Why It Is The Way It Is: Haredim and Crime

Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum

Gershon Tannenbaum, senior staff and executive member of Igud HaRabbonim, with hat.

Why would members of a faith community, in this case haredim, ultra-Orthodox Jews, resort to crime? In posing this question, I understand the number of criminals in the haredi world is less than the number of non-criminals. But I also realize that many prominent haredim – from Igud HaRabbonim’s Gershon Tannenbaum to Chabad’s Aaron Rubashkin and family and Shaya Boymelgreen – are directly involved in actions that may be criminal or illegal or have already been judged so. I also note that the short list above can easily be expanded, and that none of these men have lost status in their communities because of these actions and, in fact, may have gained status because of them.

Further, the culture of fraud – I think here of certain pay phone scams of the 1980s and ’90s, a Rockport shoe scam, phone card scams, asimonim scams in Israel during the 1990s, welfare fraud, hot school lunch scams, etc. ad nauseum – appears to run both deep and wide, encompassing community leaders and yeshiva kids alike.

Why?

Three common answers are given:

  1. Cheating the Soviet government was often the only way to survive. I major non-hasidic rabbi (I can’t remember who, if you do, please tell us) feared that communism would hurt Jews because it replaced (at least in theory) traditional tzedaka (charitable giving by individuals) with total state for the poor. He feared Jews living under the communists would forget how to be generous and compassionate. While that happened to a degree, the failed Soviet system actually bred a generation of petty criminals, used to stealing from the state in order to survive. They and their children still steal, this line of reasoning goes, even though the need to steal to survive has long past.
  2. Economics. The Haredi world is like an inverted pyramid, with several very wealthy men and government programs supporting the masses of haredim incapable of earning enough money to support their large families. Especially burdensome is the cost of tuition, which for large families can easily run into the $75,000 range annually. The pressure to support these schools and related communal institutions is enormous, and the temptations to steal to do so are strong.
  3. Chosenness. You know the line. The world is blessed through us, all who bless us are blessed, curse us are cursed. Taking this line of reasoning to an extreme, stealing from the government or an insurance company isn’t really theft because it actually brings blessings down on the government and helps it because it has "helped" us.

Of these factors, I think the second, economics, is the driving force behind most large-scale haredi crime. Life under communism certainly accounts for its share, too, along with much of the small time haredi crime, while chosenness is simply a rationalization. (Which of these accounts for stealing from employees and unions, I just do not know.)

It follows that changing the haredi economic situation will over time drastically reduce haredi crime. But to do this, haredim need to have a meaningful secular education and yeshiva costs must be brought down. The second can be accomplished by combining yeshivot and eliminating the duplication and extra expended resources that duplication entails. The first takes rabbinic leadership and will.

If rabbis find within themselves such leadership and the will to execute based on it, if they work diligently to ensure the negative effects of life under Soviet rule are erased and the idea of chosenness is not misused, haredim and white collar crime will no longer be synonymous.

This means haredi institutions and rabbinic leadership must separate themselves from the likes of Aaron Rubashkin and family (and. it now seems, Shaya Boymelgreen as well), and must spit out from their midst rabbis like Gershon Tannenbaum and Moshe Rubashkin.

The key to this is rabbinic will. Haredi leaders have lacked this will for at least twenty years, since the passing of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. Without that will, change will only come from the outside, through Justice Department investigations police proceedings.

Either way, change will come. How it will come is up to the haredim themselves.

Download gershon_tannenbaum_1.pdf

Download gershon_tannenbaum_2.pdf

Download gershon_tannenbaum_3.pdf

Download gershon_tannenbaum_sec_litigation.pdf

Download gershon_tannenbaum_federal_bureau_of_prisons.pdf

Download aaron_and_moshe_rubashkin_fraud_nlrb_judges_decision.pdf

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30 Comments

Filed under Crime, Haredim

30 responses to “Why It Is The Way It Is: Haredim and Crime

  1. Harbona

    we are taught that :
    אין ישראל חשודים על משכב זכור
    trespassing!
    אין ישראל חשודים על הגזל
    and here are talmidei chachamim showing thieves how to steal
    are these chareidi thieves and their teachers and master who protect them, jewish?
    their language often is not, their behaviour for sure is far from the torah and it’s commandments!

  2. Anonymous

    I do not know where the person came up with a quote that a person in Israel is not suspected of stealing. I believe there is a quote (and I do not remember the mesechta or daf) that says that some are guilty of illicit relationships, most of stealing and all of the dust of lashon hara. (Miksasim Baryas, Rubon Bigezal and Coolom B’Avak Lashon Hara).

    As for the Soviet Union, most Charedim did not live under communist rule. Charedi societies did, however, go through the Holocaust, which may have colored their view of the outside world. They may not make the distinction between the Americans who let the Holocaust happen by preventing rescue and the Europeans who actually carried it out. Nor may they be impressed by the 60 so year passage of time, which, after all, is still 100,000 person murdered per year passed.

    This blog and others assume that Charedim are less honest in business dealings than others. This proposition lacks empirical evidence. Today’s New York Times lead front page article documents clear fraud by investment bankers and corporate executives. Does anybody think that billion dollar mergers are the province of charedim? The financial scandals following the burst of the Internet bubble (which itself was arguably a fraud on investors) hardly had charedim as even secondary, let alone prime actors.

  3. “the Americans who let the Holocaust happen by preventing rescue”

    Any proof for this statement? No Americans “prevented rescue.”

    And you miss the point of the post, which is not that there is more whitel collar crime and fraud in the haredi world than elsewhere (although I believe there is). The point is that htere is any significant amount of crime at all, and that the criminals are not sanctioned by community leadership.

    Process that.

  4. What people refuse to look at is the inverse relationship Haredi crime has with the vast increase in nonsensical chumras or stringencies of Jewish law.
    Over the last two decades we have witnessed every type of assinine stringency only to see Haredi crime increase in geometric proportions.
    The more focused the rabbis get on creating “NEW RULES”, the more real-life crimes increase. What that means to me is that with the increase of idiotic rules or laws, the more the laws “on the books” become meaningless and trivialized.

  5. Anonymous

    Gershon Tannenbaum is not a Haredi leader. He is a nobody. If not for the RAA and the Jewish Press, a joke of an organization and a Brooklyn paper with Brooklyn standards respectively, giving him a platform, who would know of him ? He is just an ex (and possibly future) -con skunk propagandist.

  6. Anonymous

    “Haredi leaders have lacked this will for at least twenty years, since the passing of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.”

    Not true. Rav Pam of blessed memory (see http://www.jta.org/page_view_story.asp?intarticleid=8160&intcategoryid=4), Rav Shimon Schwab ztl, and others have spoken strongly against it. It’s just that the crooks like Gershon Tannenbaum don’t listen to them. Come on – how can you expect Gershon to listen to a great Jewish leader if they don’t belong to his sect ?

  7. avrohom

    instad of making yourself so holy by besmirching day and night haredim and holding an uncorroborated position that they do more white collar crime that their secular idol worshippers (when you’ll find out that it probably not true), instead focus on what is erally important and what you want people to forget:

    the war in lebanon brought about by the secular idol worshippers who wanting to shake themselves off G-d and holiness wanted to create the false messiah of of the mythic “piece and shmiess” and all those who gave a hand to this have to do teshuva in the month of teshuva.

    To help focus on the real issues, read the following wonderful piece:

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/755401.html

  8. Anonymous

    That photo is a disgrace. Gershon the swindler next to the Torah is like having a stripper posing next to a sacred scroll.

    Gershon has now dreamed up a new gig for himself, by the way. He is passing the hat around for a ‘King David foundation’, posing as the saviour of King David’s tomb. Is anyone stupid enough to send contributions to his house with his past history ? What a chutzpah he has to try to run such a campaign. King David is not interested in having a thief for a friend.

