Monday, June 7, 2021

Vizhnitz for Yaffed and Lapid!

Yaffed is an American organization which seeks to address the problem of charedi yeshivos failing to teach secular education to their students and leaving them woefully unprepared to be able to support their families. In Israel, such campaigns are fought by politicians such as Yair Lapid. Despite the fact that this is in line with Chazal's dictum that a person is obligated to teach his son how to make a living, the official representatives of the charedi community are staunchly opposed to such efforts. In public statements, they argue that yeshivos give a much better education than is popularly claimed.

But now, something incredible has happened. A strong message in support of the message of Yaffed and Lapid has emerged from none other than the Vizhnitz community! 

As discussed in the previous post, one of the Vizhnitz sects has been rallying around Chaim Stern, a pillar of their community who was convicted of all kinds of fraud. Despite his criminal conviction, his rebbe and his community maintain that he is a tzaddik. As for the crimes for which Stern was convicted, they explain that he was a victim of circumstance - the circumstance of a woefully inadequate secular education. A memorandum submitted to the court detailed this as follows:

"Mr. Stern was not a good businessman. He had no business experience, no secular education, limited ability to read, write (in English), or do math... and he has no business schooling or training. As a result of these limitations, Mr. Stern has no appreciation for the niceties of bookkeeping or proper business management... Even though Mr. Stern had barely any secular education, having only attended a religious school up through approximately 8th grade, had never run even a small business himself and certainly did not have any experience running a complex and highly-regulated company like a nursing home, nonetheless, with “the blessing of the Rebbe,” Mr. Stern decided to enter the nursing home industry. This na├»ve optimism in his ability to carry the day through nothing but hard work would lead to financial disaster and, eventually, to the crimes to which Mr. Stern has pleaded guilty..."

There you have it. Running a business requires various skills and education, which are not taught in yeshivos. Failing to possess such skills and education can lead to financial disaster, crime, and imprisonment. As Chazal said: "Whoever does not teach his son a trade, has taught him robbery."

Yaffed and Lapid should plaster the Vizhnitz statement on billboards. It makes their case perfectly.

 

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33 comments:

  1. Hmm. Sound suspicious. He ran a network of nursing homes for years and all the sudden, he's not a good businessman?

    But please. What was Madoff's excuse? And Esformes? And Marc Rich? And countless others? They also didn't get sufficient secular education? As I stated in other comments, the typical financial criminal is actually well educated.

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    1. This guy was very savvy, make no mistake.

      Their excuses are just that: excuses

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    2. You seem to have missed R' Slifkin's point. He is responding to *the argument they made*, true or false or partly true.

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    3. Ok, so education is obviously not a guarantee that someone won't engage in criminal activity. The point is that people who might otherwise avoid such activity may feel compelled to engage in it if they lack skills necessary to get a job, and therefore don't see another way to make a living

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    4. Isaac- not the case here, he clearly wasn't lacking a job or a living. Nachum- wow, how very clever of him.

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    5. Fair enough, but surely we should be considering the general case

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    6. The general case is NOT that poorly educated people commit white collar crimes to earn a living. That case is atypical, most such people are never in a position nor have the skills to do so. Rather, the typical white collar criminal is a well-educated person in a position of financial responsibility who abuses his position for personal gain.

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  2. Rabbi Slifkin does not deny the yetzer harah and that some people such as Madoff fall prey and do evil things. Vizhnitz however is saying that Chaim Stern is a tzadik and did not simply fall prey to his yetzer harah. Rather, Chaim Stern was a tzadik and was unus. The claim that he was unus due to a lack of general studies opens themselves up to Rabbi Slikfin's critique...

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  3. Layers briefs handed to a court do not represent a group's actual beliefs.

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  4. Above and beyond the criminality, there's the added problem that an uneducated bachur can (and will) look at these people, who are treated (of course) as honored individuals in their community, and think, "He never went to school and did well! I can too!"

    Now, of course it's possible to be uneducated and a success. But it's very, very difficult and very, very rare, especially in the modern age. And more importantly, if the fortune looked at was (as is very often the case) made with mild or severe criminality, then the example it sets is even worse. (If it wasn't known at the time, it's bad in one way, and if it was known, it's bad in others.)

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    1. Its actually not difficult and not rare at all. There are many people, most of them just regular guys, who are doing really well online selling or in entrepreneurial companies they or their friends have started. You mention "the modern age"? - you have it backwards. College is becoming more and more suspect - among gentiles, let alone Jews - as it becomes more about wokeness and less about learning. Even people who get degrees are getting them from online colleges, with minimal effort. You can get a perfectly accredited degree straight out of yeshiva with just a couple of summer online classes.

