Ganas: Calamity at Staten Island commune

A kinky commune of Staten Island that preached peace and love was rocked by violence when a woman booted from the group returned with a grudge – and a gun, cops said.

Rebekah Johnson – who had waged a decade-long campaign charging the Ganas commune was rife with sexual hijinks – was on the lam last night after allegedly seriously wounding organization co-founder Jeff Gross.

The 43-year-old suspect hid in the bushes outside one of the hippie haven’s 10 Staten Island homes and ambushed Gross, 51, as he walked along Corson Ave. on Monday night, cops said yesterday.

Johnson unleashed four rounds from a .380-caliber handgun – striking Gross once in the chest and twice in the arm before fleeing, police said.

“She’s a nut,” a police source said after cops found target-practice silhouettes in her apartment near the commune.

Gross, although gravely wounded, was still able to blurt out who shot him outside the home whose residents include his estranged wife and their 3-year-old adoptive daughter.

“We just ran out and saw him on the ground. He said it was Becky. He said she jumped out of the bushes,” said a Ganas member named Melissa, 28, who declined to give her last name.

Gross, a major force behind the Ganas community for nearly 25 years, was in stable condition yesterday after undergoing surgery at St. Vincent’s Hospital Staten Island.

In a telephone interview from the hospital, he told The New York Times that he was coming home from the movie “An Inconvenient Truth” when he was attacked. “She was in the shadows,” he said, according to the paper’s Web site. “I was pleading with her to stop shooting.” Police fear Johnson, a minister’s daughter whose family ran a horse farm in a well-to-do Virginia community, may have bolted New York. She was described as a heavyset, 5-foot-7 white woman, with crooked teeth and graying reddish hair.

The shooting put a bloody end to what commune residents called Johnson’s 10-year obsession with Gross.

“She was troubled. Her mental capacity was such that she couldn’t cope with the community,” said a woman who lives in the commune and didn’t want her name used. “She was asked to leave.”

Johnson joined the Ganas community because she was attracted by its claims of being a peace-loving urban kibbutz, dedicated to the exploration of biofeedback, neighbors said. She lived there from 1986 to early 1989 and returned in 1994 for a 21/2-year stay.

But the sexual bingo allegedly practiced by the group became a sore point with Johnson, who sought solo affections from Gross, neighbors and police sources said.

Johnson’s anger first surfaced in 1999 when she filed a civil lawsuit claiming Gross and other commune members sexually assaulted her between 1986 and 1989 and tried to brainwash her.

Her $3 million lawsuit also claimed members traded sexual partners – ignoring herpes and sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS. When she complained about the sex play and called the group a cult, the organization fired her from her Ganas job and tossed her out of the commune, she claimed.

Johnson dropped the suit in May 2001, records show.

But in 2004, she allegedly began an aggressive campaign of stalking Gross, whom she blamed for tossing her from Ganas.

She tailed him and snapped photos of him while he worked at the annual Staten Island waterfront festival or jogged near his home, law enforcement officials said.

Some of those photos appeared in flyers she made and distributed through the neighborhood, the officials said.

“Career rapist and a pimp!” Johnson’s handbills screamed. “He has terrorized and coerced women into fraudulent immigration marriages to illegal aliens – this is how terrorists infiltrate the country.”

She allegedly spray-painted “pimp” and “rapist” on Gross’ home and tried to convince the Staten Island District Attorney’s office that Gross was a sexual sadist and the Ganas group a dangerous cult.

Instead, police arrested Johnson in December 2004 on charges of stalking and harassing Gross. The misdemeanor charge of harassment was later dismissed and the record sealed.

“At the time, Gross told everyone that he thought she was crazy but did not think Johnson was capable of doing him violence,” a law enforcement source said.

But Ganas members said Gross later developed a serious – and apparently well-founded – fear of her.

With Michael McAuliff and Oren Yaniv

Bizarre regulations of trippy collective

Weird goings-on at Ganas:

• Free love is encouraged and multiple partners are the norm. One 60-year-old woman claims that when she moved to the commune she was introduced to five men and they were all available to be her partner.

• One founder, an 83-year-old widow, recently moved out to start a new life – with her new 38-year-old husband.

• A dwarf named George, a retired money manager, has designed an economic system for the commune that mixes communism with capitalism. Special tiny steps for the staircases were built for him.

• A quorum is needed to approve purchases over $50.

• The four golden rules are no violence to people or property, no free rides, no illegality and no complaining – gripes can only be aired at early morning “planning” meetings.

• A nearby house called the Treehouse is used for pot smoking and borderline activities.

• Room and board costs $710 a month, but residents can defer the cost by working at one of Ganas’ three thriftshops.

Source: New York magazine


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
New York Daily News, USA
May 31, 2006
Jose Martinez

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday May 31, 2006.
Last updated if a date shows here:


More About This Subject


Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission -- at no additional cost to you -- for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate, Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this research service free of charge.

Speaking of which: One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at