THE MONEY IN RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA, ROCKLAND COUNTY, NEW YORK AND KOSHER CANNABIS…
On May 3, 2018, we cited to sources in Rockland County, New York that told us there is soon to be a “medical marijuana” dispensary opening in the County. The address, while within walking distance of a Clarkstown Central School District grammar school, is a fairly central location with easy access from Clarkstown’s main roadways.
Further investigation revealed that the State of New York’s worst kept secret is the soon-to-be legalized recreational marijuana. Our sources in the business have stated that facilities with currently existing medical marijuana licenses will have their hands on a gold-mine once recreational marijuana is legalized because they will already have been licensed, bonds in place, fees paid. At least five of the current medical marijuana licensed facilities are already open in the State, with the five newest additions soon to be opened. But once recreational marijuana is legal, even the newest members of the license-holder’s club will have an asset that is worth a fortune, an already existing license, even if they do not actually open a dispensary before marijuana is legalized.
It is our understanding that to get on the next list of licensees requires not only the usual bells and whistles, $200,000 fee, established dispensary and growing facility and a bond to be banked for exposure purposes, but those with the closest personal connections to Governor Cuomo are going to make it to the shortlist first. Isn’t that the way politics always works?
The licenses cannot be sold, at least presently, on a secondary market. However, the companies holding those licenses can be bought and sold and since there is little regulatory oversight at this time, there are very few checks upon changes in command and control. Moreover, the currently licensed companies can accept new members, which don’t necessarily have to be individuals but can be shell LLC’s.
The following article, which we missed during our many distractions of the previous week, illustrates the magnitude of the finances involved.
While we do not believe that marijuana must be kosher, that nonsense is almost laughable, it is certainly a creative argument to be made for giving Governor Cuomo reason to assuage the fury of some of his allies who may be angry with him for his recent decisions on education and vaccination requirements.
See the following New York Post Article:
An NYU think tank is high on fixing the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
A new report out Wednesday by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management urges the statewide legalization of recreational marijuana — in order to get more green into mass transit.
“No new revenue source can match a tax on weed, ” Mitchell Moss, director of the Rudin Center, asserted to The Post. “New Yorkers deserve a subway system that is as productive as they are. It is time for New York to legalize and tax cannabis — and to designate the revenues for mass transit.”
A potential tax imposed on marijuana — if pot becomes legalized in New York — “would provide a way for the MTA to address many of their operating and capital requirements,” the center said.
Marijuana is currently legal for adult recreational use in 10 states, plus Washington, DC.
The report, citing BDS Analytics — a leading source for cannabis industry data — says the legal pot industry in North America reached $9.2 billion in 2017 and “is projected to generate $47.3 billion over the next decade.”
“This report argues that the subways need a dedicated revenue source with the potential for growth in future decades — one that does not divert funds from other public services, and that has yet to be tapped by the state and local government,” the paper reads.
Several states, including Colorado, Washington and Oregon, have already reported “higher-than-expected tax revenues” from the legalization of marijuana, the report notes
The state Health Department has already backed the legalization of recreational cannabis.
In July, the department released a report saying that legal marijuana sales could generate between $248.1 million and $677.7 million in revenue for the state in the first year alone.
Rabbi Teitelbaum’s Extremist Rant
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.
The gathering 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!”
To view the video and the information provided and continue reading click here.
We are republishing this without the permission of the author and make no claims that he either supports our site, or even knows of its existence. We believe that the following essay is a detailed and quite accurate account of the ultra-Orthodox of 2014 and of today. In our opinion, many of the communities have since become increasingly radicalized. We leave that to your analysis.
The least understood and most insular American Jews have much to teach us.
The so-called ultra-Orthodox may be the most recognizable Jews by virtue of their distinctive garb, but they continue to be the least-known actors on the American Jewish scene. Clustering in densely populated enclaves, speaking Yiddish or Yinglish (a mixture of Yiddish, English, and rabbinic Hebrew) among themselves, consciously rejecting much of modish Western culture, and arranging their family lives, daily routines, finances, and politics in a manner entirely different from their highly acculturated co-religionists, they are a people apart. For want of a better term, they have come to be known collectively as Haredim,1 “those who tremble in fear of God.”2 More colloquially, in recognition of the preferred head coverings of their males, a different shorthand is used, though not as a term of endearment—“black hatters.” Yet rather than constitute a single monolithic body, these Jews demonstrate that there are at least 50 shades of black.
