KeyBank sues Kiryas Joel religious charity in $950K credit card chargeback scheme
KeyBank has sued a Hudson Valley religious charity and a co-founder for allegedly running a $950,000 credit card chargeback scheme.
KeyBank of Cleveland sued Mordechai Gold and BHMD BY on Chevron Inc., of Kiryas Joel, Orange County, Dec. 16 in White Plains federal court.
“KeyBank seeks to prevent the fraudulent transfer or dissipation of assets, including those assets that they have already tried to put beyond the reach of KeyBank,” the lawsuit states.
Gold responded in a court filing that the allegations are a “complete fabrication.”
The bank “has attempted to dress up its contract claim as being an elaborate fraud involving over 40 conspirators,” he stated, “yet KeyBank has proffered no evidence of fraud.”
Gold, 26, Yoel Shtosel and Joel Fekete set up BHMD BY on Chevron in 2015 to establish a place of worship, Bnai Yisroel, on Chevron Road, according to the incorporation papers, and to “support the spiritual needs of the community with providing free loans and to support the religious, intellectual, moral and social welfare among them.”
Shtosel and Fekete are not named in the complaint.
BHMD opened a settlement account with KeyBank in March for handling credit card transactions. Fiserv, a vendor working for the bank, processed credit and debit card charges for BHMD merchandise bought by cardholders, collected funds from the credit card banks and paid the merchants.
From April to early September, about $984,000 was deposited in the Keybank settlement account. During the same period, Gold transferred about $950,500 out of the account.
The transactions include $22,308 in cash withdrawals, $41,150 wired to a family trust, $84,000 wired to a member of Gold’s family and $533,996 transferred to Gold and BHMD accounts at NorthEast Community Bank.
Fiserv became suspicious and opened an investigation. BHMD was repeatedly charging the same, even-amount for transactions on high-reward credit cards. When the vendor questioned Gold, he said BHMD had been taking advance orders for Hebrew texts. Fiserv pressed for details, the complaint states, but Gold could not provide them.
Fiserv concluded that Gold and BHMD had colluded with customers to process fraudulent credit card transactions, collect the credit card rewards and steal the funds.
“BHMD and Gold then transferred the fruits of the fraud into outside bank accounts and took cash withdrawals,” according to the complaint.
Fiserv referred its findings to the FBI.
After KeyBank closed the settlement account in September, there was an enormous spike in chargebacks. Customers demanded refunds, claiming that the amounts of the transactions were incorrect, they didn’t recognize the transactions or the goods were not provided.
By mid-December, the chargebacks totaled $630,400, and KeyBank expects the number to surpass $950,000.
KeyBank had processed credit card transactions that resulted in $984,000 in deposits to the settlement account, “even though no actual goods or services were sold or delivered,” the complaint states. Then Gold and BHMD “plundered” $950,500.
The settlement account had insufficient funds for refunding the credit card banks, so KeyBank had to pay them.
Gold states in his declaration that BHMD functions as a charitable institution, raising money from contributors that it distributes to “needy families to help cover their costs (of) yeshiva, holidays, weddings and basic needs.”
BHMD had been offered a large supply of religious books and bookcases, he says, that it used as incentives to encourage donors to contribute $990,000 to his organization. But the supplier failed to deliver the items and BHMD was unable to honor its incentives.
“This resulted in a massive business failure in which over 40 contributors, disgruntled over the failure of BHMD to supply the promised items, issued chargebacks for their contributions.”
Gold said BHMD was unable to cover the chargebacks because it had immediately distributed the contributions to “needy recipients.”
The bank accuses Gold and BHMD of breach of contract and fraud. It is asking for a court to order to preserve all assets and for judgments for damages and enforcement of a personal guaranty Gold signed when he opened the settlement account.
KeyBank is represented by Manhattan attorneys Emily J. Mathieu and Brian K. Steinwascher. BHMD and Gold are represented by Richard M. Mortner of Manhattan.
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Lakewood, a Test Case for Other Areas of New York and New Jersey, but Not Unique
The below article is being reposted without permission, in its entirety from New Jersey.com. We ask that you kindly click here to view the post in its original format as well as to avail yourselves of the advertising of that paper. We have not reposted the video which starts the article.
