Date: May 17, 2008 11:25PM
One of the absolute most appalling things is a religious scam, which drags down the name of G-d and creates what they call in Judaism a chillul Hashem or a “desecration of G-d’s name.” These scams aim at a person’ wallet. I have seen this and was victimized by this several times.
One Jewish High Holy day, Ben Yishai raised $70K for the holiday. Most temples would be really happy to have similar results.
When I came back from Israel in ‘87, my father was really upset and kept telling me, “You don’t have money for a streimel and a kapoteh.” I eventually splintered away from Chabad.
Chabad’s literature goes into a concept called hiddur mitzvah, which means taking a mitzvah and making it “beautiful.” Of course, that means buying not just any type of religious item, but one that is more expensive than one that would simply fulfill keeping the commandment. (Like how Rabbi Berg’s sacramental objects like tefillin cost 4 times more than you would have to pay any other organization for them).
Before I got married in ’87, my ex-wife got a tallis (“prayer shawl”) from someone and the price was $200. My ex got it without consulting me first and of course she did the thing that any good soon to be bride would do according to Chabad’s minhagim (“customs”). I never paid it. I had all of these people calling me up on the telephone and I had no way of earning a living as of yet.
Also I worked for someone I knew in Crown heights from my D’var days and when I came to collect (He originally told me he’d pay me) he told me “I am not going to pay you” and he and his wife both laughed at me.
Years later, I went back to the Chabad for a class and this former friend complained about how some of the rabbis on the colel (“fund for professional scholars of Judaism”) have an attitude against people who simply work for a living. I really gasped at that one.
I also got phone calls from all the people in Crown Heights to collect money. One guy told me, “We just want to help you!” I contend he really just wanted to help himself to all of my money.
I mean, just how much money did Chabad make off of me and the rest of the people discussed in Confesssions. And just what kind of shape are the rest of the people who Hecht “cult busted?” I wonder.
At about the same time when I got married, I had a TV (most Chabadniks don’t but my sister gave me one). I saw a con artist if there ever was one, Robert Tilton of Success N’ Life. People like him try to con gullible elderly people who have big retirement funds and also life insurance policies.
Tilton’s scam was if you send a thousand dollars to him, he would “break the curse off your back!” Another scam artist.
Pastor Gene Profeta was another one. His church walls were lined with crutches that people threw away. My parents visited him as his church was near Ben Yishai. My father told me that he went through the church and looked for people to come up to be healed and two people looked at each other as if to say, “Let’s do it this week. Someone told me that he and Hickman worked together on real estate deals. Ben Yishai and his church were about a mile or so away from each other.
Another scam that was exposed and was on a TV watchdog show (maybe 60 Minutes) involved people getting boondoggled by filling out forms as to why they were there and what their problems was. It was a really bad scam.
The minister was outfitted with an earpiece, which was a radio transmitter (he would be informed as to a person’s problem) and he would go to a targeted person and tell them what their problem was. The victim would be amazed, but the government busted the scam.
So years later in ’95 I moved back to Israel and lived with the Witts. Emunah Witt told me “You’ll find a job, you’ll get remarried…” None of which happened.
Every Friday afternoon, I felt like I was being put under a lot of pressure. The Witt’s had 12 children, 11 of whom were living at home back then and I was somewhat of a burden. So, I bought some chicken for them to help out.
Emunah told me, “Whatever you spend for Shabbos, you’ll get back double.” So I fell for it. She realized I was into it and said, “You like that Torah-leh (“teaching”), huh Ruvaine?” (Ruvaine is my Hebrew name).
There’s a Chasidic belief that a Tzaddik can make a decree and G-d will bring the decree about. That’s how I fell into Emunah’s trap.
And in The Jewish Press recently, I saw a very slick ad in the paper asking for funds to be sent to various rabbis to bring a Yeshua (“deliverance”) from any particular ill that a person may be having. I thought people had to address G-d directly in Judaism and this was news to me. Vicarious atonement and similar things, I thought were the domain of the Christian world. I asked an acquaintance of mine about it who is a Sephardic, Modern Orthodox Jew and he told me that they do this in his community too.
Shlomo Carlebach said on one of his videos, “When ever someone needs help, special help, pray on the kavod (“honor”) of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev.” The rabbi was a Jewish folk hero because he used to get into tirades with God about how poorly the Jews often were treated.
When I was in Israel in ’95, some of the Carlebach people wanted to set up a meeting between the Amshinover Rebbe and myself. This rebbe’s father gave the blessing for Moshav Modi’in to prosper. The meeting never came to pass.
Now, I am a retired fitness buff. I have too many injuries to do anaerobic exercise.
I have a catalog from William Hinbern who sells all these old-time strongman training books and materials. One book is called Sex, Money and Power – The Bible Shows You How by Michael H. Brown. So, we are back to prosperity Gospels.
Also, Shea Hecht mentions in his book that cult leaders very often have very big appetites for sex, power and money. Guru Maharaji comes to mind. You can investigate all this yourself.
Here’s a brief quote from the ad for Brown’s book:
“The author tells you how to use the Bible as an Aladdin’s Lamp; make 3 wishes (within reason – whatever that means) before you start reading the book. Within 9 months at least one or 2 if not all 3 of them will be granted.”
I believe that people like this should be under investigation by the government as is Benny Hinn right now. The right to freedom of religion doesn’t include the right to scam people out of their money.