Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jewish Felons: The Problem of Criminality in Observant Communities!

The UOJ Archives - August 2006

By Joel Cohen

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. — Justice Louis D. Brandeis

As a prosecutor and, more recently, a white-collar defense attorney in New York, I have witnessed a disturbing rise in crime among Orthodox and Hasidic Jews. When I broach the subject with Jewish friends, they say that writing about this subject will be “a disgrace to the name of God,” viewing the writing on the issue as the disgrace and ignoring the underlying conduct. They see Jews, particularly observant Jews, as a community that outsiders focus on in search of scandal and feel that exposing the problem will add fuel to the fires of anti-Semitism. I feel that this reasoning is wrongheaded: To ignore crime within our ranks does us a great disservice, both because it weakens us as a community and because tolerating it suggests to the outside world that Judaism does not promote a righteous moral compass.

A Growing Problem

There is no shortage of high-profile Jewish crime. Take the infamous New Square scandal, in which four Hassidim were convicted for defrauding the government of $11 million by setting up a fictitious yeshiva to receive federal student aid money. Or the case in Williamsburg, New York, in which the rabbi of a Jewish day school [Hertz Frankel of Satmar] stole 6 million dollars from the Board of Education over several years by falsely identifying more than eighty individuals as school employees.

The problem in the observant community, however, is not merely occasional, nor does it often make headlines. Daily, in metropolises around the country, yarmulka-wearing criminal defendants appear before the bar of justice. In the early 1970s, a particularly imaginative criminal defense lawyer in New York City successfully sued the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to provide kosher food for one or two of his incarcerated clients. The sad truth is that these days, kosher food has become as commonplace in many penal institutions as it is on airlines.

Today, every day in the minimum-security camp at the Otisville Federal Correctional Institution in Rockland County, New York, there are sizeable minyanim, three times daily. A full-time rabbi attends to the congregation’s spiritual and religious needs. Daily religious classes are offered. Shabbat and holiday meals are provided. There are so many observant inmates—inmates who were ostensibly observant at the time of their arrest, not those who “found God” after they broke the law, thereby increasing the numbers—that such provisions are now available at a number of other federal penal institutions. Anyone practicing in the justice system of a large urban metropolis with a significant Jewish population—New York, Los Angeles, and Miami, for example—has seen a similar trend.

These observant defendants are not typically charged with street crime or narcotics trafficking. The most common charge is fraud: against businessmen and run-of-the-mill citizens alike, most frequently involving victims outside of the Jewish community; against the government; against insurance carriers; against banking institutions; health care fraud; money laundering; and stock swindling.

Perhaps most disturbing is a new breed of fraud involving observant community leaders, sometimes rabbis themselves, and intended to benefit the community itself, such as fraud against government spending programs for education and health care. The perpetrators in these cases don’t typically profit personally, but the government and the intended recipients of these government programs are no less defrauded of funds designated for a particular use. And more often than not, the community, including its lay and religious leaders, stands up for the perpetrators by defending, or at least excusing, their behavior. For example, following the convictions of four Hassidim in the New Square scandal, Hassidic leaders defended President Clinton’s pardon of these individuals on the grounds that the stolen funds were funneled back into their community rather than into their own pockets.

The Key Question

Why is fraud so common in the Orthodox and Hasidic communities? Perhaps Judaism itself concentrates too heavily on technical observances designed to honor the Kingdom of God and not enough on a code of conduct honoring and respecting each other. Maybe the religion, as taught, isn’t sufficiently concerned with ethical precepts particularly with regard to faceless government bodies or individuals outside the fold. Even more disturbing, perhaps criminal, or merely unethical, behavior is simply not inconsistent with religious observance.

Whatever the reason, the ultimate question is simple: Do the religious obligations of Orthodox and Hasidic communities require their members to behave ethically in their everyday behavior, including in their dealings with everyone of every faith? Several responses to this key question will invariably invoke talmudic niceties, such as, “What do you mean by ethical behavior?” Responses of this nature highlight a root problem: talmudic exercises that can be used to rationalize misbehavior. Yet, these rationalizations find little support in the teachings of the Torah itself. Indeed, the Torah contains an explicit injunction against maintaining two weights, one large and one small—the biblical equivalent of two sets of books—declaring it an “abomination to God” to act with such weights corruptly (Deut. 25:13-16). How did we stray so far from such a clear anti-fraud philosophy of the Torah to the present-day efforts by some to defend fraudulent behavior with hyper-technical talmudic logic?