      The MO community traditionally places an emphasis on college, the ivy league in particular, and not on business. I've heard them say (gnashing their teeth?) that it's only a few people at the top who can get away without college. Not true. It's not that way. I don't think they fully realize what's been happening. Or worse, perhaps they do, but they cant bring themselves to admit their philosophy - however right or admirable it may actually be in theory - has failed.

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    2. @A Schreiber

      It's definitely possible to be successful without formal education -- but it is field-dependent. Want to go into business without credentials post high-school? No problem, if you have the right network. Want to go into healthcare, the law, engineering, etc.? Not so much.

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    3. Joe Q - some of that is true, but only in a very small way. Medicine might require some pre-med classes, possibly engineering too. But these are at most a few required classes, which can all be done online, and the large majority of credits needed for a degree can be obtained through yeshiva. And that's just a very few fields. Most others professions (like law, which you mentioned) are wide open, and can be entered via yeshiva without ever having stepped foot into college. Pure business, of course, doesn't need any degree at all.

      On the subject, I should mention that none of what I've said speaks to actual education. I would agree that its good to be educated, read literature, history, science, etc. But all this can - and increasingly, should - be done on one's own. "Educated", and "Went to College", despite the attempts of some to conflate them, are very, very different things.

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    4. Maybe it should be like that, but it's not in the real world. As in, true, many professions that require a college degree probably don't actually need one to do the job. But for now they are required, so that doesn't help the yeshiva graduate with no GED.

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    5. @A Schreiber -- I responded to your comment about being successful despite being "uneducated". I don't include law and engineering school graduates in that category.

      I reiterate that the idea that one can have a wildly successful career with no university ("college") degree is at best field-dependent, at worst a Jobsian fantasy.

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    6. Isaac - right. But you're talking about professions, i.e., graduate school. The undergraduate degree, which is what we mean when we refer to college, can be obtained entirely or almost entirely through Yeshiva.

      In any event, my original point was in response to Nachum, who equated "educated" with "going to school", and claimed one could not be "successful" without going to school, both of which are false. This is no longer the post "World of our Fathers" generation spoken of by every Jewish writer whoever went to Brooklyn College, in which the immigrants saw college as the fast track to success. We are a long way removed from that.

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    7. Joe Q - you're saying that to have a "wildly successful" career college degree is a fantasy. Nachum spoke of basic "success", not "wildly successful", quite a different bar. In any event, its' not true. College is very rapidly becoming irrelevant. As if to signal divine approbation, there is an article in today's Wall Street Journal making that same point, in explaining why the author no longer hires ivy league graduates. It's not exactly the same, but many would apply the same points he makes about the ivy league to college in general.

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    8. A. Schreiber -

      I presume you’re citing to an opinion piece in the WSJ because in Pirkei Avot we learn from Ben Zoma, “who is wise? The one who learns from every person”.

      However, it’s important to know whose opinion you are citing - per Wikipedia, R.R. Reno is “Since 2011 Reno has been editor of First Things, a conservative Christian journal with a wide readership. He courted controversy during the COVID-19 pandemic by downplaying the risks of the virus and attacking both public policy and steps taken by Churches to control the outbreak at the expense of regular economic and ecclesial activity.[5][6] The pandemic, he claimed, "is not and never was a threat to society"[7] and that mask mandates were "enforced cowardice" followed by "men, not cowards."[8]

      He’s certainly entitled to his conservative Christian opinion, but most employers still seek to hire college and (especially?) Ivy League graduates.

      I, myself, received a degree in chemistry (from a State School - not ivy) which would not have been possible in Yeshiva. And there are certainly people who didn’t go to university at all who earn plenty more than I do, but I’m not in poverty. Also, as was said above by Joe Q., that takes networks and contacts etc.; plus it would not be possible to work in my chosen field without an education.

      As you did, I too will cite to popular culture: Good Will Hunting (the movie from the 1990s) where the main character is able to be a mathematical prodigy (with vast amounts of other knowledge as well) simply through self-education (borrowing books from the Library, etc) - no or minimal formal education. But in reality, the raw talent combined with necessary drive are extremely rare qualities for people to have.

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    9. Jeff - the op-ed author's business or opinions on covid are no more relevant to this discussion than your business or your own opinions, or mine.

      You are correct, most larger employers currently still look for a degree, though not necessarily ivy league. Ironically enough, because of wokeness, that requirement is waning. Requiring a degree is the white man's way of keeping the black man down, don't you know. But it currently is still out there, and that's why I don't think its a waste or a bad idea to get a degree. However, you can get one entirely from yeshivah alone, or from yeshivah plus a couple of online classes. And certainly - the key point which launched this discussion in the first place - one can be very successful today with no degree whatsoever. I dont say it's easy. But neither is it rare, as Nachum claimed. It's actually quite commonplace these days.

