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Thursday, June 11, 2009


Taxpayers are going to be none to happy about this story, and as a Jew the entire episode is simply nauseating.

A "frum" scam artist flees the US while out on a quarter million dollar bail, while his brother is sentenced to 3.5-10.5 years in jail. After 20 years on the run and serving out another sentence for future theft in Brazil, he is returned to the US and has been awaiting trial. (See news report from 2008).

Unable to secure bail for obvious reasons, he has been sitting in the Manhattan Detention Center. (NY Post Story) Somehow the man was able to get the chaplain Rabbi and an Imam to sign off on a behind bars Bar Mitzvah, complete with a kosher caterer, known singer Yaakov Schweky, Rabbonim (thankfully, no names have been released). Guards were paid overtime. Anyone who knows about prison security standards can only wonder how this happened under those responsible for prison security (knives and cell phones being two of the reported breaches). After the Bar Mitzvah, he held a vort in the same "hall."

Where has judgement gone? This is a shocking story. Those who allowed the party certainly knew that word could get out. The security breaches no doubt could end up with a repeat of a man family on the run. Certainly an invitation to such an event should raise eyebrows amongst supposedly "prominent Rabbonim."

Where has busha gone? The arrogance is astounding. Who in the world would think of requesting to host a catered Bar Mitzvah complete with Yakov Schweky in prison. When I saw this story, I honestly thought it was a joke.

I'm just left feeling sick to my stomach. I guess the saving grace is that the affair was peaceful.

And when stories like this get splashed all over the news, it is no wonder parents have a difficult time raising children where crime seems to not carry much consequence because the party goes on.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

what about the antisemtism that this engenders. its sounds like the guy was given kibud


its a chillul hashem.

enoughisenough said...

Ask "Rabbi" Gershon Tannenbaum from the Jewish Press and RAA. He would advocate for this guy, as he has in his column advocated for similar. There is a problem in that certain people are advocating for any and all Jewish prisoners equally, under the guise of frumkeit. We must differentiate between scoundrels and people who may have been victims, as our tradition indeed does.

Of course, Gershon Tannenbaum is a big advocate for these guys, because he himself has been incarcerated and is one of them, cf google, NY Times. Why does the Jewish Press give him a platform? How can someone like that be given honor, even if he claims to direct a once sizable, now greatly declined organization and have a small Shul?

rachel in israel said...

The biggest Busha goes to Yaakov Schweky, the Rabbanim, and of course, the idiotic family (I meant respectable and wealthy) who chose to allow their son to get engaged to the daughter. We know this man has no morals, the requests I don't care, the problem is everyone else who is simply blinded by money and kavod. Maybe I need to stop listening to schweky's music, I hope things like this are not contagious through the cd player :).

As soon as my husband and I started to have kids we talked a lot about priorities in education both in the house and school. The thing we both agreed very early on is that we shouldn't be concerned about friends who, on the outside, do not seem to be "frum" or "frum at our level". The biggest priority is moral values. Gemara and Tanach are easy to teach. Moral values are not. Everytime I read a story like this I realize how true is our conclusion.

ProfK said...

Rachel, unless you know something the papers did not publish, that the daughter was a complicit partner in her father's activities (which would have been kind of hard for her to be given her age and the 20 years ago that her father went on the lam),then we ought not to be mentioning the daughter at all, certainly not calling the family she is marrying into idiots. If "the sins of the fathers" are going to be "visited" on the children of those who have committed crimes, Klal is going to have a realllly major shidduch crisis.

Far too many from the frum community who have been incarcerated over the years. The Allentown PA federal prison used to have a regular minyan and daf yomi shiur. Are all these people's children guilty as well? Is it morally correct to tar the children with their father's brush?

Abhor what the father did--we should certainly do so--but leave his kids out of it.

tesyaa said...

ProfK, not Allentown, Allenwood.

ProfK said...

Thanks tesyaa, I knew there was an "allen" in there somewhere.

Bob Miller said...

Are they treating this prisoner differently because he hasn't been convicted yet?

Commenter Abbi said...

Sorry, i have to disagree about the daughter. If she had any moral fiber, she would refuse to have a lavish bar mitzvah celebration in a prison.

That does not seem to be the case.

I understand it's her father and family is family, no matter what. But there are more and less ethical ways of handling these issues. She seems to have chosen the less ethical way and I think we can call her on that.

SephardiLady said...

