of Informant Reverberates Through L.A.’s Orthodox Community
Los Angeles - The scandal that has emerged since a
Hasidic rebbe and others were charged late last month with defrauding the
federal government of tax dollars has caused shock waves beyond Hasidic
circles, with even Modern Orthodox rabbis addressing the issue in impassioned
The pressure was particularly great at the 900-family Modern Orthodox Beth Jacob Congregation, in Beverly Hills, where the government’s chief informant in the case, Robert Kasirer, is a member. Rabbi Steven Weil delivered a sermon January 11, causing what must have been an awkward juxtaposition for many congregants: The prayer books they were using were donated by the Kasirers and emblazoned with their name.
Indeed, the question of Kasirer — the FBI witness who turned state’s evidence against the Hasidic rebbe in exchange for a lighter sentence on previous fraud charges stemming from his health care business — seems to be weighing most heavily on people’s minds, according to Los Angeles rabbis interviewed by the Forward. In traditional Jewish law, if a Jew reports another Jew to the government, he is deemed a moser, and in some interpretations, a moser’s actions are punishable by death.
The issue of mesira, or informing, has prompted a round of collective soul-searching in segments of Los Angeles’s Jewish community.
“People are very shell-shocked about the whole thing on many levels,” said Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, a West Coast representative of the Orthodox Union. “Number one, that our neighbors and friends are implicated, and number two, that an act of mesira on this level was perpetrated by one of our own.”
According to Korobkin, a Modern Orthodox rabbi who is also the spiritual leader of Los Angeles’s Yavneh Hebrew Academy, “the majority” of Orthodox rabbis in Los Angeles have already spoken about the tax-fraud case in the weeks following the indictments, with some touching on the mesira issue and others simply decrying the criminality of what allegedly occurred.
Elazar Muskin, the rabbi at Young Israel of Century City — a Modern Orthodox congregation that is Los Angeles’s second-largest Orthodox synagogue — said that he addressed the case from the pulpit. He condemned in the strongest terms the act of cheating anyone, and particularly cheating the American government of taxes.
Weil declined to say exactly what he spoke of in his sermon on the case. But according to Marc Rohatiner, a past president of Beth Jacob Congregation who still serves on the synagogue’s executive board, and who attended the January 11 Sabbath service, Weil did not address the issue of mesira. Rohatiner, 54, said that Weil roundly condemned the alleged criminal behavior and said that it could not be rationalized in any way. (THANK GOD) Weil also reportedly emphasized that the Modern Orthodox community could not point fingers at the ultra-Orthodox: “The people involved in this were people just like us, clean-shaven, wearing the same type of kippot that we wear.”
On December 19, 2007, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office handed down a 37-count indictment to five ultra-Orthodox institutions and eight people, including a chief rabbi of the Spinka, an ultra-Orthodox sect that originated in Romania in the 19th century. The indictments allege that the chief rabbi, Naftali Tzvi Weisz, and others, including four men from Los Angeles, were engaged in a far-reaching money-laundering scheme. The scam, which started in New York and stretched to Los Angeles and then to Tel Aviv, allegedly began in 1996 and involved millions of dollars being funneled through a web of five Brooklyn-based charities. All defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
A prominent Modern Orthodox rabbi here, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case, said that Kasirer’s plea bargain has compounded his problems. “He’s certainly a persona non grata across the board,” he said, referring to Kasirer. “Everybody is just disgusted with the idea that a person tried to save himself by hurting others.”
Kasirer could not be reached for comment.
21st-century America, the laws of mesira are up for a wide variety of
interpretations. While a moser in the Talmud could be killed for his actions,
and some in more right-wing corners still hold this to be the case, many others
contend that given the high comfort level of Jews in America today, the same
standard created when Jews lived under hostile governments cannot be applied. “The reason that mesira was seen as the equivalent of
a capital crime is that when you handed a Jew over to secular authorities,
courts and prisons were run like independent fiefdoms, and prisoners often did
not emerge alive,” said Yitzchok Adlerstein, adjunct chair of Jewish law and
ethics at Loyola Law School. “You were theoretically costing someone their
life, and that is not true in America,” he explained.
Kasirer, a fixture in this city’s Modern Orthodox community who has ties across the denominational spectrum, was a regular attendee at Beth Jacob Congregation for more than 10 years. His father, Jacob Kasirer, was a prominent Jewish philanthropist who donated the funds to build the Bais Yaakov School for Girls, located on Los Angeles’s Beverly Boulevard.
Since word of the scandal broke, Kasirer has requested that his name be removed from the prayer books and from other dedications. The synagogue, however, has not yet determined how it will proceed. Kasirer and his wife, Debra, remain members of Beth Jacob, where her family has worshipped going back multiple generations. A room at the synagogue bearing the Kasirer name was dedicated six-and-a-half years ago by Kasirer’s grandchildren and by his wife.
