Rabbi allegedly stole funds from special needs school
Rabbi Osher Eisemann, 60, above, of Lakewood in New Jersey, has been indicted for stealing $630,000 worth of public tuition money from a special needs school that he founded – and used much of the cash to invest in a clothing business.
The tuition funds, according to this report, were meant to go towards students at the institution he runs, the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence, New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino said in a statement.
SCHI receives approximately $1.8 million each month in tuition from the Lakewood school district and other school districts that send their students to Eisemann’s school, Porrino said.
He accused Eisemann of creating an extra source of funding, a fundraising foundation called Services for Hidden Intelligence, which raised $430,000 for his clothing company – TAZ Apparel, which has since folded
By allegedly stealing public funds that were strictly earmarked for the education of special needs students, Rabbi Eisemann broke the law, violated the public’s trust, and betrayed the vulnerable population of children served by SCHI.
Eisemann also was accused of laundering $200,000, making it look like he was repaying school funds with personal money.
His attorney, Lee Vartan, said:
Rabbi Eisemann has never taken any SCHI funds for his personal use, and we strongly deny that there was any ill intent in the use of SCHI funds. We look forward to the complete exoneration of both SCHI and Rabbi Eisemann in this investigation.
The rabbi will be ordered to appear in court at a later date to be arraigned. He is currently facing second-degree charges of theft by misapplication of entrusted property and money laundering.
This report prompted me to look deeper into Lakewood, and I uncovered four deeply disturbing facts about the town:
• It is a magnet to ultra-Orthodox Jews who are putting heavy pressure on local inhabitants to sell their homes to them. One homeowner in adjacent Toms River was told by an Haredi estate agent “We’re ready to buy the whole neighborhood. Why would you want to live with us?” Ultra-Orthodox Jews now constitute more than 60 percent of Lakewood’s population of 100,000. Only Brooklyn, with 300,000, has a larger Haredim population in the US than Lakewood
• Lakewood has more than 100 yeshivas for elementary and high school students. Around 25,000 children are in religious schools supported in part by public funding while only 6,000 children are in public schools.
• Lakewood must foot the bill to bus these children to faith schools in the town, and faces a $15-m budget shortfall.
• Lakewood has hundreds of tax-exempt yeshivas, synagogues and other religious properties owned by the Orthodox Jewish community. Together, these religious and charitable properties totaled nearly $597 million in assessed value in 2015, the equivalent of $5.1 million in lost local tax revenue.
• In Lakewood, 4,000 children were born in 2013 year into a Haredi population of perhaps 10,000 to 12,000 families. The fertility rate of the Jewish population of Lakewood is nearly four times that of the residents of Jersey City and Newark, two far larger municipalities in the Garden State. Each year, more classes have to be added to local Jewish day schools to accommodate the swelling population, according to a Commentary article written in support of ultra-Orthodox Jews by Jack Wertheimer.
Wertheimer wrote that Haredim have are reviled by “modern” Jews who see them as parasites who have made the choice to sustain their lifestyle – and large families – by working the system to obtain government support. Significant percentages of Haredim in the US collect food stamps, and benefit from Section 8 rent assistance, Medicaid, and other subsidies.
He quoted Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, as saying:
It is unconscionable that there exists [among the Haredim] this idea that work and army service are beneath them, and the rest of society which they hold in contempt must work and pay higher taxes in order to support them [so] they should sit and learn.
Why would a ‘secular’ Jew be attracted to a ‘Torah’ lifestyle that purports to demand estrangement from the general society, a cloistered abode, a rejection of general knowledge, an inability to function in the presence of women, a disdain for gainful employment and self-support? … It doesn’t seem very attractive, except for one who wants to escape from the world.