ProfK-It is very politically correct to say that one should not let the sins of the father be upon their children, but "over my dead" body will I approve a shidduch date with someone whose father is in prision, unless perhaps the wife up and leaves (not up and runs away to Brazil with him for 20 years).

The (lack of) values that compelled a man and his brother to create a 1.7 million dollar scam and then run away with wife and kids to Brazil certainly can't be ignored.

Some with say, but perhaps he made teshuva. To that I will respond: every penny he has should be used to reimburse the companies he scammed. Instead, he is throwing a bar mitzvah with Yacov Schweky.

Bob Miller- There are entire industries that create prison safe products, from transparent radios to items that cannot be turned into weaponry. Convicted or not, what went on was a serious violation of protocol.

Certainly prision officials wouldn't sign off on a record release party. . . . . . . .

The aftermath will likely be interesting in terms of prison policy.

Anonymous said...

Bob: They weren't treating him differently because he hadn't been convicted. I think the Tombs is mostly a pre-trial detention center. The unfortunate inference is are that he may have been treated quite differently because of money and/or connections. What other pretrial detainee (even without a history of jumping bail and being on the lam for 20 years) would be allowed to host a six hour party at a jail with caterers, 60 guests, a band, knives, forks, cell phones, etc. and guard overtime at the taxpayers expense.

JS said...

"complete with a kosher caterer, known singer Yaakov Schweky, Rabbonim (thankfully, no names have been released)."

Why shouldn't their names be released? I want to know who got the big donation that made them throw out their morals and attend this gigantic busha and chillul hashem. If one of the rabbis was a rosh yeshiva or a pulpit rabbi wouldn't you want to know so you could avoid sending your child there or avoid being a member of that shul? Why shouldn't they be subjected to public scrutiny? Why is only Schweky's name released? I'd even want to know the name of the fancy caterer.

It's just disgusting, a real go'al nefesh, and these people shouldn't be allowed to hide and pretend to be respectable.

It's a major failing in klal that we cover this up and don't reproach those involved.

Lion of Zion said...

i agree with JS. the rabbis went, thus making a public statement. their names should not be a secret

Anonymous said...

This man is obviously not embarrassed to be in prison since as been pointed out before, living the good life often means breaking the law and this man feels like he was simply unlucky enough to be caught. He probably feels entitled to still attend family simchas. If the prison agreed to host these simchas, why should he miss out? He has his happiness and that of his family to look out for. Why should someone else's discomfort matter to him?

SephardiLady said...

JS and LOZ-
I think the klal does need to know which Rabbis are lacking so much judgement that they are giving honor to a man who clearly should be shunned.

I was just thankful at the moment I wrote it because I don't think I would be able to digest any more detail. Somehow this story is even more nauseating to me than the Spinka story, and as I recall, that one really turned my stomach.

If anyone wants to know why cynicism is at an all time high, they can paste this story next to cynic in the dictionary.

Dave said...

The irony is that I have no doubt that the inmate considers himself far more moral than a secular Jew who would never dream of committing fraud, but does eat bacon.

JS said...

Dave, no doubt.

SL, yes, it's stories like this that really turn my stomach and make me wonder what frumkeit is all about.

I'm seconding the suggestion of another comment which said it would be worth considering a post about what the heck we're paying for when we send our kids to yeshiva when they're being educated by people like this and, god forbid, may even become people like this.

M2B said...

what's particularly sickening is the lack of busha. the guy is entitled to celebrate his son's bar mitzvah, but given the circumstances, it should have been a family-only, minyan-and-give-the-kid-an-aliyah affair. that he made a party, with all the frills, with prominent rabbonim (i use the term rabbonim loosely here) in attendance, this is disgusting, and displays a level of arrogance, and non-remorse for the actions that landed him in jail to begin with. It seems at least the vort was done properly (with just the family in attendance; the bar mitzvah seems to be the only target of official outrage).

that being said, the kids need to be left out of it. they have suffered enough. and if you don't know the daughter personally, you have no right to pass judgment on how deserving she is of a shidduch. true, the groom's family may be after the money, in which case they should be publicly named and ousted from the community; but it's just as possible that the groom himself made a decision based on something he saw in the girl; perhaps she is a modern-day rivka, who miraculously managed to build a fine character despite the moral degeneracy of a family of betuels and lavans. if that's the case, then good for the groom for being both perceptive and brave enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. the only people at fault here are the parents (i fault the wife for not leaving her husband), and the kids should really be left alone; who knows, maybe they'll become spokespeople
for jewish business ethics...

SephardiLady said...

