Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Jailer and the Gedolim

There's a truly remarkable story at Yeshiva World, "High Ranking Prison Officer Meets Gedolim in Bnei Brak With Regards to Prison Garb For Religious Prisoners" (ironically, taken without attribution from a story at Bechadrei Charedim). It's about how Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Gershon Edelstein (Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovezh) asked the Head of the Commissioner’s Office, Gondar Ilan Malka, to meet with them, after complaints by charedi prisoners about how they are not allowed to wear hats and jackets for davening.

Aside from the strange nature of the story itself (this is the aspect of charedi criminals that the Gedolim see fit to address?!), this raises some other issues about charedi crime. Now, every sector of society has its good apples and its bad apples. Still, one feature of charedi criminals is that they often enjoy high status in charedi society, which is willing to ignore their wrongdoings as long as they are playing for the right team.

One of the most senior charedi politicians in Beit Shemesh, representing a party that the local charedi rabbonim said that it was a mitzvah to vote for instead of the "anti-Torah" dati and mesorati parties, was just arrested for major fraud - though this is not widely known in the local charedi community, because the charedi newspapers refuse to report it (they only report wrongdoings by non-charedim). And, of course, we have one of the worst desecrations of God's Name in the country's history, the conviction of former Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger - a man who was widely suspected of very serious wrongdoings for decades, but who was elected as Chief Rabbi due to the influence of Rav Elyashiv. Then there was the notorious Leib Tropper, another person with a long history of trouble, who was given tremendous power by Rav Elyashiv and other charedi Gedolim.

But another problem is that crime in charedi society often seems to involve the cooperation of a large number of people. Earlier this month, nine charedim were arrested for a huge, sophisticated fraud involving the creation of fictitious yeshivos in order to receive various government benefits. They printed thousands of fake identity cards and even purchased buses to quickly transport hundreds of cooperative students to the Yeshiva in case of a surprise inspection. The scam had been going on for years; investigators said that the investigation was particularly challenging  because of the charedi community's refusal to cooperate with authorities. It was the largest fraud ever uncovered in Israel's history.

This follows a similar case in Beit Shemesh last year, where police arrested twelve charedim for creating a fictitious yeshivah with 150 students in order to receive benefits. A few years earlier, police raided three non-profit institutions in Beit Shemesh and Beitar which were likewise running fake yeshivos to collect benefits. And when the government started to audit how many students in charedi yeshivos really exist, various yeshivos voluntarily removed a total of ten thousand fictitious students!

So is crime in charedi society actually more widespread than in non-charedi society? I don't know of any official figures. But Chazal tell us that this will be the case. Because Chazal state that if you don't give people the education to earn an honest living, they will resort to earning a dishonest living:
"Any Torah that is not accompanied by work, will end in neglect [of Torah] and will lead to sin." (Avos 2:2)
"Whoever does not teach his son a trade... it is as though he has taught him to steal." (Kiddushin 29a)

In the charedi community, children receive no significant secular education, and their employment prospects - when they finally get around to looking for employment - are very poor. And supporting large families is really, really expensive. Chazal tell us that in such a desperate situation, people will very likely resort to crime. That is why traditionally, partly in order to avoid this, Jews raised their children with the skills and attitude to work for a living. Contemporary charedi society is a total perversion of this tradition, with the results that Chazal predicted. It's not that charedim are more unethical - it's that they are more desperate.

And here's where we get to a report about the meeting between the jailer and the Gedolim which, on first glance, appears positive, but on further reflection, is deeply disturbing:
"Rabbi Edelstein told Gondar Malka that the prison system should put in extra effort to make certain that these prisoners are able to find honest work even after they are released so that they will not return to their lives of crime."
Olam hafuch ra'isi. The responsibility is being placed on the wrong party! What Gondar Malka should have replied is: "Shouldn't it be the charedi world that puts in extra effort to make certain that yeshiva students be able to find honest work after they are released from yeshiva, so that they will not enter lives of crime in the first place?!"

(Hat-tip to DH of Monsey. Don't forget that you can sign up to receive this blog via e-mail using the form on the right of the page.)

49 comments:

  1. Correction - in the charedi community, BOYS receive no significant secular education. Girls' secular education is excellent.

