Albany Beat — August column

Orthodox Rabbis Urge Leniency In Child Porn Case

The Albany Orthodox Jewish community was rocked by the sentencing of Michael Isaacson, convicted in federal court on three counts of child pornography charges.

“On March 1, Isaacson admitted that he distributed child pornography files over the Internet,” according to Richard Hartunian, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York. “He also admitted to possessing more than 1,000 image files, and more than 30 video files, depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit poses or conduct, some children were less than 12 years of age.”

The images were obtained from Internet websites and peer-to-peer file sharing network, according to the indictment. Isaacson was snagged by a law enforcement agent acting in an undercover capacity.

Isaacson pic

Isaacson, 34, was sentenced on August 1 to five years in a federal penitentiary and 25 years of supervised release. During his incarceration he will be required to participate in the Bureau of Prisons Sex Offender Treatment Program, mental health treatment, and must register as a sex offender, a lifetime societal stigma.

In letters of support from several people from the local Jewish community, including three rabbis, it was revealed Isaacson suffers from ADHD/ADD, Asperger’s Syndrome, and unnamed physical maladies.

The three rabbis and several community leaders wrote to U.S. Senior Judge Gary Sharpe that because Isaacson has become an observant Jew since his indictment two years ago, he should be treated leniently during his sentencing. Isaacson’s supporters attested that he is kind, gentle, introverted, troubled, and a good person.

“I realize that Michael stands accused of serious criminal internet usage,” wrote Rabbi Yisroel Rubin, spiritual leader of Congregation Shomray Torah. “I truly plead that he not be judged too harshly, as he is basically a good person who can be rehabilitated rather than completely crushed.”

“I think Michael is a good citizen and a safe, upright productive member of society and deserves a second chance,” wrote Rabbi Mendy Mathless. “I hold Michael’s character in high regard and hope you would consider a shorter sentence based on who I believe Michael truly is.”

“I sincerely believe Michael has learned from his experience and given the proper medication, mental health support, and rehabilitation he will be able to return as a positive member of our community and society,” Rabbi Dr. Moshe Bomzer, Isaacson’s spiritual advisor and a licensed social worker, wrote in his letter of support.

Addressing Isaacson’s incarceration, Rabbi Bomzer requested that the sentence be served at the Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution in New Jersey.

“It is a facility able to care for his psychiatric needs as well as his religious needs. It is a facility close enough to be visited by clergy (from Lakewood) and volunteer alike and be supported by family and friends.”

“Despite Michael’s legal and moral aberration, he had been faithfully attending a small Orthodox synagogue in Albany and was attempting to further his understanding and practice of Judaism,” wrote Sanford Rosenblum, a respected personal injury attorney from Albany and Monsey, who is closely connected to Rabbis Rubin and Bomzer.

“Fort Dix is only 20 minutes from Lakewood, New Jersey, where there is a thriving Orthodox Jewish community that does significant outreach to nearby Jewish prisoners. We believe that the kind of support Michael is sure to receive from the Lakewood community would not only ease the challenges he faces but may actually allow him to benefit spiritually.”

Goldfeder Gets YU Gig; Will Not Complete Assembly Term

Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder (D – Far Rockaway, Queens) has agreed to take a position as the head of government relations for Yeshiva University.

University officials confirmed that he will begin his position in the fall. Goldfeder’s legislative term ends December 31, 2016, which means he will resign from office prior to the end of his term.

Goldfeder, a Brooklyn College graduate, concentrated his coursework in the fields of political science, marketing, and sociology.

According to his biography, Goldfeder began his career in public service as a community liaison for the New York City Council. He was offered a position as the Queens director for the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit under Michael Bloomberg. He then moved on to become director of intergovernmental affairs for U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D – Brooklyn).

Goldfeder was elected to the Assembly in September 2011. Since he assumed office his legislative battles have included improving transportation, increasing healthcare, and creating jobs.

Under state ethics laws, Goldfeder is barred from lobbying state lawmakers for two years but can lobby the New York City Council, Congress, state agencies, and the governor’s office. “Goldfeder will comply with all his legal obligations,” university officials told The Jewish Press. “The rest of the university’s government relations team will help support any areas he is unable to provide.”

Goldfeder currently lives in Far Rockaway with his wife, Esther, and their three children.

Vying to succeed Goldfeder is Democrat Stacey Pfeffer Amato, 50, daughter of Goldfeder’s predecessor, Audrey Pfeffer, the Queens County Clerk. Rockaway Republican Alan Zwirn, 66, a retired city public school teacher and member of the West End Temple in Far Rockaway, is also vying for Goldfeder’s seat.

Albany Jewish Developer Seeking to Upgrade Troy

Elected officials and community leaders gathered at the building that once housed the Troy Record newspaper to announce the conversion of the vacant building into a 101-unit mixed-use loft five-story apartment building. The Rosenblum Companies purchased the property last September for $1.6 million. The project is expected to cost $23.4 million and take 18 months to complete.

“While we’ve entered a new phase of growth at The Rosenblum Companies, our focus is not on being the biggest, but undertaking innovative, sustainable projects that create lasting value for our company, clients and communities,” said Seth Rosenblum, chief executive officer of The Rosenblum Companies.

“To take part in Troy’s renaissance by giving the historic Troy Record building a second life, bringing the first new construction market rate apartments to downtown, and reinforcing the walkability between RPI and the Central Business District, is a one-of-a-kind opportunity that checks all the boxes.”
Marc Gronich

About the Author: Marc Gronich is news director of Statewide News Service. He also operates the website He has been covering government and politics since 1981. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press.