Ultra-Orthodox Community is Expanding, Blockbusting, Lakewood, Jersey City

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A woman and boy in the Greenville neighborhood in Jersey City, where several dozen Hasidic families from Brooklyn have settled. They are part of a major movement of ultra-Orthodox Jews into communities around New York City in search of more affordable places to live.CreditBryan Anselm for The New York Times

JERSEY CITY — To the gentrifying stew of bankers, artists and college graduates who are transforming this once blue-collar city across the Hudson River from Manhattan, add an unexpected flavor.

In a heavily African-American neighborhood, 62 families from a number of Hasidic sects based in Brooklyn and rarely seen here have bought a scattering of faded but roomy wood-frame rowhouses whose prices are less than half what homes of similar size would cost in New York — roughly $300,000 compared with $800,000.

These families are pioneers in a demographic and religious shift that is reshaping communities throughout the region. Skyrocketing real estate prices in Brooklyn and Queens are forcing out young ultra-Orthodox families, which are establishing outposts in unexpected places, like Toms River and Jackson Township in New Jersey, the Willowbrook neighborhood on Staten Island and in Bloomingburg, N.Y., in the foothills of the Catskills.

The influx, however, has provoked tensions with long-established residents, as the ultra-Orthodox seek to establish a larger footprint for their surging population. Residents complain that investors or real estate agents representing the ultra-Orthodox community have been ringing doorbells persistently, offering to buy properties at “Brooklyn prices.” Jersey City, Toms River and Jackson have all passed no-knock ordinances barring such inquiries under the threat of fines or have banned solicitations altogether.

The mayor of Jersey City, Steven Fulop, said his town took pride in its diversity but had been concerned about “very aggressive solicitation.”

“They literally go door to door and can be very pushy trying to purchase someone’s house,” Mr. Fulop, a grandson of Holocaust survivors and a graduate of yeshivas, said in an interview. “It’s not the best way to endear yourself to the community, and there’s been a lot of pushback.”

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In Jersey City, a Hasidic influx has provoked some tension among longtime residents who complain of aggressive tactics from buyers seeking to purchase homes for Hasidic families. The city now prohibits door-to-door solicitation. CreditBryan Anselm for The New York Times

New York City and the surrounding suburbs are home to the largest concentration of Jews in the country and because of their high birthrate — five or six children are common — Hasidic and other ultra-Orthodox Jews represent the fastest-growing subset. They are now estimated to number about 330,000 in New York City alone — one-third of the city’s overall Jewish population.

They have become a more muscular political and social force and have turned the generally liberal profile of the area’s Jews more observant and conservative. Lakewood Township, near the Jersey Shore, voted for Donald J. Trump last year by the largest margin — 50 percentage points over Hillary Clinton — of any New Jersey community, according to an analysis by NJ Advance Media.

Squeezed out of their traditional neighborhoods, ultra-Orthodox Jews have taken steps that have raised concerns as they settle into new communities.

Michele Massey, a former Jersey City councilwoman who is the executive director of an organization that oversees a commercial corridor along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, said Hasidim had opened a synagogue on the avenue despite a recent zoning change forbidding new houses of worship.

“It’s not because they’re Jewish,” Ms. Massey said of her opposition. “It could have been any other religion or group. It was simply the zoning law. I’m a person of color. Obviously I don’t care who lives where.”

The Hasidim contend that they have been primarily buying boarded-up or vacant homes and that solicitations have come from outside investors, not from the families that have moved in. They support the city’s no-knock law and point out that the Hasidic families that have moved into the Greenville neighborhood are a minuscule fraction of the area’s 47,000 people, half of whom are black.

“We’re not looking to push out anybody,” said Mordecha Feuerstein, a volunteer for a Hasidic organization that helps people find new homes in affordable places like Jersey City.

What Hasidim have opened in a boarded-up dry cleaner on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, he said, is not a synagogue but a small community center that, like many Jewish institutional buildings, is also used for prayer and study. Next to it is a narrow grocery stocked with kosher foods and Yiddish newspapers. Some Hasidim point out that within a few blocks along the avenue are a Catholic church, a mosque and a storefront church called the Sanctified Church of Jesus Christ. Those were grandfathered in under zoning rules and officials are weighing whether the community center violates the rules.

