Chosen: Crimes and Misdemeanors

By Shmarya Rosenberg

The Weekly Blotter

Brooklyn Rabbi Victor Koltun was arrested for allegedly hiring two hit men to kill a former cop and the former cop’s nephew, who were found shot to death in early November. Rabbi Koltun has a long criminal history which includes a conviction for mail fraud. He also allegedly threatened witnesses with a gun and was recently indicted for mortgage fraud. Koltun allegedly took a mortgage out on a senior citizen’s home without her knowledge. (Gothamist)

Koltun is also in dire need of Jenny Craig. He weighs more than 450 pounds. (Times Herald-Record)

GOP fundraiser Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, a prominent South Florida ophthalmologist who raised millions for Republican politicians and served as an advisor to Governor Charlie Crist, pleaded guilty Thursday to trying to defraud the U.S. government. Mendelsohn also failed to report $82,000 in political donations. (Miami Herald)

David Epstein, a 46-year-old professor of political science at Columbia University, was arrested for incest. He allegedly slept with an unidentified young woman over a three-year period ending in 2009.  Epstein, who is also a blogger for the Huffington Post, has been placed on administrative leave by Columbia. (New York Daily News)

The Jewish Federations of North America released a Hanukkah fundraising video that depicts a homeless person being helped by Federation funds. The Problem? For the most part, Federations do not fund programs for the homeless. (Failed Messiah)

Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization of North America has agreed to repay $45 million dollars of money it earned by investing with über-fraudster Bernard Madoff. (JTA)

Bill Surkis, a former head of B’nai Brith in the Canadian province of Quebec, was sentenced to 45 days in jail for possession of child porn. (Canadian Press)

Ultra-Orthodox rabbi Eli Yishai, who is both the head of the Sefardic Shas political party and Israel’s Interior Minister, turned down fire truck donations from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews in the months before last week’s massive brush fire that killed 41 people and destroyed much of Israel’s north. Yishai turned down the donation of the fire truck on religious grounds, even though the IFCJ is headed by an Orthodox rabbi and does not support any missionary activity. (Jerusalem Post)

Noting a disproportionately lengthy appearance of ultra-Orthodox Jews on worst landlords list, the Village Voice asks five Jews a question: “How Can a Religious Person Justify Being a Slumlord?” (Village Voice)

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis knew now-convicted pedophile Rabbi Israel Weingarten was raping his daughter more than ten years before Weingarten was arrested. The rabbis, while not condoning Weingarten’s behavior, did not call police or child protective services, and Weingarten’s daughter suffered for several more years until she was old enough to leave home. (Frum Follies / Failed Messiah)

A Brooklyn ultra-Orthodox woman and her husband appeared on the People’s Court television show and tried to scam the court into awarding them a large sum of money for damages allegedly suffered at the hands of their laundry service. The couple claimed the laundry service mistakenly laundered her $3000 human hair wig. The judge, however, did some fact checking and found the couple had presented a damaged inexpensive wig as evidence. (Failed Messiah)

A Chabad emissary from Safed in Northern Israel was arrested in the Madrid airport for smuggling four kilograms of cocaine. Eliyahu Hecht, 57, a father of six who works for the global charity organization Colel Chabad, was returning to Israel from Costa Rica, where he was fund-raising for a Chabad soup kitchen. Hecht’s friends contend hecht was fooled into carrying the cocaine, which he somehow did not notice had been placed in a suitcase he carried for an acquaintance. (Ha’aretz)

Dozens of Israel’s top Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox rabbis, for the most part chief rabbis of cities whose salaries are paid by the state, signed a letter forbidding Jews from renting or selling homes to non-Jews. The move is closely linked to calls from Sefat’s chief rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, to refuse to rent or sell property to Arab Israelis. (AP)

Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust Museum, issued a statement decrying the letter and Eliyahu’s edict, as did Israel’s prime minister and president. (Ha’aretz 1, 2, 3)

The Antidote

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the 100-year-old non-Zionist leader of the vast majority of Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox Jews who are not Hasidim, decried the rabbis’ letter banning sale or rental of property to non-Jews, primarily Israeli Arabs.  However, his condemnation appears to be based as much on his hatred of the rabbis’ Zionism as on the contents of the letter itself. (Ha’aretz)

However, Rabbi Aaron Leib Steinman, the 96-year-old chair of the Degel Hatorah Council of Sages, who is widely viewed as the second most important ultra-Orthodox rabbi behind Elyashiv, issued a somewhat stronger condemnation. “There are things that should not be done; what if there would be a similar call in Berlin against renting properties to Jews? Where is the public conscience? What will this do to Jews around the world?” Shteinman is reported to have said. (Ha’aretz)

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

5 Responses

  1. mpidiot

    Der Stuermer couldn’t have doe a better job. There is one difference. Der Stuermer was a equal opportunity hater of all Jews. Heeb through Shmarya will concentrate on the Haredim and Orthodox Jews – the failed messiah pet hate

  2. blair thomas

    Vin news did investigating about the wig story. Shmarya is wrong it turns out.

  3. Hershl

    VIN can say what it wants to say.

    The People’s Court piece is valid. The judge showed evidence which the frum couple didn’t challenge. They are as guilty as sin and seemed to not really care about it.

    Many frum yidn lie and steal. It doesn’t seem like a contradiction to them. They wear their beards and sheytlekh, davven, spit out kids who go on welfare, and are a total embarrassment to the rest of the Jewish community.

    The NY Times just printed a story where the biggest rip off artist, a frum woman wearing a sheytl who lived in Monsey, NY and now rules from her roost in Austria, worked in cahoots with Bernie Madoff. She stole billions from fellow Jews.

    Genovim, gazlonim, simple crooks.

  4. David

    This is not proper. Why do you get pleasure out of or profit from the bad deeds done by our fellow yidden. You should stop this immediately. I also subscribe to Heeb magazine and this will make me cancel my subscription. I feel you and the magazine have stepped way over the line. Very Bad Form on all of your part. And while I agree that these people who commit crimes must be punished, you are holding us up as a people to public disgrace. Are you a self hating jew?

  5. Ze'ev

    Shmarya does a wonderful job at failedmessiah and is welcome here as far as I am concerned. I do not feel so because I’m self hating or something like that. Rather, I love my people and community which are strengthened when truly despicable behaviors and attitudes are outed and dealt with in open discussion instead of the acknowledgement of their existence being suppressed and repressed by yiddin who are so scared of an unveiling of the inside of our world that perhaps it is they who don’t feel quite right about their own.


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