  9. I see that Shmarya is a supporter of “trial by media,” or “trial by blog,” where people’s reputations are ruined by amateur journalists.

    In Russia, wealthy people are often associated with organized crime, even when it isn’t true. Could it be that maybe people like to see a wealthy person lose in life? Class envy?

    Why doesn’t Shmarya go after secular and Reform Jewish philanthropists like the Bronfmans, Steinhardts, and Tischs?

    Rabbi Tannenbaum is the editor of the Machberes colum in the Jewish Press, which covers Hasidic and haredi news. The newspaper itself is a better news source than the Jewish Week. While its competitors thrive on crime and scandals, the Jewish Press is about positive news and Yiddishkeit.

  10. yisroel

    I think the tremendous expenses of hats (weekday and shabbos) and dry cleaning for a large family is enough to force someone to be dishonest.

    My father went to torah voddath in the 1940’s. He did not wear a hat at his bar-mitzvah. You can tell people to be honest from today until tommorow. But what can anyone do if there is a society that is choking people economicly to death ?

  11. yisroel

    I think the tremendous expenses of hats (weekday and shabbos) and dry cleaning for a large family is enough to force someone to be dishonest.

    My father went to torah voddath in the 1940’s. He did not wear a hat at his bar-mitzvah. You can tell people to be honest from today until tommorow. But what can anyone do if there is a society that is choking people economicly to death ?

  12. Anonymous

    “While its competitors thrive on crime and scandals, the Jewish Press is about positive news and Yiddishkeit.”

    Would you rather read Tannenbaum’s fiction in the Jewish Press or the truth in other newspapers?

  13. moshe

    Not to justify the scandals and the illegal activities, shamrya did not emphasize in the equation the fact that jewish education costs while those who do not choose jewish education (can) have their education subsidized by the goverment (public schools etc.).

    This is not a justification at all for *any* illegal activity, for they are ossur legamri, but a call for some kind of equitable relief for those who choose a different kind of education so that they can have some subsidies as well.

  14. Shayna

    (And please don’t remark on how he is a Baptist…)

    Public Aid to Parochial Schools

    J. Brent Walker, General Counsel
    Baptist Joint Committee
    Washington, D.C.

    Public aid to parochial schools is constitutionally suspect, bad public policy, and disruptive of the autonomy of religious organizations. Schemes to provide such aid are not improved by couching them in the attractive rubric of “parental choice”. Inevitably it is the private schools, not the parents, who
    exercise the choice.

    Should tax dollars be spent for religious education? Is aid to parochial schools desirable or even constitutional? Does aid open the door for government regulation of parochial schools? The answer to these questions is ‘no, no and yes.’

    Nevertheless, there are those who would like to see parochial schools receive public funding. Some simply want to have their children’s religious education paid for by someone else. Others advocate such programs out of a belief that competition will improve the public school system. Still others, with less
    noble motives, see this as an opportunity to destroy the public school system and “privatize” public education. Most recently these schemes have been couched in the deceptively attractive rhetoric of “parental choice”. Although the freedom to choose is a good thing, when it becomes a vehicle for funding parochial schools it is constitutionally suspect, bad public policy and
    disruptive of the autonomy of religious organizations.

    Constitutionality. The Supreme Court has time and time again ruled that aid to parochial schools at the elementary and secondary levels violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. While some non-financial aid has been upheld, these exceptional cases have involved benefits conferred directly on the students and available to all regardless of whether they attend public or private schools. Decisions prohibiting aid to parochial schools are grounded in the fact that such schools are “pervasively sectarian” institutions. That is, every aspect of parochial education at the elementary and secondary levels includes religious training and indoctrination of some kind or another. It is, thus, impossible to isolate and fund secular
    activities at parochial schools. These constitutional infirmities cannot be cured by relabeling the program “choice” or by issuing parents vouchers to “spend” at parochial schools. Significant tax dollars, in any case, will eventually be paid directly to the parochial schools.