Underlying the objections of many municipalities is an often unspoken worry that ultra-Orthodox Jews will transform the character of their communities. The ultra-Orthodox may not explicitly raise the specter of anti-Semitism, but they do see a bias against their unconventional lifestyle, modest dress and customs. Orthodox Jews, in general, live in tight-knit communities because of their need to cluster around an infrastructure that includes a synagogue within walking distance, kosher butchers, yeshivas for boys and girls, and ritual baths.

One community that is rapidly changing is Bloomingburg, on the edge of Sullivan County. A developer, Shalom Lamm, started building a complex of 396 townhouses that he marketed to Hasidim. Opponents claimed the development would quadruple the village’s population of 420 and significantly alter its tranquil, rustic ambience. Thirty homes are occupied and another 70 or so are in various stages of building. Vacant homes nearby have been bought for Hasidic tenants, while a boys’ yeshiva, a ritual bath and a kosher store have opened.

What the village will look like is in limbo, however, because Mr. Lammpleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to corrupt the electoral process by signing up ineligible voters to elect a village government friendly to his project. He will face sentencing in September.

Lakewood is also feeling the impact of a fast-growing minority group. Decades ago the area was rural, filled with hardscrabble egg-raising farms owned by Jewish Holocaust refugees, a few grand hotels and an estate that had once been owned by John D. Rockefeller.

TO CONTINUE TO THE NEW YORK TIMES STORY, CLICK HERE.

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Lakewood’s Civic Leaders, Negotiating Better Treatment – Amnesty for the Orthodox

From the Asbury Park Press:

Lakewood fraud: Vaad met with N.J. officials before amnesty deal

LAKEWOOD – Jewish Orthodox civic leaders had exclusive access to state officials during the planning of a controversial county-wide Medicaid fraud amnesty offer — a program critics say caters to Lakewood’s Orthodox community, the Asbury Park Press has learned.

State officials on Thursday said the only community group they met with as they formed the amnesty program was the Vaad, Lakewood’s politically influential council of local Orthodox Jewish religious and business leaders. Local African American and Latino groups told the Asbury Park Press that they were not asked for their views on amnesty.

The meeting’s disclosure comes as criticism has intensified about the amnesty program that was launched after 26 in Lakewood were charged in June and July in a public assistance fraud sweep.

The defendants — accused of taking more than a combined $2 million in public assistance they weren’t entitled to — include a rabbi and his brother, business owners, students and housewives from the township’s religious enclave.

After plans were announced to rent out the 3,200-seat Pine Belt Arena in Toms River to hold an amnesty “informational” program, the Vaad publicly endorsed the program.

But fewer than 40 people showed up for that Sept. 12 session, and State Comptroller Philip Degnan, who is overseeing the program, demurred when asked by an attendee if he had “reached out to rabbis” for their support.

“We have reached out to a number of community groups. We have had meetings with a number of community groups. I’m not going to talk about which ones,” Degnan replied.

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On Thursday, Degnan in an emailed statement said his office’s Medicaid Fraud Division “was solely responsible for conceiving of and developing what has become the Ocean County Medicaid Recipient Voluntary Disclosure Pilot Program.”

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Degnan said officials met with the Vaad and also had meetings with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, the Ocean County Board of Social Services, and representatives of other prosecutor’s offices and law enforcement agencies.

No religious restrictions

The Medicaid amnesty reprieve doesn’t have race or religious restrictions but is only open to residents of Ocean County.

Leaders of non-Orthodox groups in Lakewood say the amnesty opportunity came as a surprise to them.

“Nothing to us at all. No one reached out,” said Alejandra Morales, president of La Voz Latina, which supports immigrant rights.

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Pastor Glenn Wilson, whose church in Howell has a congregation of largely black and Latino worshipers who come from neighboring Lakewood, said state officials didn’t contact him nor church members – and he called the amnesty “a slap in the face to all people of all groups.”

Wilson also heads Lakewood UNITE (United Neighbors Improving Today’s Equality), a group that advocates for the township’s public school students.

“Amnesty is something you give to people who don’t know they were making a mistake. I have the same sense that the general public has that Medicaid fraud is probably not often done by mistake,” he said. “I know of people who were denied services for programs just by being over an income limit by a few dollars. The rules weren’t bent for them or by them.”

Degnan in his statement said his office “is willing to attend informational meetings with interested community groups in Ocean County at any time during the 90-day program.”

Vaad leaders in an emailed statement didn’t address questions about the group’s role in planning.

“The program continues to have the Vaad’s support as another tool to encourage greater compliance with the program’s rules,” said Vaad spokesman Rabbi Moshe Weisberg.