The largest contingent consists of Hasidim, the inheritors of an 18th-century mystical strain of Judaism. They divide themselves into at least two dozen sects, each with its own leader. Some, such as the two warring factions of the Satmar group, are riven internally; others simply refuse to cooperate with one another and at times come to blows.
Then there are the historical antagonists of the Hasidim, the spiritual descendants of their Lithuanian opponents. These are the “Yeshivish,” men whose lives are oriented around upper-level academies of Torah study. To insiders, the subtle but very real distinctions in customs, garb, allegiances, and ways of living that characterize these different sub-populations loom far larger than their commonalities.
Where did the Haredim come from? Until the Holocaust era, the most religiously traditional Jews rarely immigrated to America. For one thing, they were tightly bound to their communities in Eastern Europe; for another, many of their rabbis discouraged relocating to the Treyfe Medina, a country deemed unfit for Jewish religious life. To be sure, some traditionalist Jews, including rabbis, joined the mass migration of East European Jews to the United States in the three decades prior to World War I, but they could not hand down their way of life to the next generation.
Highly traditional rabbis in particular found America to be a Jewish desert. In his cri de coeur of 1887, Jews and Judaism in New York, Rabbi Moses Weinberger lamented the upside-down religious life he found on these shores, where learned Torah scholars were marginalized, showboating cantors were all the rage, and Jewish know-nothings dominated the community. Weinberger threw in the towel and returned to Hungary. But other European-style rabbis stayed and established no fewer than three separate rabbinical organizations during the first two decades of the 20th century, none of which exercised serious influence over native-born Jews.
The triumph of Communism in the Soviet Union and the rise of Nazism soon thereafter—the former intent on destroying Judaism and the latter on ruthlessly slaughtering Jews—prompted traditionalist Jews who never would have considered coming to America to flee for their lives. Their arrival marked a turning point. Unlike earlier generations of Orthodox immigrants from Eastern Europe, they imported sophisticated techniques to cope with modernity. Their armamentaria included all-day Jewish schools designed to immerse youngsters in the texts and rituals of the Jewish tradition; an extensive community infrastructure to support and reinforce their distinctive religious ways; and what some have called an “enclavist” mentality, to insulate themselves from Jews holding different views. Central to their ideology, in the words of the scholar Jeremy Stolow, was opposition to “all ‘liberalizing’ tendencies in Jewish thought and practice…[and a self-conception as] the unique bearers of Jewish authenticity.”
Haunted by the memory of the decimated communities that had nurtured them in Eastern Europe, appalled by the defections of most American Jews to various “deviationist” forms of Judaism (including Modern Orthodoxy), and convinced against all odds that the future lay in re-creating what they imagined had existed in the obliterated communities of East European Orthodoxy, they labored far from the centers of Jewish power and influence to rebuild traditional Judaism in America, preferably in splendid isolation. (Interestingly, perhaps the best-known of them—the Hasidim of the Lubavitch sect—have been outliers in this regard by virtue of their active engagement with all sectors of Jewish society, even though they share most of the countercultural values of the Haredim.)
Their distinctive worldview—with its assumption that Judaism will flourish only if Jews sequester themselves in self-segregating enclaves—was antithetical to the integrationist agenda prevailing in the rest of the American Jewish community. The large majority of American Jews aspired to win complete acceptance and were prepared to pay a high price for it; the Haredim, then as now, insisted on fitting in on their own terms. This unbridgeable divide within the American Jewish populace was captured in Philip Roth’s prescient short story of 1959, “Eli the Fanatic.” Sent as an emissary by his Americanized Jewish peers to persuade the head of a newly opened yeshiva for Holocaust survivors to dress and behave like an American so as not to embarrass them, Eli regularly must pass what Roth none too subtly identifies as a Gulf gasstation. The chasm Roth perceived 55 years ago continues to be maintained deliberately, and it’s geographically reinforced by the settlement of Haredim in places far removed from the centers of American Jewish life, such as Lakewood in New Jersey, Orange and Rockland Counties in New York, and several highly insular neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
Aside from meeting for business-related purposes, most American Jews rarely have had occasion to speak with a Haredi Jew (other than Lubavitch emissaries)—or vice versa. My own first encounter with Satmar Hasidim happened by chance during a visit to Budapest in the early 1980s. Striking up a conversation with what seemed to be European Jews with strong Yiddish accents and a limited command of the English language, I realized gradually that my interlocutors had been born and educated in New York City but were raised in an environment where English remained at best a third language after Yiddish and Hebrew. Had we not been travelers abroad searching for remnants of Jewish life, our paths never would have crossed—certainly not in our native city.