    Fairness. Common fairness requires that government not tax people to support teaching of religious beliefs with which they disagree. All parents have the right to choose to send their children to parochial schools. But they don’t have the right to choose other taxpayers to help them do it. On the other
    hand, it is not unfair to require all citizens to support the public school system. Public schools benefit all citizens without regard to whether they actually use them. Parents who send their children to parochial schools are no more entitled to tax relief or a voucher than the person who chooses not use the public library or swim in the public swimming pool. Americans simply do not have a cafeteria-style system of public services where people support only the programs they like.

    Taxation without Representation/Double Taxation. Those who presently pay tuition for parochial education are not subject to “double taxation” as many claim. Parochial school tuition is not a “tax.” It is an expense some parents voluntarily have undertaken to pay for religious education. If anything, it is choice plans themselves that impose double taxation: taxes for the public
    schools and more taxes to pay for the dollars channeled to parochial schools.

    Competition will not improve public education. Putting public schools in competition with private schools will not improve the public school system. Public and private schools live by different rules. The public school must take every student regardless of intelligence, handicap or socio-economic status. Private and parochial schools are able to screen students and pick and
    choose among the best and brightest. Because of these and other differences, public and private schools simply do not compete on a level playing field. Trying to reform the public schools by funding parochial schools is like trying to improve the public water supply by investing in Perrier, or attempting to upgrade the public library by assisting persons in stocking
    their own private studies.

    Bi-partisan opposition. Neither party, Democratic or Republican, should find aid to parochial schools appealing. No true Republican would endorse another expensive entitlement program that opens the door for governmental regulation
    of religious institutions and cuts the cord of fiscal accountability for public expenditures. No true Democrat would choose to widen the gap between the haves and have-nots. Even the most generous of voucher plans will not allow the poorest of our children to afford most private school tuition. For them “choice” is a cruel joke. It is simply “welfare for the already well off.”

    Autonomy in Governmental Regulation. Aid to parochial schools opens the door for government regulation of religious institutions and jeopardizes their autonomy. Government aid always drags behind it the strings of government
    regulation. Religious organizations must continue to be free from government regulation in order to teach according to its religious beliefs. The cost of this freedom is the churches’ refusal to accept offers of public assistance.

    Public Opinion. A majority of people in this country are opposed to private school aid. Over the last three decades, 19 referenda have been defeated in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Only one has passed. Most people do not want, nor see a need for, aid of this sort.

    Notable Quotes

    Justice Hugo Black – “No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.”

    Thomas Jefferson – “. . . to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”

  15. Anonymous

    The Americans did prevent rescue. See, inter alia, The Report To The President, by then Secretary of Treasury Morgenthau, originally entitled The Aquiesence of this Government in the Murder of the Jews of Europe.

    See also, The Abandonment of the Jews by Wyman, also Auschwitz and the Allies, where Sir Martin Gilbert ststes that the reason Churchill knew but did not act was because he was not aways the final arbiter of Allied policy. Well, who do you think was the final arbiter, The Lubabavitcher Rebbi? (why not, you seem to blame him for everything else). The phony conferences designed to stop real rescue efforts and the deliberate perversion of American law to stop even legal immigration of Jews, allowed by existing quotas, by putting up illogical and illegal barriers, are so well documented that their existence are not even controversial. See also, the advertisements written by Ben Hecht when the war was still going on and rescue was still possible. Thesecalsl to action were placed in major newspapers including the New York Times, but were ignored. See also that Roosevelt deliberately absented himself when 400 rabbis marched to the Whate House on erev Yom Kippur. The rabbis were smart enoughto know what that Roosevelt’s absence signaled.

    You admit you have no evidence that frum Jews engage in more fraud than others but you believe it anyway. If you have no evidence for a matter, then your belief is unsupported and illogical.

