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Op-Ed: It Just Ain’t Worth It

Following the recent rash of arrests in Lakewood over Medicaid and welfare fraud, an anonymous member of the Orthodox-Jewish community in the tri-state area penned the following op-ed to the broader community, laying out the case for keeping things kosher.

The op-ed is written in the form of a letter from “Kalman Ha’Ksil” (Kalman the Fool) to his friend “Chanoch Ha’Chochom” (Chanoch the Wise Man).

Dear Chanoch Ha’Chochom,

You’re a smart guy. Young and newly employed with a long future ahead of you; a future full of tough choices.

Let me tell you a bit about me, Kalman Ha’Ksil (Kalman the ‘Fool’):

I am employed in a full-time position and earn $75,000 in cash (‘off the books’). I do not pay any income or payroll taxes. I receive Medicaid, Foodstamps, and WIC all while living in a Section 8 apartment.

You may have heard of me and my ilk and assume we live the good life – receiving all of the government benefits while evading paying taxes to the IRS, and getting yeshiva tuition breaks and so on. If only you would know what my life really looks like. Yes, there is always more to the story.

My buddies and I are called ‘Ksils’ as we are typically oblivious to the bundle of troubles awaiting us down the road. I, on the other hand, am fully aware of the challenges of living the Ksil life. You see, I am a smart Ksil!

The Working Years

For starters, my friend Ksils out there often don’t realize that legal employees like hardworking Gavriel Ha’Gvir are protected in various ways. For instance, if Gavriel would become injured while on the job he would receive Worker’s Compensation checks until he gets better. If he became disabled anywhere else he would receive disability checks. Further, I doubt my fellow Ksils understand that if Gavriel was laid off from his job he would receive unemployment compensation checks for many months. (I know, all these checks will not make him rich, but it does help to get through the tough times.)

Oh yes, Gavriel the legitimate worker has many layers of protection should things go sour. Us Ksils, on the other hand, will have no income at all when we were unable to work or lose our jobs. Yes, as long as we’re working, life is good. But the minute things turn south we’re in big trouble. There is no safety net.

The Senior Years

And things get even worse for those ‘off the bookers’ like me.

I am smart enough to realize that there will be a day when I will be too old to work. Perhaps when I am 65, perhaps 70. I better hope I am disciplined enough to save up money for those years. Ksils like me should not be expecting any Social Security checks every month. Nor should we expect Medicare to cover my hospital visits or nursing home stays.

Ah, but even the most disciplined Ksils among us who would love to create an egg nest for the golden years are faced with a most basic problem: Where do I invest the money?

You see, every Ksil knows that the last thing you want to do is to put your cash in the bank or brokerage firm. Otherwise, the obvious red flag will be raised: “Where did you earn that money?” Game over! So, we resort to trying to figure out ways to ‘get rid’ of the cash by spending it. And, our life savings can be found in fireproof boxes hidden under our beds, in our freezers, and behind dressers. How safe and reassuring!

The Practical

Because we Ksils have very low bank account balances and have limited usage of credit cards (since we spend our cash instead), we run into all sorts of problems when trying to lease a car or get a mortgage since our credit report is limited or nonexistent. (And forget about getting a bank loan if trying to open a business!)

Oh, and regarding buying a car or house, those sure can’t be registered under our name since that would mean letting the government know that we own assets, once again raising the obvious red flag: “Where did you earn that money?” Game over.

So, we Ksils reach out to family members and put the house under their name. Great plan, until you get into a dispute some years down the road and the legal owner evicts you from ‘his’ property! (I kid you not. These stories do happen!)

Of course, one of the most challenging problems for the Ksil community is even making the decision to move to a house in the first place. You see, because I live in a Section 8 apartment and save thousands of dollars in rent each year, I would have to be nuts to give that up and move to a house where I would need to start paying a monthly mortgage. The Section 8 apartment is where I will be with three, five, or eight kids. I am confined to it. I would not even move to another community if I feel the chinuch is better there because I can’t bring myself to give up a rent free apartment. The Section 8 apartment has effectively become my golden chains; my prison cell.

The Fear

But perhaps the most persistent and serious issue we Ksils face is fear. Fear of the IRS. Fear of the government agencies who whose programs we are exploiting. Fear of becoming disabled or losing our job and not having any income (as described earlier). And fear of a break-in while out of town and the thief making off with the box of all our cash life savings.