We note that NJ.com is a subscription service so, if asked to remove this post or any portion of it, we will do so. There is no intent to violate any copyrights. It should be noted that the author of the article is Mark Pfeiffer, a non-Orthodox Jew. He is assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers. The rest of the credits for the article can be found at the end of the post.
We make one single criticism of the article. Lakewood is mentioned as a unique situation, one not contemplated by our government’s founding fathers. We believe that Lakewood is not unique. A similar pattern can be seen throughout New York and New Jersey and likely in other parts of the country, like areas of Pennsylvania with students who attend the Lakewood Yeshiva. Insofar as Kiryas Joel is now the first religious town in the country, it also should be viewed in terms of a possible endpoint for Lakewood, except perhaps to the extent that Lakewood straddles a finer line between modernity and insularity.
Kiryas Joel or “Palm Tree, New York” has been for many years one of the poorest towns in the country. It is and will continue to represent one of the heaviest burdens on public resources throughout the United States.
Editor’s note, Part 9: Over the past nine days, NJ Advance Media has been taking a closer look at Lakewood, one of New Jersey’s fastest-growing and most complex towns. Lakewood is home to a huge Orthodox Jewish community and the rapid growth has engulfed the town, igniting tensions between the religious and secular societies on many levels.Each day, we have explored some of the major issues in the community, including the welfare fraud investigation, housing problems and the strains on the education system. Today, a look ahead.
Newcomers move in. Old-time residents leave. Stores open and close. Politics shift.
Such is Lakewood, fast growing and changing faster, dramatically transforming the Ocean County township that’s already eclipsed many New Jersey cities in population.
But where is it headed?
A pair of Orthodox teens share a ride on a bicycle on the sidewalk outside of Georgian Court University in Lakewood. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
Lakewood found itself in the glare of unwanted attention this summer after 26 members of the Orthodox community were accused of lying about their income to collect more than $2 million in Medicaid and other public assistance.
Even before that, however, there has been turmoil and controversy, from a financial crisis brought on by school busing to private yeshivas, to unchecked growth and development that chokes the town daily with traffic, to basic questions about the separation of church and state.
Nearly 1,00 members of the Orthodox community listen during a meeting organized by the Vaad, Lakewood’s religious council. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
1) Why is this place different from all other places?
Marc Pfeiffer, the assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers University and a former deputy director of the New Jersey Division of Local Government Services, said what is happening in Lakewood is unique.
“It is effectively a religious community bound together by religious and social traditions that basically started small and has exponentially grown and is now large enough and powerful enough to assume control of the political process,” he said.
The effect of that, he said, “has created circumstances that arguably our laws and rules did not contemplate.”
A flyer that put out by Lakewood’s Vaad prior to the recent primary election, telling members of the Orthodox community how to vote. (Photo courtesy of Lakewood resident)
2) Can a religious community take over a town?
“There are lots of communities in New Jersey that you could call insular and who vote the same way. Newark is one that comes to mind,” noted Matthew Hale, who teaches political science and public affairs at Seton Hall University. “A Republican couldn’t get elected in Newark if he was standing on a corner handing out $1,000 bills. You could argue places up in Hunterdon and Warren counties are pretty insular with similar voting patterns also.”
The Orthodox community in Lakewood votes as a block and represents more than 50 percent of the population. It effectively controls the votes to hold sway over the township council and school board.
“The fact is, New Jersey is a machine politics state,” said Hale. “Little machines control votes and voting lines all over the state.”
Students of the East Ramapo School District hold a sign during the One Voice United Rally in Albany in 2013, protesting about the decade-long control of the East Ramapo public schools by the Orthodox community, which do not use the public schools but made deep cuts in teachers and programs. (Shannon DeCelle | AP file photo)
3) Have the issues in Lakewood played out anywhere else?
The East Ramapo Central School District in New York, 30 miles north of Manhattan, has gone through a similar transformation.
There, the Orthodox turn out to vote in strong numbers to defeat school budgets that could increase taxes, while electing members of the Orthodox community to the board. Parents of children in the public schools have accused the school board of making cuts in classroom education and extracurricular activities, to divert public resources to private Orthodox schools.
