Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kosher Theft

Here comes another biggie, straight from the heart of Boro Park.

It is common practice in many frum circles to work for cash. Pretty much any Jewish business, when hiring, will ask if you want to work on or off the books. While this is wrong, its certainly not something I am not guilty of. Its pretty safe to assume everyone cheats on their taxes a little.

Of course theres always someone who can top this sort of thing, and eventhough Jews are (unfortunately) known as being no strangers to "funny" money business, this phenomenon of extreme financial fraud in the frum family sector is absurd and completely out of control.

Couples get married by the Rebbe but don't file a legal marriage. They quickly have their first kid and pop one out every year after. Since they're not legally married, Mom is listed as a single mother with a child (or 2, 3, 4...). She has an income that legally puts her in the lower class range and immediately files for Medicaid, Food Stamps, WIC and of course Section 8. Since she is living with her "boyfriend" they have a shared income. Because Totty is working off the books, he only declares 25,000 (or less) and files separately for Section-8. Uncle Sam sees a poor single Mom with a bunch of kids and a loser boyfriend, so he gives them Section-8 apartments right next to each other, so Dad can see his kids. (This scenario is a ballpark example)

Meanwhile, Totty actually could be making six figures. They demolish the wall separating their never regulated Section-8 apartments to make one giant government funded direh. They get free food, diapers, health insurance, cribs, air conditioners (no foolin') and pretty much anything else they can get from Uncle Sam, free of charge. The Rebbe doesn't consider this a problem because the mayor probably told him he'd look the other way the kehila swung the vote his way. (Who knows? It could be true. Its happened before.)

Now, besides the fact that these people are stealing from the government...and besides the fact that they are stealing from hard working citizens...and besides the fact that many of these are Jews...which already throws any halachic rationalization for this out the window, I wonder. What kind of example are these people setting for their children? What message are they sending?

Yankele... eetz okay t'bee a ganif. Nisht Geferlach.

That's pretty much what it is. Now matter how you slice the gefilte fish, if you're not supposed to have it, and you take it, its stealing. How do these people live with themselves? I've seen shops in Boro Park that sell streimels, with big signs in Yiddish saying they accept Medicaid. How is this a Torah lifestyle? How do these Rebbes with all their hullabaloo about sin and vice, live knowing that their communities are outright stealing?

Well, kinderlach, the answer is, they probably don't care. None of them do. This thing wouldn't be going on for years if they did. Unfortunately there is so much corruption and falsehood snaking its way through the minds of the frumme velt that its become second nature to accept this kind of thing. I don't know whats on the other side, but I'm pretty sure these people'll be lining up in front of a small guillotine marked "Ganifs".

I'm not talking about families that do really need government assistance, and Lord knows there are plenty of frum families who fall into that sector, but there are many (a great deal really) of these families that just take it because they can. What adds insult to injury is that there are plenty of hard working honest tax-paying families who could really use free health insurance, who can't get it because they "make too much money".  I know this problem exists everywhere, but the appalling irony of a community that practices this and identifys itself as "Ultra Orthodox Jews" is just staggering.

I'm probably talking to people who understand that this is wrong. The kind of shmuck that would do this probably wouldn't ever read a blog, especially this one. However, I'll say this anyway, just in case. Stealing from the government is not okay, and its most certainly not kosher. If you wanna steal. Fine. Do it. Its your crummy life, but don't ever mask theft with the guise of a hechsher. No matter who says its okay. Whether they be Rebbe or not. Its completely assur. Forbidden... and more importantly, when you raise children with that kind of conduct, you're bound to set a terrible example that will almost surely turn into a continuing cycle of behaviors for your children's offspring.

(I apologize for the cheap throws of Yiddish colloquialisms, but it tickles my funny bone and helps colorfully illustrate my point.)


  1. when we went to apply for a marriage license there was very pregnant frum woman and her boyfriend on line in back of us. i'm not sure why at that point they decided to file.

    by the way, it is illegal in new york state for a rabbi (or any cleric) to perform a wedding if the couple does not have a civil marriage license, so i'm sure what you describe is a very rare occurence.

    as far as frum jews and cash businesses, i think that's probably the way a lot of businesses operate. not saying this to excuse the jewish businesses, but just saying . . .

  2. Unfortunately, it happens very often, because the Rabbis don't care about whether its legal or not for them to perform a ceremony without a license. They believe in the religious union only. Ask any Chassid about it.

  3. "While this is wrong, its certainly not something I am not guilty of."

    So basically you are a hypocrite. A thief is a thief is a thief. Congrats.

  4. aschlynjade,
    No one can conduct themselves in this world and say they've done everything 100% by the book when it comes to finances. No one. Including yourself.

    However, there is a huge difference between small omissions from one's tax filing and receiving many benefits implemented for needy people when one clearly doesn't need them and goes out of their way to make sure they get them.

    Don't equate a slight financial oversight to major fraud. The world is not that black and white.

  5. "slight financial oversight" as in I was off by 3 cents or you worked off the books? BIG difference...

  6. For the record I have never worked off the books, but even if I did, that would pale in comparison to stealing government aid on a six figure salary.

  7. Lion of Zion - you are right. It is illegal in the UK for a Rabbi (or any other cleric) as well.

    Drat. Problem solved! Get married in Israel and then no-one needs to know......

  8. It's pretty easy to tell who the thieves are here. They're the ones blasting MP for not being absolutely perfect.

  9. because of the legality, what a lot of couples do is get divorced; they don't get a get, and so only in the eyes of the state are they divorced and can qualify for all these services.