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  2. In the Charedi Torah, theft from non-Charedim is legal, if not obligatory.

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  3. I agree with almost everything you wrote, and am actually impressed that the prison authority is consulting with "Gedolim" over the hat and jacket issue, rather than issuing a decree over how prisoners can daven without any input from their religious leaders.

    With regard to your implied criticism of Rabbi Edelstein for asking the prison authorities to help inmates make an honest living when they reenter society, I think he is implicitly acknowledging that Charedi society has failed these individuals, but neither he, nor any other individual has the ability to fix a broken system (There is no "Gadol" big enough to stand up today and announce that the entire kollel system is a failure; even if he believed that, the society that pretend to believe in "Daas Torah" would take away his Gadol credentials before anyone listened.)

    This implicit, partial admission of failure may be the closest than anyone can do to acknowledge the system if broken without getting tarred and feathered (or at least having his books banned by people who haven't read them, although hard to believe that such a thing could ever happen in a society that prides itself on a high level of study)

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    1. Just one comment for the moment: The Tosefta at the end of Menahot (cited in Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1) states that the generation of the hurban (Bayit Sheni) were punctilious in their observance of all the commandments and toiled at the study of Torah but they loved money (obviously leshem shamayim) and hated other people - hence was the temple destroyed. See further the description of that generation in the Netsiv's short introduction to Sefer Bereshit. I have heard that there is a movement towards deleting this introduction from the next edition of the Netsiv al haTorah. Is someone going to edit out the final paragraph of the Tosefta Menahot also?

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  4. Great blog!! I am glad to see that someone is finally addressing the problem of davening without a hat and jacket in prison... This has been a problem going on in the penal system for way too long.

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    1. Missing the point, I think.

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    2. Indeed. It is a terrible problem if Chareidim in prison are treated like convicted criminals. They might even come to think they actually did something wrong!

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  5. rehabilitation is part of criminal and social services program, not a person's neighborhood

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  6. An article published by Haaretz in 2011 (https://www.haaretz.co.il/misc/1.801120) stated that only 1% of people jailed in Israel for criminal offenses were chareidi even though they then constituted 6% of the population. This was to refute a report that the figure is even lower. I suspect you tpp will find the figures are low if you look into it.
    I also suspect that most chareidim jailed for monetary crimes are motivated more by greed than by need. The people mentioned in your article were raking in millions. Shops in chareidi areas commonly leave goods lying around unattended.

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    1. I'm sure they don't leave silver lying around unattended

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  7. Alistair CornblattMay 27, 2018 at 5:03 PM

    How do posts such as this fit into an "exploration of rationalist approach to Judaism...."?
    To me, this just seems like another gratuitous bash at another sect of Jews. Perhaps consider setting up another website more appropriately titled when youre wearing your chareidi bashing hat.

    As an aside, I do enjoy and am grateful for the posts that do feature a rationalist perspective on matters within Judaism and Classical Jewish thought.

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  8. It is mind boggling to see that in 2018, people can still believe these news articles. If you actually believe that this was about hats and jackets, you must be living under a rock. Idk what this is about, but the lesson should be out there, Charedi news is not on the internet. Their news outlets have not changed much for a hundred years, with the exception perhaps of tge closed whatsapp groups in which news gets around. But Google won't find it for you.

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  9. I don't know what goes on in Israeli prisons. However, IF we need to bend over backwards to accommodate a terrorists religious needs, then certainly in our own country we should allow for Jewish religious needs.

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  10. Rabbeinu Yonah commentary on
    tractate Avot, chapter 2, paragraph 2:


    Not working brings a man to poverty and
    this causes many sins and great evil.

    CHRONOLOGY:
    Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona died in Toledo,
    Spain, in year 1263 of the Common Era.

    =========================================

    Rambam Rejected Childless Messiah:

    http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2016/08/rambam-rejected-childless-messiah-by-mr.html

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  11. Totally- I'm sorry but if you are in prison you should be thankful you are allowed to pray in the first place.

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  12. YS, please tell is you're being sarcastic.

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  13. Not to disagree with your main point, but everyone in the chareidi community in Beit Shemesh knows about Montag being arrested.

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  14. “It’s not that chareidim are more unethical - it’s that they’re more desperate.”