Consider this example: Money laundering did not violate American law until 20 years ago. Nor did it violate any specific biblical law, or post-biblical law, ever. But it now violates American law and is a very serious offense. Some, however, argue that even a serious violation of American law, such as money laundering, that is not also criminalized by the Torah does not require the observant community’s condemnation (e.g., “Our Higher Authority doesn’t itself forbid it”). Without question, a whole category of secular laws criminalizes conduct not proscribed by the Torah. And, in many instances, the proscribed conduct would not violate the morality of the Jewish religion or, for that matter, the state. Indeed, many are so-called victimless crimes.

It may even be that particular criminal statutes are discriminatory in their enforcement or affirmatively harm certain segments of society. This is not true, it is worth noting, of money laundering, insider trading, or criminal tax laws, which may be onerous in the extreme and sometimes unfair in their application, but not discriminatory, e.g., they were not enacted to “get” Jews.

There are certainly times when we are justified in disobeying the law. To invoke the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, there may be times when “if there is nothing worth dying for, there is nothing worth living for.” Some laws imposed by a secular government are so inappropriate—indeed, perhaps, although rarely, anti-Semitic—that the good citizen’s duty is to take the consequences and civilly disobey them in protest. Such laws are rare in post-World War II America. But engaging in civil disobedience to protest the repugnant law is not the same as simply breaking the law for monetary gain. If a law-abiding Jew disobeys a law to protest its unfairness, fully recognizing the consequences of his protest, one can argue that he remains an observant Jew.

Still, civil disobedience aside, if a statute exists on the books, there is a halachic consequence to violating it, however victimless or onerous it may be. This is true, however, even if the law is seen as designed to protect the financially entrenched against the outsider, and thus is itself immoral. Some observant communities have argued, for example, that the education finance regimes do not fairly address the financial needs of Jewish parochial schools, thus requiring extralegal machinations to level the playing field. “Extralegal,” here, though, really means illegal.

Jewish law, handed down through the generations through Maimonides, pronounces that “the law of the land is the law.” In other words, an act criminalized by a secular government is also prohibited by the Torah simply by virtue of existing under the secular law of the society in which we live. If we truly believe in that fundamental concept—for observant Jewry it should be as binding as a law appearing verbatim in written Scripture—it hardly matters that the particular law is not ethically based, does not violate a specific precept of the Torah, or may even be of questionable social value. If the Jewish or observant Jewish community believes that the law was enacted largely because that community does not have an adequate voice in government, it should get out the vote—not defy the law.

Finally, some may suggest that certain Jewish groups who emigrated from Eastern Europe were victimized there by anti-Semitic regimes, which makes their disrespect for secular rule of law understandable. This argument raises a bizarre affirmative action defense that seeks immunity from the laws of the United States for wrongs that the United States had nothing to do with. Regardless, the previously victimized community should take no solace in such an explanation, as there is simply no comparison between Poland in 1939 and America in 2004.

The Community’s Response

It is astonishing, sometimes, how the observant and Hasidic communities react to criminal charges by a superficially observant defendant. Often, those communities assume that anti-Semitism is the driving force behind an unfounded prosecution or that the defendant is being prosecuted (or persecuted) more severely because he is Jewish. Even after a guilty verdict or plea (which should remove any lingering doubt about guilt, as well as any claim of a frame-up), his community will frequently write supportive letters to a sentencing judge suggesting that this is simply aberrant behavior for “an otherwise observant Jew.” And that may be true—sometimes. For some, psychological or compelling financial reasons may induce one-time criminal episodes, contrary to how the individuals conduct otherwise exemplary lives.

But what about the habitual offender who leads an otherwise pious life? He is a regular attendant at minyan; he is meticulous in his kashrut observance; he joyfully sanctifies the Sabbath; he gives charity generously. He also, because it is simply the right thing to do, treats his employees well and is a dedicated and respected leader of the community. Nevertheless, he engages in fraudulent business practices, over and over—but he only cheats the government, non-observers, or non-Jews. Should the religious community that he comes from still stand behind this individual as an observant Jew or “an otherwise observant Jew”?