For those of us outside the Haredi camp, the persistence of these seeming throwbacks to an earlier era calls out for explanation. The tolerant mood of postwar America surely played a role in opening a space for Haredim, along with other minority groups, to live according to their own customs. Like other Jews, the Haredim have benefited from the generosity of Americans, who have accorded respect to different forms of religious expression and garb, however alien they may seem. Yet fundamentally, the vibrancy of Haredi life owes most to their single-minded rabbinic leaders. When they found traditional Jewish life on the wane upon their arrival in the United States, these leaders set in place the necessary conditions for the renewal of their communities.
The most basic of these was a strong pro-natalist orientation. Young people in their late teens or early twenties are paired off either by their parents or professional matchmakersand, once married, are expected to produce children quickly and often. In contrast to non-Orthodox Jews, who average fewer than two children per household, yeshiva-oriented Haredim customarily have four to six children; Hasidic families frequently have as many as 8 to 12.
Though we do not know how far back these high fertility rates go or precisely when they became the norm, their impact on Haredi life today is unquestionable. In Lakewood, New Jersey, for example, 4,000 children were born last year into a Haredi population of perhaps 10,000 to 12,000 families. The fertility rate of the Jewish population of Lakewood is nearly four times that of the residents of Jersey City and Newark, two far larger municipalities in the Garden State. Each year, more classes have to be added to local Jewish day schools to accommodate the swelling population. Even with 12 kindergarten classes in some schools, it is impossible to find room in existing institutions for all the children coming of school age. In September 2012, 14 new Jewish day schools opened in Lakewood—and even that number has not reduced the pressure to find space to accommodate the still larger cohort of children entering the system in September.
For Hasidic families, the center of their activity is Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, where the dominant Satmar sect is surrounded by many smaller groupings. Nearly half of its Jewish population are children younger than 18. On a recent visit to Bais Rochel, a K–12 girls’ school in Williamsburg, I was informed that enrollments exceeded 3,000 students, making it one of the largest Jewish day schools in the country—matched only by other Satmar schools in Kiryas Joel, about 50 miles north of the city. A recent report in the Forward noted that Bais Rochel had 10 eighth-grade classes, 15 classes of first-graders, and 16 classes of preschool girls. The growth rate could not be more stunning.
Hasidic and Yeshivish families residing in nearby Boro Park, Flatbush, and Crown Heights also have high fertility rates: Compared with the general American norm of 80 children born per thousand women, the birth rate in those two neighborhoods is somewhere between 186 and 192 per thousand. Walking the streets of these communities, one is overwhelmed by the sheer number of children and the resulting spillover of Haredi populations into contiguous neighborhoods to relieve the pressure building up due to insufficient affordable housing. The demographic trajectory, according to one analyst of census data, is for the Hasidic population to more than double in the next 20 years. The Yeshivish lag slightly but also are expected to grow by at least 30 percent with the birth of each new generation.3What this means for New York’s Jews is already evident: A demographic study conducted in 2011 found that 49 percent of Jewish children who are younger than 18 are being raised in Haredi homes.
Providing a Jewish education for these swelling numbers of children has not been left to chance. Attendance at private Jewish day schools is well-nigh universal from early childhood through high school, and that includes children with learning disabilities. In these schools, students spend considerably more hours immersed in religious studies than in general-education classes. The former are regarded as critically necessary to prepare them for life in Haredi communities, the latter far less so. This stands in stark contrast to much of the rest of the Jewish community; most day schools outside the Orthodox orbit devote considerably less time to Jewish learning than to general studies.
