Thursday, November 12, 2009

Strike 2: Laundering it Kashers It?

The 5 Towns Jewish Times Times Editor has published an interview with the Toldos Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe and his Rebbitzen. The article came off sounding a bit like a free public relations piece as the trip stirred up controversy and scrutiny. I have no interest into covering subjects other bloggers are likely covering including whitewashing the opposition to the Medinah. But, I can't help but declaring "Strike Two" for the editor over this exchange (see Strike One here). Talk about twisting yourself into a pretzel.

One area in which this is played out is in chinuch—the education system. This sect, as well as others, refuses to take money from Israel’s Education Ministry for their schools, because they do not want their Torah studies financed by a government that openly and deliberately violates Shabbos. Therefore, their institutions are seriously in debt. And that’s why they are in New York now, to raise money for the considerable education system that they administer.

I suggested to the Rebbe that since he was here in New York seeking vital funding for his educational institutions, perhaps we could arrange for the Israeli government to send us—here in the Diaspora—the money, and then we could in turn give it to his organization. The Rebbe said, with a smile, that itsounded like a good idea, but they have not yet encountered a person who can successfully effectuate that type of arrangement.

So if you take "unkosher" money and send it through a third party it is magically transformed into kosher money. Don't strain any muscles trying to get yourself out of that pretzel!

The irony of the editor's comments is incredible given this recent poll on the 5TJT website. The poll asks readers: "When comes to the issue of Yeshiva tuitions, what is the best formula for the future?" The four choices are:

1. Parents should pay full tuition for each child
2. Parents should pay whatever they can afford
3. Yeshiva education should be free and supported by community
4. Public education funds should be able to be used for Yeshiva education

Granted the choices don't have a fully array of choices, but the overwhelming number of those who have voted in the poll have voted for choice #4, receiving public education funds for a Yeshiva education.

Receiving public funds beyond what is already received (and it isn't nothing in the state of NY where there is busing, remedial tutoring, and Priority 7) is a pipe dream. But while the community dreams of vouchers/public funding, the kehillah is asked to send limited funds that are desperately needed at home outside of the kehillah so that a sect that refuses government funding of their schools can pay off their debts!

It is time for Synagogue Boards and Community Rabbonim to cut a stop to traveling contingents that roll through town and leave with funds another banquet can't raise. Perhaps it is high time to tell them to jump on the solution that our own parents are salivating over. For us it is a pipe dream; for them a realistic possibility.

Support local institutions first!


Anonymous said...

You are not the first to suggest the community outlaw visiters seeking our resources. That custom was discussed in last weeks parsha, as it related to the city of SDOM.

That said on an individual level one should certainly prioritize local organizations over foriegn organizations. Exact prioity list is detailed in halacha (see Rambam and Shulchan Aruch).

The challenge in making tuition payments in that there is less satisfaction in paying an 'obligatory bill' compared to the feeling of 'giving generously'. (Not that that justifies improperly prioritization).

Perhaps that explains the emphasis of chumra's (and external demonstrations of religiousity - such as dress code) over core halacha.

"Its more satisfying to volunteer than to to follow the rules" or as stated by chazal "Gadol Hametzuvah v'oseh"

Commenter Abbi said...

Um, Anon, your comment with regard to Sdom might witty if it were true. SL didn't call for banning guests from finding accommodations in American communities, nor did she suggest offering one's children for sexual pleasure should a mob come to your door demanding your Shabbat guest.

She suggested that community rabbonim cease sponsoring tzedaka tours when pple can't support their own yeshivas. Not related to Sdom at all.

Orthonomics said...

Anonymous-The money being sought is to pay for the debts incurred by the Toldot Aaron school system. See this sentence:

"Therefore, their institutions are seriously in debt. And that’s why they are in New York now, to raise money for the considerable education system that they administer."

I am NOT advocating withholding funds from cancer patients or from tomchei Shabbos. I am talking about putting some priority on our own schools. . . . .the schools that my neighbors are talking about pulling their kids out of because it is so unaffordable. . . . the schools that haven't paid their teachers. . . etc, etc, etc.