To be sure, this man deserves the emotional support of his family, friends, and even his community when he is in trouble with the law. We are a people proud of the traditions of forgiveness and repentance. Clearly, the members of his religious community, if they have something favorable to say to a judge about him, should come forward and not abandon him when he has fallen on hard times for his waywardness—especially if he demonstrates true acceptance of responsibility and contrition.

But his community also deserves something in these cases. It deserves the outspoken and unequivocal condemnation of the conduct as being contrary to religious observance. And for this condemnation to have any real impact on that community, it must come from lay and religious leaders within the community itself, who must acknowledge that religious observance is flatly incompatible with fraudulent behavior. Only with the open denouncement of wrongdoing from within the particular observant community can the community hope to demonstrate and protect the Torah’s commitment to honesty in one’s interpersonal dealings as being at least equal to, if not greater than, its commitment to technical observance of mitzvot. Indeed, frequently, the community and its rabbis stand behind the seemingly flexible rule that Jews may not testify against other Jews in a secular court, notwithstanding the seriousness of the offense—hardly a position calculated to encourage the denouncement of wrongdoing or scandal.

Thus, advocating leniency for an observant felon precisely because of his so-called piety as an “observant Jew” harms both the religion and the observant community by suggesting that religion allows for a divergence between piety and morality. Indeed, if this same yarmulka-wearing man were a completely honest businessman whose aberrant conduct was, instead, a weakness for shrimp, would the observant community refer to this man as an observant Jew or an otherwise observant Jew? Surely not! Is kashrut a more fundamental observance in Judaism than basic honesty?

Presiding over a case involving a Hasidic Jew who had pleaded guilty to burning down unoccupied buildings for insurance, Federal Judge I. Leo Glasser turned to the large number of Hasidim who had come to court in support of their fellow Hasid and said:

Some persons might characterize [your presence here] as being a chilul hashem [a disgrace to the name of God].… Sometimes one wonders whether … more emphasis is placed on form and not enough on substance….[T]he words that you recite three times a day and the code and the laws that you study should be thought of in terms of what those words mean and what they are intended to move us to do in terms of the kind of life we lead.

For a secular judge to have used the term chilul hashem in an American court suggests that he is speaking to the defendant as both judge and fellow Jew. His are words that we should all heed.

No matter how we try to justify it—whether as victimless crime, the result of past persecution, something that only affects “outsiders” while helping the Jewish community, a just response to unjust policy, or irrelevant missteps by the otherwise pious—criminal behavior simply cannot be condoned in observant Jewish communities. It undermines the foundations of what we believe, as well as damaging us in the eyes of the outside world. The disgrace of Jewish fraud is not only a disgrace against God, but also a disgrace to ourselves and each other. The Torah and Jewish teaching will give us guidance on how to live ethically, even in our complicated modern society, if we only listen to its truths. At day’s end, the burden lies with all of us. In the words of Edmund Burke, “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men [and women] to do nothing.”

Joel Cohen, a former prosecutor, practices white-collar criminal defense law at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP in New York. He is the author of Moses: A Memoir.

The Top Ten Signs I Am Losing It!

Keeping it light post Hurricane Irene - The UOJ Archives December 8, 2007

1-I really thought about showing up at the Agudah convention!

2-It is becoming more apparent to me that Lipa Margulies had the childrens' interest at heart when he decided to make Kolko the assistant principal at Yeshiva Torah Temimah in Brooklyn - New York!

3-Yaakov Applegrad convinced me that he knew nothing about Kolko being accused of raping little boys!

4-I ate matza shmura last night with the hashgocho of Yisroel Belsky!

5-I slept with a picture of Moshe Eisemann under my pillow!

6-I invited Avi Shafran to my pool for a Kool-Aid party!

7-I learned daf yomi with Rabbi Efraim Shapiro this morning!

8- I asked the mohel Yitzchak Fisher to infect me....because so far so good... as far as I can tell!

9-I invited Shalom, Mordecai and Aron Tendler to a sleepover at my house!