The Haredim have built an extra tier onto their educational infrastructure, at least for males. Young men are expected to pursue post–high school studies at institutions called Kollelim, yeshivas of higher learning where they will continue to learn after they have married and started their families. Some seek to attain rabbinic ordination, but most engage in Torah learning for its own sake. This was the dream of rabbinic leaders who arrived during the Holocaust era. Most notable in this regard was Aaron Kotler, who came to America in 1941 from Lithuania and two years later established a high-level yeshiva in Lakewood. His long-term aspiration was to recruit 100 men in their twenties to devote themselves to full-time study. Today the Lakewood yeshiva enrolls more than 7,000 men, making it the largest advanced institution of its kind in North America. Though it has but a fraction of the student body found in Lakewood, the Ner Israel yeshiva in Baltimore also attracts many Haredi Jews. Baltimore today boasts a Jewish population that is 30 percent Orthodox, the highest proportion of any Jewish community in the United States, in large measure due to the presence of Ner Israel.
Within the Haredi world, devotion to Kollel study varies. The Satmar and Lubavitchers, for example, retain men for a year or two of post–high school Torah study and then encourage them to begin earning a livelihood. In other Hasidic groups, such as the Bobover and Skvarer, men linger for more years, in some cases their entire lives. The Yeshivish maintain an ideal of continued study by adult males until they are well into their twenties. For the most part, though, Haredim studying in American Kollelim should not be conflated with those in Israel. There, the government supports yeshiva students and thereby enables their unemployment. That is not the case in the United States.
In fact, none of this would be economically feasible were it not for the remarkable social safety net constructed by Haredi communities to support their own. The ethos of those communities is for every Jew to be engaged actively in Hesed, a term often translated as “acts of loving kindness” but that might simply be defined as giving of oneself. Far from being an invention of the Haredim, Hesed has a long history; but the Haredim have made it an art form by creating hundreds of aid programs, known as Gemachs. (Gemach is a Hebrew acronym for gemilut hasadim, literally “the giving of loving-kindness.”)
On a stroll through Williamsburg, a visitor can spot Gemachs at almost every turn. Down a flight of stairs is a Kallah Gemach storing hundreds of white wedding gowns, shoes, and veils, all donated by wealthier families to be rented, for free, by new brides. On the same street in a huge school building are two large wedding halls, offering an all-inclusive package, including a single musician and food for 250 guests, at the bargain cost of $10,500. A few blocks over, a store selling Kosher meat products at prices subsidized by the Satmar community allows shoppers to contribute funds anonymously so that the poor can receive an added discount. A few blocks on, the Bikkur Holim society, an enterprise run entirely by volunteers, prepares Kosher meals daily for shipment to a dozen hospitals and rehabilitation centers in the New York area for distribution to patients. Its purpose is to provide free Kosher food up to the standards of the most demanding Haredi Jews. Farther on, there are “stores” with rack upon rack of used clothing, all free for the taking.
In neighborhoods with dense Haredi concentration around the greater New York area and Los Angeles, pennysaver newspapers list a broad panoply of free services offered by Gemachs. Locked out of your house or car? Haverim will send someone to open your locks at no charge. Are you in need of transportation to medical facilities outside the community? Call Bikkur Holim, which has volunteer drivers lined up to shuttle people to and from those health centers, including family members visiting the sick. Need an emergency ambulance? Call Hatzolah, a well-known volunteer ambulance service started by Satmar Hasidim intent on avoiding the kinds of delays that have cost lives when ambulances did not arrive in time. For disabled children and adults, Ohel and Bais Ezra will help. Bonei Olam arranges free fertility treatments. Or Chodesh offers support groups for people with emotional troubles. To aid bereaved families, Misaskim will literally provide gravediggers, chairs for mourners sitting shiva, and support programs for orphans. As for goods, one can find Gemachs offering furniture, clothing, and books; Hasidic bridegrooms can even expect to receive the gift of a fur-rimmed hat from a streimel Gemach. And at major medical centers in the greater New York area, Haredim provide free apartments so that family members won’t have to travel on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays to be with hospitalized loved ones. The list of services is nearly endless, and because of the value placed upon Hesed, members of the community are constantly dreaming up new Gemachs to address as yet unmet needs.
Current Haredi leaders insist that this extensive volunteer effort resulted from the model set by European-born rabbis. As one former insider put it to me, students in yeshivas are taught that “tzedakah [Jewish giving] is part of your religious direction.” Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, an influential Haredi rabbi, wrote of the imperative for Jews to act in a godly fashion, and that means the good Jew must give and not only take. Driving this point home, the story is told of the time Joel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe, learned of students in his yeshiva who were shirking their responsibility to visit the sick; his response was to threaten closing down the yeshiva.