My opinion is based on da'at Torah. No less than Rav Schacter and Rabbi Frand have advocating support for local institutions first!

See here:

and here:

Offwinger said...

That's a serious poll???

Would you rather:

1) Pay your own bills OR
2) Pay your own bills only to the extent you feel like it OR
3) Have everything for free while some unknown community pays your bills (uhm, who is this community & if you are part of it, how is this free? -nevermind) OR
4) Have the government/taxpayers pay your bills for you.

Wow! Big surprise that option #4 is winning.

Let me know how the next poll goes when the 5TJT surveys 10 year olds to see if they would rather have cookies or homework.

Anonymous said...

As pointed out above, this is a common feeling about problems in our communities: have other people pay for it.

Also, as you have pointed out toldos has created this problem and they want us to pick it up. I say to the leaders of our schools - do something besides advocating others (vouchers, communal, etc.) before it is too late.

We don't have a tuition funding problem, we have a tuition spending problem.

ProfK said...

No, in a time period of economic depression communities should not be sending money out to other communities but should be taking care of their own. Yes, there is another alternative for this Rav, one he chooses not to use. But it should be pointed out that the 5towns did not respond the way they have at other times. Where the Rav once came away with two million in donations, this time he got only $50 thousand, and it's believed that most/all of that came from his host. If "money talks," what it said to the Rav was "thanks, but no thanks."

Ariella's blog said...

"Wow! Big surprise that option #4 is winning."
Unfortunately, it is not a surprise. If one has an option of being self-sufficient vs. a crack at a free meal ticket, the masses today would opt for the latter. But I have pointed out time and time again that this contradicts the whole assumption of why reward is to be earned -- to avoid na'ama dekisufa [bread of shame] -- it was assumed that a free handout is enjoyed less than what one has earned. The ideal was to eat the fruits of one's own labors -- yegia kapecha.

But why work, when you can milk the system and actually come out ahead with section 8 housing, subsidies, welfare, food stamps, WIC, federal grants, etc.?

Offwinger said...


My statement "Wow! Big surprise..." was sarcasm (which I realize doesn't always translate well online).

You can substitute pretty much anything in that poll for tuition - mortgage, car, food, vacations, you name it -and given the poll choices presented, I think the vast majority of all PEOPLE would pick option #4. I don't think it has anything to do with a sense of entitlement or lack of work ethic, but rather the general muddled confusion surrounding taxes, and/or national debt. It's the same reason people think it's great when they get a tax rebate after they file [Note - it's not. If you have a large tax rebate, you just gave the government an interest-free loan.]

My problem is that this poll doesn't really represent any meaningful options. Let's say you need or want a car. Imagine the choices are: pay for it entirely, pay for it to the extent you feel like, have the community give it to you "free," or have the government pay for it for you,

MOST people in the States would pick the latter option, whether or not they think the government "should" be in the business of giving people cars (or money for cars). This is - to a less comprehensive extent - what happened when the government gave a subsidy for new car purchases in cash for clunkers. There was nothing ideological about people being willing to take $ from the gov't or any sense that those buying new cars in that interval were milking the system. There is no stigma - in this instance - to sticking your hand out when the government came around handing out money.

As written on this blog and elsewhere, hoping someone else, including the "government," will give you money is NOT a solution.

Anonymous said...

I posted about this yesterday. First off this radical should not be brought into our neighborhoods, he is one of the people responsible for the tznius police and shabbos riots. This article was nothing other than a sensational piece of Frum Journalism at its worst and these people trying to save face for bringing him in. Word on the street is that he only raised $50K which is not a lot of money by Lawrence standards. I saw that line about the money laundering and even if it was meant as a joke there is nothing funny about it. Everyday another Jew in a yarmulka is carted off in handcuffs for something like this and to put a suggestion like that out there is moronic at its best. We need to keep these people and all outside organizations out of our neighborhoods, and at he very least the rabbonim and shuls should not be promoting them.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it wasn't all that accurate, but I thought the Sodom comment was pretty funny.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, it was the Toldos Avraham yitzchak Rebbe not the Toldos Aharon Rebbe and he was not responsible for the rioting.

