Crime & Betrayal

In orthodox neighborhoods, little old ladies can walk safely down the street without getting mugged. And crack is unlikely to be being sold on the street corners.

According to a colleague, who worked in Israel’s Prison Services, the ultra-orthodox chaps doing time in the cells are typically there for one of two reasons.

Sex crimes (particularly child abuse) and Financial crimes.

I’ve written about the first problem fairly extensively on this blog.

This past week, two scandals hit the Israeli press, involving orthodox organizations – both centered upon allegations of corruption.

Established and run by Rabbi Abraham Israel, Hazon Yeshaiya is an Israeli charity which established a network of soup kitchens, food distribution, vocational training and free dental programs helping thousands of needy families around the country. According to their website, Directors include Nobel Prize winner, Eli Weisel and a past director was Ephraim Katzir, Israel’s 4th President.  

Over the past several weeks, ten management and staff from Hazon Yeshiaya have been arrested on suspicion of aggravated fraud, money laundering, falsifying corporate documents and forgery.

In addition, there was allegedly a scam involving the purchase (for charitable purposes) of large quantities of food, which was then resold (for profit) to institutions such as yeshivas. The profits were allegedly creamed off by the Hazon Yeshiaya management for their self-enrichment.

Interestingly, allegations of extortion were dropped from the official allegations against the Hazon Yeshiaya staff, by the police.

Which brings us neatly to the second scandal, involving mafia-style extortion at the very centre of the alleged scam.

The Behadrei Hareidim website is a news-site, plus portal, including popular forums. The website claims to be the largest portal serving the chareidi population.

Ironically, Behadrei Chareidim has been instrumental in exposing corruption and vice in hareidi society – fulfilling an important role as watch-dog, independent from, even in opposition to, the Haredi Establishment..

Perhaps for this reason, BeHadrei Hareidim evoked the ire of the Litvish hareidi leadership “the Gadolim” – who implemented an (ineffective) cherem/ban on the site.

However, the exposes came full circle, when YNet broadcast a film-clip, reportedly from a hidden camera in the Hadrei Haredim’s CEO’s office – recording a dialogue between the CEO and a businessman Yaakov Berger. 

The meeting followed a reader comment published on BeHadrei Hareidim, which claimed acts of fornication had taken place at a Berger family wedding.

In the videoed discussion, the CEO offers Berger immunity from future scandals, and positive press on the web site, in return for a monthly retainer. The CEO goes on to explain that he has several such “first class” clients who enjoy this personal “full service”, for $30,000/month.  “So they can sleep easy”, he says.

According to press reports, Berger was the first victim to step forward, but there are many others who have been scammed. Apparently, several “clients” have fled the country. It is unclear whether they fear being arrested for bribery, or for the offenses which the CEO and his team at BeHadrei Hareidim were covering up, first class.

I find both these scandals disappointing.

A tzedaka organization is entrusted by both the donors and by the needy families they serve, to be 100% reliable, honest and serve with integrity in their sacred mission. Corruption in such an environment is a foul betrayal of this trust.

And I always admired BeHadrei Hareidim, particularly in their watchdog role. In Hareidi society, the press and all other forms of free expression, are tightly controlled by the leadership, which enables corruption and criminality to go un-policed and unpunished.  BeHadrei Hareidim offered some hope that this hegemony had been opened up to honest scrutiny.

In this case, the watchdog was itself apparently deeply corrupt – which is also very disappointing.


  1. Haredi life is becoming synonymous with criminal activity, arrested executive thinking skills and other repulsive behaviors such as, after-haredi-woman-protests-1.423881, and,7340,L-4214958,00.html

  2. Yes - exposure of crime in Hareidi society is deeply disappointing.

    As Hareidi society is inevitably opened up to more public scrutiny, there is likely to be a surge of such revelations about corruption and vice.

    Hopefully, after the surge, crime in the Hareidi community will be no more (and hopefully less) than other sectors of society. Hopefuly...