Without diminishing the remarkable achievement of the Hesed work, a volunteer effort in which all must tithe and give of themselves, we might note the function it plays in making life in poor Haredi communities economically viable by offering so many free services and goods. It also serves as a powerful instrument for building community cohesion and, like all social-service programs, ties the beneficiaries to the provider. The community has the power to withhold support and expects a high degree of social conformity in return for its Hesed. In fact, the three key institutions of Haredi life—family, religious schooling, and Hesed—all serve to bind people together within shared and tightly embracing communities.
One might assume that the intensity of Jewish living in Haredi communities would spark some curiosity, if not admiration, among their more acculturated Jewish counterparts. After all, the larger American Jewish community has been failing in the very tasks Haredim seem to have mastered. Outside the Orthodox community, fertility rates have plummeted below replacement level, ignorance about Judaism and Jewish civilization abounds, and Jewish community life is eroding. It stands to reason that the dramatically different patterns within Haredi society in precisely these areas might provoke closer scrutiny, if not grudging respect. Nothing of the sort has happened. Anyone following Jews’ discourse about their communities cannot fail to note the near-universal hostility and derision directed at Haredim. Indeed, it is hard to escape the conclusion that no other Jews are as reviled by their co-religionists.
Why might this be? Simply put, the Haredim have managed to alienate many of their co-religionists. To take one negative example, repugnance directed at the “holier than thou” surfaces powerfully whenever a Haredi person, let alone a rabbinic leader, is accused of a crime. Not only are other Jews embarrassed by the misdeeds of people so readily identifiable as Jewish, but they resent the hypocrisy of criminals parading as pious persons. The Jewish press seems to spotlight criminals clad in black hats or yarmulkes with a greater zeal than it does other Jewish criminals. And the power of the Internet magnifies the reporting. FailedMessiah.com, a blog started in 2004, specializes in documenting in excruciating detail crimes and sins committed by Haredim in every corner of the globe. As when Catholic priests and evangelical preachers who have sinned (or worse) are exposed, the misdeeds of Haredi rabbis are taken as confirmation that for all their holy-rolling, they are charlatans. Does the Haredi population contain more crooks, pedophiles, tax evaders, and embezzlers than the rest of the population? We have no way to know, but probably not. Still, those who carry themselves as paragons of religious piety are held to a higher standard: The Haredim, after all, are expected to be free of vice because they are supposed to “tremble in fear of God.”
When Haredi communities close ranks to protect offenders, insult is added to injury. Efforts to shield criminals in their midst, especially rabbis accused of pedophilia and other forms of sexual abuse, are taken as evidence of a morally bankrupt community. Haredim would argue that history has taught them to distrust state legal systems, but such an argument fails to persuade their Jewish critics and is regarded, understandably, as especially pernicious when children are harmed while their molesters are given refuge.
Of late, there has been a huge spillover into the American Jewish community, because of fierce struggles in Israel over Haredim who shirk military duty. When Israel passed legislation in March ending the draft exemption for most yeshiva students, an estimated 50,000 Haredim took to the streets of Manhattan to denounce the new draft law and lambaste state officials. Some hotheads did not shrink from comparing the Israeli government to Nazis. Significantly, the most severe criticism of Haredi draft exemptions has come from Modern Orthodox quarters in the United States, as it does in Israel from the religious Zionists. Here is how a prominent Modern Orthodox leader, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, responded: “It is unconscionable that there exists [among the Haredim] this idea that work and army service are beneath them, and the rest of society which they hold in contempt must work and pay higher taxes in order to support them [so] they should sit and learn.”
Embedded in this statement of outrage is still another source of resentment: Haredim have made the choice to sustain their lifestyle—and large families—by working the system to obtain government support. Significant percentages of Haredim in the U.S. collect food stamps, and benefit from Section 8 rent assistance, Medicaid, and other subsidies. One might expect conservatives to protest loudly, but, interestingly, Jews on the left are at least as exercised. This was made evident in an editorial in the Forward, a liberal national newspaper, denouncing Haredim as “undeserving poor.” What seems to set critics off is the life of poverty-by-choice embraced by the Haredim. How dare they have so many children and then rely upon government subsidies to help support their brood?
