through his possessions on several occasions and never found anything suspicious.”

He added that Akaberi “volunteered hundreds of hours a month for Aliya,” doing “everything from tech support to putting up and taking down the sukka[h] to building repairs and maintenance.”

“Aliya has had and always will have a zero illegal possession policy and we will continue to be there to support our young members through the thick and thin no mater what,” he added.

This isn’t the first time Aliya has hit the police blotter. In 2012, police officers were videotaped beating up a punching 21-year-old man who was sleeping at the center. One of the officers was later put on modified assignment while the incident was investigated.

Aliya, which stands for Alternative Learning Institute for Young Adults, offers “round the clock” services for young adults who have left Yeshiva including shabbatons, prayer services, group therapy, job placement assistance and recreational activities. It also connects youth with community resources including GED-courses and substance abuse services.

CrownHeightsInfo.com, which first reported the story, said a "law enforcement official" defended the center, saying that said Rabbi Feiglin has been "very cooperative" with police and wants "nothing to do with this kind of stuff and wants it out of his synagogue."

amyclark@jewishweek.org

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