M2B-The character of the chatan and kallah is unknown. Perhaps she is a modern day Rivka. I was responding to the idea that we shouldn't visit the crimes of fathers on sons.

I think anyone who would consider marrying into a family where there are red flags like these should investigate and take those investigations seriously. I actually know someone whose daughter was about to get engaged and the family found out about some very seriously troubling issues and sadly asked their daughter not to go through because they couldn't make the determinations that needed to be made. I certainly would feel terrible if the boy was of fine character, but at the very least, you can't ignore the issues.

On that note, it would be wonderful if one of these kids would become a spokeman/woman.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:46 - This man is obviously not embarrassed to be in prison[space]

Obviously. And he also obviously has a huge sense of entitlement. The whole idea of prison is separating you from the world (as punishment, rehabilitation, etc), which includes separating you from the simchas of your loved ones.

since as been pointed out before, living the good life often means breaking the law[space]

What???!!!?!?!!!! Where did this come from? I live a pretty good life, so do most of the rest of us here, and we DO NOT break the law to do it (we DO work hard, but we don't break the law).

Living the good life does not often involve breaking the law. That's just insane. Some people break the law to enable them to live the good life, but those a few and far between.

JS - SL, yes, it's stories like this that really turn my stomach and make me wonder what frumkeit is all about.[space]

Which nicely illustrates the difference between people who understand statistics and those who use anecdotes to make decisions. The stories also make my stomach turn, but they don't have anything to do with what frumkeit means.

Frumkeit means keeping the mitzvot that God gave us. So, this guy should have zero bearing on what your feelings about frumkeit are, since he was not frum in the first place. It's obvious that he can't be too frum if he ignores important mitzvot such as Lo Tignov, Lo Tachmod, etc.

Mark

ProfK said...

Abbi, you say "If she had any moral fiber, she would refuse to have a lavish bar mitzvah celebration in a prison. That does not seem to be the case." The daughter did not choose to have this celebration--her father and her mother did. This family is Satmar and girls in Satmar first obey their fathers and then obey their husbands.

SL, sorry but I'll have to agree to disagree about the shidduch and the father in prison. There is someone we have in our neighborhood who was made the fall guy for a scheme that went wrong and spent a year in jail. His children who weren't married before this happened all made shidduchim to wonderful people, people who looked at the child. Morality is not a genetic condition. And where do you draw the line on morality? Is prison the make or break point? So the person who routinely cheats on taxes and cheats on business records and treats cash money as a windfall that the government doesn't need to know about is a moral, honest person? Just because they haven't gone to prison?

Generally speaking, the children of those who have been imprisoned don't follow in their father's footsteps, certainly in the frum community, because they have seen what the outcome is. I'd be far more worried about marrying a child off to the son of a father who is real handy with his hands in hitting the wife and kids or who is realllly realllly fond of alcohol. Those behaviors do seem to be duplicated from parent to child.

Just a note: the whole story wasn't reported in any one newspaper. In the Boston newspaper it mentioned that the man fled to Brazil on the advice of his rabbi.

Anonymous said...

the guy fled 20 years ago.
i know that it doesnt mean he was guilty but why didnt he stay for a trial, or did he think that he wouldnt get a fair trial

the scary thing is that if you read the comments in the VIN article, more than half of the articles go to defend the person in jail, saying he is innocnent till proven guilty , the other half talk about what a great man of god is the rabbi/chaplain.

go read the article in the post

"rabbis club kept them well fed and comfy"

http://www.nypost.com/seven/06122009/news/regionalnews/rabbis_club_kept_em_well_fed__comfy_173860.htm

another chillul hashem or did they deserve it because they needed the kosher food. they could just as easlity have kosher mre's or frozen airline food

great advertising for the antisemties and neonazis, how we control everything

Dave said...

I would be concerned with what part of the father's values the children had absorbed more than anything else. But that can cut both ways.

There is an old story I was told as a child. The town drunk had two sons. One grew up to be a drunk like his father, but the other was a pillar of the community.

When asked why they had turned out the way they had, they both gave the same answer. "With a father like that, how could I be anything else?"

JS said...

Mark,

I'm not talking about one man turning my stomach and making me wonder about frumkeit. This guy is, sadly, one of many stories I know relating to horrific breaches of morality, common decency, and Torah. Even worse is when all the rabbonim get involved and support people like this. The fact that these people are lauded by our leadership instead of reviled is terrible. Furthermore, once these people return to their communities, if they still have money, they're welcomed with open arms and given a hearty yasher koach and a kibud. This is what is heart-wrenching and makes me wonder about frumkeit.