Haredim would respond by noting that their private schools educate 150,000 students, thereby saving the public coffers a good deal of money. Why, then, shouldn’t they enjoy other government benefits to which they are entitled? They also would point to the dynamic economies in Haredi neighborhoods that stem not from government support but from a rising middle class and a small tier of wealthy Haredim that together shoulder a good deal of the responsibility through their voluntary contributions to schools, synagogues, and other institutions. The vast network of Hesed, moreover, relies not on government assistance but on private initiative to sustain people from cradle to grave. A tally of goods and services provided through Gemachs amounts to many millions of dollars donated by volunteers, thereby relieving the government of some burdens.
Hesed activities nevertheless come in for criticism. Some have questioned whether they mask untaxed funds or in other ways benefit the ostensible givers. And champions of the liberal Jewish conception of social justice known as tikkun olam(literally, “repairing the world”) who focus their attention on universal causes are turned off by the parochialism of Hesed. Why do the Gemachs care about Haredim only, they ask? In fact, many do not. Hatzolah ambulance drivers don’t check the pedigree of people needing hospitalization, any more than Haverim only help Haredim locked out of their cars. The most famous “store” giving away free clothing, Bobbie’s Place in Flatbush, serves Haredim and non-Jews in the neighborhood equally. And on the individual level, acts of kindness are not confined to Jews. To cite one example: A Haredi man regularly visits the pediatric oncology unit of a major hospital in Manhattan where his own son was successfully treated in order to offer words of encouragement to every parent he encounters. True, the Haredim give priority to helping their own. But when asked, they give beyond their community.
THE YESHIVA UNIVERSITY OBSERVER
By Molly Meisels, Junior News Editor
At this very moment, children in Jewish day schools and yeshivas across the country are learning about the fall of the Roman Empire, the intricacies of Talmud, and the anatomy of the human body. They are building robots and competing in debate tournaments, while anticipating their acceptances to prestigious universities. Their lives are fixated on an education which will be the foundation of their economic and social futures, allowing them to positively impact their communities. Their lives have been focused on education, both secular and Jewish, for as long as they can remember. It is all they know, and most take it for granted. They expect all Jewish children to have these experiences, but this is unfortunately not the case. If you travel to the ultra-Orthodox communities of Brooklyn and Rockland County, most children will never learn how to write an essay, name the bones in their bodies, or do mathematics beyond multiplication and division. Many will end their secular educations at the age of twelve, and some will never be able to sign their names in English.
The ultra-Orthodox community has many attributes. Its community members are pious, dedicated, and passionate, deserving of respect from the rest of Jewish society. However, the state of education in most ultra-Orthodox communities is in crisis. While I never wish to impede the religious freedoms of individuals, the issue of education is not a religious one. Education is a necessity. Education is the atom of our lives. Without it, we cannot flourish and we cannot succeed. Just as you cannot have gold, silver, or iron without atoms, you cannot have health, wealth, or gender equality without a solid education. Education breaks cycles of poverty and illness, allowing those born into low socioeconomic communities to rise above their circumstances. By prohibiting valid standards of education in a community, you are cutting off a life-line, and pulling the plug on lives that still have potential.
In ultra-Orthodox communities, girls are provided with a solid, albeit a substandard, education. Girls are taught four hours of Jewish studies and four hours of secular studies per day. They are prohibited from learning Gemara and their studies are immensely censored, but they are taught history, English, science, and math. They will most likely not utilize their education, but they have received one. Boys experience education a bit differently. Many Chassidic boys begin their secular educations at seven years old. From seven to twelve, they have approximately one hour of secular studies per day, when they learn the basics of math, reading, science, and history. Secular studies are viewed as an inconvenience by administrative figures, and the children notice this, causing them to disrespect their secular studies teachers. They come to realize rather quickly that their secular education does not matter in the slightest.
When these boys turn thirteen, everything changes. Most boys are sent to yeshivas, where they remain for up to fifteen hours per day. They learn no secular studies at all. Some boys are given the option to take secular studies classes after their fifteen hours of learning, but most decline. They are exhausted. Why learn secular studies when they can use the time to sleep? And more importantly, why learn secular studies if their rabbis do not deem them vital? Consequently, by the time they are eighteen years old, most boys will have the education level of a fourth-grade public school student.
This system sets children up for hardship. Education generates tolerance, understanding, and critical thinking skills, and Chassidic children are deprived of these essential proficiencies. It is well-known that education is dangerous. Education challenges the power of leadership. Education is the one weapon ultra-Orthodox communities cannot fight in the war against secularization. Educate a child and you change a world; keep a child in darkness and you preserve your influence.