  16. Anonymous

    The Americans did prevent rescue. See, inter alia, The Report To The President, by then Secretary of Treasury Morgenthau, originally entitled The Aquiesence of this Government in the Murder of the Jews of Europe.

    See also, The Abandonment of the Jews by Wyman, also Auschwitz and the Allies, where Sir Martin Gilbert ststes that the reason Churchill knew but did not act was because he was not aways the final arbiter of Allied policy. Well, who do you think was the final arbiter, The Lubabavitcher Rebbi? (why not, you seem to blame him for everything else). The phony conferences designed to stop real rescue efforts and the deliberate perversion of American law to stop even legal immigration of Jews, allowed by existing quotas, by putting up illogical and illegal barriers, are so well documented that their existence are not even controversial. See also, the advertisements written by Ben Hecht when the war was still going on and rescue was still possible. Thesecalsl to action were placed in major newspapers including the New York Times, but were ignored. See also that Roosevelt deliberately absented himself when 400 rabbis marched to the Whate House on erev Yom Kippur. The rabbis were smart enoughto know what that Roosevelt’s absence signaled.

    You admit you have no evidence that frum Jews engage in more fraud than others but you believe it anyway. If you have no evidence for a matter, then your belief is unsupported and illogical.

  17. Anonymous

    Tax credits are constitutional and they do not force a contribution to other’s beliefs. In addition, I am forced to contribute to teachings in public schools which may be abhorrent to me. Why the difference?

    Nobody wants support for religious education, just the secular government mandated education. Separation of the two can be easily done by setting up a separate corporation which supplies the secular education and having separate accounting in accordance with GAAP. this would also prevent government inteference in religious education.

    This would get rid of the objections. As to referendums, none has been allowed in New York, where the teachers union is determined to keep its monopoly. The supporters of tax credits and vouchers would welcome and easily win such a referendum, which is why it will not be allowed.

  18. Moshe –

    What do you call this? “Especially burdensome is the cost of tuition, which for large families can easily run into the $75,000 range annually. The pressure to support these schools and related communal institutions is enormous, and the temptations to steal to do so are strong.” It makes up the primary section of 1/3 of my argument. I’d call that emphasis.

    ~~~~~~~~~~

    To the anonymous poster who has difficulty with fact, logic and rules –

    “The Americans did prevent rescue.”

    Again, they did not. Sir Martin Gilbert does not claim they did, and no other source you attempt to quote does either.

    You must attempt to distinguish between not diverting war resources to either rescue or bombing Auschwitz, and actively preventing rescue. In fact, third parties did rescue, and had the help of America’s War Refugee Board. (One prominent example is Raul Wallenberg, but there were many others.)

    What is true is that there was a legitimate debate over how best to deal with the situation. Roosevelt felt ending the war as quickly as possible with a crushing Allied victory was the best choice. Others disagreed.

    Could the Allies have saved more Jews? Yes. But would those Jews have survived an Allied loss or a stalemate? Probably not.

    ~~~~~~~~~~

    Please comment using either your real name or an alias not already in use by others. No anonymous comments, please.

  19. What’s with the off-topic comments?

  20. Paul Freedman

    I don’t know that the current court interpretations that aid to parochial schools violates the First Amendment are graven in stone or will foreover continue to prohibit direct subsidy of religious, sectarian institutions as long as that subsidy does not choose one religious stream over another.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”: the actual wording of the Constitutional prohibition does not prohibit non-discriminatory support of religion–Hugo Black’s secularism is a culturally recent development and this did not reach its full fruition until recently. I grew up, believe it or not, reciting psalms in public schools and saying the “Lord’s Prayer” daily until the secularist intrepetation of the establishment clause was reified by the Supreme Court in the 50’s. The tide could turn back. Thomas Jefferson’s private opinions are not dispositive: slavery has passed from legal to prohibited due to Constitutional law and irrespective of that old slaveholder’s conflicted feelings about his human chattel.

  21. Paul Freedman

    As far as the tax issue: people are taxed day in and day out to support causes they personally disagree with. That’s how it works. You are taxed because the society as a whole has decided this is something to do regardless of the sizeable minorities who feel the tax-supported activity is wrong: as a voter–a payer of taxes and a recipient of their largesse–you win some, you loose some. It is “fair” to tax childless couples for schools they used once as children but don’t need as non-parents. I would predict that the *majority* of Americans (with or without children) already support aid to parochial education–although I personally agree that a vital public and secular education system is vital for this country I don’t know if our nations educational establishment is up for actually providing one and I disagree myself that this good is logically required by the disestablishment clause.

  22. Anonymous

    Of course. Letting in a few more Jews, allowed legally by the then current quotas, would have cost America the war. The war was over after Stalingrad and this was recognized by the Germans and the Allies, and everybody else in the World. It was all a matter of time.

    The phony conferences, designed to do nothing, wasted resources. And since when was Wallenborg a U.S. citizen?

    The War Refugee Board was only set up despite Roosevelt, who agreed to it to avert a political disaster before an election.
    My other sources do prove my point. Anybody who wants to can read them and make up his mind. Gilbert concludes that the true test was Auschwitz late in the war and that the Allies, including America, failed it.

    As for diversion of resources, it is well documented that resources were diverted to rescue and aid other groups, who were in less danger. (The bombing of Dresden was a revenge raid and no doubt a diversion of resources from ending the war. Other examples abound, including Patton diverting resources to save some horses and to rescue his son in law (Task force Baum, led by a Jewish Lieutenant).

    Face it. Roosevelt did not give a damn if there was or was not one Jew left in Europe after the war. It was just irrelevant to him. They were no more important than ants. That is all.

  23. Paul Freedman

    otoh: precisely because private education clocks in at price-tags that inexplicably race far ahead of inflation, Americans are not likely to socially endorse tax policies in the near term that threaten the financial viability of the (secular) public school sector by permitting tax credits that divert money, directly or indirectly, to a private and parochial school system many Americans fear they cannot, in the end of the day, afford.

    And direct federal responsibility for parochial education seems a very long way off.

    Which means that Jewish communities cannot assume a federal bailout of their chosen educational system–policies and assumptions, including theological tenets, that place large segments of the Jewish believing community in financial bondage must be re-examined.

  24. What is it about “NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS” you don’t understand?

    You leave another anonymous comment, and I’ll have to ban you. Choose a nickname.

    As for your grasp of history, what can I say? It is on par with the Star or the Daily Mirror’s grasp on world affairs.

    You simply have no clue.

  25. noclue

    Why the banning? I did not publish anything offensive. Does the truth hurt?

  26. Reread what I wrote. I will ban you for anonymous comments, not for what you have written – incorrect as it is.

    Thanks for choosing a nickname. Please keep using it.

  27. Anonymous

    In his sfinal chapter entitled Responsibility, Wyman concludes that the rescue plans proposed during the war could have saved scores or hundreds of thousands if initiated; that they would have diverted no resources from the war effort; that the complaints of lack of shipping were a fraud; that the State Department encouraged Latin American countries not to allow Jews to emigrate; that Roosevelt cared a little and did nothing; and that during the war Roosevelt was still speaking of the legitimate complaints of the Germans against the Jewish people.

    Encouraging others to close their doors is obviously preventing recue. Thus, the American governbment prevented Jews from being rescued.

    My sources do support my claims. Why do you insist on propogating a false version of history and at the same time complain of others falsifying some family history in a way that nobody could possibly today care about. If Chabad is guilty you are ten fold.

  28. !. You asserted “The Americans did prevent rescue.” This is not what Wyman says. He argues that if rescues had been attempted, they would have been successful. The US did not PREVENT any rescues. Further, Wyman’s conclusions about possible effects on the war effort are disputed by almost every other historian. And, even if Wyman’s assertion here is accurate, it is accurate from hindsight. What diversion of resources would have done to the war effort assessed then, during the war, is not at all clear.

