Staten Island Guru Shot, Former Member Sought

New York 1010 WINS/May 31, 2006

The co-founder of a commune was shot in front of his home by a disgruntled former member who had once harassed him, according to police and members of the group.

Jeff Gross, 52, was hospitalized in stable condition after being shot in the chest and arm. Police said his attacker, whom he identified as Rebekah Johnson, 43, fled.

Authorities and commune members said Gross was climbing the steps of his house Monday night when Johnson allegedly jumped out of the bushes and opened fire

Police, who referred to the shooter as emotionally disturbed, were looking for her Wednesday.

Police said Johnson was involved in an unspecified ``ongoing dispute'' with Gross that led to police complaints filed by both parties.

``We've had restraining orders. We've called the police before,'' said the victim's wife, Susan Grossman.

Gross underwent surgery and was listed in stable condition, said his wife, who is a doctor at Staten Island's St. Vincent's Hospital.

Neighbors and commune members described Johnson as troubled and said she was asked to leave the Ganas community, where she lived from 1986 to 1990 and then again from 1994 to 1996.

Johnson reportedly filed a $3 million lawsuit in 1999 _ which she dropped for unspecified reasons in 2001 _ charging Gross and other commune members of sexually assaulting her and trying to brainwash her. Her campaign against Gross also allegedly included stalking him and fliers and Web postings with salacious accusations.

Law enforcement officials said her claims were unfounded, and she was arrested last year on harassment charges, which were later dropped.

Gross helped found the Staten Island-based Ganas in 1979. The group shares some living expenses and describes itself as ``an experiment in open dialogue'' on its Web site.

It says its purpose ``is to explore applications of feedback to learning. We want to bring reason and emotion together in daily problem solving, in order to create our world, with love, the way we want it to be.''

Ninety residents share the community's 10 homes and prepare group dinners five days a week. Members either pay a monthly fee of about $700 for room and board or work at one of the four Everything Goes shops owned by the community. Some members share their belongings.

Its members range in age from 25 to 70.

Gross also is a longtime community beautification activist who founded the Staten Island Waterfront Festival in 2002 in an effort to revitalize the borough's St. George area. He served as the executive director for the event from 2002 to 2004.

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