As in Lakewood, Ramapo residents opposed to the Orthodox control complain about the forces propelling what was a quiet New York suburb into a one of high-density living.
The fight in East Ramapo was documented on This American Life, the public radio show, which described a “volatile local political battle” that erupted after Hasidic residents, who have to pay local property taxes like everyone else—even if their kids did not attend the local schools— took control of the school board.
Elsewhere, there is similar anger over the influx of Orthodox families into parts of Toms River and Jackson Township in New Jersey, Bloomingburg in New York, and a group of Hasidic families moving into an African-American neighborhood in Jersey City.
Lakewood Mayor Raymond Coles, left, sitting alongside Deputy Mayor Menashe Miller. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
4) What are the politics of Lakewood?
Lakewood swings Republican. Trump won with 74 percent of the vote. Christie won with 84 percent. The town is run by a five-member committee serving three year terms. Three are Orthodox Jews. There are three Republicans and two Democrats. All are white men.
But some believe the true power in town is the Vaad, a religious council of Orthodox men, headed by Rabbi Aaron Kotler, which serves as an unofficial advisory group to the community. They unofficially endorse candidates and push for town policies to benefit yeshivas, school owners and private developers.
Critics say Lakewood has outgrown the five-member town committee form of government, which appoints its own mayor and has at-large members. They say it needs a city government (like Newark and Jersey City), with a direct-elected mayor and wards, so one dominant ethnic group can’t dominate the government and smaller neighborhoods get representation.
Students get off the bus at the Yeshiva K’tana on 2nd St. in Lakewood. (David Gard | For NJ Advance Media)
5) What has been the impact of the Orthodox community on Lakewood?
The biggest hit has been on the school budgets. Under New Jersey law, communities are required to bus kids to private schools more than two miles away. But with 30,000 kids in private yeshivas in Lakewood, the costs of busing have grown out of control.
The state is giving $2.4 million a year to Lakewood until 2018 to solve the busing problem under legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie. In 2014, the state appointed a fiscal monitor to oversee Lakewood’s school district and its budget deficit. But the cost of courtesy busing is keeping the district in the red, say critics.
Questions have also been raised about whether local construction and housing ordinances have been ignored to make room for Orthodox growth, in a town where the government is also controlled by the religious community. Lakewood has approved 1,200 new houses and 400 units in two years.
6) If others in the township are being affected, why doesn’t the state step in?
New Jersey law does give the state the ability to go into a district like Lakewood, and it has appointed a monitor who has oversight and ultimate say on how the money is spent.
“The problem in New Jersey is even when you have the monitor, the politics are intense,” said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, which advocates for the education rights of public school children.
With a board that is controlled by a constituency that supports private education, he said Lakewood should not have control of busing and special education expenditures. At the same time, he complained that the Christie administration has been “hands off” on Lakewood, even though the monitor is there.
“The monitor might exercise his authority, but he has to have the backing of the governor and legislature. There’s going to be political pushback,” he said.
The Lakewood Board of Education provides courtesy busing to private schools, but with 30,000 kids in those schools, costs have spiraled out of control. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
7) What, if anything, should the state do?
Sciarra said Lakewood needs to stop diverting funds to pay for an extraordinary number of children using private school transportation.
“The monitor should stop the subsidization of transportation out of the schools’ budget because it’s diverting funds out of public education,” he said.
If the state wants to subsidize private transportation, then the state should provide state funds, Sciarra suggested.
Michael Azzara, the fiscal monitor appointed by the state to oversee Lakewood’s finances, did not return calls to comment.
The next step, Sciarra said, depends on the political will of the next governor, noting that the state Supreme Court has made it clear over and over again that the state has the final say in insuring that children receive a “thorough and efficient” education.
“The state has the ultimate responsibility, which cannot be undermined by local school boards and the local political process,” he said. “In Trenton. That’s where the power lies.”
A new housing development off Broadway Ave. in the south part of the town. The town has approved 1,200 new houses and 400 units in two years. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
8) How will Lakewood’s rapid development growth play out?
Pfeiffer said continued tensions among the communities, both within Lakewood and the surrounding municipalities, are likely.
