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Rabbi helps synagogue vandal with parole

Temple Israel Rabbi Larry Kaplan helps woman charged with defacing Ohav Zedek Synagogue get early parole.

Rynkiewicz

WILKES-BARRE – A local rabbi helped a woman serving jail time for vandalizing a synagogue with anti-Semitic symbols get early parole.

Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr., granted early parole for Nora Rynkiewicz, 19, of Factoryville, who was charged in March 2008 for defacing the Ohav Zedek Synagogue in Wilkes-Barre with swastikas and other derogatory messages.

Rabbi Larry Kaplan of Temple Israel in Wilkes-Barre testified on Rynkiewicz’s behalf Monday, stating he has met with her on several occasions, and believes Rynkiewicz knows the magnitude of her offense.

“She no (longer has) anger because she recognized the enormity of what she’d done,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan said at first, Rynkiewicz understood what she did was wrong, but didn’t understand the ramifications of the Jewish and surrounding community.

Kaplan said he met with Rynkiewicz because he wanted her to understand the impact it had on the community, and that he and Rabbi Nachman Bruce, of the Ohav Zedek Synagogue, feel that her incarceration was punishment enough.

“We want her to live the best life she could, as best as she could,” Kaplan said.

Rynkiewicz was serving a nine- to 18-month sentence.

Forensic therapist Adrian Johnson also testified on behalf of Rynkiewicz, stating that in the last six months Rynkiewicz has been lodged in the county prison she’s made notable progress and has “come a long way.”

Johnson said she has been attending counseling and mental health treatment, and believes she can become a productive member of society.

Johnson also said other inmates at the prison would make derogatory comments to Rynkiewicz about the incident, and that she has come to terms with it, and can’t apologize enough.

“Who am I to judge (people of the Jewish faith) when I don’t know them,” Rynkiewicz said Monday. “I can’t express how sorry I am.”

Rynkiewicz’s attorney, Ronald Greenblatt, said in court papers Rynkiewicz would live with her parents in Factoryville once released from prison, continue weekly psychotherapy and outpatient programs, and secure employment.

Olszewski said the sentence he gave Rynkiewicz, which calls for her to serve three years on probation, was within the standard range of sentencing guidelines.

“The kind of crime you committed is very serious,” Olszewski said, adding that she not only vandalized a religious building, but caused pain to the Jewish community and the community at large.

Rynkiewicz must pay more than $2,000 in restitution.

Olszewski said when he sentenced Rynkiewicz in December, he wasn’t convinced by her words that when she got out of prison, she wouldn’t do this again.

“It was unlawful and morally unacceptable,” Olszewski said, citing that Rynkiewicz must have been rehabilitated somewhat, since both her counselors and a rabbi were willing to testify on her behalf Monday.

“That impresses me,” Olszewski said.

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