Sunday, March 27, 2011

Did Satmar Knowingly Launder Money?

Once again we have religious Jews in the news in negative ways. This time it is Satmar. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal a civil-fraud lawsuit was filed against their Yeshiva, the United Talmudical Academy of Satmar (UTA) is nearing trial. They are accused of laundering money for the now bankrupt Allou Health Care, Inc. From the WSJ:

To pay the bills, UTA solicits and accepts donations and interest-free loans and holds an annual fundraising dinner.

According to the trustee’s suit, that structure provided Arthur Meisels, one of UTA’s leaders, with cover to let Allou and the Jacobses “park” money with UTA and launder funds through UTA. The government claimed the brothers siphoned millions of dollars from Allou for their own enrichment by laundering funds through affiliated companies controlled by the family and Meisels.

UTA of course denies any knowledge of the fraud to which (in 2005) Allou’s one time CEO pled guilty to. Of course in this country one must assume innocence unless proven guilty. I hope in fact that they are innocent. But Satmar does not have a good track record on defrauding the government.

I am reminded of events that took place in 1994 in Kiryas Joel. That is a city founded 60 miles out of New York City that enables its citizens to lead compeletly insular lives. What happened there 17 years ago is a lesson still unlearned.

The city had applied for government funding to renovate a medical facility designed for their disabled children. They got those funds after filing what seems to have been a fraudulent application. The problem was that the facility did not exist.

They did however begin building after receiving fedral funding for a facility but siphoned off money to help pay expenses for various religious schools. Like a swimming pool and sidewalks at the UTA Yeshiva. Also,receipts for various expenditures were falsified and the money used for the UTA bakery.

After federal investigators asked for detailed receipts - the medical center was torched. Arson was never in doubt – but no one was ever charged with the crime.

I have noted in the past that Chasidim in particular have brought with them intact their fears of being persecuted by anti Semitic governments. In Europe the persecution was so severe that many people could only survive via a black market illegal economy.

Satmar still sees the world through its European eyes. ‘The Goyim are out to get us!’ ‘We therefore have every right to operate illegal scams against the Goyishe government in order to survive.’ Their insularity continues to reinforce that mindset.

The troubling thing is that even they must know things are not the same here as they were in Europe. Politicians galore visit Chasidic enclaves seeking their votes since they generally vote as a bloc based on what their Daas Torah (the Rebbe) tells them. This is not lost on government officials who bend over backwards to give them what they want in order to get re-elected.

No government in the history of the world had been as kind to the Jewish people as has the United States. They must know this even if measured purely in terms of dollars and cents. And yet they still operate as though they were living in Czarist Russia waiting for the next pogrom .

The question is why? And what will it take to stop the kind of thinking that is the source for so much Chilul HaShem?