You surely heard about some of my friends from shul. Gershon Ha’Ganev is now part of the growing Ksil minyan in Otisville (they, unfortunately, have an impressive kehilla), Reuven Ha’Ramai is paying thousands of dollars to accountants to salvage his IRS audit (the accountants are not too hopeful), and Shimon Ha’Shakran has been receiving letters from the Medicaid office demanding $45,000 for the past few years when Reb Shimon was lying about his income.

Truth is, you may not have heard of them. People tend to push these types of things under the rug to avoid embarrassment for their family. Yes, the government agencies have been getting much smarter in recent years and these types of stories are unfortunately happening more frequently…

Will I be next?

The Conscience

And, there are those times that I actually think about what is morally right and wrong.

Yes, it does bother me for a few fleeting moments when I hear my rov talk against stealing from the government. It does trouble me when I put on a poker face and convince the yeshiva administrator that I haven’t got any money for tuition. And, my conscience tugs at me when I consider that my truly destitute neighbor’s kid will not be able to attend the local Head Start program this year because my child took his slot.

It occurs to me, on occasion, that perhaps life is about more than exploiting holes to crookedly receive a couple of extra bucks.

The Rut

So, I can hear you asking, if I am such a smart Ksil and know about the perils of living the ‘off the books’ life, why am I still doing it?

The answer, my friend, is that this lifestyle is like a drug. What begins as a short term plan ends up becoming a long term addiction. I, along with many of my Ksil friends, am stuck in the rut. Once you’re in the Ksil mode it is very difficult to get out of it.

What troubles me most is that my four children are growing up watching how I live. I am sure they inwardly laugh at the irony and hypocrisy when I tell them not to cheat in school or to speak the truth. Oh, how I hope they turn out better than me!

The Point

Well, now you know why we are called the “Ksils”. Unlike you, dear Chanoch Ha’Chochom, fools only see the here and now and do not anticipate future events. Like the tortoise who outruns the hare, those who play by the rules ultimately end up leading fulfilled, meaningful, and honorable lives.

I know, many Ksils out there will explain that they have figured out how to get around some of the issues I brought up. Some will point to other Ksils who made it through life without a problem. But that’s just how Ksils operate. Ksils believe they are the Chochom and are outsmarting the world. My my, how wrong they are…

So the next time you see a Ksil, please understand that he may have a very challenging and unfortunate life. More importantly, feel sorry for him that he most likely is not even aware of how bad his situation is!

Perhaps share this letter with him. He may still have time to straighten out his life.

“Answer a Ksil according to his foolishness, lest he view himself as a Chochom” (Mishlei 26:5)

Sincerely yours,

Kalman Ha’Ksil

Comments for the author may be sent to chanochhachochom@gmail.com.

29 Comments

  • 1. Zalman wrote:

    The author is very derogatory, borderline hateful. If the author’s intention is to help people live a life that he believes is more meaningful and productive, he could have and should have done it in a more compassionate and humanistic manner.

    Reply
  • 3. great letter to the wise wrote:

    It’s better to make more money legally and pay a bit more in taxes then to take all the governement hand outs and be stuck in a tiny rented apartment since your family won’t put the house in their name, since after all they may still have their own mortgage or already be a co signer with another family member. I see this happen all the time.

    Reply
  • 4. Confused wrote:

    The author is a total ksil!

    If the author is (as he writes himself): “Kalman Ha’Ksil”, then why do comments for the author may be sent to “chanoch HaChochom” (chanochhachochom@gmail.com)? Shouldn’t it be “kalmanhaksil@gmail.com?!

    What a ksil!

    Reply
    • 5. Ksil wrote:

      Pretty sure he made it clear he is a Ksil! ;)

      He’s acting the part.

  • 6. The Mosdos Chinuch.... wrote:

    ….that don’t pay their teachers enough to live on will not be able to say, “Yodeinu lo shofchu ess hadom hazeh.”

    But the teachers “should be happy that they get paid on time” or “be happy you’re even getting paid at all”.. That helps pay tuition bills that often exceed their salaries.

    And when they have to make a Simchah, or chas vesholom, some appliance breaks and needs replacing, they just put it on a credit card with no idea of how they will ever pay it….

    Not to say this justifies doing anything illegal, but when will the people in charge of the klei kodesh actually make it possible for them to be klei “kodesh”?