Also, I agree with number one that anyone who wants to fund raise anywhere should be able to do so. The fact that someone comes to town does not mean you have to give to him. His coming to town is not what takes money away from local schools, it is people giving lots of money to him that does.

Anyone who wants to come can do so, and if no one gives (or not enough give) he will not come back. That is the way the "free tzedaka market" works

Orthonomics said...

Anyone can stand in front of a grocery store to collect, and anyone can go door to door to collect, as so many do.

A shul Board and/or the shul Rav do not need to participate in hosting and/or advertising outside interests.

Every full size community I know of has families with financial problems, sick people, and parents that need help with tuition. Most shuls I know of are trying to figure out how to make ends meet. Some schools are laying off staff. We have plenty of needs at home. When a shul brings in one visiting Rebbe or representative, they give an endorsement of sorts that such a cause is an important use of community funds. Surely you pull out your checkbook when the Rav of your shul endorses a cause? (Perhaps less than what might be deemed appropriate, but something nevertheless).

There are numerous yeshivot throughout Israel and throughout the world and the US for that matter. I expect the Rabbi(s) in my own local shuls to be first and foremost acting in the best interest of the local kehilla. There are many non-local institutions for which communities have direct and indirect ties to. E.g. a good number of children of a kehilla might attend Yeshiva University, or certain yeshivot/seminaries in Israel such as the Mir, or Ner Israel, or Chofetz Chaim, or Chaim Berlin.

If there is a seemingly direct pipeline between a local community and an institution of Jewish learning elsewhere, I can see a very good argument for hosting the head of the institution. We see this all the time when individual families host a parlor meeting for a popular boys' yeshiva.

As far as I can see, the host community and shul did not have a vested interest in the kehilla soliciting funds.

So no, I don't believe in a "free tzedakah market" insofar as it means giving a pulpit to just any traveling contingent.

Miami Al said...

Shavua Tov. It is also important, in looked at community involvement, that we be involved in our larger local Jewish community. If we want federations and other non-Orthodox Jewish communal groups to come to our aid when things are tough, we need to be a part of the local Jewish community. But if you are giving nothing to the Federation, but shoveling money to Jerusalem, it's a lot harder when you show up, hat-in-hand, to the Federation looking for funds.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad we solved the poverty and tuition crisis in our own neighborhoods to such extreme that we now have to resort to these unscrupulous, misguided schnorrers for fulfilling our tzedakka obligation.

Frankly, it is time to say no and stop endorsing this behavior with our money. We don't need a Rabbi to do it, just common sense. Give them $1 and tell them good luck. No ticky no shirty - they won't come back. And if their policies cause their institutions to fail, so be it.

Anonymous said...

imagine Israel in which all orthodox jews were pro-state and served in the army and had jobs. A select elite like Mekaz HaRav Students would study Torah and not work. But even those who study Torah full time would be supportive of Israel. Imagine a world without Neturai Karta - It can become a reality if we stop giving them money

megapixel said...

I think that the fact that they do not take money from the govt because they believe it is halachikly wrong is to be admired. I realize that most of the readers of this blog are probably pro Israel, as well as the 5 towns community, so there will not be alot of agreement to my comment. These people hold that there was not supposed to be a Jewish state while we are still in galus. Despite the fact that there is in fact a Jewish state, these people dont want to acknowledge it and benefit from something they believe is wrong. Many people in their position would say, well, I dont believe in it but I will take the money. the fact that they dont, they are standing up for their beliefs shows gevurah.
In any case, I dont understand why they would go to the five towns where most people are not in line with their thinking. I would think Satmar would be a better shnorring destination for them. but they must know what they are doing. and 50 thousand isnt exactly chump change.
i also agree that the money should stay in the community but people have a right to give their tzedaka dollars where they feel like. and if the average 5 towns guy gives 25-50 bucks that is not such big money for them.