Kasirer’s legal troubles stretch back more than 15 years. In 2004, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil fraud complaint against the health care entrepreneur, charging that from 1996 to 1999, he and his business associates at Heritage Healthcare of America defrauded hundreds of municipal bond investors who had invested $131 million to finance what they thought was the building of a facility to aid people afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease. According to a 2003 report in the Los Angeles Business Journal, Kasirer’s wife also received more than $1 million in salary and consulting fees from Heritage Healthcare. Moreover, the article states, Kasirer cited a minimum of $122,208 in monthly living expenses.
Ultimately, in October 2004, Kasirer struck a deal with the federal government in which he would plead guilty in exchange for serving as an informant in another investigation. This led Kasirer to wear a wire for the government until 2007, in order to help it nail down the Spinka tax-fraud case.
Wed. Jan 23, 2008
I have a question. Could a Rabbi explain this for me? Do the Jewish people have a double standard when it comes to the laws of this land so they don't have to obey the laws that are supposed to govern the rest of U.S.?
Lobbyist & Big Money are
leading U.S. to Slaughter
When are the Rabbis going to speak out
To blame the Jewish people for the carnage that Hitler and the Nazi party inflicted would be insane, but not to acknowledge the financial pain that the moneyed Jewish establishment inflicted on the common working classes in Europe from prior to World War I until Hitler and his enthusiasts extracted their version of revenge would also be foolish.
Catholics were not supposed to be involved with usury (lending, loan-sharking) it was a religious “thing”, but the Jews had no such religious compulsions so they moved in to “fill the void” with predatory lending practices (kind of like our PAYDAY Loans) that was very destructive to the European economy.
The Jewish bankers prior to, during, and after World War I were loaning money to all sides, they didn’t care about the war, it hasn’t their problem. Most Jewish bankers did not care who killed whom so long as they could make money supplying either, or better yet both sides with the materials and loans that the combatants needed.
In the end, the Jewish upper crust owned most of what is considered the masterpieces of art, they had the money, they owned prime real-estate, they used their money to influence policy, they moved into prominent positions of authority in the law, arts, politics and of course banking, these people were the movers and shakers of their time. Ghettos were neighborhood distinctions and the Jewish ghettos were some of the better neighborhoods of the time, not the slums that are envisioned now when one uses the word.
Jewish religious beliefs at the time did not condone involvement in fighting, it could be construed as a prequel to the 60’s make love not war attitude. (This is the major reason they were so easily rounded up and slaughtered by Hitler‘s enthusiasts.)
The “tattooing” or numbering of Jewish “prisoners” has scary connotations today, especially with the advancement in human chipping technology and legislation, it appears that in less then 4 generations the lessons of World War II have all but been forgotten.
What is being addressed and why should this concern the Jewish community?
The Rabbis do not appear to be speaking out and unfortunately, when Jewish people get greedy and Gentiles become an actuarial (accounting-not making enough profits) problem history has this nasty habit of repeating itself!
The tattooing of our time will probably be in the form of a microchip embedded under the skin, something along the lines of the veri-chip model (CEO Veri-chip; Jewish) currently being looked at by The Department of Homeland Security run by Michael Chertoff, you guessed it, Jewish. For Christians this will be very bad because of what is written in Revelation section of the Bible.
The last 2 Federal Reserve Chairman’s have been Jewish, Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan and (how many of the individuals running the Federal Reserve Banks are Jewish). They have moved this country over $8 trillion further in debt, and cost U.S. over $7.5 trillion in interest (usury) all in less then 30 years. Can you imagine the infrastructure that could have been repaired had this country not blown $7.5 trillion in interest?
The bonuses that Wall Street executives installed on themselves is obscene, over $16.5 billion at Goldman Sachs, one individual received the equivalent of $4.45 million a month bonus, I have yet to meet a person worth $10,000 a month in base pay, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns raked in approximately 12 billion each, lets not forget Hedge Funds. Each of the top 10 managers received more then $200 million each. The high number that are Jewish will eventually get noticed. Few of these people are involved in manufacturing, but the amount tearing down companies, raiding pension funds and outsourcing jobs because of leveraged buyouts is sickening. Who cares if it is immoral or unethical just so long as it is legal.
The large numbers of Jewish people involved in the media is shocking, owners of companies spewing the debauchery of MTV, owners of recording operations spreading the Rap crap, the anything for a buck mentality is disgusting. Who cares about morals or ethics just so long as its legal.
We must not forget the warmongers, in the 60’s-70’s the Jewish warmonger of prominence was Henry Kissinger, for the first decade of 2000 the Jewish warmongers were the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Lewis Libby, John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, Michael Chertoff unfortunately the list goes on and on. It makes you wonder how many of their children are in front line combatant positions, seeing that they are such proponents of war. Who cares if it is moral or ethical to kill others just so long as its legal.
And of course the large number of overpriced lawyers who don’t seem to care about morals or ethics but have “helped” in writing the over 30 million laws that have turned the legal system upside down, how many are Jewish, whatever happened to treating others as you want to be treated.
