Seething Hatred and Vitriol against Shomrim by NY Post Columnist

Michael Lesher, a Jewish attorney from Passaic New Jersey, took to the pages of the New York Post to publish a column of unabashed hate and seething venom against Brooklyn’s Shomrim patrols. In his column he refers many times to Shomrim as “unskilled and ill-equipped” and “vigilantes”, asking if ‘anyone’ thinks the Shomrim’s “do the city a better service?”

by Michael Lesher – NY Post

Orthodox cops: Separate and unequal

Earlier this month, a horrified New York City reeled under the news that 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky, a Hasidic boy in Brooklyn’s Borough Park, had been abducted on his way home from a nearby day camp and, the next evening, smothered to death and dismembered by his captor, who was also an Orthodox Jew.

The public got a second shock when it learned that Leiby’s disappearance was only belatedly reported to the police, and that a privately run, Orthodox Jewish “patrol” called Shomrim reportedly had video evidence that went unused during the crucial hours before the murder, while untrained Jewish laymen tried to handle the investigation themselves.

And now comes what ought to be shock No. 3: Jewish vigilante groups like Shomrim, unskilled and ill-equipped for police work, and all too often driven by religious proscriptions to keep their community’s crimes out of the public eye, are being paid to interfere with the authorities by New York City taxpayers — through the generous offices of some City Council members.

The council’s just-finalized budget for 2012 includes more than $130,000 in “member item” donations to private Orthodox Jewish pseudo-police — gifts of taxpayer money that were personally authorized by Democratic Brooklyn City Councilmen Lewis Fidler, David Greenfield, Brad Lander and Stephen Levin. Remember that these Jewish patrols operate only in a few Brooklyn neighborhoods and answer to the needs of only one religious community.

Why, then, are city legislators doling out increasingly scarce public funds to help Jewish gendarmes compete with the NYPD?

I am an Orthodox Jew; I am also a lawyer with an extensive record of advocacy for victims of child abuse. And I have a message for politicians who curry favor with Jewish voting blocs by helping to fund their private patrols: Don’t do it.

It’s bad government, and bad law enforcement practice, to share taxpayer money with religion-based groups whose contribution to police work is doubtful at best and whose priorities may well conflict with the law.

Not so long ago, a warning against government funding for vigilantes would have been needless. When Curtis Sliwa founded the Guardian Angels in 1979, New York City officials, including then-Mayor Ed Koch, didn’t want them in New York City at all; those young idealists would have been laughed all the way across the Hudson if they’d had the temerity to ask City Council for handouts.

Does anyone truly believe that Orthodox Jewish vigilantes like the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol, the Williamsburg Safety Patrol and the Shmira Civilian Volunteer Patrol of Borough Park — all of them on the take for budget dollars in 2012 — do the city a better service?

One of the publicly stated purposes of the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol is to deal with “bias crimes.” That’s doubtless a worthy goal, but one hardly expects a patrol run exclusively by a single religious group to be expert in enforcing anti-discrimination laws.

To put it another way: If the Nation of Islam were to set up a private force of Muslims, ostensibly to scour Harlem for “bias crimes,” would City Council members be heaping public money into its coffers?

Orthodox Jewish-run law enforcement is not only an inevitably one-sided affair; there’s considerable evidence that its role can be harmful even to members of its own community. Traditional rabbinic authority — which dominates Orthodox decision-making — remains skeptical of reporting crimes allegedly committed by Jews to the police, even when (as in Leiby Kletzky’s case) the victims are also Jews.

Consider the “Kol Tzedek” program announced, with much fanfare, by Brooklyn prosecutors in April 2009 in conjunction with the Orthodox bulwark Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services agency. According to District Attorney Charles Hynes, the initiative was “aimed at helping sex-crime victims in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish communities report abuse . . . to secular authorities.”

But when Ohel announced the same program in its own promotional newsletter, it carefully excised from the DA’s press release every reference to police, prosecutors or the reporting of crimes — a move that was especially disturbing from an agency dogged for years by allegations of shirking its own obligation to report suspected child abuse.

For its insult to the DA and his stated law enforcement policy, Ohel was rewarded with $900,000 in federal “earmarks” for fiscal year 2010, approved by then-Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Ohel’s oil-and-water attitude toward secular law enforcement is no fluke; at the very moment volunteers were frantically combing Brooklyn for the missing Leiby Kletzky, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, one of America’s most influential Orthodox authorities, emphasized at a conference that child sexual abuse allegedly committed by a Jew must be reported first to a rabbi, who then decides whether police should be contacted.

Rabbi Kamenetsky’s word is law to most of the Brooklyn Orthodox Jews who run patrols like Shomrim. Yet, in many cases, following his directives on child abuse would violate New York’s mandatory reporting statute.

Moreover, if Orthodox patrol members use a threat of force to discourage a Jewish victim from going to the police, based on a similar understanding of rabbinic law, they are violating federal civil rights statutes.

There’s already more than enough evidence that current Orthodox practice is unacceptable under applicable legal standards. New York police have criticized Shomrim groups for failing to notify them of some of the calls their operators receive; in fact, it has been widely reported that the Jewish patrols regularly withhold information on suspected child molesters if they are Jewish.