State officials concede it’s the first time such an undertaking has been targeted to a specific area.

“We’ve offered this program because, based on our Medicaid fraud investigations in Ocean County, we believe there may be a larger problem in that county,” said Degnan, a 2015 appointee of Gov. Chris Christie. “This is an opportunity to bring a significant number of people into compliance. That’s our goal.”

“We have not seen it in any other state,” he said. “As far as we know, it’s a fairly unique program.”

Degnan’s office audits government finances, programs and contracts and has a Medicaid Fraud Division.

‘We would be hung’

Lakewood resident Mami Quinonez, 61, is among critics who say the program selectively gives a pass to Orthodox Jews at a time when New Jersey has the nation’s highest racial disparity in incarceration rates.

Quinonez, 61, a native of Puerto Rico who describes herself as a “community activist,” said allowing others in the township who’ve wrongly received Medicaid benefits to avoid criminal charges is being done “because there are so many of them and their votes give them influence.”

“If an Afro-American, Puerto Rican, Mexican or Caucasian did what they did, we would be hung,” Quinonez said. “We would have went straight to the federal prison.”

Lakewood’s population topped 100,000 in the most recent U.S. Census estimate and Orthodox residents now account for more than half of that figure, community leaders say, though no official statistics are available.

The offer runs until Dec. 12. Degnan said it’s a “pilot program” and that it could be available in other counties in the future.

Last week the Root online magazine — a popular black news and culture site — posted a story titled: “White People Commit Welfare Fraud, State Creates Amnesty Program so They Won’t Go to Jail.”

Author Monique Judge wrote, “Religious leaders in the town support the program because it will let participants avoid prosecution. … Will this happen in a predominantly black town in New Jersey as well, or nah? Asking for black people everywhere.”

The Forward, another online site that says it offers “news that matters to American Jews,” also weighed in with a story titled, “Lakewood Medicaid Fraudsters Get Amnesty – Proving Jews Are On The White Side Of The Law.

Author Helen Leshinsky wrote that reactions to the program on social media “seemed to come in three categories. There were those who decried the program on ‘Law and Order’ grounds, claiming all criminals should be charged. Then there was the downright anti-Semitic response, clamoring that Jews are getting preferential treatment.

“Finally, there was the double standard argument coming from people of color, to whom the law has never been this lenient and humane. The first two can be dismissed, but the latter cannot be ignored.”

Blacks make up about 15 percent of New Jersey’s population but more than 60 percent of the state’s prison population, according to a report from the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project.

There were 3,803 arrests for fraud in New Jersey in 2015 — the latest year available from the State Police Uniform Crime Report — with 55 percent of persons arrested white, 42 percent black, and 3 percent other races. The Hispanic ethnic origin accounted for 20 percent of the arrests.

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Residents of Newark, Camden, Paterson and other cities “where the racial makeup of the populations are very different” could use a similar boost with “not amnesty, but stepped-up state support for things like prisoner reentry programs and transition shelters,” said Fred Rush, president of Ocean County’s NAACP chapter.

“In the cities where you have a different racial makeup, they might have gun buyback programs, but those are open to anybody,” Rush said. “To be honest, when I heard there was Medicaid fraud amnesty for Ocean County, I thought it was a scam. Why would they do that? And why does it seem it’s geared to one religion?”

Self-reporting vs. court cases

NJ FamilyCare, a Medicaid insurance program funded by both federal and state dollars, covers children 18 and under who have no other insurance in families with incomes up to 355 percent of the federal poverty level – as an example, in a family of four the income limit would be $87,336 year, but the income limit for parents to qualify is $33,948.

Degnan said having public assistance cheaters self-report makes more sense than pursuing court cases, which can tap the government’s limited manpower for investigations.

The amnesty terms of settlements call for full restitution payments, plus additional penalties, and voluntary withdrawal from Medicaid for a one-year period. After the amnesty offer expires Dec. 12, prosecutions will resume as needed, Degnan said.

The Office of the State Comptroller’s Medicaid Fraud Division says it opened 407 cases for investigation and made 32 referrals to law enforcement agencies last year. The division also said it received 1,962 telephone fraud hotline tips.

Degnan noted that prosecuting public assistance cheats doesn’t typically result in jail time. First-time offenders in many instances are offered pre-trial intervention, a probationary program that results in dismissal of charges upon completion, he said.