    The Rebbe says that the Mosad is supposed to take away the daagas haparnosoh from the melamdim so they can teach with menuchas hanefesh. Can the administration of any Mosad honestly say they are doing that?

    I challenge any Mosad to prove me wrong.

    Reply
  • 9. אִישׁ בַּעַר לֹא יֵדָע וּכְסִיל לֹא יָבִין אֶת זֹאת wrote:

    The author is a total ksil!

    If the author is (as he writes himself): “Kalman Ha’Ksil”, then why do comments for the author may be sent to “chanoch HaChochom” (chanochhachochom@gmail.com)? Shouldn’t it be “kalmanhaksil@gmail.com?!

    אִישׁ בַּעַר לֹא יֵדָע וּכְסִיל לֹא יָבִין אֶת זֹאת

    I may be an ish baar but u’ksil lo yovin es zos!

    Reply
  • 10. What's the use? wrote:

    Is the author trying to educate the ksil?

    The ksil despises knowledge and wishes to remain blissfully ignorant.

    כְסִילִים יִשְׂנְאוּ דָעַת

    Reply
  • 11. sarcasm wrote:

    perhaps speaking plainly would be more productive than this sarcasm.
    He makes good points, but hard to listen when its laced with sarcasm

    Reply
    • 13. I'll tell you why wrote:

      If he said it straight, the real phones would not have read it.
      The real truth is too painful and has to be sugar-coated with humor.
      I had a neighbor, a real ksil, not legally married, with several children, living with a Section 8 voucher, in her own husband’s co-op.
      She was raking in the benefits available to a single mother, living the High Life.
      Until.,.
      She got in a fight with her neighbor.
      The neighbor reported her crimes.
      Ksil was livid! How could a Yid turn moser!?!
      I asked her, what difference is there in her sin and in yours?
      She was a lucky ksil. She didn’t go to jail, but all her benefits ended. They lost thousands of dollars a month, the section 8 money, welfare, food stamps, school vouchers.
      Yup she was lucky. The investigator just closed her case instead of Prosecuting her and her husband for fraud.
      Still with your lying and cheating
      There is a din vcheshbon, and up there, they don’t just closed the case!

  • 14. Joke wrote:

    “So the next time you see a Ksil, please understand that he may have a very challenging and unfortunate life.”

    Is this meant to be a joke? This person is making a mockery of people that actually go out and work for a living and pay tazes and they think we should have rachmonos on them!!?? Seriously… How entitled are you?

    Reply
  • 15. Ready for a change wrote:

    This doesn’t even make sense and I’m wondering why it was even published on your site. Most of the poor Jews I know that are on Medicaid or Food stamps are on it because their brethren would rather have a heated sidewalk and go on an expensive vacation then give tzedaka. “Get a job!” you say to a disabled woman with children! “Excuse me, you’re in the way of my construction crew here to install my new heated sidewalk.” And then to top it off you accuse us of lying to the government because of your own greed and stinginess? Get a clue! New York needs a major overhaul with regards to treatment of the poor. This winter A homeless woman and her baby froze to death on a bench in the park and no one batted an eyelash!!!! It barely made the news. And yet the rich probably think, “she should have gotten a job.” A Roman once asked Rabbi Akiva “If your G-d loves poor people so much, then why doesn’t he just help them and give them money?” Rabbi Akiva answered him, “So that rich people will have the merit of giving tzedaka to the poor.”
    Time to do teshuva!

    Reply
    • 16. 2 wrongs don't make a right wrote:

      I agree that the rich could give more tzdakah (even the same$amount, but give it to needy community members and stop wasting it on luxury mikvas and 6 star Chabad houses).
      But that doesn’t mean it’s ok for the needy too long and cheat.

  • 17. Citizen Berel wrote:

    This is fantasy. There are no 75k salary positions off the books. Enterprises needing to layout that kind of money in salary are too profitable to risk their enterprise to save some money on employer taxes.

    The only work available off the books is garbage low profile moised work or fly by night e-commerce shops or clerical stuff out of the back office of some lawyer solo-practice, i.e, ~15 per hour * 40 hours * 4 weeks = 2400 per month * 12 = 28,880 a year.

    So you have 3 kids and get that on the books and die, or get if off the books and get help for tuition and food and survive. In either case, you will be working at least as hard as all these sanctimonious highbrows who when it comes to other yidden being able to send their kids to school get all dina demalchusa dina chassidush but gnash and wail about the Gurary tznius requirements.