Death threats, signed by dozens of rabbis, appeared some years ago in a Yiddish Brooklyn newspaper against anyone who “informs” on a fellow Jew to secular authorities. And although an amateur detective from the Bobov Hasidic sect is now being touted as the Sherlock Holmes who ultimately led police to Leiby Kletzky’s killer, leading members of that same community participated in a systematic cover-up of a serious case of alleged child abuse in 2000, involving not only efforts to silence the alleged victim and his family, but even direct lobbying of the District Attorney’s Office, which dropped all charges after a group of rabbis pressured prosecutors with highly questionable “evidence.” (Co-writer Amy Neustein and I documented this in detail in a recent book.)

Despite all this, taxpayer-funded largesse to Jewish patrols is becoming a New York City tradition. In 2009, the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol got itself a lavishly outfitted $250,000 “mobile security command center” with “hefty grants from the City Council and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz,” according to founder Chaim Deutsch. The 22-foot-long vehicle is equipped with a conference room, computers, a fax machine, a color copier and a flat-panel television screen.

Do you like the idea that New York City residents, Jewish and non-Jewish, paid a quarter of a million dollars to give those resources to an organization whose members may have to ask a rabbi before telling police about a possible crime?

I am sure the great majority of people who serve in Orthodox patrols are honest and dedicated folks who do their best to ensure the safety of their communities. But government handouts for groups like Shomrim is one tradition New York would be much better off without.

26 Comments

  • 1. umm... wrote:

    I wouldn’t say it’s seething hatred. It’s an outsider’s view, and some of the points he is making are the same ones this very website have been stressing in the recent past. Given the comments by a leading Rav and Gadol, Rabbi Kamenetsky, and given the history our collective communities have with child abuse, as evidenced in the recent arrest of one of our own, you can understand why an outsider would be concerned. In fact, you may start to become concerned yourself!

    The problem is, his attack shouldn’t have been aimed at Shomrim, who do more than anyone to combat these issues. It should have been focused on the root of the problem, which are our leaders’ approach towards dealing with the problems (or lack thereof).

  • 2. sweetheart wrote:

    Sweetheart, the proof s in the pudding. Besides the above Leiby would still be missing if it were not for that command center. So yes I like the idea!

  • 3. MaDDinBklyn wrote:

    Another know it all religious “Jew” who doesn’t give a damn about about the millions in grants given to other organizations of different faiths and denominations, but jumps through hoops to display his grievance with the Shomrim through the New York Post for all it’s readers to see, (and shamefully using the tragic Lieby Kletzky story) because what pisses him off is that Jews are getting grants to help and protect other Jews. (classic Jewish liberal, self hating, guilty conscious, I want to be a victim, I only want those goyim to protect me syndrome.) There is no real reason or point to his article. If it wasn’t hateful they would have no reason to publish it. throw him into history with the rest of the Jew hating dogs.

  • 4. slanderous wrote:

    Wow, I’m not a fan of Shomrim (not an enemy either) but this article is pure slanderous. The author selectively chooses the facts to bolster his own bias.

    And during the three weeks.

  • 5. dev wrote:

    You should post your comments on the actual article in the new york post. not such positive comments there…

  • 6. taken out of context.... wrote:

    He’s not saying “don’t fund this group” – he’s saying don’t fund it with taxpayer money.
    Anytime you take moneies from municipal sources – (eg-taxes), you must justify where and how this money was spent, and how this serves all residents of that municipality.
    This is the case with private funds also, but, the difference is you don’t have to show how it benefits ALL residents of that community.
    If these groups would be functioning as a branch of the NYPD, he would have absolutely nothing to say.
    Taxpayer money is taxpayer money – regardless who pays it.
    Kiryas Yoel was able to use it to their advantage – because they ARE the municipality. Here, yidden are unfortunately NOT the only residents of Borough Park, Williamsburg, Flatbush etc. etc.

  • 7. crown heights woman wrote:

    btw i think every single woman should carry pepper spray theres a great deal on froobi.com for $3.75 today i got one

  • 8. 1bigcholent wrote:

    This is an Example Of How To Make A Cholent Of An Article.

    Ingredients for a great Cholent of an article :

    1) Mix up the facts.

    2) Mix up the issues.

    3) Blame/target the wrong people.

    4) Make absolutely no sense.

    5) Add a little bit of hate, jealousy and envy.

  • 9. DaasTorah wrote:

    You folks in NY/NJ have a lot of drama going on. Why don’t you go back to Eretz Yisroel and end the drama?

  • 10. Yehuda wrote:

    Where is the seething hate? All I see is a well reasoned piece, which you may happen to disagree with. If someone has a different view than you, it doesn’t mean they hate you.

    The point of this piece is simple: Shomrim shouldn’t be getting government funds, being that their self serving goals cause them to – at times – not follow the law 100%. Sounds reasonable to me.