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  5. "Chaim Stern... did not seem concerned that about half of his 117 residents were on antipsychotics in 2011. He refused to discuss the high rate of antipsychotic use..."

    How NYC Nursing Homes Drug Seniors Into Submission
    https://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/health/4143-investigation-how-nyc-nursing-homes-drug-seniors-into-submission

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    1. Of course, it also matters what one includes in "antipsychotics." If most of the residents were on heavy doses of old timey schizophrenia-level drugs, that's a problem. If many of them had a low dose of Seroquel given as needed - or nightly, for sleep - then that should not be considered a bad statistic.

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    2. That is absolutely false. Seroquel is linked to increased mortality in the elderly. If many of them had trouble sleeping, Remeron is far safer and quite effective.

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    3. Needed for whom? The convenience of the nurses or the residents? According to the article, the national rate of prescribing in nursing homes is around 12% Mr Stern was well above that.

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  6. Most amusingly, according to Mr Noodles (Dressler) he paid restitution to the victims, from the apparent proceeds of what very much looked like a life insurance fraud.

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  7. Who authored the memorandum?

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  8. It looks like it was submitted by Stern's attorneys. The full memorandum is here: https://news12.cv.net/data/news/images/storybuilder/ALL/story_41_826.pdf The quote referenced by R' Slifkin is on page 20.

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  9. This is not a confession of being responsible for poor schooling. It says he didn't ttend any kind of school (is that true?) after about the 8th grade - but they keep people in schools beyond that. And really, he couldn't do basic math?

    If it is a confession of anything, it is that the Vizhnitzer Rebbe made a mistake in giving his blessing to the endeavor.

    And in reality, of education factored into this at all, it is in not realizing in advance the economics wouldn't work (f true) but what a person needs maybe here is experience and mentoring.

    And it is a stretch to attribute his using the "spare funds" in which money had been put for various benefits for workers, to not realizing that he couldn't tap it - of course you can say maybe it was all nonsense to him, and with a better education he would have realized either that it was nonsense or that payments to benefit his employees, already earned, took priority over say, payments to vendors, or to his personal account. (because he surely wouldn't make charitable contributions from business accounts, or wait a second, did he? It is legal for a business to contribute to a charity.

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  10. Can poor education be responsible for this?

    "Between approximately 2011 and 2018, Stern stole approximately $4.1 million from the BHCC Pension Plan, over which he was the trustee, principally by diverting the money to a purported charity, called Em Kol Chai, which Stern controlled, as well as to himself and other entities.

    Also, in approximately February 2015, Stern misapplied $305,608.06 from BHCC Health Plan by diverting the money from a stop-loss insurance plan that was intended to pay for an employee health claim, and instead used it for other purposes, including Em Kol Chai, the operation of the BHCC, and for Stern’s personal use.

    Stern also failed to pay millions of dollars in other health insurance claims that he was obliged to pay on behalf of his employees..." [because he'd diverted money from the fund, presumably]

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  11. t occurs to me that Chaim Stern had an accountant. But...

    The accountant, or at least the same accountant, wouldn't have seen what he did with the money put in the benefits fund. Anything he wanted to hide. like the enormous sums of money he gave to Vishnitz, or perhaps extra compensation for himself, he put there.

    So he might have started off actually by over-contributing to that fund! Not very legal, because once given to that fund it had to be used only for specified purposes. But not in itself, depriving people of benefits. But, in the end, or even not so little before the end, he left it with too little money.

    The charges may begin with 2011 simply because that's as far back as they investigated. It ends with 2018 because maybe that's when he went out of business. In 2015 he cancelled a reinsurance policy r just didn;t pay the premium.

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    1. I agree with this. The professionals are the enablers here, greasing the wheels. Sometimes we go to great lengths to exhibit completely dopy lack of curiosity. Curiosity is bad for business.

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    2. Chaim Stern probably got advice from somebody as to what to do (he surely did not draw up the legal papers himself making himself the sole (?) trustee of several different things, like the BHCC Health Plan, the BHCC Pension Plan, and the (charity apparently not operating legally correctly) Em Kol Chai, but part of what he did was to hide things from the more regular professionals. So I surmise he was actually dumping more money, at first, into various funds than they needed.

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  12. Off topic:
    https://lifeinisrael.blogspot.com/2021/06/the-thousand-year-old-egg.html?m=1
    By the way, that egg looks too round, vs oval shape. Maybe just bad picture. Can you expand on this?

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