Op-Ed: When Will We Start Following The Law And Start Avoiding The Colossal Chillul Hashem?

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For the second time this week, the FBI arrested Frum people in Lakewood, NJ in a federal and state crackdown on public assistance fraud in the Orthodox community.

On Monday, three couples were arrested. The FBI warned that the arrests were just the beginning of what appears to be multiple waves of arrests.

 

On Tuesday night, the FBI took another three couples into custody.

All are being charged with public assistance fraud including Medicaid, food stamps, Section 8, and other government assistance programs, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.

Of course, everyone is innocent until proven guilty – and calling people guilty isn’t the purpose of this op-ed.

 

Possibly as bad as the actual chillul hashem, and the actual crime, is how many people fail to look at the bigger picture here. Many are complaining that the FBI notified the media ahead of the arrests so they can make a “photo-op” out of it. Ignorance is an understatement, as this is what the FBI always does when there are multiple arrests, especially high-profile arrests. Did it ever dawn upon people that perhaps the purpose of the photo-ops are to warn others to stay clean and not break the law, or they too will end up with their photos splashed on the front covers of every newspaper?

In reality, it seems that the FBI has already accomplished whet they hoped to do by the exposure of the arrests. It has been reported that in the past two days, hundreds of Lakewood residents called township leaders asking how they can avoid arrest or get amnesty for past use of government programs which they aren’t legally able to take.

Ocean County Social Services received dozens of phone calls from people looking to cancel their public assistance or update their income information.

People may not be aware of this, but more than 10,000 anti-Jewish comments have already been posted on social media since the arrests were announced on Monday morning. TEN THOUSAND. That is a very big number, and it is simply horrifying.

Perhaps it might pay to read the following story of Rav Shimon Schwab ZATZAL, and hopefully law-breakers will take heed and stop endangering the lives of Jews in America.

Many years ago, a shameful scandal erupted in the Jewish community centering around a Jewish businessman who was put on trial for embezzlement. At that time, influential members of the embezzler’s community approached Rav Shimon Schwab with a plea that he do what he can to prevent the man from going to prison. Rav Schwab became extremely agitated, and he pointed out to the petitioners that the man’s behavior, which was so widely publicized in the media, caused a tremendous chillul Hashem, and that the man had became a virtual rodef, a threat to the lives of Klal Yisrael.

He told the visitors outright that the embezzler deserved to sit in prison for a long time. He pleaded with them to give the embezzler a message – that he should shave off his beard and take off his yarmulke when appearing in court, because by displaying these signs of his religious affiliation, he would be making a new chillul Hashem every day on the evening TV news and would be a living disgrace for the Jewish people.

It’s high time that people stop doing things illegally. People love to complain that “they are picking on us”. Yes they are. And for good reason. We are held to a higher standard. We are the Am Hanivchar. Let’s live up to that title, and not have ourselves embarrassed and plastered all over the news. Enough is enough. It’s 2017 and everything goes viral in seconds. Social media ignites in a heartbeat with hatred against Jews. Why feed fuel to the fire that is clearly burning?

Yerachmiel Katz – NYC

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20 COMMENTS

  1. The only positive outcome here is that perhaps the word has finally gone out to the frum tzibur that this kind of behavior is not only a chilul hashem (not sure why they ever believed stealing “from the goyim” was ok) but also, the likelihood of being caught has increased substantially with new computer based audit systems. Hopefully, the public visuals of several frum couples being tried and convicted for fraud, being removed from their children and sent to prison will serve as a deterrent. We have seen these FBI raids and arrests for several years (remember the horrible photos of the NJ rabbonim and askanim being hauled away in connection with the Dwek tax and money launder frauds, the Lakewood Yeshiva administrators being arrested for theft and diversion of public funds meant for their students, etc) but until now, they haven’t seemed to make much difference to a bunch of fools who think they are the “smartest guys in the room”. Its not clear why or how a very small percentage of yidden continue to believe and act as if the laws of their country are not meant for them. This is one of those cases where yidden should be applauding the work of the FBI rather than quickly blaming “the system” or organizing fundraising efforts around the misplaced theme of pidyon shivuiim .

  2. All the people being arrested are Jewish? There are about 2,000,000 people in jails in USA and thousands are arrested daily. please bring us what percentage of the frum community make a chilul hashem and how many Jews make a kidush hashem. According to the chofetz chaim this report is loshon hora

  3. Many people are scratching their heads trying to figure out how people are charged with stealing millions of dollars.
    Allow me to explain how this works. Different family sizes are allowed different amounts of income. When you fill out an application for programs, you have to write your income. If you make too much money to qualify, even if you only make $1000 too much, you won’t qualify. If you don’t write down the factual amount of your income even if you only make a few dollars too much and really don’t qualify then every penny from the programs that you take is considered stealing. Between HUD, Jersey Care, WIC and food stamps, you can be receiving $75,000 a year in benefits. After 4 years, you have stolen $300,000 from the government although in reality you only didn’t make the right income to qualify.
    We can now understand how people are being charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars when in reality some of them are absolutely penniless.

