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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Insularity or Arrogance?

Rabbi Adlerstein has written a post for Cross-Currents titled "Silver Lining in the LA Scandal Cloud." Rabbi Adlerstein sees good things ahead now, that in the wake of this most recent scandal, Rabbonim and Mechanim are addressing personal honesty and integrity. He believes their efforts will help "decrease the likelihood of waking up to a different scandal in the future."

I might be one of the few bloggers who has the Tax Notes for this case sitting on my nightstand (lawyers, accountants, college students can access these through Lexis-Nexus or other legal search engines). Personally, I would not use insularity to describe the reason for perpetrating this fraud at all, but rather arrogance.

The sheer span, depth, and width of this complicated scheme, which evolved as it became more widespread and there were more tracks to cover, involved perpetrators from different subgroups of the Orthodox community, from a lawyer/businessman to the Spinka Rebbe himself.

I believe I have enough of a background with fraud to say that this is not a crime borne through insularity. Perhaps insularity combined with ignorance can bring result in small financial crimes, but arrogance combined with desperation is the brainchild behind complicated fraudulent schemes such as this one and others that we have been continually witnessing for at least the past 20 years.

I commend the Rabbonim for speaking out and trying to make an impact. I hope that their efforts will be well rewarded. But, I'm afraid that we must address desperation (!) side-by-side when speaking about honesty and integrity or we are wasting our breath. The more desperate, the greater a calculated risk one is willing to take. Normally, one doesn't rob a bank when they need $1000 or even $10,000. During an audit or investigation, a tip off that something just isn't quite right is evidence that someone is living far beyond their means.

A poster at Cross-Currents suggested that Choshen Mishapat should become standard for men and (especially) women (Why especially women? You will have to read the Cross-Currents comments. Personally, I don't think the women are the ones dreaming up these schemes). And on that note, I would also like to point out that parents need to make sure their daughters believe and act as equal partners in the financial dealings of their household. No one should sign on the line of their next 1040 Tax Form without knowing where the income and where the deductions came from. Every single one of these white-collar "victimless crimes" leaves a wife and children as the victims and I'm getting tired of it already.


Anonymous said...

You're kinder than I. It's possible that they may have started along this path because of desperation but it appears to me that somewhere along the way greed took over.

Lion of Zion said...

"I commend the Rabbonim for speaking out"

which rabbonim are speaking up?

in my entire life i've heard one shabbat-morning derashah in which the rabbi commented that we should not be involved in shenanigans against the government. (of course i must admit that i am usually napping or otherwise occupied.)

now while i've never actually heard a derashah where the rabbi explicitly permits this behavior, i've heard quite a few where goyyim are put down in general (as per the recent hirhurim post) and one easily concludes there is nothing wrong with stealing from them.

"Choshen Mishapat should become standard for men and (especially) women."

i didn't understand why especially for women?

SephardiLady said...

Anonymous-I agree with you about greed and did think to include it, but on second thought I did not, not because there was not greed (RK and his wife certainly seemed to have plenty of), but because I've seen greed that translates into other, more lavish, uses of stolen funds. Nevertheless, I probably should have included it.

Lion of Zion-See Rabbi Adlerstein's accounts of which Rabbonim.

Like you, I don't understand why Choshen Mishpat should be taught to women especially. A commentor named Danny Rubin wrote this at cross-currents:

" think that it is about time that we INSIST that parts of Choshen Mishpat be added to the High School curriculum.- Particularly for Women!!!! ( Is it my imagination or is the Orthodox world putting them in to the workplace beyond Ms. Steinhem’s wildest dreams :-)) "

I think the women in the Orthodox community need to get more involved in their own finances and view themselves as partners. But, I don't think the women are the ones having the issues in the same way the men are having the issues. . . . . . . .

Thanks for commenting.

Lion of Zion said...

"I think the women in the Orthodox community need to get more involved in their own finances"

i do have friends whose wives are the ones who take care of the finances. sometimes i ask my friends (the husbands) how much X costs or what they did with Y on the tax return, and they really have no idea.

but as far as
"No one should sign on the line of their next 1040 Tax Form without knowing where the income and where the deductions came from"

this makes sense, yet i still think it is sad that 2 people get married and one can't trust the other one fully in all matters.

DAG said...

Arrogance is the great failure of this up and coming generation of rabbis. We know, because we are Daas Torah, has caused untold damage.

Toby said...

When we were buying our second home, I checked the local records for the home prices in the area and recent sales. I was shocked at the fact that almost all (and these were frum owners due to location) were in the husband's name only. My husband and I bought our home together and both our names are on it. No question.

SephardiLady said...

Toby-That is alarming and very concerning.

mlevin said...

There could be another reason for having a house under husband's name: If a home is in husband's name and they never registered their marriage, then she (wife) is able to claim money from all the government programs for the poor...

SephardiLady said...

There are less cynical reason to put a home in one spouses name. Perhaps Toby can give her own conjecture.

Lion of Zion said...


"There are less cynical reason to put a home in one spouses name."

perhaps if one spouse has a bad credit rating?

(but that doesn't take away from the fact that mlevin describes the gist of a not-so-uncommon scam.)

SephardiLady said...

Many Doctors' wives keep the house in their name. In a community property state, they would have to actually pay for the house from pre-marriage funds as once things are co-mingled, it doesn't really matter what the title says.

Unfortunately, I've become somewhat cynical too. :)

anonymous said...

I would like to think that it's mainly because they don't even think of it. The wife isn't involved in anything related to finances or big purchases. She doesn't ask. He doesn't hide, but doesn't include. Then there are those who will put the house in the husband's name so they can still collect government money. There are also those who put the house in the wife's name because of bad credit or worse on the husband's. Very rarely vice versa.

anonymous mom said...

A lot of the women I know are not listed and do not collect government money. They both work. The wives just never thought of it. To me, that's kind of sad.

Lion of Zion said...


"There are also those who put the house in the wife's name because of bad credit"

i have a friend who did that


"Unfortunately, I've become somewhat cynical too. :)"

i think you mean :(

Ariella said...

I agree with you completely. But I do know a woman who knows so little of her finances that she cannot name her monthly mortgage payment. I believe her name is on the deed, but I don't know for certain, and she probably doesn't either. Her husband takes care of all the bills, so the only expenditures she has full knowledge of are those incurred by her own shopping -- groceries and such. In truth, it is more stressful to know where all the money goes when it points out the inescapable fact that the costs exceed income. But she doesn't wish to worry about it and must find her ignorance to be blissful. I don't think there is any danger of her husband going in for a dubious scheme, but there is a very real danger of her being completely bankrupt if anything ever happens to him, as he not only knows all the figures but is the sole breadwinner.

Anonymous said...

People, including some Rabbis, are afraid of speaking openly against these Hassidic sects, as they may then be attacked by them and their supporters. Many are against them, but are intimidated by the so-called Hassidics.

But people are waking up and smelling the coffee. It's about time people stopped being so deferential to the Hassidics and giving them a free pass. Let's call a spade a spade. We better dissociate from such sects before they, God forbid, endanger us and our reputations.

Those sects are not proper Judaism, period !

Yoni said...

Y'know, on the subject of dealing with finances, would it be so wrong if one spouse was not the best person to deal with the finances and with the budgeting and therefore left it to the other spouse?

some people just aren't meant for paperwork, and I would think that the only responsible thing they could do would be to leave it to their spouse.

I know I will when I'm married.

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