On Sept. 12, at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River, an information session on how to apply for amnesty attracted only about three dozen people. Degnan spokesman Jeffrey Lamm said applications to the program can be submitted online, but information about the number of applicants won’t be available until the program is over in December.

LAKEWOOD – Jewish Orthodox civic leaders had exclusive access to state officials during the planning of a controversial county-wide Medicaid fraud amnesty offer — a program critics say caters to Lakewood’s Orthodox community, the Asbury Park Press has learned.

State officials on Thursday said the only community group they met with as they formed the amnesty program was the Vaad, Lakewood’s politically influential council of local Orthodox Jewish religious and business leaders. Local African American and Latino groups told the Asbury Park Press that they were not asked for their views on amnesty.

The meeting’s disclosure comes as criticism has intensified about the amnesty program that was launched after 26 in Lakewood were charged in June and July in a public assistance fraud sweep.

The defendants — accused of taking more than a combined $2 million in public assistance they weren’t entitled to — include a rabbi and his brother, business owners, students and housewives from the township’s religious enclave.

After plans were announced to rent out the 3,200-seat Pine Belt Arena in Toms River to hold an amnesty “informational” program, the Vaad publicly endorsed the program.

But fewer than 40 people showed up for that Sept. 12 session, and State Comptroller Philip Degnan, who is overseeing the program, demurred when asked by an attendee if he had “reached out to rabbis” for their support.

“We have reached out to a number of community groups. We have had meetings with a number of community groups. I’m not going to talk about which ones,” Degnan replied.

On Thursday, Degnan in an emailed statement said his office’s Medicaid Fraud Division “was solely responsible for conceiving of and developing what has become the Ocean County Medicaid Recipient Voluntary Disclosure Pilot Program.”

Degnan said officials met with the Vaad and also had meetings with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, the Ocean County Board of Social Services, and representatives of other prosecutor’s offices and law enforcement agencies.

No religious restrictions

The Medicaid amnesty reprieve doesn’t have race or religious restrictions but is only open to residents of Ocean County.

Leaders of non-Orthodox groups in Lakewood say the amnesty opportunity came as a surprise to them.

“Nothing to us at all. No one reached out,” said Alejandra Morales, president of La Voz Latina, which supports immigrant rights.

Pastor Glenn Wilson, whose church in Howell has a congregation of largely black and Latino worshipers who come from neighboring Lakewood, said state officials didn’t contact him nor church members – and he called the amnesty “a slap in the face to all people of all groups.”

Wilson also heads Lakewood UNITE (United Neighbors Improving Today’s Equality), a group that advocates for the township’s public school students.

“Amnesty is something you give to people who don’t know they were making a mistake. I have the same sense that the general public has that Medicaid fraud is probably not often done by mistake,” he said. “I know of people who were denied services for programs just by being over an income limit by a few dollars. The rules weren’t bent for them or by them.”

Degnan in his statement said his office “is willing to attend informational meetings with interested community groups in Ocean County at any time during the 90-day program.”

Vaad leaders in an emailed statement didn’t address questions about the group’s role in planning.

“The program continues to have the Vaad’s support as another tool to encourage greater compliance with the program’s rules,” said Vaad spokesman Rabbi Moshe Weisberg.

State officials concede it’s the first time such an undertaking has been targeted to a specific area.

“We’ve offered this program because, based on our Medicaid fraud investigations in Ocean County, we believe there may be a larger problem in that county,” said Degnan, a 2015 appointee of Gov. Chris Christie. “This is an opportunity to bring a significant number of people into compliance. That’s our goal.”

“We have not seen it in any other state,” he said. “As far as we know, it’s a fairly unique program.”

Degnan’s office audits government finances, programs and contracts and has a Medicaid Fraud Division.

‘We would be hung’

Lakewood resident Mami Quinonez, 61, is among critics who say the program selectively gives a pass to Orthodox Jews at a time when New Jersey has the nation’s highest racial disparity in incarceration rates.

Quinonez, 61, a native of Puerto Rico who describes herself as a “community activist,” said allowing others in the township who’ve wrongly received Medicaid benefits to avoid criminal charges is being done “because there are so many of them and their votes give them influence.”

“If an Afro-American, Puerto Rican, Mexican or Caucasian did what they did, we would be hung,” Quinonez said. “We would have went straight to the federal prison.”

Lakewood’s population topped 100,000 in the most recent U.S. Census estimate and Orthodox residents now account for more than half of that figure, community leaders say, though no official statistics are available.