“The outcomes of the current law enforcement investigations, school interventions, and land use concerns may contribute to new policies that respond to the pressures the yeshiva has introduced on the region,” he said. “Yeshiva leadership may feel it necessary, that despite its influence, to reconsider its growth plans as public resistance to continued growth may come at too great a disruption to the region’s civic environment and risk to the institution’s reputation.”
That said, he said it seems clear that continued, unabated growth will create new challenges for the region that will continue to stress political, civic, economic, and cultural institutions and systems, “the outcomes of which cannot be predicted today.”
In the hallways of Beth Medrash Govoha. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
9) How does the Orthodox community see the future in Lakewood?
What brings so many Orthodox families to Lakewood is Beth Medrash Govoha, which opened with 15 students in 1943 and has grown into one of the biggest yeshivas in the world, in part because of its distinctive teaching style.
Rabbi Kotler, president of the yeshiva, sees parallels to the Orthodox presence in Lakewood and to Princeton University.
“We kind of watch what they do and how they do that. What has really changed for us here in Lakewood, unlike Princeton, is that so many of our alumni and their families are living in Lakewood and setting up their businesses here,” he said. “Lakewood kind of became a destination in and of its own way.”
(Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
10) Where is the next Lakewood?
While many see parallels of Lakewood in Rockland County’s East Ramapo, where many of the same issues have played out in recent years, the community in Lakewood is expanding beyond the town’s borders.
People in Toms River, Jackson, Howell and Brick have complained about getting harassed by Orthodox real estate brokers who knock on their doors and encourage them to sell their houses because Haredi Jews are moving in. Several towns have “no-knock” ordinances because of it.
Further to the north in Mahwah, meanwhile, residents are fighting the installation of an “eruv.” A physical line that is often a line or thin piping along utility poles, an eruv symbolically extends the private domain of Orthodox households into public areas, allowing activities within it that are normally forbidden in public on the Sabbath, such as pushing a baby carriage.
Comments on a petition circulating on-line, some overtly anti-Semitic, suggest the opposition is not so much to the presence of the eruv, but that Mahwah would be transformed into another Orthodox-dominated community, such as nearby Monsey, N.Y.
Staff writer Kelly Heyboer contributed to this report.
WOODBURY — Joseph Waldman was one of the first settlers in 1976 in a small enclave that would soon become the Village of Kiryas Joel, an upstate outpost for Satmar Hasidic families seeking a peaceful refuge from the congestion of Brooklyn.
Forty-three years later, Kiryas Joel is a densely populated community of 24,000 or more, and Waldman and his family have relocated again, this time to neighboring Woodbury.
Waldman and his wife, Sarah, bought a house last year on Schunnemunk Road in the Country Crossing development, following five of their daughters who already had moved to the same quiet neighborhood. He proudly showed a reporter the picturesque view of Schunnemunk Mountain from his kitchen during a recent visit, and recalled the sense of tranquility he enjoyed as a Satmar pioneer in rural Monroe decades ago.
“Moving here is exactly the same feeling that we had moving here from the city 43 years ago and building that new house,” Waldman said.
The Waldmans are part of a steady flow of Satmar families migrating to the towns abutting Kiryas Joel, where they can get a single-family house with a yard and privacy for the same price as a condo in the crowded village. The trend started in 2015 during a tense conflict over efforts to expand Kiryas Joel and has continued in its aftermath, with couples and investors from Kiryas Joel and Brooklyn now having bought hundreds of houses in Monroe, Blooming Grove and Woodbury over the last four years, according to Orange County property records.
The most striking example is South Blooming Grove, where at least 387 homes, or 44 percent of all single-family houses in the village, have changed hands. In neighboring Woodbury, Hasidic families have settled in neighborhoods like the Waldmans’, where about 70 homes have changed hands, and Woodbury Junction, where about 100 houses and lots have been sold since a Brooklyn developer bought the stalled 451-home project in 2016 and resumed construction.
New complexes are being built or planned in Monroe, Blooming Grove and Chester as well, like the 181-home Smith Farm project taking shape on a hill off Route 17M in Monroe. One proposal still under review, the 600-home Clovewood project, could bring as many as 3,800 new people to South Blooming Grove, more than doubling the population of 3,200.
