Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Two Attitudes about Fraud

There were two comments in succession in Sunday’s post about supporting Spinka Mosdos that were compelling. They are truly telling as to why we are a long way from solving the problem the post addresses. Each one was written without reading the other. Their aliases are Greenshoots and Chosid. I present them unedited and in reverse order of the original postings because the first one is really a kind of reaction to the second. Truly amazing!


It is appalling to see so many people, including the author of this post, commenting about issues that they have so little knowledge about.

I'm referring not only to the facts surrounding the legal case but to the ignorance of the astounding effects that the Spinka Rebbe's public admission and genuine remorse which he has exhibited had on the chassidic community.

I am not ashamed of him at all! I am actually proud and I think the KH he made far outweighed the CH he might have caused.

If I am to be ashamed of someone it would be

a) the rat RK who informed on the people who unknowingly helped him launder money that he stole from investors

b) those contributors that forced the hand of the Spinka Rebbe and would only donate if they got something back. Had they given their Tzedokoh/Maaser properly the mosdos would not have submitted to accomodate those who seek to cheat the government.

I also disagree with your notion that by assisting the mosdos now is in any way condoning or supporting criminal activity. The fact is that the Rabbi has been limited in his involvement in the mosdos to the extent of the financial matters.

It is also a fact that there are not enough chasidic schools compared to the number of children in the community. It is also true that the Spinka mosdos are on the verge of bankruptcy. By assisting them you are not just assisting Torah, you're actually saving hundreds of pupils, yeshiva bochurim and Kollel students from an abrupt closing of their school and being hung out to dry.

There is no room for them in other mosdos. Also, why would a parent, who likely is a former student himself, and who owes his life to the Spinka Rebbe's dedication for so many years, turn a blind eye to him at a time when he needs him most? Would you act the same to your parents if they were to plead guilty to tax evasion? I hope not.


The unfortunate truth is that most of the Chareidi/Chassidish world does not actually see anything wrong in the actions of the Spinka Rebbi and I imagine the only reason he previously suggested his actions were wrong was to aide his plea bargain.

You may ask how am I so sure of this?

For many years I worked as an Accountant in a firm which was patronised almost exclusively by Chareidi/Chassidish clientele (I left the firm as soon as I could get another job). Many of the clients were very well respected members of their communities - you know the type which are honored at fundraising dinners etc. and also included a number of Rebbis with sizable followings.

Almost everyone of them took part in the "tzedaka cash-back" schemes like the Spinka Rebbi, where up to 90% of charitable donations were laundered by donating to official charities. They also took part in almost every other type of tax evasion and fraud you can imagine. As a non-heimishe yid, I was told all sorts of lies and untruths to support their position. I met one of these ex-clients recently and when I suggested that he may want to think about his activities, he retorted words to the effect that the Spinka was dumb to get caught.

Once I spoke to a client (a Rabbi of a shul) who was so frum that he would never eat out of his house as he wouldn't trust the hechsher. I put it to him that his actions were fraudulent and against dina d'malchusa and I even quoted Rav Schwab z'l. He laughed at me and told me I was an old yekke! Not only is their no remorse shown, these people view the rest of us hard working tax paying people as fools.

I have also heard all sorts of svoras why cheating and fraud is acceptable, such as the cost of keeping kosher is more expensive, the cost of Jewish education is more expensive, they are antisemites and its a victimless crime - the list is endless. As I said I left the job because I couldn't stomach knowing that well-respected Jews are cheating and having to discuss this behaviour with non-Jewish work colleagues.

Greed, money and financial power have become the new Avodah Zorah. So many are so involved and blinded by this way of life they cant even see that their public protestations about tzeniut, internet, cell phones etc. merely provide a smoke screen for the real issues. Maybe in Eastern Europe it was halachically acceptable to avoid taxes which were unfairly levied on Jewish communities but nowdays when so many Jews live in a malchus shel chesed where Jews are equal to other citizens can this behaviour be right?

The behaviour of the Spinka Rebbe is unfortunately not a one-off. The chillul hashem caused is massive, the damage caused possibly irrepairable. The depressing truth is that the only lesson learned is to try harder not to be caught next time.

Unfortunately Greenshoot’s accounting of his experiences sounds all too believable. I have heard so many versions of this kind of story from so many different sources and locations - that I have to believe it represents the reality in this stratum of Orthodoxy. My only question is how big this reality is. What percentage ‘Chareidi/Chasidish’ Jews have this attitude?

That Agudah only now addresses it further tells me that they are only reacting to the fallout and did no place any real import on it in the past. It was certainly not as important as myriad issues related to the pursuit of Bein Adam L’Makom – those Mitzvos that are directly related to serving God and do not involve others. Such as the importance of Chalav Yisroel – or why it is an imperative to support Kollelim.

As for Chosid - that he is more upset at the informant than the criminal reinforces my belief that this community does not consider what the Rebbe did all that bad. Nor can anyone who heard what the Rebbe has actually said and call it in any way a Kiddush HaShem – let alone one that is greater than the Chilul HaShem.

If Agudah really wants to change the attitude of their constituents about cheating the government – they have a long way to go and a lot of work to do. Their last convention attempt to address it was a mere drop in the ocean.