10-I believe Matisyahu Salomon - that only one pedophile in the Charedi community slipped through his fingers!

You may add your own list!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Just How Crazy Is Rabbi Yisroel Belsky - From Yeshiva Torah Vodaath!?

"Rabbi Yisroel Belsky said, "such behavior (as that of the victim's father) wouldn't be tolerated'' elsewhere. "When your child tells you something, you don't go straight to a prosecutor, you go to a Bais Din and let them examine the (evidence).'' Belsky, a rabbi at Yeshiva Torah Vodaas in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and a member of the Orthodox Union, a national Jewish lobby, said he has not seen the flier but claims "there's no evidence at all'' against Kolko".

One man's criminal accusation that a teacher molested his young son has widened the rift in the Orthodox Jewish community over where religious rights stop and the justice system begins.

Some inside the tight-knit enclave praised the child's father for bypassing religious protocols last year and reporting the alleged attack first to Ocean County prosecutors. Others believe he committed a sin because he failed to get permission from a rabbinic court before pressing charges against a fellow Jew.

"The first step is to go to rabbis,'' said Rabbi Shmuel Meir Katz, a senior Dayan, or decider of Jewish law. He teaches at Beth Medrash Govoha, a yeshiva in Lakewood that is one of the foremost Jewish universities in the world. "We have our own system. We have our own laws, and as long as the Bais Din (rabbinical tribunal) feels competent on taking care of something themselves, that's our surest recourse in our circles.'

At the center of the controversy are the criminal charges against Yosef Kolko, 36, a former camp counselor and local yeshiva teacher. At his arraignment Tuesday, Kolko pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated sexual assault and child endangerment. The child was between 11 and 12 years old when the more than yearlong alleged abuse began in Lakewood, according to the indictment. The Asbury Park Press is withholding the father's name to protect the child's identity.

The case is a stark example of what Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford described as a "wall of silence'' in the community that has made investigating crimes difficult.

The decision of the child's father to go immediately to authorities last year has sparked reprisals, according to prosecutors and witnesses. Attempts were made to pressure the father to drop the charges. Fliers about him were circulated. In June, a Lakewood resident was arrested and charged with witness-tampering.....



Friday, August 20, 2010

We must always listen to the “kol yeled boche” – the cry of the child!

Isaiah 54-1-10 – 5th Haftorah of the 7 weeks of comfort

By Rabbi Simon Jacbson

Sing Barren One

Sing, barren one, you who have not given birth. Break into a song, and cry aloud, you who have never been in labor; for the children of the abandoned are more numerous than the children of the married wife, says G-d.

Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed. Do not be confounded, for
you will not be put to shame; you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.

For G-d called you as a wife abandoned and grieved in spirit. Can a
wife of youth be rejected? says your G-d.

For a brief moment I forsook you, but I will gather you with great
compassion. In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid My face from you; but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you, says G-d, your Redeemer.

This is like the waters of Noah to me: I swore that the waters of Noah
would never again submerge the earth; similarly, I swore that I would not be angry with you and would not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart, and the hills may be removed; but My kindness will not depart from you, nor will My covenant of peace be withdrawn, says G-d, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54-1-10 – 5th Haftorah of the 7 weeks of comfort

My heart is hurting. My soul is singing.

Life is so strange. And paradoxical.

It’s now five weeks since I have been writing about one of the most
painful of life’s tragedies – innocent children hurt by adults. I never intended to continue writing about child abuse. But I could not ignore the overwhelming emotional response evoked by my first article (The Destruction and Restoration of Dignity) about my wounded childhood friend Michael.

All my years of teaching and writing – communicating with people about personal and emotional issues – have taught me that we must listen, and listen closely to the anguished voices and the deep outcries of people in pain. We must always listen to the “kol yeled boche” – the cry of the child.

Of all man-made human atrocities, perhaps the most devastating and demoralizing is silence. Silence in the face of abuse is not neutral; it is complicity.

So when I began reading the anguished e-mails elicited by my article
describing the perpetual wounds of childhood trauma – one e-mail more heart wrenching than the other – there was no way that I was going to ignore these crying voices.