    Isn’t refusing to to work for a living and demanding instead government financial support, inherently unethical? So many thousands of chareidim living unethical lives! Is this authentic Judaism?

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  15. "this is the aspect of charedi criminals that the Gedolim see fit to address?!"

    It's comical, almost. As if we needed any further proof that charedism is kulo chitzonius...

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  16. You have to remember the psychological mindset at play here. For many in the Chareidi community and especially their leaders the modern Israeli government and society are just a variation on the evil Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, Roman, Greek and Babylonian oppressors who came before. They are on the outside, they think of nothing but destroying the Torah by ruining the Chareidi community, etc.
    Therefore anyone committing a crime against Israeli society is automatically a hero because he is striking a blow against those who hate God and His Torah. And the bigger the crime, the bigger the hero!

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  17. They can just schmeer the jailers and do what they want. That's how Al Kapoteh lived so well behind bars.

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  18. If this keeps up (not being able to wear jacket & hat for prayer)charedim may soon refuse to go to jail or prison.
    "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time."

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  19. From the article: "BeChadrei Charedim said that after publishing the story..." -- Perhaps the author felt this was a sufficient attribution.

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  20. So why are the gedolim wasting time in such an issue? Crazy

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  21. Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron was also convicted of fraud. The chief rabbinate is a disgrace. They are chareidi pawns perpetuating a corrupt and immoral lifestyle.

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  22. Curious-- how much do they earn per pupil? Or is decided in a case by case basis (i.e., protexia?)

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  23. I once knew a highly intelligent Orthodox woman whose son went off-the-Derech. With tears in her eyes, she pleaded with G*D that her son should wear a hat. This shocked me, because at that moment, I realized that this woman really believed that wearing a hat is more important that eating kosher or honoring Shabbat or wearing tefillin, even though those three things are all part of the 613 commandments. She actually did not understand that the 613 commandments are more important than minor customs.

    Year before that, one young Orthodox lady told me, with great seriousness, that “wearing a yarmulke is the most important mitzvah in the Torah” because that is what makes us Jews.

    ===========================================
    Rambam Rejected Childless Messiah:

    http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2016/08/rambam-rejected-childless-messiah-by-mr.html

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  24. ...Yona Metzger - a man who was widely suspected of very serious wrongdoings for decades, but who was elected as Chief Rabbi due to the influence of Rav Elyashiv...

    By this comment you are implying that HaRav Elyashiv ZT"L, who was occupied solely with Torah, knew about R'Metzger dealings. You should've read Chofetz Chaim more often. Aside from this, you seem to forget that Chief Rabbi is elected by 150 people, almost half of which are secular members of the election panel.
    With your other pathetic notion that occupation with Torah makes people prone to crime, you ignore all those doing time like the former PM Olmert, who did receive secular education.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry but we expect higher standards of all types of propriety from Haredim - even financial propriety - than we expect from secular people. Are we right?

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  25. This must be an example of conservation of temptation.
    "חגיגה י"א ב: "גזל ועריות נפשו מחמדתן ומתאוה להם
    If you go out of your way as a community to insulate yourselves from sexual temptation, you compensate by stealing more. :-)

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  26. This weeks Mishpacha magazine in Hebrew had the cover story about Charedi drug mules, when asked why they did it, they said money.

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  27. This weeks Mishpacha magazine in Hebrew had the cover story about Charedi drug mules, they smuggle drugs, cash, diamonds, etc. from Europe into Israel. When asked why they did it, they all said money. They interviewed an Avrech who got caught smuggling cash and diamonds into Israel while with his wife and baby. When asked why did you do it? He said the following:
    Money what else? It's 3% for cash and 50 to 150 Euro on every diamond, 200 euro for every watch. I was supposed to make more then 10,000 Euro on this trip. 4 or 5 trips per year and I am set financially. How else can I make so much money?

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  28. Tired of silly arguments badmouthing chareidimMay 29, 2018 at 2:13 PM

    If these Chareidim can pull off such huge, sophisticated frauds without any formal secular education, it kinda shows you don't need any formal secular education to effectively run a money-making operation. Just shrewd business acumen and organization skills.
    I think these same uneducated chareidim could potentially have run real mosdos as well, given the opportunity. Many uneducated Chareidim who need a parnossah actually do run real mosdos chinuch. And chessed orgs. And shops. And businesses.