To blame all the people of the Hebrew faith for the problems in the world is wrong, but to ignore the warnings foretold by the prophets of old is foolish.
Most Jews ever set to enter
The Jerusalem Post
By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
WASHINGTON Jan. 2007
Six new Jewish legislators will be joining 37 familiar faces as the 110th Congress convenes, making the total the highest-ever, according to Doug Bloomfield, a former legislative director for AIPAC.
"It's unprecedented that there have been so many [Jews] in so many positions of leadership in both houses," Bloomfield said, using a Jewish simile for how that fact will affect support for Israel: Like chicken soup, it won't hurt.
Other political analysts went further, saying that congressional backing of Israel would remain at least as strong it has been, if not stronger.
Among the familiar House faces on key committees will be Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) as chairman of the International Relations Committee (HIRC) and Gary Ackerman (D-NY) is set to be chair of the HIRC Middle East subcommittee. Nita Lowey (D-NY) should be chairing the appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations. Ackerman's and Lowey's appointments are expected to be officially announced within the next few days.
In the Senate, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) will head the Homeland Security
Also, much of the Democratic leadership is considered strong on Israel, including incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) and Rahm Emanuel (D-Illinois), head of the House Democratic Caucus.
And many Republican backers of Israel, who no longer head committees, still continue to serve in minority leadership roles.
Plus, Jews - who voted overwhelmingly Democrat in the November election (87 percent, according to exit polls) - often see more eye-to-eye with Democratic members on domestic issues and have strong personal relationships with them, according to Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council.
Pelosi has outlined a list of legislative priorities for the first 100 hours of the congressional session, including raising the minimum wage; funding stem cell research; implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations; and energy reform.
The Orthodox Union's public policy director Nathan Diament, often more at home with Republicans on church-state issues but supportive of some of the Democrats' initial legislative efforts, such as stem cell research, also expressed satisfaction with the incoming leadership.
"It's certainly as strong as it's ever been [on Israel]," he said.
Forman said the incoming Democratic, pro-Israel leadership constellation was an opportunity for the party to rebut Republican charges during the elections that the Democrats were soft on Israel.
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, however, maintained that Republicans still had the stronger record on Israel and that it remained to be seen how Democrats handle their new position.
Brooks also criticized one of the pieces of legislation expected to clear the House this week - a government reform bill aimed at preventing lobbyists from taking congressmen on trips abroad.
As a result, his and other Jewish organizations will have to leave their lobbyists at home on trips to Israel. Some groups will set up educational divisions as a way of enabling the visits. Brooks said it would hurt the value of these trips if some of the most informed members of organizations would be unable to come.
He did acknowledge that, "Certainly having somebody like Tom Lantos, who is a passionate defender of Israel, is very good for the Jewish community."
But Brooks added that he was concerned by several Democrats who were not so friendly toward Israel taking on leadership positions, such as new House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey (D-Wisconsin) and judiciary chairman John Conyers (D-Michigan).
Other observers, though, point to members seen as key critics of Israel who were pushed out of top roles, such as Senators Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) and Lincoln Chafee (R-Rhode Island), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and its Middle East Subcommittee respectively.
In addition, Forman maintained, some Republican leadership tepid on Israel was replaced by stronger supporters. "Hoyer's considered very pro-Israel. Pelosi's pro-Israel and has been very active on the issue. [Outgoing House Speaker Dennis] Hastert (R-Illinois) never was." Bloomfield added that the diminished influence of Evangelicals, many of whom vocally supported Israel, shouldn't worry Israel advocates.
He called Evangelicals "great cheerleaders" whose backing of Israel never resulted in specific action or was really tested. "They might love Israel, but they hate gays more than they love Israel."
But some have raised question marks about how a Democratic Congress would handle issues in the Middle East more broadly.
"There's obviously more interest in speaking to Iran," said one Jewish Democratic strategist who asked not to be named. "[But] I don't see a Democratic Congress being naive about Iran's nuclear intentions." He added, "I don't see this Congress interested in anything which would pressure Israel."
Another Jewish organizational official, also speaking anonymously, said, "There's a more significant group within the Democratic Party than within the Republicans that's more likely to have an affinity with the Palestinians and the peace process, [but] I don't think it's something that will have much impact in the short term."
And ultimately, many Jewish leaders pointed out, that it was the White House that called the shots on foreign policy.
Republican former House majority leader Tom Delay "could be more pro-Israel than the Israeli embassy," said the Jewish official, continuing that when it came to Oslo, Delay "really did not stop Clinton at all."
American Jewish Committee legislative director Richard Foltin echoed many when he said that Israel, in any case, is a bipartisan issue.
"You see a Congress that is supportive of Israel, so I don't think you're going to see much of a difference. You're going to see bipartisan continuation of support for Israel," he said. and Governmental Affairs Committee, while Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is expected to take over the Foreign Affairs Middle East Subcommittee if unsuccessful presidential candidate John Kerry (D-Mass.) doesn't challenge her for the job.