I realized and continue to realize the deep grief of so many tormented souls; children whose lives were forever altered because of a self-indulgent, sick adult.

And then, once I applied myself to the issue, which is so “comfortable” to ignore, I could not stop writing. As much as can be said about this unspeakable topic seems never enough. Initially, I thought that it was hard to find a place where child abuse is discussed in the Torah; now, after studying these seven weeks of comforting Haftorahs, I came to realize that once you pay attention it’s hard to find a place where this issue is not mentioned: Virtually every Haftorah speaks about the wounded children, the abandoned sons and daughters.

This week we read: Sing, barren one, you who have not given birth. Break into a song, and cry aloud, you who have never been in labor; for the children of the abandoned are more numerous than the children of the married wife, says G-d.

Let us ponder this verse for a moment. Are we actually being told that the “barren one” has reason to sing more than the fertile one? And that the “the children of the abandoned” have an advantage over healthy children?

How sad: Abandoned children outnumber their healthy counterparts. Abuse is rampant, and yet we are told that this is reason for us to sing!

But that is exactly what the verse is telling us. Whether we understand it or (most likely) not, some mysterious metamorphosis occurs to the barren one and the children of the abandoned. And when we see it through, we celebrate.

Yet we cry and sing all at once. We cry for the loss. But we sing for the growth, and we sing for the fact that we ultimately are not abandoned; our abandonment is only for a brief moment, because the everlasting Divine kindness and compassion always remains with us.

Indeed, the barren and abandoned state revealed a deeper love and greater strengths. The fact that we remain standing after all that we have been through testifies to our invincibility.

It is an absolute miracle that a child is able to survive extreme abuse at the hands of people who were supposed to protect the child. And yet the child survives, and with work becomes someone far greater, far more refined than he or she may have been otherwise. Not that this is a consolation, but the harshest challenges in life bring out the deepest resources, ones we could never imagined to have existed. And yet… we cry; we cry for all the countless hours of loneliness and anguish. We cry for the sheer pain, regardless of the ultimate benefits. But as we cry, we also sing…

So, sing, barren one, you who have not given birth. Break into a song,
and cry aloud.

Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed. Do not be confounded, for you will not be put to shame; you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.

Shame. Ahh the shame resulting from abuse. The shame that demoralizes and poisons our every move; the shame that breaks our spirit, as we lose our inner dignity and sense of self-worth.

Yet, even if we were shamed, you will forget the shame of your youth, as you discover that you have not been rejected.

For a brief moment I forsook you, but I will gather you with great compassion. In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid My face from you; but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you.

While reading and writing about this healing process, let us not forget that we are in the month of Elul: A month of love an compassion, when we have the power to rebuild after loss, as we learn from Moses who spent these days of Elul on Sinai beseeching G-d for resolution.

And yet, the sadness strikes me again. Here we are preparing for the High Holidays – awesome days that have the power to change our lives forever. Yet, how many people are aware of this fact? How many are looking forward to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur as indispensable days, offering us the ability to realize our deepest aspirations and dreams?

Many today are disenchanted from the monotony of conventional Holiday services. Affiliated and traditional Jews often suffer from a mechanical, lip service, experience. Nevertheless, the paradox continues: Men and women regardless of background hunger for a meaningful High Holiday experience.

Much to cry about. But also much to sing about.

But then we read on and conclude this week’s reading:

For the mountains may depart, and the hills may be removed; but My kindness will not depart from you, nor will My covenant of peace be withdrawn, says G-d, who has compassion on you.

Despite the winds of assimilation and the forces of apathy, notwithstanding the spiritual quandaries and the decline of traditional commitment – the mountains may depart, and the hills may be removed – but My kindness will not depart from you, and this kindness and compassion will reach the depths of our souls and awaken us.

Thus, even our spiritual frustration and our skeptical attitude is essentially the voice of our souls searching – desperately yearning for something better. What greater tribute to human dignity?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What About The Father's Right To Life, Liberty & The Pursuit Of Happiness?



The Kollel Argument
From the other side of the bench
by David Seidemann

Issue of August, 13, 2010/ 3 Elul, 5770 - The Jewish Star

Not once but twice, in recent weeks, I’ve encountered a situation where a father has claimed that he is financially unable to support his wife and children. No, he wasn’t in a dead-end job nor was he unemployed. In both instances, his excuse for not being able to support his soon-to-be ex-wife and their children was that he was learning in Kollel.

