Last month, when federal agents arrested five rabbis from the Syrian Jewish community, including Chief Rabbi Saul Kassin, on charges that they used religious charities to launder money for their congregants, some were reminded of a similar 2007 case involving the Spinka sect. Yesterday, the Grand Rabbi of Spinka, Naftali Tzi Weisz, entered his guilty plea in a Los Angeles federal court to one count of conspiracy to evade the IRS and illicitly launder $8.4 million through Spinka charitable organizations, in exchange for a $744,000 cut for the community’s benefit. Weisz, who is based in Brooklyn, gave a surprise apology last week at a community forum, demanding that the community promise to stop engaging in tax evasion—perhaps an effort at softening up the judge, who may give the rabbi up to a five-year prison sentence in November.
Meanwhile, New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie—who as the U.S. Attorney in Newark oversaw the two-year investigation of the Syrian Jewish community—met yesterday with Orthodox leaders from around the state in an apparent effort to head off any political fallout from the case. Polls show Christie, a Republican, holding a 14-point lead over Democratic incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine—but Corzine last week added self-described “feisty Jewish grandmother” Loretta Weinberg to his ticket. According to a press release from the Orthodox Union, which brokered the meeting, Christie reminded the assembled rabbis of his anti-terrorism and security prosecutions—and, not incidentally, promised to support tax credits for Orthodox families in the cities of Elizabeth, Lakewood, and Passaic. As they say in the drug wars: legalization is one way to cut crime.
Rabbi Fraud Case in Los Angeles Echoes N.J. Scandal [Bloomberg]
N.J. Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Meets With Orthodox Jewish Leadership [VoxIsNeias]
Related: Crisis of Faith [Tablet]