Hasidim leaving Brooklyn for Orange County
Part of the Hasidic population moving into homes in the towns around Kiryas Joel comes not from that village but from Brooklyn, signifying an upstate shift by families priced out of New York City or seeking suburban comforts.
The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council has been charting this trend through enrollment data for Orthodox schools in two states, which have shown little or no annual increases in Brooklyn in recent years and steep hikes in Orange and Rockland counties and in Lakewood, N.J.
The council found a 35.6 percent enrollment jump over the last five years in the yeshivas in and around Kiryas Joel, which have 14,019 students in kindergarten through 12th grade this school year.
By comparison, enrollment in Rockland’s Orthodox schools rose 30.4 percent to 28,808 during that period, while the total students in Brooklyn yeshivas had climbed by only 6.1 percent to 83,546, according to OJPAC’s analysis. (Lakewood’s yeshiva enrollment had jumped by 57 percent to 32,902 over six years.)
One of the groups representing Kiryas Joel’s Satmar Hasidim posted a message on Twitter last summer to celebrate the addition of 500 students whose families had moved to the Kirays Joel area from New York City and enrolled their students in the United Talmudical Academy, the largest of three local yeshiva systems.
The Aug. 31 tweet from Satmar Headquarters (@HQSatmar) read: “Close to 100 new Satmar families have ‘Immigrated’ from New York City and moved to the scenic Village of Kiryas Joel (Soon to become Town of Palm Tree) with a combined 500 new children registered for the new School year at UTA Kiryas Joel’s School system.”
The home buy-ups and new construction have extended the frontier for Orange County’s Satmar community, which for decades had lived strictly in Kiryas Joel and adjacent neighborhoods close to the synagogues, religious schools, kosher stores, ritual baths and wedding halls that anchor Hasidic life. Now, school buses roll through Worley Heights in South Blooming Grove to take children to Kiryas Joel’s yeshivas, and Orthodox boundary markers known as eruvs line streets in Woodbury.
For a fast-growing community with large families and a constant need for more housing, new opportunities abound.
The suburban migration from Kiryas Joel represents a cultural shift for the Satmar Hasidim and raises new considerations for the towns experiencing or facing that influx. Though the transition has been ordinary in some respects, as routine as one family moving in to replace another, it has also triggered sporadic conflicts over development plans, eruvs and other issues, and has stoked anxiety among some about the future power of growing Hasidic voting blocs.
A ‘KJ without borders’
One late spring night in Kiryas Joel in 2015, attorney Steven Barshov took the microphone in the ballroom of a girls’ school to make his case to a crowd of about 600, Hasidic and non-Hasidic alike, about why it made sense for Kiryas Joel to annex 507 acres from the Town of Monroe. Barshov, representing the property owners who had petitioned for that border change, talked about the scarcity of building space in the Hasidic village and posed a leading question about its future population growth.
“So where are the people to go?” he asked. “Would you prefer that they be spread all around Orange County, which is -”
“Yes!” annexation opponents in the audience roared back before he could finish.
Last week we posted this poster, which in pertinent part is a proclamation of the Satmar of Kiryas Joel, New York, to stop fundraising activities using the internet. Presumably, by so doing it gets far easier to hide those fundraising activities. We believe that it more accurately is not fundraising that gets easier but laundering… clothing… of course.
One of our readers, however, pointed out the words ממשלת הכופרים which are the last 2 words on the bottom line in highlighted enlarged texts. Those two words translate to “Infidels.” This poster is a call to arms against everyone not otherwise Satmar, the infidels.
Please be reminded that Kiryas Joel, New York is listed as one of the most impoverished cities in the United States. It has one of the highest rates of Medicaid, food stamps and other social services.
Yet, just in time for the passage of a Prison Reform Bill, heavily supported by the Satmar, they ran a http://www.charidy.com compaign to raise 1.5M in 60 hours and we have been told they raised well over $2M USD in that time. Many of the published photographs show the money in cash lying out on the tables as the fundraisers carefully documented the donations.