Chassidic communities face astronomical levels of poverty, and this is a product of insufficient education. In the Chassidic village of New Square, the average household income is $21,773, compared to the New York State average of $60,741. This makes New Square the poorest municipality in New York, with a poverty rate of 70%. The New York Chassidic community of Kiryas Joel is ranked as the second poorest New York municipality. These communities rely heavily on government funds, making it nearly impossible for them to ever reach stability. While some men in these communities are born with innate business-sense, allowing them to build their way up economically, they are the exceptions. Most struggle to find jobs to support their families, and many women are busy raising their large families, barring them from working full-time jobs.
You’d think that the government would notice this lacking educational system and do something to combat it, but the government does close to nothing to improve the educational standards of these communities. The bloc votes provided by Chassidic sects are vital for political reelections. Without the Chassidic vote, many would not be in their positions. Investigations into the dismal state of ultra-Orthodox educational affairs are pushed off, closed due to inadequate evidence, and utterly ignored. But politicians cannot ignore a problem of this magnitude, as it will grow and consume the next generation of Chassidic children.
If politicians choose to do nothing, then it is up to the Modern Orthodox community to take concrete action. The Modern Orthodox community has a love/hate relationship with the Chassidic community. They adore sharing mystical tales of Chassidic rabbis, admiring the sects from afar. However, they tend to disassociate with the more fundamentalist Jewish sects, and they believe that the issues plaguing these communities are not theirs to combat. But I beg to differ.
Yeshiva University is an institution which defines itself by Torah U’Madda. YU has found a way to fuse these two together, and its students represent Torah Jewry at its finest. Students of Yeshiva University, and Modern Orthodox individuals at large, are the only ones who can assist the Chassidic community. They are in a position to persuade. They can teach the Chassidic community how to balance a Torah life and a life of secular education. They can teach the Chassidic community how to rise above poverty and gender inequality. They can change the worlds of children being denied a fundamental human right. Remaining apathetic is no longer an option. YU is at the forefront of change across the world, but change begins at home. Chassidic communities are family. They share the same genes and heritage as those attending Yeshiva University, and many Yeshiva University students have Chassidic ancestry.
Modern Orthodoxy must exert its resources and vast knowledge to save the state of education in Chassidic communities. It is their obligation to assist those who have trouble assisting themselves, for what good is Tikkun Olam if it is only practiced in third world countries? Modern Orthodoxy must start organizations, lead GED programs, and help encourage local government officials. Yeshiva University should make a concerted effort to recruit students from ultra-Orthodox schools. Many ultra-Orthodox teenagers do not fit the Chassidic mold and want to pursue something religiously different. However, they do not have educational resources and do not believe that there is a religious alternative to their upbringings, leading them to leave Judaism completely. Organizations like NCSY should be welcoming and accommodating to students of ultra-Orthodox backgrounds, since they too could use kiruv. Summer programs and camps should do everything in their power to accept the ultra-Orthodox, as it would provide a comforting and safe Jewish environment for these children to blossom in. Acknowledging the positive work done by many Modern Orthodox institutions should be highlighted and celebrated, like families from Chassidic backgrounds being accepted into schools like Bruriah, Ma’ayanot, and Yeshiva University. However, we should not be satisfied with anything less than excellence, and the current state of ultra-Orthodox education is anything but excellent.
CLARIFICATION AND COMMENTS:
We have no doubt that the same financial fraud and evasive practices described in this presentation are happening in the United States and in other parts of the world. Miriam describes, with precision and accuracy, a process whereby she earned extraordinary money while collecting public welfare benefits. The same is undoubtedly happening within the Haredi community in the United States.
The Satmar, for example, boasts tremendous assets under management as far as the community at large is concerned and yet, Kiryas Joel in New York, is listed as one of the, if not the poorest city in the United States. That is simply not logically consistent.
With respect to the ritualistic behavior, the radical ultra-Orthodoxy that is described in this audio is not mainstream Judaism. The personal marriage related practices described are followed by only the most religious within the greater Jewish community, and a rabbi or rebbe’s involvement is not the same within all sects, something which we felt needed to be emphasized.
We believe that the community from which Miriam escaped is more like a cult than Judaism.
Please listen and share.
