Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Billions, Millions, Rabbis and Concubines

First, apologies, in the item I sent yesterday about the Rabbi
Tycoons there was a misprint. The wealthiest rabbi in the Forbes list
is supposed to have 1.3 billion NIS, whereas I had written 1.3
million. It would be too much to expect an economics prof to be able
to get his basic numbers correct! Did I mention I have trouble making
exact change on the bus?

Second, when challenged by other journalists about their data,
which I believe are all fictional, the Forbes team in Israel that
wrote the report are mumbling and evasive. According to this web site
- they are claiming: "The value of the rabbinical communities are
based on interviews and conversations with scores of officials from
the rabbinical communities by experts on the haredi (ultra-orthodox)
communities, the Israel Police, assessors, and various haredi sources.
Current and former Israel Tax Authority officials also contributed to
the rankings." Elsewhere they note that the ex-officials from the tax
offices and the police with whom they spoke just advised them on
Israeli rules governing tax evasion and money laundering in general
and had no information about the rabbis. In any case, it would a
serious felony to pass on information from the income tax offices
about individuals to anyone and it is doubtful any ex-officials there
could even get the information. All the other "sources" listed in the
above quote are nameless (remind you of Barry Chamish's "journalism"?)
and none of them could possibly have any real information about the
wealth of those rabbis. In my opinion, all the "sources" mentioned by
Forbes are fictional. As I discussed in the previous posting, the
writer of the Forbes article seems pretty clearly to have a personal
or family ax to grind with the rabbis named, many of whom are from the
rival Abuhatzeira clan.

Third, most of the rabbis on the Forbes list are Moroccan Jewish
"kabbalists." Moroccan Jews have a tradition of following charismatic
Rabbis, the most famous of whom use honorary titles that begin with
the word "Baba," a bit like "ADMOR" among Ashkenazim. There was the
Baba Sali and the Baba Baruch. Baba means Rabbi, not to be confused
with the Yiddish Bubby. Number five on the Forbes list is one Nir Ben
Artzi, who is not an ordained rabbi at all. Ben-Artzi was a young
tractor driver who supposedly had mystical visions while driving his
tractor and set up a little cult with a movement of followers. Cynics
(like me) call him the Baba Tractor.

Lest anyone suspect that I have any hidden dislike for North
African Jews, let me point out for the record that my concubine's
maiden name is Ohana, a common name among North African Jews. Ok, to
come clean, my concubine is really also my wife – they are the same
person. I just like to call her my concubine because it makes both of
us feel younger and sexy, and she lets me get away with it as long as
I do the hoovering and wash the dishes.

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