    2. You were warned many times about anonymous comments. Goodbye.

  29. Paul Freedman

    imo in hindsight, the war against the Fascist axis was a sustaining of American national will that appears almost miraculous given the inability to win such decisive victories alone or with allies afterwards.

  30. Franji

    From Haaretz, by Shahar Ilan.
    it seems that it is not only chareidim are at it.
    is it a trait of our faith? and us uneducated did not notice?

    Cheating the government

    Is it permissible for Gush Katif evacuees to cheat the Disengagement Administration (SELA) to increase the compensation that they receive? A halakhic ruling published by one Gush Katif rabbi indicates that the answer is unequivocally affirmative. “It is permissible for displaced individuals to cheat clerks of the SELA authority or at least mislead them in order to extract what is rightfully theirs,” writes Rabbi Ya’akov Epstein of the Torah and Land Institute, an evacuee of the Atzmona settlement in Gush Katif. However, he qualifies this statement, “as long as the act is not discovered and does not cause desecration of God’s name.”

    It is not entirely understandable how Epstein intended to prevent such desecration, hilhul hashem, when he himself instead of passing on the ruling by word of mouth published it in the Tzomet Institute’s annual halakhic journal Tehumin, a well-known publication in the religious Jewish world. The ruling was even published under the perspicuous title “Deceptive Declaration for the Purpose of Receiving Compensation.” Apparently Rabbi Epstein took the matter of hilhul hashem into his own hands.

    Ultra-Orthodox Jews who seek to deceive the state may rely on relatively simple halakhic justification. They maintain that the rule of dina demalchuta dina, the authority of the law of the land, which requires Jews to obey civil law, is inapplicable in Israel, as opposed to the Diaspora.

    According to this logic, one is not required to obey the laws of the heretic Jewish State.

    But the problem of Rabbi Epstein, a member of the national-religious camp, is far more complex. He explicitly declares, “In the State of Israel, despite the fact that a clerk is lying, working in opposition to orders, or even accepting bribes, it is forbidden to deceive him,” because “the capital does not belong to the clerk.” Moreover, he explains, “The State cannot conduct itself in this fashion and if we permit this, even in extreme cases, the affliction will spread to all government institutions and the entire state will begin to be conducted by means of payoff and bribery.”

    The case of Gush Katif is exceptional, he maintains, because “all matters pertaining to compensation of displaced individuals are distorted. They are not issues of dina demalchuta [the law of the land] but hamasnuta demalchuta [the theft of the land].” He explains that even if one accepts the assumption that it is permissible for a nation to evacuate residents, “it is obligated to build them a bloc of settlement identical to that which preceded the displacement.” The nation, he writes “chose to first crush and demolish Gush Katif, to grab everything from the residents and then to offer them partial compensation.” It failed to provide compensation for destruction of community life, emotional trauma or loss of livelihood.

    Not everyone believes that Epstein’s halakhic argument rests on a good basis.

    Yoske Ahituv, of the religious kibbutz movement’s yeshiva, wrote a response to Epstein’s ruling, published in the movement’s house organ, Amudim. “This ‘halakhic’ conclusion is scandalous, as far as I am concerned,” he writes, “and unfounded from a number of points of view.” He particularly questions the relatively insignificant halakhic source that Epstein relies on to support his conclusions. Ahituv also takes issue with “the damage to image generated by Rabbi Epstein’s article, which taints all those displaced from Gush Katif and even causes potential financial damage resulting from excessive strictness on the part of SELA administration clerks who suspect those who seek compensation of fraud.” According to him, Epstein’s position is “non-instructive and patently immoral.” He demands that Rabbi Epstein retract these statements and that the Tzomet Institute renounce the content of the article it published.

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