  4. Yta1Riverdale-
    This is a necessary article, which hopefully will mitigate the damage to some degree.

    The silence of our community would compound the Chilul Hashem.

    We as a people must make it known that we reject and condemn this behavior, or our silence will be incorrectly interpreted as giving sanction to it (think of how much of western media have treated the larger Muslim community for not condemning terrorism).

    Fraud, like stealing of any kind, is against the teaching and values of Judaism, and it is prohibited by Torah Law in any way, shape, manner or form.

    Perpetrators of these crimes expose fundamental faults in their own belief and faith in Hashem’s management of the world.

    They also defame and tarnish the perception of His Image among all people.

    Our greatest Rabbis teach that truth and honesty are the signature of His Presence.

    The actions of those guilty of theft are a direct offense against the most basic teachings of Judaism.

  5. Excuse me..please don’e “we” us in the headline. There are many of us, myself included, who do follow the law and are not making a chillul Hashem. I live in Lakewood, report all my income, pay my taxes, pay full tuition and am not on any government programs. It is hard and most months I am left with zero in my bank account near the end of the month. I am sure that there are many more like me. On behalf of all of us, we would appreciate if you didn’t lump us all in together as if “we” are all breaking the law and causing a chillul Hashem.

  6. I am so happy !!! For years I was seeing this kind of behavior in Boro Park, and for the life of me, could never understand their justification of this theft of service.

    The law in NYS is that marriage has to be registered with the City. How many DO NOT. This allows the Mom to apply for benefits as a single parent; medicaid, wic, foodstamps, etc. Also a common practice.

    I just don’t understand the attitude that “the law does not apply to me/us”.

  7. The writer states: “Of course, everyone is innocent until proven guilty”. Yet in the very next paragraph, the writer states: “Possibly as bad as the actual chillul hashem, and the actual crime…” The tone of the editorial is one that lends us to assume them guilty despite the earlier disclaimer. I for one prefer to internalize the dictate from Pirkei Ovos: “V’hevei don as kol haolom l’kaf z’chus”. We are mechuyov to view these people as 100% innocent. Not just issue a disclaimer.

  8. So you want an answer to:
    Op-Ed: When Will We Start Following The Law And Start Avoiding The Colossal Chillul Hashem?

    When people who are wealthy are given “kavod” only because they have money. Let’s be brutally honest… Chasanas, bar mitzvahs are “over the top”. Driving a 5 year old car? Chas v’Shalom. And wait…. you don’t go to Pesach hotel at $3,000 per person? Oy vey…. there goes the “shidduch”. Just look around. Hakodosh borichu has given us in the US the “nisayon” of “gashmius” and we have for the most part failed miserably.

  9. I think Rabbi Breuer of Adas Yeshurun coined the phrase we should Not Only Be Glatt Kosher – but also Glatt YOSHER!
    Of course DisHonesty and such behavior leads to Chilul Hashem and shames the community.

    That said – is the community to pressed for an Overly Expensive Life Style????? Do all families need to afford bungalows every year and fancy cars and such expensive weddings and of course
    TUITION AND SCHOOL EXPENSES .
    I labeled these separately as there is Tuition PLUS $500 registration fees, $500 catered lunch fee and about 3-4 trips every year for each grade to about another $250. Let me first say – Yeshivas are very financially hard to maintain. That unfairly while we pay taxes that go to Public Schools we do not get sufficient funding for non Religous related education for our kids. And yeshivas are Indispensably VITAL for the GROWTH and SURVIVAL of YISROEL Molding them in the Ways of Our Heritage for future generations of Dedicated Jewish Jews. But can SOME Yeshivas (I’ m talking even Brooklyn yeshivish) Make it EASIER to Bear fo financially strapped parents??? Imagine a family of 5 children going to schools in a financially struggling home. Would just tuition and school extra expenses be $50,000 a year more or less? Can these schools have FEWER TRIPS or use Baord of Ed free lunches just for example? I dont recall parents being asked how much they can afford for trips. I am of course not talking of all or most wonderful yeshivas.

  10. > People love to complain that “they are picking on us”. Yes they are. And for good reason. We are held to a higher standard.

    “good reason”? Bad argument. When “they” are picking on us then “they” have to justify how “they” come to the right to “pick on us”. Do “they” agree that we have the true Torah, the true Word of G-d, the true right to the Land of Israel, etc. etc. etc.? If “they” don’t agree to these matters, then “they” are just anti-Semitic when “they” pick on us.