  • 11. Way to go wrote:

    I really agree with this article. It makes me sick that Rabbis would even think to say they should decide what gets reported to police. They are COMPLETELY UNTRAINED and UNEDUCATED when it comes to abuse. Would you take your car to a Rabbi to be fixed? Your refrigerator? Then why ask him about law enforcement?

  • 12. Anon wrote:

    MaDDinBklyn,

    The issue Is a volunteer patrol which mostly caters to a select group at the taxpayer’s expense, the majority of which don’t know of their existence and are not serviced by them.

    He is right, it IS bad government. The way it’s currently set up allows for financial and political corruption. Get a dictionary and look up “liberal” before throwing the term around at issues that aren’t.

    “I only want those goyim to protect me syndrome”
    That would apply to you considering taxpayers also consist of Goyim. Pot. Kettle. Black.

  • 13. Wheres Waldo? wrote:

    You know what I find interesting? Why is it that only three Shomrims are mentions; Flatbush, Borough Park and Williamsburg, but not Crown Heights!

    Could it be that Crown Heights are just smart enough not to touch toxic Govt. funds? Or is it because the CHJCC and Shmira suck it all up and we – the people – never get to see any of it used for our advantage.

    I wonder, how does Shomrim have all those three wheeled buggys and that massive office truck thingy without any Govt. money!

    Crown Heights Shomrim is a leading example of doing without demanding in return, and through that making a proper Kiddush Hashem, and actually making me – for one – feel safer.

  • 14. Running for office? wrote:

    This is what happens when the economy is in recession and money is tight Lesher must have income issues or running for a public office and he is taking it out on Brooklyn Jews that are far from his comfortable NJ home.

    Perhaps a Passaic govt position in his future plans?

  • 15. Money well spent wrote:

    To Anon:

    If the B.P. Shomrim were not active then one would have a complaint of “where is the money?”
    But Baroch Hashem they are active helping others [we hear about it, we see it].

    As for only helping the Jewish community.

    Baroch Hashem the Jewish community in B.P. is larger then Yirushlyim and $130,000 to service that amount of people is not much money. Let’s just say this, it’s money well spent.

    On the other hand, here in CH the CHJCC gets millions of dollars in government funds yet we don’t know where one of those dollars were spent (in helping someone/anyone).
    Read more here: http://whoisshmira.wordpres

    Personally, I would rather not take any grants from tax payers money, that way I don’t owe anybody anything, don’t have to answer to anybody and everybody could go jump.

    As for the person who wrote the above article:

    Has he focused on this one issue of how tax payers money is being used, then I would fully agree. But he did not. The writer did make a Cholent of an article, mixing various issues (Molestation, Shomrim, Money etc..), which frankly gives the impression as if hes ranting, angry and jealous.

    Had he stuck with one argument, he could have been convincing.

  • 16. one who was saved by Shomrim CH wrote:

    I hope this so-called Orthodox Jewish writer never needs Shomrim’s services. He’ll have to eat crow after he is helped. What a nasty article…talk about causing more anti-semitism & right before the 9 Days. Who needs the goyim to kill us when we have Jews doing it through the power of the pen?

    I ask him: how many MILLIONS in grants have Jesse Jackson’s, Al Sharpton’s & Louis Farrakhan’s YM“S ”organizations“ received in City, State & Federal funds? That’s OK…and they certainly only help ”their kind” whereas Shomrim helps everybody in need.

    I hope Lesher’s Rabbi & community take him to task for this.

  • 17. Rebecca wrote:

    It’s up to each individual to decide to call 911 or not.
    Anyone who sticks his neck out to help others is always criticized, whether they belong to Shomrim, another organization, or act by them selves.
    Stay home under your bed and do nothing if you don’t want to be criticized.
    I thank G-d for Shomrim.

  • 18. anonymous wrote:

    I dont understand where shomrim of Crown heights get any money from those taxpayers, Also think before you say anything unless you saw them holding that evedence from the police dont say it. Loshen hora is a horible thing. It causes damage to all. dont listen and talk

  • 19. to number 1 wrote:

    for your information one of the things a rov must learn is dayonus (JUDGING) so ahhhhh ya A RABBI IS A JUDG you moron.

  • 20. Debbie wrote:

    The Jewish Week had a similar article which Ami Magazine attacked in two or three articles this week.

  • 23. Knows wrote:

    Lesher davens in Beis Menachem of Passaic with Rabbi Y. David Smith. Perhaps someone should make a phone call to Rabbi Smith.

  • 24. ld wrote:

    the fact is that cops take so long to show up! this is y we have shomrim in the first place

  • 25. Brooklyn, NY wrote:

    Kinda stupid that a guy who doesn’t live in Brooklyn, or even in New York, is opining on the subject. Why is he so worried about other people’s tax dollars?

  • 26. James wrote:

    The laws of secular democracy should prevail in every inch of land the American flag flies over.All candidates for public office must affirm that they acknowledge that America is a secular democracy.And acknowledge that they will fulfill their obligation to uphold secular democracy.The district attorney’s office must promise to prosecute anyone who fails to report crimes of that magnitude to the fullest extent of the law.Those who refuse to cooperate in investigations,or give testimony,must be held in contempt of court.

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