The offer runs until Dec. 12. Degnan said it’s a “pilot program” and that it could be available in other counties in the future.

Last week the Root online magazine — a popular black news and culture site — posted a story titled: “White People Commit Welfare Fraud, State Creates Amnesty Program so They Won’t Go to Jail.”

Author Monique Judge wrote, “Religious leaders in the town support the program because it will let participants avoid prosecution. … Will this happen in a predominantly black town in New Jersey as well, or nah? Asking for black people everywhere.”

The Forward, another online site that says it offers “news that matters to American Jews,” also weighed in with a story titled, “Lakewood Medicaid Fraudsters Get Amnesty – Proving Jews Are On The White Side Of The Law.

Author Helen Leshinsky wrote that reactions to the program on social media “seemed to come in three categories. There were those who decried the program on ‘Law and Order’ grounds, claiming all criminals should be charged. Then there was the downright anti-Semitic response, clamoring that Jews are getting preferential treatment.

“Finally, there was the double standard argument coming from people of color, to whom the law has never been this lenient and humane. The first two can be dismissed, but the latter cannot be ignored.”

Blacks make up about 15 percent of New Jersey’s population but more than 60 percent of the state’s prison population, according to a report from the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project.

There were 3,803 arrests for fraud in New Jersey in 2015 — the latest year available from the State Police Uniform Crime Report — with 55 percent of persons arrested white, 42 percent black, and 3 percent other races. The Hispanic ethnic origin accounted for 20 percent of the arrests.

Residents of Newark, Camden, Paterson and other cities “where the racial makeup of the populations are very different” could use a similar boost with “not amnesty, but stepped-up state support for things like prisoner reentry programs and transition shelters,” said Fred Rush, president of Ocean County’s NAACP chapter.

“In the cities where you have a different racial makeup, they might have gun buyback programs, but those are open to anybody,” Rush said. “To be honest, when I heard there was Medicaid fraud amnesty for Ocean County, I thought it was a scam. Why would they do that? And why does it seem it’s geared to one religion?”

Self-reporting vs. court cases

NJ FamilyCare, a Medicaid insurance program funded by both federal and state dollars, covers children 18 and under who have no other insurance in families with incomes up to 355 percent of the federal poverty level – as an example, in a family of four the income limit would be $87,336 year, but the income limit for parents to qualify is $33,948.

Degnan said having public assistance cheaters self-report makes more sense than pursuing court cases, which can tap the government’s limited manpower for investigations.

The amnesty terms of settlements call for full restitution payments, plus additional penalties, and voluntary withdrawal from Medicaid for a one-year period. After the amnesty offer expires Dec. 12, prosecutions will resume as needed, Degnan said.

The Office of the State Comptroller’s Medicaid Fraud Division says it opened 407 cases for investigation and made 32 referrals to law enforcement agencies last year. The division also said it received 1,962 telephone fraud hotline tips.

Degnan noted that prosecuting public assistance cheats doesn’t typically result in jail time. First-time offenders in many instances are offered pre-trial intervention, a probationary program that results in dismissal of charges upon completion, he said.

On Sept. 12, at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River, an information session on how to apply for amnesty attracted only about three dozen people. Degnan spokesman Jeffrey Lamm said applications to the program can be submitted online, but information about the number of applicants won’t be available until the program is over in December.

Religion is Not the Issue in Lakewood – Why Whitewashing is Damning to All Jews

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/becoming-every-brothers-keeper/

Becoming Every Brother’s Keeper

All humanity descended from one family.

“And in this original familial relationship resides our profound responsibility to one another. The recitation of the generations of Adam trumps the golden rule as the “greater principle” because it clarifies the subject of the ethical imperative. “Let there be no mistake,” the begetting seem to say. “The ‘neighbors’ for whom you must care are not only the people around you, but the entirety of this large, unruly human family from which you are a lucky, and burdened, descendent. Each member of this family is your ‘brother.’ And none, therefore, are you free to abandon.”
This section of the Torah, the recitation of the generations of Adam, thus challenges us to allow God’s question to Cain–“Where is Abel, your brother?”–to reverberate throughout the millennia. It demands that we pose this question with the awareness that, in the eyes of Bereshit, all humanity is descended of one family. It compels us to pay attention to the words of the question itself–to recognize that it is not only a query about Abel’s whereabouts, but also an insistence that he is our brother.
As common descendants of Adam, we are not free to shed our brotherhood with Abel. We are simply not at liberty to allow the gulfs created by national, cultural, linguistic, religious, or racial differences to obscure our responsibility to those who are hurt or violated. Instead, we must step up to this haunting question whenever it is asked and answer resolutely: “I am my brother’s keeper.””