  11. Shomrei Shabbos, yes. Frum, no.
    Rav Pam reportedly warned years ago that technology makes finding these sorts of crimes and criminals a matter of pushing a few keys and buttons. He was talking sales tax, I believe, but it applies to government programs as well.

  12. Look, take any large group of tens of thousands of people, and of course there will be a few bad ones. By itself, then, this news does not reflect poorly on the other 99.99% of Lakewood residents. Unless, of course, this is somehow reflective of the general situation. Do many/most people feel that it’s not so bad to pull this kind of shtick? Does כל שאינו מלמד את בנו אומנות מלמדו ליסטות feel descriptive of a very widespread issue in this city? Of course it’s completely possible that these are just a few bad actors (if they are indeed guilty, maybe they are not), but I guess the concern is that they are somehow representative of wide-spread problems.

  13. Of course not all, or even most, frum people are engaged in welfare fraud. But at the same time, it can’t be said that the thought of welfare fraud is sufficiently repugnant in our society to ensure that otherwise upstanding couples won’t get caught up in it. We need pragmatism and a willingness to speak out, educate, and change; we don’t need more rationalizing or pointing fingers at the non-Jewish press for sensationalizing our problems.

  14. Dear YWN,
    You are doing a tremendous disservice to yourself by posting this “OpEd”
    The amount of Lashon Hara coming out of this and the comments made implicating others in fraudulent activities is unconsciousness .
    There is absolutely no reason to allow comments on this particular post. NOTHING good can come of people criticizing others!!
    AC

  15. Sickening to read how some of the commenters here use their Gemara logic to weasel their way out of what is a clear-as-day wake up call to change our ways. There is absolutely no way that this behavior can be condoned or justified. Period. The Chofetz Chaim would say exactly the same thing. Bemokom Sheyaish Chillul Hashem Ain Cholkim Kovod Larav. Wake Up, People! What are you going to do when this thing blows up on a national scale? Still cry anti-semitisim? It’s only a matter of time.

  16. Very sad you’ve bought the prosecutor’s claims hook, line and sinker. How about giving the benefit of doubt? You can’t afford another person the thought of “innocent until proven guilty”? How many times have stories like these out to far more minor than originally reported and overblown in the media?

  17. Where are the fearless leaders to give direction to people when it is really needed as did Rav Schwab ZTL and Rav Pam ZTL? All we hear is absolute silence from them. Just well-meaning but foolish Duvi Honig explaining how people are forced into bending the rules. That’s good to tell the goyim. We are forced to bend the rules so we can live in 3500 square foot houses and drive late model cars. That really is going to do the trick.

  18. I have read the article and comments, and I am quite concerned:
    1) Yes, we Bnei Yisroel and Klall Yisroel are expected to be held to higher standards and for good reason. We are The Am HaNivchar, and BH we have the Torah and Mitzvos.

    2) In with so many other previous generations of Klall Yisroel, we we become lax in our Avodas HaShem, HKBH send us a reminder. This case and these cases are not about individuals. it is a reminder to all of Klall Yisroel to become more scrupulous in out dealing of money. Be it our business dealing in business, in shopping, or any other financial matters. Do we really believe that Our Parnoso comes from HKBH? If so, why do we have to make shtick, we will end up with the same money at the end of the year! Why do we all come on to short cuts?

    3) In regard to the arrests, they will bring in a total of more than 40 people (there will be no more public arrests). Some of those picked up are “squeaky clean”. Their accountants have meticulously sent in there financial documents, they have proven to the authorities every penny. So what was their offense? Why were they arrested. – Because others paid some tuition directly to the school for them. These indigent families, many with numerous special needs children, who did receive services, and many services, because they we needed and they were eligible. Yes, they receive large amounts. Their special needs children had lots of expenses. And how much tuition was paid on their behalf – $5-6,000!!! Now the papers write they took $285,000 in illegal money!! They were eligible, even if they would have declared the “non-reported tuition”, and who knew this had to be declared. When the authorities consider this as income – NO ONE can claim that they would not have been caught up in this.

    4) Is it not interesting in the whole NJ the only people guilty s this are people in Lakewood. Not one other person in the whole state. Not White people, not African Americans, not Chinese, not Muslim, NOBODY but “Prominent Orthodox Rabbis”. As stated above, this is a Gezeyra for all of us to know that all our dealing must be on a higher level. But to call the stories a Collasal Chillul HaShem is GRANDSTANDING and a Chilull HaShem in its own right. Even publishing a story like this and being so self righteous is really not proper.

    5) Mr. Author, I ask that you please think into your own finances and your dealings with friends and neighbors, and your local stores. Are you squeeky clean? How many articles of Chillul HaShem or assumptions have you written just to justify a financial reward or some Kovod!

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