We have made calls, openly and publicly for receipts evidencing the distribution of that money, to no avail. The attorney supporting the “Prison Reform Bill” push acted pro bono. The vote took place only 3 days later (if that) so there is little doubt that the money raised did nothing to help the cause of prison reform.
We want to know in whose pockets that money is sitting.
This begs the question that we have been asking for weeks. Can anyone account for the last $2M fundraised for prison reform. First question: where are the proceeds? Second question: who were the donors and were any of them accepting social services?
It is rich that the Rabbi Teitelbaum of Kiryas Joel would declare war on the New York State Education Department, referring to those who would demand educational compliance as “wicked.” It is a supreme hypocrisy that the Satmar live under the protection of the Israeli state yet Rabbi Teitelbaum’s disdain for the “Zionists” leaves no room for interpretation. He makes no bones about a quasi declaration of war on those who demand education and require Israel Defense Fund Service (IDF) of all children (including those identifying as Satmar). There is no mistaking the Jihadi-like meaning of his 60 minute “call-to-arms.”.
It is ironic that he would refer to those “wicked who persecute Charedi Yiddishkeit” (a reference to Yiddish culture), yet the Satmar are not themselves practicing Yiddishkeit. The term was used in the cross-cultural understanding of Jews post WWII. What the Satmar practice is some brandished form of radical Jewish fundamentalism, in whatever language they choose to speak. Those of us born into true Yiddishkeit know full well that it comprised: Yiddish theater, literature, a solid and well-rounded education and a belief in NOT creating pogroms (think Kiryas Joel). It is part of a greater Jewish identity, one not defined by costumes and claims.
It is almost tragic, if not somewhat nauseating that in his 60 minute “call to arms”, he emphasizes a pride for the safety and wealth of the Satmar community, as compared to the secular and non-Jewish communities in which they live. Has the distinguished Rabbi Teitelbaum forgotten about the epidemic levels of rape and molestation of children within his community? According to Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg the number of children within the Satmar community who are victims of rape or molestation is unthinkable. Rabbi Teitlebaum seems either to think that raping or molesting children is not a crime (or at least not worthy of consideration in those statistics) or to believe that it does not exist within the Satmar community. We can’t find a broom large enough to sweep up the dirt and yet the Rabbi speaks…
In his targeted and angry Jihadi-like speech, Rabbi Teitelbaum boasts of the money earned by the Satmar, despite the non secular education. Are they wealthy or are they poor? If the former, why are so many receiving welfare benefits and Section 8 housing funding? If the latter (justifying the social services they receive), then there is little truth in his assertions.
Has he not acknowledged that Kiryas Joel is and has been for many years listed as one of the poorest cities in the country? And as he’s demanding no secular teachings (like science and maths) what will happen when the community does not produce enough doctors to deliver their vast numbers of children born each year? Oh… the Satmar will likely rely on the wicked for that service.
The Satmar as an organized community boasts 200+Million in assets (presumably under management). Yet, to reiterate, Kiryas Joel has been listed for years as one of the poorest cities in the nation. It has been quoted as “redefining poverty.” Where is all of the Satmar money, Rabbi Teibelbaum, earned by your non-secularly educated children? It is certainly not in the pockets of the residents of Kiryas Joel and others who live on US (and Israeli) social services, unless there is a severe case of fraud going on (in both countries).
We wonder whether it is possible for a family to collect social services in the United States and also in Israel, whether there is a way to manipulate both system.
Rabbi Teitelbaum’s comments as regarding Israel reflect an unthinkable disgrace upon a country that welcomes the Satmar with open arms. The children of “the wicked” protect the Satmar in their enlistment, a situation which should not be permitted to continue.
Rabbi Teitelbaum’s comments about New York State and the war the Satmar will declare (Inshallah!) is frightening. We might even regard those comments as warranting law enforcement intervention.
In our opinion if the Satmar are going to eviscerate the countries they inhabit with comments like Teitlebaum’s, the Satmar should not be permitted to inhabit their borders. The only difference between the Satmar and the most radical Islamic fundamentalists is that so far, the Satmar have not wired their children with explosive devices.
They are not beyond committing violence, however, and we see this speech as the closest thing to Jihadi-like incitement.