    So much for your argument that what's driving these crimes is a lack of formal secular education.

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    1. If you know anything about chare idiot run businesses then you know how much they are run off the books / under the table. Which is why they have a hard time getting bank credit. Mamash great businessmen

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    2. "Chare idiot" was a genuine auto-correct error. I didn't mean to say 'idiot' just 'chareidi'

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    3. Tired of silly arguments badmouthing chareidimJune 6, 2018 at 9:41 AM

      Now you are just bad mouthing Chareidim without the silly arguments. Their lack of formal secular education leads them to run off the books/under the table because...?

      Delete
    4. For a number of cultural reasons
      1. They don't feel attached to the parent society, so ripping it off doesn't carry the moral weight
      2. Because they see themselves as the ethnic descendants of oppressed east European jewry who struggled against governments and dress up those behaviors even today on modern free America especially the sense of not reporting things which translates directly into how much cash gets put in the bank
      3. Because they lack / reject access to secular business mentors or programs that might teach them the benefits of behaving differently, especially hated women
      4. Because by its nature, chareidi Judaism is a reaction against the outside world and thus the natural inclination to keep your business secret. "We keep ourselves to ourselves" is the motto and that has results.

      Of course the very wealthy chareidi business owners know better.... or at least some of them do.

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    5. In #3 it's haredi women, not hated women....

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    6. Anyone who has work in financial institutions in both chareidi and non chareidi neighborhoods knows exactly what I'm talking about.

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    7. Tired of silly arguments badmouthing chareidimJune 10, 2018 at 9:39 AM

      So what you're telling me is that the drive to run a business off the books/under the table comes not from a lack of formal secular education per se. It's a lack of integration into general society.
      And you see formal secular education as the social tool to achieve integration.

      So according to you, every time I enter a taxi in Israel where the non-chareidi driver offers me a fixed amount to reach my destination instead of using the meter, its because he never went to school and isn't integrated enough into broader Israeli society?

      Patently absurd.
      Thanks for providing yet another silly argument for badmouthing chareidim.

      Delete
    8. Taxi drivers are a different issue.
      You can't learn one from another.
      We're you not very good at Talmud logic?

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    9. Tired of silly arguments badmouthing chareidimJune 10, 2018 at 8:55 PM

      Oh, and just to make it clear, you are moving very far away from Rabbi Slifkin's argument about lack of education being the cause to saying lack of social integration being the cause.

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    10. You didn't rebut any of my points. You just dismissed them....

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    11. Tired of silly arguments badmouthing chareidimJune 11, 2018 at 10:07 AM

      Taxi drivers are not a different issue until to explain why they are with facts instead of feelings.

      You claimed the reasons why chareidim work off the books/under the table are because of their isolationist culture--not the more obvious reason that many people are simply needy/greedy and want to hold on to more of their earned money if they can get away with it. Like your average taxi driver--nothing to do with chareidi culture.

      It's your job to prove that taxi drivers didn't destroy your argument. Talk about dismissing.

      Delete
  29. "Still, one feature of charedi criminals is that they often enjoy high status in charedi society"

    That is quite a statement. Was this based on a study, or will you back it up with anecdotal evidence, and your own personal experience. (see: Leib Tropper personal enemy and Beit Shemesh politicians your place of residence)

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  30. >> In the charedi community, children receive no significant secular education, and their employment prospects - when they finally get around to looking for employment - are very poor.

    That's partially a result of the policy of the educational establishment, which loads numerous irrelevant requirements to anything, and maximizes the length of study.

    And which does not allow on the job training - it's been eliminated from nursing, for instance.

    If we had apprenticeship programs this would not be such a big problem.

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  31. "But another problem is that crime in charedi society often seems to involve the cooperation of a large number of people." Yep. We're talking entire COMMUNITIES who cover up and deny child sex abuse and protect and shelter offenders/predators, which is why it continues...

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  32. Analysis of crime in the charedi community is important.

    But why shouldn't any community's leadership advocate for its prison population? Why is that 'truly remarkable'? How does advocating for prisoners' rights 'raise[s] some other issues about charedi crime' other than highlighting the fact that there are charedi people in prison.

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