Rabbi Mordechai Aderet and a Fundamentally Intolerable, Abhorrent and un-Jewish Sermon – view with caution…
We are publishing the entire article from http://www.advocate.com We hope that the site is okay with the entire republication. We thank Rabbi Mordecai Aderet for directing us to the site, one we had not previously seen.
We note that by republishing and directing you to the site, we are not implying that the editors and collaborators of that site endorse or support this site, though we hope they do. Nor are we making any endorsements of that site (though we are so glad you exist).
With respect to Rabbi Mordechai Aderet, we can say that at least he had the decency to refer to the place where the act of violence in Pittsburgh occurred as a Shul. As for the rest…
As Jews, we of LostMessiah offer our apologies to the readership of http://www.advocate.com for the words of this Rabbi. We are sorry to the families of the victims. We are sorry to the fathers who were celebrating their son’s birth. We are horrified by the sentiments of Rabbi Aderet. It is earth-shatteringly despairing to view what he wrote and to know that there are likely many (Jews and non-Jews) who feel as he does. His comments do not reflect a Jewish view of events on that day. To the contrary, as we see it they are fundamentally anti-Jewish.
Please be comforted in knowing that his profoundly disturbing commentary does not reflect the views of the large majority of the worldwide Jewish community. And, they sadly should not reflect the views of anyone with any level of humanity, decency, kindness, compassion and morality. Even if you do not believe in LGBTQ as a way of life, most certainly the murdering of Jews in a house of worship cannot be viewed as justifiable.
The violence in Pittsburgh was a tragedy of epic proportions. It speaks volumes about the current state of affairs in the world. It should be resoundingly heard round the world, a message that history is repeating itself.
Rabbi Aderet almost makes us understand anti-Semitism in all of its hateful underpinnings. It is really hard not to hate Jews if all Jews are defined by his words. Please know, they are not.
We do not know why things happen as they do; but we are loathe to believe that G-d was punishing Jews for celebrating a son, whether they were two men, two women or a man and a woman, whether they drive on Shabbat or not. What happened on that day was an act of hatred, plain and simple. To view it as anything else, perhaps we should look to Rabbi Ateret’s belief system before we look to that of the victims of that dreadful day.
Orthodox Rabbi: Pittsburgh Shooting Caused by Gay Parents Holding Bris
New Jersey Orthodox Rabbi Mordechai Aderet publicly advised his followers not to attend a vigil for the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting because the Jews were murdered during a bris for twins adopted by gay parents.
“Somebody came over to me and told me today that he got an email that people should go gather someplace here in town to give the Shema for those 11 people who got killed,” the rabbi said in a video that has amassed 10,000 views. “And I still said, I heard it’s a Conservative shul, I heard people drove on Shabbat, and I don’t think people should join these things.”
After remarking that Tree of Life was less strict than the sect of Judaism he adheres to, he went on to say his congregants should not attend the vigil because the local synagogue holding it had held a similar memorial for those murdered in the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub, which he said was “for men to men.”
“That’s the same people that invited the people two years ago to say Tehillim for those lowlives,” Aderet asserted , referring to Pulse victims, whom he called “those sinners, trash.”
Tehillim is the Hebrew word for the Book of Psalms, which contains some of the most widely recognized phrases from the Torah.
“That’s reason enough not to join these people,” said the rabbi.
He then referenced an article published in The Advocate on a report from the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, a local LGBTQ group, that the synagogue shooting occurred during a bris or brit milah – a Jewish circumcision ceremony – for a gay couple’s twins.
“Do you know what it says on the whole internet, it’s called Advocate.com … you know about who were the parents?” Aderet bellowed. “Hashem said it to me. Two men. This is a brit milah in a Conservative shul and the two men adopted the boy and did the brit milah, and you wonder why there was a massacre?”
He went on to link the violence in Pittsburgh to the shooting in Florida, mistaking the city of Orlando, where Pulse is located, for Miami.
“I’m not sorry for this disaster,” he declared. “You attend a brit milah of two men?”
He concluded that those who attended a vigil for the murdered Jews were “spitting in Hashem’s face,” using a Jewish term for God.
This is not the first time Aderet has made controversial remarks. In 2010, he made headlines when he crashed a birthday party held by Persian Jews on New York’s Long Island and told guests that if they stayed they would be cursed with “illness, bankruptcy, and tragedy for eternity.”
Partygoers believe the incident happened because Aderet was unhappy with the neighborhood becoming increasingly secular, according to The New York Jewish Week.