The Satmar Rebbe of Kiryas Joel delivered a fiery speech last night, during which he effectively declared war against the NYS Education Department. The speech was delivered at the 74th annual “Chuf Alef Kislev” event, the day Hagaon HaRav Yoel Teitelbaum ZATZAL, the founder of Satmar Chassidus in America, escaped from the Nazis during the Holocaust in 1944.
Thegathering was held at a massive warehouse in Williamsburg, with thousands of Chassidim in attendance.
The highlight of the annual Yom Hatzoloh event is the speech by the Rebbe, using the forum to address some of the burning issues on the agenda, both in Eretz Yisrael and primarily, outside of Israel.
As YWN has been reporting, New York State is taking steps towards stricter enforcement of its education requirements on yeshiva elementary schools. In line with recently released NYS Education Department guidelines, all yeshiva elementary schools must teach a ‘substantially equivalent education’ to public schools, with a minimum of six hours of secular studies daily. The new regulations leave little flexibility for what yeshiva elementary schools may teach.
This is cause for serious concern to many, and this year, the Satmar Rebbe dedicated his annual speech to addressing this new Gezeira, vowing a tenacious fight in what it sees as state intervention in the education of the tenokos shel beis raban, an unacceptable situation to put it mildly.
The Rebbe gave clear instructions to his followers to defy the Education Department’s new orders, noting that the yeshiva system’s successes far outweigh those of the alternative, public schools, which he blasted as needing far more reform than yeshivos.
In his approximately 60 minute long address, the Rebbe first addressed the situation surrounding a new IDF draft law in Israel, which may be legislated in the near future, vowing to fight “that not a single bochur will fall to the Zionists R”L”. The Rebbe then addressed the harsh Gezeira being faced by yeshivos in New York State as a result of the new state educational guidelines mentioned above.
The Rebbe then slammed New York State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia, “who conspired with traitors and the wicked to persecute chareidi Yiddishkeit in New York, which only wants to educate its children in accordance to Torah and tradition as has been from generation to generation, in talmidei torah, in yeshivos ketanos, and in girls schools” cried the Rebbe.
The Rebbe continued: “She wants to change Klal Yisrael and remove us from our religion exactly as the Greeks wanted in their time, to destroy the education institutions, a decree of extermination (shmad). Who would have thought that here, in the greatest democracy in the world, a time would come when a decree on education would become reality?”
“I hereby declare that Klal Yisroel will not bow down or surrender to the wicked, not even before the Commissioner of Education, and with great devotion we will be able to educate our children in Torah education. We have had many situations in the past demanding mesirus nefesh for the Torah HaKadosha, and also today, we will launch a major war against the Commissioner of Education in any way [necessary] without compromises and agreements.”
“In a democratic country there is freedom of religion and they have no right to interfere in our religion, and if the Commissioner of Education wants to improve education in the State of New York, please ask the public schools to correct their education curriculum. We have been living in New York for 70 years, which is already a number of generations, and one can already see the fruit of our education as compared to the public-school education. In our schools they do not murder, there is no violence, no drug sales and no thieves. Even percentage wise, we are more successful than the public school graduates,” the rebbe continued.
The Rebbe continued to attack the commissioner and the poor education of the non-Jews in New York. “We see the percentage of graduates of their (public school) education, and the graduates of the Jewish education system; who fills the prisons and who fills the large commercial houses and factories here in New York?
Percentage wise, we contribute more to the economy with the graduates of our institutions than the graduates of their institutions. Therefore, the government has turned a blind eye to this day and they realized that even though they invest $25,000 per student in government schools, compared with a few tens of dollars per student in transportation and other budgets, they benefit a great deal more from the students of the Jewish education versus their graduates.”
“Therefore,” the Rebbe concluded, “we will not sit idly by but we will fight a fierce battle over our right to live in our religion, and B’ezras Hashem, we will cancel this terrible gezeira and will not obey the Education Commissioner in any way. Of course, it will only happen if there is achdus. We must put all the petty politics aside and to seriously unite all the communities and unite all of the chareidi Jews, to exploit the ties with the leaders of state, to the federal court, and B’Shem Hashem, Na’ase V’Natzliach!”
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