It is not my intention to debate the pros and cons of young married men learning the Talmud for a few years after they get married. Nor will I utilize this space to comment on whether these young men are actually spending their time learning. Perhaps Kollel should be reserved for those that demonstrate unyielding commitment to the demands of the program and for those that can financially afford to sit and learn without bankrupting present and future generations.

One has to wonder if the concept, as originally conceived, can continue for future generations. Who is going to support the children of the couple that is learning in Kollel when they decide they also want to learn in Kollel? The parents that are sitting and learning, unless they get a job, will not be in a position to support their children.

What really irked me this week was when a father wrote to the court that his wife, my client, was violating his religious freedom by forcing him to leave Kollel and seek employment in order to pay his child support obligations. There is something patently offensive about that.

In other cultures, the fathers simply deny being the father (ask comic George Lopez). In those instances the court simply orders DNA testing. But this new argument, what I call “The Kollel Argument,” defies logic and I can only hope is an anomaly that won’t be repeated.

Being reminded of our duties as fathers and husbands come at strange and unanticipated moments. When I first moved into this neighborhood approximately 10 years ago, one of my new neighbors approached me and asked, “What you do at 4:45 every morning?” I responded, “Like most people, I’m sleeping.” “Not anymore,” he said. For the next nine years, on an almost daily basis, I arose at 4:30 in the morning and joined a group of businessmen learning in what is called “The Morning Kollel” at Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv in Far Rockaway. Yes, I did miss a morning from time to time, but by and large I was a regular attendee learning Talmud under the direction of Rabbi Moshe Dov Stein. After Rabbi Stein’s unfortunate death, the daily learning continued under the direction of his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yaakov Stein, and Rabbi Binyamin Cherney.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of learning with a few different study partners, most recently with a wonderful oncologist by the name of Dr. Michael Bashevkin. No matter how unproductive the rest of my day might be, the time I spend learning in the morning, while the rest of the world is sleeping, is exhilarating.

But something happened this past June, something I can’t put my finger on, that caused my attendance to lapse. I missed a day, then a week, then a month, then a month-and-a-half.

This past Shabbos while sitting at the table, I asked my 12-year-old daughter what type of man she wanted to marry. She told me that she wanted to marry a man with a job but who also went to yeshiva every morning to learn like I do. Those words pierced my heart. While I lay in bed the past month, sleeping at five o’clock in the morning, my daughter thought I was in yeshiva learning. I instantly felt the great divide that existed between who my daughter thought I was and who I actually am. I felt both ashamed and motivated.

This parenting thing is very complicated. We have a duty to raise our children and to guide them along the path that will ensure they be all that they can be. But we also have the same duty to make the most of ourselves: to be what our children believe us to be and act in accordance of their expectations.

So I got up in the wee hours of the morning yesterday, grabbed my Talmud that sat on the shelf for six weeks and made my way back to yeshiva. I am not naïve enough to believe that I will never miss another morning over the next few years. But now, I know how important it is for me to arise before the sun and how important it is for my children. We all need to be reminded how to be effective parents. Sometimes that lesson comes from our children.

David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann & Mermelstein. He can be reached at (718) 692-1013 and at ds@lawofficesm.com

From The UOJ Classics - More relevant today than in 2007 when it was originally posted!


A naked man darted from a car into a Borough Park office building at lunchtime yesterday and then jumped to his death from the top floor, officials said.

The man double-parked in the 4800 block of 13th Av. about noon, bolted from his still-running gray 1980 Chevrolet, dashed past a crowd on the street and ran into the lobby of an office building, witnesses said.

Police were still trying to identify the man yesterday and to determine why he jumped. Witnesses also were trying to sort out what happened. The man had no apparent connection to the building, according to people who work there.

"He didn't even have shoes on," said Zalman Teitelbaum , who was working as a temporary security guard at the building until the Satmar mess gets straightened out. Sitting behind the security desk, Teitelbaum first saw the man from the waist up and thought maybe he was a rather strange jogger. But then I stood up and saw the rest of him, and realized he was very Jewish. "I was even able to recognize the mohel, (rabbi that performs the circumcision) by his unique cut", said Teitelbaum. "This man was definitely bent out of shape."

