All In the Chabad Family. From Shoah Gelt to a Bail Request for Synagogue and Mikvah Attendance – Why is No One Reporting on This?
[Edited – 8.13.20]
Chabad Lubavitch is not without its scandals. It is, in our opinion, largely lacking in accountability, particularly where one of their own, a pillar of their community is involved.
To give some historic perspective, Colel Chabad is the oldest and most prestigious Chabad charity in the world. It is well respected and called upon as a Chabad Partner for Shluchim (outreach). In the 1990’s the Zirkind family established a branch of Colel Chabad in Montreal, Canada, a task completed by patriarch of the family, Simcha Zirkind. Going back as early as 1998, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission approved a television station for and on behalf of Rabbi Zalman Zirkind.
In 2015, the Chabad Lubavitch Headquarters Magazine honored Rabbi Simcha Zirkind as a “pioneer of Chabad Activities in Quebec who died at the age of 76.
Rabbi [Simcha] Zirkind was among the pioneering activists of the Lubavitch Youth Organization in Montreal. He later raised funds for Colel Chabad, Machne Israel and Kehot Publication Society.
In 2004 he launched the Advice for Life project which made the Rebbe’s teachings available to many in the Jewish community of Quebec. Over the years he distributed over 200,000 copies of the various editions of the publication.
It seems, however, the family has used this charity as a slush fund and vehicle for money laundering. Colel Chabad is based in Brooklyn, NY, with branches around the world. It is to some extent the financial epicenter of Chabad.
Rabbi Zalman Zirkind is the Director of the Canadian branch of Colel Chabad. Colel Chabad of Canada has long been connected to money laundering schemes, going back to 2011 and earlier, as seen in the National Post article linked here.
In 2019, long after the article above from 2011, the LostMessiah Blog reported on Mark Zirkind, drug trafficking and the claims of “Shoah Gelt” which were raised in a 2019 Canadian appeal of a 2014 sentence for money laundering. It was not until this blog reported on that story in 2019, that other papers picked it up.
On July 21, 2020 Chabad member and Crown Heights resident Benzion Zirkind, formerly of Montreal, Canada, was arrested and indicted by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, from 2018 to 2020.
A few days earlier, on July 16, 2020 Benzion’s uncle, Zalman Zirkind, of Montreal, Canada, was arrested in Champlain, New York for Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, on charges related to those of his nephew.
Mark Zirkind with his Shoah Gelt is Benzion’s father, Zalman’s brother, as we understand it.
The financial references in the 2019 articles related to the Shoah Gelt saga contained allegations of ties to drug trafficking and other drug offenses.
It would seem, the Chabad charity, Collel Chabad has been used for money laundering purposes by the Chabad Zirkind family of Montreal, Canada over many years.
The question remains, why hasn’t Chabad Headquarters in Brooklyn, NY reined in the Zirkind family of Montreal? The answer would seem simple, the money is too good to question, its providence unnecessary.
The story of Rabbi Zalman Zirkind and the allegations of money laundering is equally, if not more important and prolific than many other stories we have covered. His family is well connected in Montreal, Canada and the United States. Rabbi Zalman Zirkind is well educated, well read, committed to religion and is a well-respected rabbi governed by and deeply connected to Chabad. In fact, his bail request asks that he be permitted to daven and attend to himself at the mikvah.
Here again, we restate the comments of the Canadian judge in the Mark Zirkind case: “The argument can’t be that he’s a Lubavitch Jew and therefore he’s not going to commit a crime[.]”.
We believe the bail request of Rabbi Zalman Zirkind, while gloriously creative, is also an insult to every Jew everywhere. If you can conduct yourself with such a deep-rooted belief in religion and 613 mitzvot, such a committed love for G-d, why are you unable to hold true to the rules of civil society?
Money laundering is not a victimless crime. And, while one is innocent until proven guilty, an religious alleged criminal should not be afforded any greater rights than a secular alleged criminal. In fact, a moral code should be enforced by higher standards not ones that are diminished or somehow obviated by observance. Allowing for religious observance would be a slight to whites, non-Jews, people of color, every other accused criminal everywhere who will likely not be afforded with the same benefits. And, while these crimes are not considered violent, they are well constructed, thought out, contrived and cleverly implemented. The line between right and wrong is far clearer to draw here, and so too should the constructs of civil law.
Rejecting Zirkind’s appeal, the trial judge explained that none of the issues in the appellant’s evidence were explained by his religious beliefs.
“The argument can’t be that he’s a Lubavitch Jew and therefore he’s not going to commit a crime,” the judge said.
A court notice said he “strongly supports the trial judge’s finding that the appellant was motivated by profit and was aware that he was transporting money obtained from drug tracking.”
The case, which concluded in May, was not widely reported at the time but was publicised after appearing on the LostMessiah blog last week.