    None of these people wish to stay in this situation and the majority of those whom I have know to be there ultimately graduated to 50-80k on the book wage slave, and I hope it isn’t they who get on these comments sections and wish for other yidden to go to jail.

    Those guys with millions in the bank who are reaping benefits are a statistical blip on the radar, the real Emanual Goldstein is your 30,000k a year off the books wage slave who is toiling to move up but trying to survive in the interim.

    Reply
    • 18. Ksil wrote:

      Mr. Berel,
      Here is a brief sample of jobs earning $75k off the books:

      construction (including electricians, plumbers etc.),

      car mechanics,

      musicians, speakers,

      some Rebbe/Rabbi jobs (including tutoring),

      many retail stores (including jewelry, nail/manicures, sheitels etc.)

      This is a SMALL sample of the available jobs that OFTEN pay / earn $75K off the books.

      What planet do you live on????

  • 21. Grateful we left wrote:

    I agree 100%. I have given this speech to so many families who want to go on welfare because they think it helps them when it doesn’t at all. Never mind breaking the law. We worked on the books our entire lives and paid thousands in taxes. Now $4500 monthly in SS. No it’s not going to disappear which is one of the arguments I hear. Just raise the age to take it which is smart anyone. Yes hurts credit.
    Mostly causes dependency.
    Great article

    Reply
    • 22. Citizen Berel wrote:

      Wait so you are an old timer who lived here when buying a house in CH was 1.5 to 3 times yearly median income and it was okay if you couldn’t afford tuition are telling our generation what we need and need not do to survive.

      You should have learnt more Torah, your wisdom is stale.

      There is no more section 8, you cannot live a Jewish life on government benefits anymore, the families that are claiming them, whether 100% legitimately or 60% legitimately, aren’t making it and are desperately fighting to move up onto to something else.

      This article teaches nobody, it’s a two minute hate ceremonial straw man burning which serves no end other than to stigmatize the hundreds of struggling families who are using the benefits to survive and level up and to make the silver spoon highbrows and fortunate made-my-selfs feel super duper about themselves.

      Picshers, the wealthy used to give money, now they give advice.

    • 23. Berel, citizen of where? wrote:

      There is STILL section 8 – in apartment buildings, where people like you live so you can save up money to buy $1M homes, while young kollel newlyweds can’t get in because people like you won’t get out! Till you save up your $1M to buy your home.
      Single Mom who worked hard and asked for tzedakah to educate my children instead of stooping to fraud.

  • 24. Great Article wrote:

    Everyone else posted great comments and true comments to their situation. It’s very doable to buy an a house for 500 rannge on the other side of the hospital. Essentially you can have your cake AND eat to to, but if your taking a lot of money off the books then you do’nt have much to show to the banks to get a mportgage. It does’nt matter how much you make, it matters how much it says on your taxes.

    Reply
  • 25. busy bubby wrote:

    So Citizen Beryl, what did frum Jews do to survive before welfare was made so available? How did they educate their children, keep Shabbos, and make simchas, yomtov, etc?

    Reply
  • 26. Grateful wrote:

    To # 16
    So struggling families out of corrupt Brooklyn in other states who only get paid on the books and have no choice. What do they do?
    If Hashem sees we are trying our best He will increase our parnassah. If we lie and cheat no natter the reason, why should He help? We gave figured it out and pay the price. Tuition and cost of living in many other states are much higher.

    Reply
  • 27. Mendel Hachochom to Ksil Author wrote:

    I happen to agree with your message, Mister self proclaimed Ksil author, but the story line you chose is just stupid and cringing. It appears that you made every effort to emphasize your immaturity. I can’t imagine why you would resort to a superbly moronic story line to convey a reasonable message.

    You’re concerned about others hiding their identity while you yourself won’t attribute your name to your own article. This is perhaps why you had no reservation publishing the most moronic story line ever. Had you put your name to the article you would have spent a little more time to realize how stupid and cringing the story line is.

    Reply
    • 28. Ksil wrote:

      You just proved that my method worked. My ” superbly moronic story line” got a reaction from you, even got you “cringing”, much more than simply preaching a vanilla but boring “reasonable message”.

    • 29. Identify yourself wrote:

      You are not Mr. Chochom.
      You too good your identity. And there’s nothing intelligent about what you wrote. No ideas for people to follow, no pointers for the brilliant author. Nadah.

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