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August 28, 2015 / 13 Elul, 5775
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Holy Smokes, Rabbi


Holy Smokes

Holy Smokes
Photo Credit: Yori Yanover

Love a good NY Post headline, even when my initial reaction is to hide my face in shame and stay under the covers for a week. Anyway, let’s roll out the dirty laundry, so you won’t have to:

According to the State, Rabbi Meshulam Rothschild, 26, was moving about 3,600 cartons a week of illegal cigarettes with no tax stamps out of his warehouse on Spencer Street in Williamsburg. At $50 a carton in taxes, that’s a very nice income, although not so steady, it turns out…

Whenever I run into stories with religious Jews who get caught with their fingers in the cookie jar I experience the obvious conflict between reporter and Jew, which turns out differently each time, surprisingly enough. But whenever the Jew with the jar is a Hasid, I simply hate it. Because you can’t illustrate or picture a Jewish man in a huge beard and 17th century attire without coming across antisemitic. Which is why, after going over a large assortment of images of smoking Hasidim I opted for the mute and generic illustration you see here. I’m a coward, so sue me.

The Post witnessed his arrest in a raid earlier this month by the Brooklyn DA’s office and Feds from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Rothschild, a member of the Pupa Hasidic sect (stuff that one in your pipe and smoke it?), allegedly purchased the untaxed cigarettes in Virginia and then peddled them to bodegas and shops in Chinatown and elsewhere in the city.  Also arrested in the scheme were three members of the same family, a father, a son and a nephew. Altogether 23 people were busted for beating the state and city out of more than $2 million in cigarette taxes.

But maybe it was all worth it just for the headline: ‘Holy smokes! Rabbi in cig-tax bust’. Is Batman’s Robin working for Rupert Murdoch during the day? Does that, then, mean the Rupert is Batman? Stay tuned!

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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