  3. David,
    Your anti-Charedi reporting is once again showing your anti-charedi feelings.
    It's lovely when you post positive things about people and organizations. I know you follow your rav, Rav Soloveichik implicitly. Did you ever ask him if you are allowed to post Lashon Harah or Motzei Shem Rah items?

  4. Mike I don't see this post as coming off anti-charedi, unless you consider reporting on any charedi scandals as inherently anti-charedi. Or unless you can show that David only reports on charedi scandals and helps cover up ones in the dati leumi circles.

    While I have taken issue with language David has used in *some* other posts about charedi misdeeds (but not all), I find nothing in the above inflammatory, exaggerating, or even judgmental.

    And anyway, did Hadrei Hadarim ever ask if they could publish lashon hara etc. that they were commended for in the past?

    Mike, how do you propose society today can raise awareness of problems within, if they aren't allowed to talk about it in appropriate ways? (cf Hilchot Lashon Hara chapter 10 - speaking l'toeles)

  5. the ultra-orthodox chaps doing time in the cells are typically there for one of two reasons...

    Fascinating. So what is it about charedi culture that leaves these two areas of morality "out"? Or, in what other areas of crime is charedi, um, participation noticeably absent?

  6. re: "Berger was the first victim to step forward, but there are many others who have been scammed."

    I might have used a different word that "scammed".

    A scam usually entails a measure of deceit. The 'clients' who paid, what in essence was protection money, were certainly aware of what transpired.

    Joel Katz

  7. There are two ways Haredim typically (knee-jerk) react to criticism.

    1. If the criticism is from a fellow Hareidi, they will treat the critic as a traitor.

    Cherem, ostracization, character-assassination, and other punitive measures will be brought to bare to shut him/her up. Or kick them out.

    2. If the criticism is from a non-Hareidi, the options are more limited, so they will accuse the critic of being a Hareidi-basher, a racist, an anti-semite, solely bent on an anti-Hareidi agenda.

    Of course, the objective is to preserve the impression within the Hareidi community that Everything's Wonderful, and Under Control. No-one needs to DO anything.

    Pretty neat, eh?

    Got all bases covered!!

    Mike, you're responding to David by method #2.


    1. To Miriam S
      I'm not sure how to make more awareness.
      But It doesn't justify writing Lashon harah or worse.
      Do you really think writing about it on this blog is for to'elet--For whom??
      Secondly, the laws of Lashon Harah are very complicated,especially when you are allowed to speak it. I asked David an innocent question.
      To Ron,
      The Charedim are far from perfect and have many areas to improve on like any other group.
      If you look at David's blog over the years- many can and do feel David is anti Charedi(Not that I blame him, for what he has gone thru.) And because of his (presumed?)anti-Charedi feelings,they have hurt his wonderful organization of Lema'an Achai.

  8. Hi Mike

    Thank you for your feedback.

    As you will be aware, the Press as a whole and blogs in particular, often have a watch-dog role, to identify/spotlight corruption and crime, and where necessary to apply pressure so that society takes the necessary steps to safeguard the public and bring perpetrators to justice.

    This is the toelet in the above article - and indeed in many of the articles published on Tzedek-Tzedek.

    Obviously, no rav would permit their talmid to spread "loshen horaa" or "motsei shem rah". I am not aware of anything in the article which constitutes either of these severe aveirot.

    Regarding your allegation that any criticism I make involving hareidim is rooted in "anti-chareidi feelings" - with all respect Mike, this is not just a chutzpa but a cheap slur, which I totally reject.

    The slur of "chareidi bashing" is a tactical response, almost exclusively used in order to frighten off objective reporting.

    As for my record in the community, I believe this bares out my concern and care for all Jews.

    Over 70% of the families Lema'an Achai helps define themselves as Hareidim.

    And 95% of referals to Magen are from people who define themsleves as Hareidi.

    I am proud of my contribution, and those of the organizations I have established, to ALL Jews.

    Regardless of the presence, or colour, of their kippa.


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