The man told Teitelbaum that he was "desperate and broke," asked him for 50 cents to make a phone call and then spoke incoherently, mumbling something about not being able to support his son in-law in kollel, Teitelbaum said.

Then the man ran to an elevator. Minutes later, he emerged from a stairwell on the top floor. The fire alarm had been set off, presumably by the man, and the office doors on that floor were open as people began to file out, witnesses said.

The man pushed his way into one of the offices, where he said "kollel, kollel, kollel," several times while charging toward a window, witnesses said. He smashed the glass and jumped through the window, falling onto a parapet between two buildings. Some local workers and shoppers saw him fall.

Borough Park firefighters and emergency medical service personnel arrived at the scene, and police quickly cordoned off the block. Women with baby carriages were visibly upset that they could not continue shopping. One woman with a hat on top of her wig lamented, "he could have waited until the stores closed."

Workers in the top floor office said they had not seen the man before and did not believe that he had ties to the offices there. They didn't hear anything he said other than "excuse me, I need money to support my son in-law in the Lakewood kollel" a witness said.

Before it became apparent what was taking place, the city's parking enforcers reacted to the abandoned car, which had badly torn seats, New Jersey plates and no sign of clothing inside other than a beat up Borsalino and a jacket with a shatnes label. They slapped a flyer on the windshield inviting people to attend a parlor meeting for the Lakewood Yeshiva.

The police met with all the various Bobover Rebbes and was told that the man had seven married daughters and was acting strange as of late. Recently the man was seen in shul naked except for a towel on his shoulder, screaming why they moved the mikve.

These acts of desperation have become rather common in the Orthodox Jewish community, since fathers with daughters are expected to support their sons in-law whether they have the ability or not.

Many social workers in the community have noticed a dangerous increase in mental disorders particularly by men over fifty.

We interviewed eight young men who were in the local pizza parlor, all of them noticably obese. We asked them about their reaction to the increase in mental and emotional disorders in men over fifty, particularly by the men with daughters.

We had similar reactions by all eight young men. One fellow said it was "not my fault that the poor putz doesn't know how to make enough money to support thirty people. Summer camps, expensive houses, cars, jewelry, Pesach in Cancun, and tuitions are a father in-law's obligation, even if he has to work three jobs, or steal from his employer." They're just a bunch of whining lazy bums."

Another young fellow said "I am sick and tired of hearing these BS stories from fathers in-law. If they produce the kids, they MUST support them, period, no excuses." This fellow who was not more than twenty years old, was wearing a gold Rolex. I complimented him on his watch; he turned angry and said "he told the shadchan that I would get two Rolexes, one for daily use and one for Yom-Tov, and the SOB finked out on me; what a piece of garbage father in-law I wound up with. If I would have known that, I never would have married his meeskite (extremely ugly) daughter." He said he had to leave, and drove off in a brand new Cadillac Escalade.

The reaction by the others were similar, ranging from anger to dismay about the lack of appreciation and gratefulness to God exhibited by their fathers in-law. They all felt that they could have married anyone in the world, and if their father in-law ever decided to stop giving them "serious" money they would return their daughters to them in a heartbeat, blackmail the family in order for him to give a Get, and get a father in-law who really understands what a catch they are.

Particularly interesting was how they all agreed that they never intended to ever get a job, regardless of how many fathers in-law jumped off buildings. They saw it as a dirty trick and didn't believe the guy was really dead." I find it very interesting that these shameless fathers in-law would go to any lengths to avoid their obligations to us", said the fellow who was the most obese, weighing about three hundred pounds and was not more than five foot three inches tall.

Calls to the rabbis of the Lakewood Kollel were answered by a taped recorded message.

"If you are attempting to join our prestigous institution, the only requirement is that you must be proficient in filling out lengthy government aid forms. These forms are available in all languages and can be filled out at any Lexus dealer in Borough Park or Flatbush; or available on the Internet by the shgatzim uremasim (low-lifes) who have Internet access."