Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Another Rabbi Behaving Poorly

Here we go again!  Another rabbi behaving poorly.

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman (who reportedly goes into rage mode when referred to as "Eric Schneiderman" without the initial "T") has just announced the court-ordered temporary (for now) shutdown of 19 charities operated out of Brooklyn by one Rabbi Yaakov Weingarten.

[It is with profound shame that I now admit to having personally donated to a few of those charities, albeit only in the two figure range.].

The problem was that the 19 charities, mostly purporting to aid needy causes in Israel, did not send any appreciable amounts of money to those causes.  Instead, during the past 5 years, there have been questionable expenditures from the charities' bank accounts amounting to millions in the aggregate.  These include utility bills, dental care, video rentals, mortgage payments, and an Atlantic City casino trip.  And let us not forget some significant home improvements to the house owned by Weingarten's wife.

While there are no sure things here, there may well be some criminal charges in the coming weeks or months.  And it is very tempting to speculate as to what excuses and/or mitigational assertions might be tendered by Weingarten and/or his supporters and sympathizers.

Two issues that have not been so visibly addressed in the Jewish blogosphere are the following:

A.  The modus operandi of the charities has been for various individuals to make telephone solicitations, often but not always falsely claiming that a pledge allegedly made by the recipient of the telephone call has yet to be fulfilled.   There were several telephone callers involved, each using their personal cell phone or some other "boiler room" phone bank.  Query:  What did the individual callers know and when did they know it?  How knowingly complicit were they in Weingarten's scams?  How much did they benefit?

B.  The standard line used by the insular religious Jewish community whenever one of theirs gets foul ink in the press is that he (or sometimes, she) is an aberration.  I once heard a certain spokesman reply to a query by a reporter regarding some poor behavior by a high school student, to the effect that the insular Jewish community has 1 or 2, the Catholic schools have 10, and the public schools have 100 such bad actors.  This, perhaps, has some validity, though the exact statistics may not be so exact.

But be that as it may, I have to wonder whether Weingarten is the only player in his league.  One key reason my wife and I do not live in such communities (and have taken pains to avoid locating ourselves in such communities) is the degree to which everyone insinuates themselves into everyone else's personal business.  Therefore, if Weingarten is living such a charmed lifestyle, it surely has been noticed.  And neighbors and friends desirous of such a life would naturally attempt to emulate Weingarten's means of supporting such a modus vivendi.

And how could a major trip to an Atlantic City casino escape notice?

If Weingarten and his cohorts were not shunned by the community, then it would not astonish me in the least if there are a few more just like him.

A little more than a year ago, I publicly stated at a certain conference that I expected some sort of financial scandal to arise involving some charitable organizations within the insular religious Jewish community.  Painful as it is, I must now thank New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman for vindicating me from the naysayers at that conference.

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