Chosen: Crimes and Misdemeanors

By Shmarya Rosenberg

The Weekly Blotter

Rabbi Sholom DovBear Wolpe, a Chabad hasid, spoke to thousands of followers at a rally last night and called on supporters to launch a civil war if the government evacuates even one Jewish West Bank settlement. Wolpe, widely popular among Israeli Chabad hasidim and West Bank settlers, wants to establish a separate Jewish state in the West Bank led by Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox rabbis. (Jerusalem Post)

An Israeli-Druze man who served in Israel’s armed forces and his four Israeli-Arab flatmates were forced to flee their home in Tel Aviv after local Jews, egged on by Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox rabbis, vandalized their home and threatened to kill them with a car bomb. (Ynet)

Earlier in the week, five Sudanese refugees barely escaped with their lives when their apartment in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod was set on fire, apparently by Jews upset that “infiltrators” were living in their neighborhood. (Ynet)

Seven minors and two young adults, all Jewish and all thought to be residents of West Bank settlements or Jerusalem, were arrested by Jerusalem police. The Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox youths used a 14-year-old girl to lure unsuspecting Arab men to isolated locations in the city where they were beaten by the others. The gang is also suspected of mistakenly beating a South American tourist they mistook for an Arab. (Ha’aretz)

The ranking Republican member of the powerful House Ways and Means committee has an Orthodox staffer who is refusing to grant his wife a Jewish divorce. Aharon Friedman, upset that his wife left him and returned to her parents home in a suburb of Philadelphia, took his wife to civil court – where he lost. A civil divorce was finalized with a custody agreement Friedman claimed would force him to violate Shabbat. But the court disagreed. In retaliation, Friedman withheld the ‘get,’ or Jewish divorce, his wife needs under Orthodox law to remarry. (A man can remarry without a Jewish divorce, if necessary, through a permit known as heter mea rabbanim, the permission of 100 rabbis). He demanded his wife agree to a new custody arrangement before he grants her Jewish divorce and he allegedly demanded his wife’s wealthy family put $1 million in escrow to ensure his desired new custody agreement would be kept afterward. In the real world, this is called extortion. In the Orthodox world, this is called an alarmingly  frequent occurrence. Buyer – or, in this case, Jewish women – beware. (Patch, Washington Jewish Week, The Jewish Star.)

Rabbi Yehuda Levin, head of Jews for Morality and spokesman for the ultra-Orthodox Rabbinical Alliance of America, expressed extreme displeasure at the end of the US Military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which now makes it possible to be an openly gay or lesbian soldier. “We have seen time and time again in Biblical history when Jews and others have forsaken the path of morality that we have paid – society has paid – a bitter price in terms of losing God’s grace and protection. There have been natural disasters, there have been defeats in wars,” Levin said.

But Rabbi Levin did not contain himself to mere theodicy. Instead, Levin lashed out at US Senator Joseph Lieberman, the only Orthodox Jew in the Senate. Calling Lieberman an “apostate,” Levin apologized to the country for Lieberman’s vote. “As an orthodox Jew I beg our country’s forgiveness,” Levin said. (LifeSiteNews)

A federal judge ruled  in favor of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Value Recovery Group and against brothers Sholom and Tzvi Rubashkin and their father, Aaron. The Rubashkin family owned the scandal-ridden Agriprocessors glatt kosher meat plant in Postville, Iowa. The family now must pay $2 million to cover a $300,000 loan the Rubashkins received from Omni National Bank, along with interest on that loan and equipment leases with the bank. Sholom Rubashkin is now serving a 27-year sentence after being convicted of 86 fraud-related counts. (AP)

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis banned Vos Iz Neias, an ultra-Orthodox news site, apparently because it has posted stories that report ultra-Orthodox crime, even though those reports are often highly sanitized. (Failed Messiah)

Some sources report the ban is linked to Vito Lopez, the allegedly-corrupt Brooklyn politician. Why? The ban’s instigator (whose name was first reported on Failed Messiah) is a Satmar hasid tied to Lopez, and Vos Iz Neais had previously posted several anti-Lopez reports. (5TJT)

An Israeli man, Moshe Harel is on the run from Interpol. Harel is suspected of being at the center of network of organ traffickers in Kosovo. Harel’s alleged role included matching potential donors recruited in Turkey with recipients, many if not all of whom had connections with Israel. (Ha’aretz)

An Israeli Breslov hasidic leader claims he was held hostage by his son and grandson for almost a decade before escaping. (Jerusalem Post)

Data published by the Israel Defense Forces Personnel Directorate shows that the rate of ultra-Orthodox Israelis who get psychiatric exemptions from army service is five times higher than non-ultra-Orthodox Israelis, even though the ultra-Orthodox can also legally avoid military service by enrolling in a yeshiva, ultra-Orthodox schools that teach only ultra-Orthodox Jewish subjects. (The schools are tuition-free and many have very weak study requirements, and almost any ultra-Orthodox male who wants to can enroll.) (Ynet)

Ohr Somayach’s rosh yeshiva, or dean, tells an inspiring story that shows the lengths ultra-Orthodox Jews will go to protect their children from spiritual damage caused by toy pigs. (Failed Messiah)

The Antidote

Israeli doctors are in China this week teaching Chinese pediatricians how to recognize and combat child abuse.The doctors, from the Haruv Institute, were joined by  Sanford R. Cardin, the president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. The Schusterman Foundation funds the Haruv Institute’s work. (Jerusalem Post)

Shmarya Rosenberg publishes His reporting has been cited in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Ha’aretz, Jerusalem Post, Forward, JTA and many other publications. He was named to both the Forward 50 and the Heeb 100 in 2008.

What do you think?

About The Author

Shmarya Rosenberg

Shmarya Rosenberg has been published in Newsweek/The Daily Beast, Moment Magazine, the Forward, Tablet, StarTribune, Jewcy, Sh'ma and Heeb, and was profiled in the New York Times, Ha'aretz and the Jerusalem Post. His work has been cited in dozens of newspapers and broadcast media sources worldwide, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, New York Observer, AP, Des Moines Register, Ha'aretz, Jerusalem Post, and CNN and CNBC's America Greed. He is the publisher and editor of

2 Responses

  1. Garet Benson

    Oh, come on. Vos Iz Neias was not banned “because it has posted stories that report ultra-Orthodox crime.” It was banned for all the reasons clearly stated in the notice you printed on your own website, Reb Shmarya. (For those of you who can’t read Hebrew, the one word printed in English says a lot.)


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