See for example, ProfK's statement that the guy was told to flee custody by a rabbi. More proof.

SephardiLady said...

Profk-
Excuse me for asking, but how does one become the fall guy for a scheme if they were not aware of the scheme and participatory on some level? Let that be a lesson to stay far, far away from impropriety.

As for where I draw the line? Certainly going to prison is an easy line. If a person was public that he was a cheat, I would not be actively pursuing a shidduch for my kid with their kid. We can't know everything, and we can't blame kids for everything their parents do, but here I feel better safe than sorry.

Anonymous said...

SL: By saying you would not let your child pursue a shidduch, it sounds like you are saying that this man's children should not marry or that the children of criminals should only marry the children of other criminals. How is that not punishing the children for the acts of the father?
Would you prefer that these children remain single, or should they marry gentiles?
What must a child do to prove that they will not repeat a parent's mistakes? I'm sorry, but I can't help finding this attitude somewhat troublesome.

SephardiLady said...

I said I would not actively pursue a shidduch, with actively being the key word. I never said I would "not let" because that isn't the type of control I seek over who my children marry.

If my own child met a child from a family where the father/mother is known for less than respectable observance of basic financial ethic, we would take it from there.

I'm not quite sure what different factors might be involved because ever case will be different.

What must a child do? I'm not quite sure without a specific situation, but a complete financial separation from the parents seems fairly basic to me. I.e. no taking support, no co-signing, not being part of a family corporation or partnership.

Anon819 said...

So I'm driving to work this morning and the radio talk show hosts decided this was a hilarious story, and proceeded to mock this guy for quite some time (adding in jokes about Schweke's name in the process.) I live in the midwest - people who don't know many Jews or already have stereotypes about Jews all heard this.

Of the many things I'm tired of, one of the worst is people having an obsession with what other frum people will think of them (whether they do enough chumras, whether they dress fancy enough for a simcha, etc.) Yet a chillul Hashem is doing something that either causes someone not frum to think that something is permissible because they saw a frum person do it, or doing something that makes non-frum or non-Jewish people feel negatively about Jews and Torah. Now that it's pretty much common knowledge that anything people do can (and likely will) end up spread all over the internet, where is the obsessive concern over not doing a chillul Hashem?

Anonymous said...

Anon 819: I think the concern often is not there because of (i) arrogance; (ii) not being able to see things from other people's perspective; (iii) not caring what perception you create or understanding why perceptions matter and/or (iv) stupidity. I can forgive and understand stupidity, but i - iii are hard to stomach. When someone wears a kippah or a beard and a black hat, they are, in effect, announcing proudly to the world that "I am an observant Jew." I believe that announcement comes with certain responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

JS - I'm not talking about one man turning my stomach and making me wonder about frumkeit. This guy is, sadly, one of many stories I know relating to horrific breaches of morality, common decency, and Torah. Even worse is when all the rabbonim get involved and support people like this. The fact that these people are lauded by our leadership instead of reviled is terrible. Furthermore, once these people return to their communities, if they still have money, they're welcomed with open arms and given a hearty yasher koach and a kibud. This is what is heart-wrenching and makes me wonder about frumkeit.

See for example, ProfK's statement that the guy was told to flee custody by a rabbi. More proof.


Yep. More proof of the [very common] misunderstanding between anecdotes and statistics.

Mark

Anonymous said...

new yeshivish blog

'not brisker yeshivish'

rachel in israel said...

I didn't know that my comment about the shidduch of the daughter would be so controversial. So, let me defend myself. Of all the things you should or should not check in a shidduch, the most important one is the environment and values where the children grew up. Growing up in a household where tax fraud and not accepting responsibility are the norm send major red flags in my mind. Does it mean that every child of a criminal/divorced/broken home is condemned? no. But you can't ignore the red flags. What do I expect from this daughter? I guess a public announcement separating herself from the father/family and changing her last name to her mother's maiden name is simply not realistic given the type of community. I guess I would be satisfied with the daughter, mother, chatan, and his family NOT holding the engagement party in jail. That is my mind is a good sign that they feel what the father did is wrong.

Anonymous said...

i dont get it. we are talking about a 'measely' 1.7 mil? that is really not a lot of money for a frum family, as anyone familiar with this blog knows...

Anonymous said...

Betcha anything it's the Agudah again, protecting the rabbis who went to the party and forcing the media to keep quiet about who went!