Dear Reader:

The following is a comment received by one of our readers. We are bothered by the comment because, whether intentionally or otherwise, it defines all ultra-Orthodox Jews by the actions of those who chose to defraud the system.

It then by association defines all Jews by those very same ultra-Orthodox criminals and the various Rabbis, websites (OJPAC) and other Jewish spokespeople who try to justify or whitewash the criminal behavior. It is our belief that if you paint the truth and the lies with the same white paintbrush you taint the good while you are trying to shade the bad.

To the author of the initial post below: there are exemplary, devout, honest and descent members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Simply because they dress the same as those accused of committing crimes, does not mean that they themselves don’t find those very same crimes unthinkable and the very same people reprehensible. Your commentary makes broad generalizations, that we agree are difficult at times to avoid.

While sadly we can’t disagree with much of it, we would be remiss if we did not point to a religion which, when not taken to extremism, when taken as written is rich in charitable random acts of kindness, laden with spectacular cultural history, sincere in its piety and actively trying to achieve a high moral standard and ethical character. 

We are here because we believe that we must be our brothers’ keepers. That means reporting the good with the bad. We may miss our mark on reporting the good, but it is there nonetheless.

Finally, you are right in commenting that religion is not the issue. Criminal behavior is the result of those committing the crimes. Judaism does not allow it. As such, please do not view the entire community by the acts of some.

 

Religion not the issue in Lakewood welfare raids: So much for ‘Thou shall not steal’

by Steve Trevelise June 28, 2017 12:26 PM
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So much for “Thou shall not steal.”
As more and more arrests come out of Lakewood’s Jewish community for people accused of cheating the government out of various benefits, it makes you wonder how adherent these people are to their religion in the first place — as opposed to the “golden calf” of government.
LAKEWOOD WELFARE RAIDS
NEW:Hundreds attended Lakewood meeting warning of welfare fraud risk
Lakewood welfare fraud raids: Six more people scammed another $700,000, authorities say
‘Hundreds’ of Lakewood residents scrambling after welfare fraud raids, report says
Deminski: Zero excuse for any welfare cheats in Lakewood
Lakewood welfare fraud: It’s too easy, and not just Orthodox Jews to blame
Isn’t the belief of any religion to trust God that he will provide for you? What happened to Psalm 23 — “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want?” As someone who grew up in Hudson County, I’ve seen people cheat the system all my life, but you wouldn’t think that members of a religious community would be cheating the government out of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don’t they answer to a higher authority?
So why would religious residents of Lakewood cheat the government? To maintain the expense of their religion, of course. Or so says Duvi Honig of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce to the Asbury Park Press:
“The pressure of the community overhead — especially the (cost of) private schooling is unsustainable,” “People are forced to find ways to bend the system.”
He later told New Jersey 101.5 he was talking about using legal loopholes, not breaking the law. But no religion should force you to find ways to bend the system — and the truth is, this isn’t about the religion. It’s about the people who broke the law. To blame the religion is an insult to all those people who worship and who don’t steal.
What these people are accused of doing had nothing to do with their religion, and hopefully their religion will have nothing to do with it at their trials.
What’s going to be interesting is if they are convicted and must serve time. How much will the prison system conform to their beliefs? I’m guessing the government will find ways to get it done much cheaper.
More from New Jersey 101.5:

OJPAC – A Self-Serving Organization Aimed at Clouding Reality,Twisting Truths and Whitewashing – Lakewood

Legislator.wieder

 

Dear Readers:

This article serves as an introduction to an organization that uses social media to rewrite history, to justify the ills of many within the community, to prevent legislation from passage like the ACA, to assist in the demoralization of anything non-ultra-Orthodox and to do so all under the guise of a quasi legitimate charitable organization.

Our attention was drawn to OJPAC by a contributor who pointed specifically to OJPAC’s historical rewrite of the events in Lakewood. This is not the first time an article regarding Rockland County and OJPAC’s ultra-Orthodox voice has lead to reporting on  Yossi Gestetner, spokesperson for the organization and a public face of his fellow politicians and political whores. We are sure it will not be the last.

