We had never heard of Otisville until we moved here. We knew that there were specific prisons where frum people preferred to be sent but we didn’t know their names. Can you imagine what was just written— “Prisons that frum people preferred to be sentenced to.” Is this for real? Are we talking about people who are Shomer Mitzvot? Let us make this very clear. In our minds a person who is dishonest in any way is not Shomer Mitzvot. It does not matter how much money is donated to Jewish organizations, Yeshivot, gemachs or soup kitchens; if it comes from the hands of someone who has earned it illegally or dishonestly it should not be accepted.
Today on the TV we could not believe the photos of the FBI removing boxes and boxes of evidence from the homes of two gentlemen who live in Brooklyn. The men can be seen leaving the Brooklyn courthouse surrounded by their wives, who we are sure are wearing majorly expensive sheitels, with the accused wearing kaputas with their beards and peyos in full view. Their lawyers walking nearby. No one was even hiding their face as we often see criminals do when they are being televised.
How often do we have to be made aware of the number of people who profess to be extremely religious who are on their way to their trials and in most cases then onto their way to jail? Just several days ago a case was reported of a “chassid” on an El Al flight who was arrested as soon as the plane landed at Newark airport, accused of groping a young frum teenager. This individual, whose name is Oberlander, has already had two previous convictions. How many more times will he offend before he is permanently locked up?
Several weeks ago the topic of conversation was Sheldon Silver, who has done “so much good for his constituents.” When one of his methods was disclosed as to how he got and offered favors, the sympathy of the community waned. “What, Sheldon Silver, how can that be?”
What lesson are these “Tzadikim” teaching their children? These little lies begin slowly. It starts when a family is driving across the border and lies to the customs inspector are told. “No, we didn’t buy anything for more than $100.” As the car pulls away, a child or a teenager sitting in the backseat asks of his father, “What of the iPhone we bought in the Apple Store in Montreal ’cause the exchange made it so inexpensive for us?” Dad or Tattie laughs and says “Oh, I forgot to tell the man.”
Recently a bus bringing friends and family to Montreal to attend a well-known family’s wedding was stopped at the border. We happened to be driving across the border at the same time and we thought that this bus had broken down. We rolled down our windows and asked if we could help in some way. We were told that the bus was stopped because a lady on the bus was caught smuggling into Canada 30 brand-new wigs of a well-known brand. She was bringing them to her friend who sells them in Montreal. That act is called smuggling. What are we teaching our children and the rest of the world? Our look appears righteous on the outside but where are our values and our ethics and morals on the inside?
We are heartbroken every time we hear these tales of our fellow Jews being involved in so many dishonest ventures. We know that it is a fact that the amount of chesed and tzedakah that happen on a daily basis throughout the Jewish world is unmatchable. Yet, that there is even a joke passed around by many that Otisville is not so bad because it offers Daf Yomi, minyanim and kosher food does not belong in the realm of our life. There can be nothing luxurious about any prison. The question is how do we get people to realize that what they have in life is wonderful without always having to strive for something more that in most cases is out of reach unless illegal means are used? Most importantly, it is a chilul hashem—it should not happen!
By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick