Anti-Semitic incidents jolt New Jersey town buffeted by welfare scam

A Holocaust memorial outside a synagogue in Lakewood, New Jersey, was covered with an anti-Semitic banner on Sunday, hours after anti-Semitic flyers were found placed on car windshields in the area. Both had a link to the same white supremacist website.

The Anti-Defamation League tweeted an image of the monument, which is outside the Congregation Sons of Israel synagogue, draped with a white cloth banner emblazoned with an anti-Semitic term for Jews. “Heebs will not divide us,” it read.

The banner included a link to the website of “Vanguard America,” a white supremacist group.

“Brazen anti-Semitic hate on full display as #Holocaust memorial in #Lakewood is defaced,” ADL tweeted. The group’s tweet itself drew further anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying responses on Twitter.

View image on Twitter

Brazen anti-Semitic hate on full display as memorial in  is defaced

New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino described the act as “sickening,” and offered a reward of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

This is sickening. $10k reward for bias crime info and conviction. Please help: http://www.nj.gov/oag/bias/  or call 1-877-277-2427 with tips https://twitter.com/adl_nj/status/881567556041138176 

Earlier, anti-Semitic leaflets with the same web address were distributed throughout Lakewood, which has a very large ultra-Orthodox Jewish population.

The flyers followed the arrest of several local Jewish couples on charges of benefit fraud. The poster had photos of some of those arrested and warned of “thieving Jews near you.”

“These Jews, including a rabbi, lied about their income in order to steal millions in public benefits,” the flyer read.

It then went on to state that “1.4% of the American population is Jewish. 48% of American billionaires are Jewish. Does crime pay for Jews?” It ended with a link to the Vanguard America website.

Gregory Meyer, head of the Lakewood police force, said the incidents were likely connected to the arrests.

“We do believe that this recent rash of anti-Semitic incidents is directly related to the recent arrests in our town,” he said, according to the Asbury Park Press. “We have not had any other incidents before.”

In August, swastikas and “Heil Hitler” grafitti was found at a Jewish school in the town.

Illustrative: A swastika spray-painted at a playground in Lakewood, New Jersey, August 2016. (APP)

Ultra-Orthodox Jews are thought to make up 60 percent of Lakewood’s population of around 100,000.

Since 1943, the suburb has been the home of the Beth Medrash Govoha, one of the world’s largest yeshivas with a student body of about 6,500.

Students at the Beth Medrash Govoha yeshiva in Lakewood, New Jersey. (YouTube screenshot)

At least seven couples in the community’s ultra-Orthodox community were arrested last week on charges of illegally obtaining some $2 million in government benefits. Some of the couples are alleged to have hidden millions of dollars in assets while collecting Medicaid and other benefits.

Seven couples were arrested last week in Lakewood, including Rabbi Zalmen Sorotzkin, of Congregation Lutzk, and his wife, Tzipporah.

Three of the couples — Yitzchock and Sora Kanarek, Chaim and Liatt Ehrman, and William and Faigy Friedman — were released without bail after appearing through video conference in state court Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately clear if they had attorneys who could comment on their behalf.

Three Lakewood couples arrested on charges of benefits fraud, June 28, 2017. (Courtesy of Ocean County Jail)

Prosecutors say the three couples misrepresented their income and then collected more than $674,000 in benefits. They say the couples failed to disclose income from numerous sources on applications for Medicaid, housing, Social Security and food assistance benefits.

Yitzchock Kanarek previously ran a school in Lakewood for special-needs students that closed in 2015 after facing more than $250,000 in federal and state tax liens, according to public records.

“It really bothers me when people take advantage of programs like this,” Lakewood Mayor Ray Coles told the Asbury Park Press. “I have a waiting list of Section 8 (housing assistance) vouchers of maybe 2,000 families that really need it. I hate to see things like this.”

Duvi Honig, who leads the Lakewood-based Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, told the newspaper that thousands of Jewish families in Lakewood need public assistance but some are tempted to take more than they need.

Six Lakewood residents accused of benefits fraud appear in Ocean County Superior Court via video conference, June 28, 2017. (Screen capture: Asbury Park Press video)

“The pressure of the community overhead — especially the (cost of) private schooling — is unsustainable,” he said. “People are forced to find ways to bend the system.”

Lakewood is the state’s fastest growing town and has more than 100 private religious schools. The population increase has intensified concern over how public money is spent and sparked complaints from neighboring communities that say they face overly aggressive solicitation from real estate agents looking to find homes for the Jewish community.

The town had nearly 93,000 residents in 2010, up from about 32,000 more than a decade earlier, according to census figures. Lakewood officials estimate the population is now closer to 120,000 residents.

The Sorotzkins were charged with collecting more than $338,000 in benefits prosecutors say they weren’t entitled to. Their attorney said they will plead not guilty.

They were charged in state court along with Mordechai and Jocheved Breskin, who prosecutors said collected more than $585,000 in benefits they weren’t entitled to.

Zalmen Sorotzkin’s brother, Mordechai, and his wife, Rachel, were one of two couples charged in separate federal complaints with conspiring to fraudulently obtain Medicaid benefits.

Orthodox Jews in Lakewood, New Jersey. (Screen capture: YouTube)

They made more than $1 million in 2012 and in 2013, the complaint alleges, but still received more than $96,000 in Medicaid benefits, including $22,000 to pay for medical expenses when their sixth child was born in November 2013.

“Everything is going to work out and all will be vindicated,” said Rachel Sorotzkin’s attorney, Fred Zemel.

According to a federal complaint, Yocheved and Shimon Nussbaum hid their income by creating companies that were run by relatives on paper but that the couple actually controlled. They made a total of $1.8 million in 2013, but still received Medicaid, food benefits and housing assistance into 2014, prosecutors said.

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