In the first story in today’s “Latest” section of the OJPAC website there is an article entitled, “To the Advertisers of Asbury Park Press and Gannett Investors.”  Presumably that article is intended to tell the advertisers and investors that the news is being improperly reported. In actuality, it is a rewrite of history, a justification of sorts.

OJPAC’s fame to public relations in the referenced first article on its site is to de- criminalize activities in Lakewood by drawing comparisons to other areas of New Jersey, namely Newark. Sadly, the residents of Newark to whom OJPAC makes a comparison cannot boast the income of those arrested in Lakewood. Rather, Newark has a history of poverty and crime so such a comparison is not only inaccurate but insulting.

Unlike OJPAC’s whitewashed version of the truth, the issue in Lakewood is not the number of children from married couples on assistance as alleged by the PR website; but rather the numbers of couples manipulating entitlement programs who do not meet the parameters of those programs. The same is not true of Newark.

It is worth noting that even the Vaad of Lakewood acknowledged that there is a problem. OJPAC would have done a service to the community and those viewing that community from outside were a similar acknowledgement to have been made. Apparently, however,  the fraudulent activities in Lakewood are acceptable when compared to activities elsewhere, even when such comparisons are non-representative.

We suggest that consistent with the Mission as stated by OJPAC, “to counter the alleged defamation and generalization of the Orthodox Jewish Community” OJPAC should focus on accountability and acknowledgement. To ignore or minimize the the crime that does occur within a fairly large segment of the ultra-Orthodox community is to reduce credibility.

For many, it is difficult not to draw generalizations from a community that has coined the term “Moser” to refer to someone who reports against his own community member. For it is better to remain silent than to report the truth.

We maintain that contrary to their mission, OJPAC is not “organizing civil yet effective community action for fair reporting” but is rather using PR tactics to sway reporting in favor of the ultra-Orthodox community without acknowledging the problems within that community.

We argue that the Federal Authorities should be looking carefully into communities within Rockland County, Kiryat Joel, Crown Heights, Boro Park and other areas across the Eastern 87 Corridor for the same or similar abuses as those committed by members of the Lakewood ultra-Orthodox community. The behavior is indefensible and the comparison to Newark by OJPAC is reprehensible.

Unfortunately, a few bad apples can destroy an entire tree.

We suggest that the authorities should be looking into the activities of any subject on the OJPAC’s website. If a supposed “correction” or alleged “truth” is reported there, it is likely because OJPAC is attempting to minimize or justify activity whether criminal or otherwise.

Finally, we do agree with OJPAC insofar as there are broad generalizations and globally the situation of discrimination and hatred is disturbing. However, stereotypes are based in perception. Perhaps if OJPAC would focus on cleaning up the actions of members of that community, who are sorry examples of Judaism, the worldview might also change.

There are exemplary members of the ultra-Orthodox community. It is just hard to find them when groups like OJPAC color everything using the same white paintbrush.

In the meantime, we offer thanks to the person who provided the voice for this post.

LostMessiah 3.7.17

 

 

 

A Shell Game and American Express – the $260K Swindle

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/men-busted-swiping-270g-amex-fake-nyc-company-article-1.3289265

Six men busted for swiping $270G from American Express through defunct Brooklyn shell company

Six men stole $270,000 from American Express through an elaborate scam using a Brooklyn shell company, prosecutors said Thursday.

Five of the accused rip-off artists were arraigned and pleaded not guilty to grand larceny charges in Manhattan Supreme Court.

They are accused of filtering fraudulent transactions through a bogus corporation called 92K Blvd. between November 2013 and January 2014.

Defendants Yehuda Tyrnauer, 29, Naftali Safern, 30, Moshe Pomerantsev, 22, Bezalel Mermelstein, 40, and Samuel Berkovits, 50, allegedly used personal credit cards to initiate transactions with 92K Blvd.-affiliated accounts.

Israel Fischer, 62, owned the AmEx merchant account linked to the fake company, prosecutors said.

After making purchases for electronics and other goods, the crew requested refunds from AmEx but the credit giant could not recover the funds they had issued to the cardholders because 92K Blvd. was actually defunct and there were insufficient funds in the account, the Manhattan DA said

 

Defendants Yehuda Tyrnauer, 29, Naftali Safern, 30, Moshe Pomerantsev, 22, Bezalel Mermelstein, 40, and Samuel Berkovits, 50, allegedly used personal credit cards to initiate transactions with 92K Blvd.-affiliated accounts.

See the article in its original format in the New York Daily News

Lakewood, New Jersey – Making the News… 11 Things to know… and When Will they get to Rockland County?

11 things to know about Lakewood, suddenly the newsiest town in N.J.

 

To read the article as written click, here.

Holding Ourselves to a Higher Standard – Don’t Dress the Part if You Are Not Meeting the Associated Standards – Lakewood

How Crimes Committed by Those Dressing the Part of Piousness Endanger The Lives of All Jews

There was a rabbi many years ago who explained to his congregant in response to a specific question that when an outwardly religiously observant Jew and a non-Jew are doing business, if they choose to meet at a non-Kosher establishment, non only should the the Jew not eat; but he should remove his kippah and hide his tallit lest he be viewed by others as a piously dressed man eating non-Kosher food. In other words, the Rabbi felt that the outside perception of piousness should engender pious behavior. The Rabbi further commented that if a Jew’s appearance did not mesh with his actions and behaviors it would tarnish Judaism for everyone.

Apropos a series of comments we received today in reference to an article we posted about the FBI Raids in Lakewood, one of our loyal contributing readers provided us with a link to an op-ed article posted in Yeshiva World News. We think it speaks to what LostMessiah has always held as its fundamental purpose: to raise the standards of behavior within the Jewish world by exposing those for whom morality, law and ethics are inherently challenged. -LostMessiah 28.6.17


Op-Ed: When Will We Start Following The Law And Start Avoiding The Colossal Chillul Hashem?

For the second time this week, the FBI arrested Frum people in Lakewood, NJ in a federal and state crackdown on public assistance fraud in the Orthodox community.

On Monday, three couples were arrested. The FBI warned that the arrests were just the beginning of what appears to be multiple waves of arrests.

On Tuesday night, the FBI took another three couples into custody.

All are being charged with public assistance fraud including Medicaid, food stamps, Section 8, and other government assistance programs, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.

Of course, everyone is innocent until proven guilty – and calling people guilty isn’t the purpose of this op-ed.

Possibly as bad as the actual chillul hashem, and the actual crime, is how many people fail to look at the bigger picture here. Many are complaining that the FBI notified the media ahead of the arrests so they can make a “photo-op” out of it. Ignorance is an understatement, as this is what the FBI always does when there are multiple arrests, especially high-profile arrests. Did it ever dawn upon people that perhaps the purpose of the photo-ops are to warn others to stay clean and not break the law, or they too will end up with their photos splashed on the front covers of every newspaper?

In reality, it seems that the FBI has already accomplished whet they hoped to do by the exposure of the arrests. It has been reported that in the past two days, hundreds of Lakewood residents called township leaders asking how they can avoid arrest or get amnesty for past use of government programs which they aren’t legally able to take.

Ocean County Social Services received dozens of phone calls from people looking to cancel their public assistance or update their income information.

People may not be aware of this, but more than 10,000 anti-Jewish comments have already been posted on social media since the arrests were announced on Monday morning. TEN THOUSAND. That is a very big number, and it is simply horrifying.

Perhaps it might pay to read the following story of Rav Shimon Schwab ZATZAL, and hopefully law-breakers will take heed and stop endangering the lives of Jews in America.

Many years ago, a shameful scandal erupted in the Jewish community centering around a Jewish businessman who was put on trial for embezzlement. At that time, influential members of the embezzler’s community approached Rav Shimon Schwab with a plea that he do what he can to prevent the man from going to prison. Rav Schwab became extremely agitated, and he pointed out to the petitioners that the man’s behavior, which was so widely publicized in the media, caused a tremendous chillul Hashem, and that the man had became a virtual rodef, a threat to the lives of Klal Yisrael.

He told the visitors outright that the embezzler deserved to sit in prison for a long time. He pleaded with them to give the embezzler a message – that he should shave off his beard and take off his yarmulke when appearing in court, because by displaying these signs of his religious affiliation, he would be making a new chillul Hashem every day on the evening TV news and would be a living disgrace for the Jewish people.

It’s high time that people stop doing things illegally. People love to complain that “they are picking on us”. Yes they are. And for good reason. We are held to a higher standard. We are the Am Hanivchar. Let’s live up to that title, and not have ourselves embarrassed and plastered all over the news. Enough is enough. It’s 2017 and everything goes viral in seconds. Social media ignites in a heartbeat with hatred against Jews. Why feed fuel to the fire that is clearly burning?

http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/featured/1305770/op-ed-will-start-following-law-start-avoiding-colossal-chillul-hashem.html