An Israeli court this morning released for publication the news that the police Internal Affairs unit, known here as Dept. of Policemen Investigation, is looking into suspicions that Commander Menashe Arviv, appointed only last September chief of the prestigious anti-organized crime Lahav 433 unit – was bribed.
According to Yedioth, one of my favorite foundations of Israel’s democracy, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich, congratulated Arviv on his appointment, saying: “I ask of you to treat them with force, it is a mitzvah to do so. In this war there is only one winner, and that is the police.”
He probably shouldn’t have mentioned the mitzvah thing, because, next thing you know, Arviv is being accused of being bribed by receiving favors from sources close to Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, a cabalist from a long line of miracle workers, also know as “a rabbi to the rich and famous.”
At this point there’s still a court gag order on the nature of the favors the crime fighter received from the mystic, but we’ve been led to understand the latter has turned state’s evidence in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
I’m not saying that’s what happened, but the idea of a meeting between a wired cabalist and a straying police commander is the stuff Hollywood movies are made of.
Commander Arviv, who is yet to be interrogated, met yesterday with Commissioner Yohanan Danino—one of the original founders of Lahav 433—and informed him he was taking a much needed vacation. He also told anyone who would listen that this is a libel, which the coming investigation would surely prove.
Except that it doesn’t look like anyone is doing a big investigation, seeing as Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, another great democrat, simply got one of the two suspects in the stinky affair to admit he did it together with the other—in exchange for walking away scot-free. The narrative is already in place, then, and the cops are now only searching for corroborating evidence. Unless he gets a really sharp lawyer, it looks like Arviv is done for.
But there’s more to the case than favors from one rabbi to his policeman. Israel’s Forbes richest rabbis list quotes Rabbi Pinto’s wealth at $21-million, give or take. according to press reports, Pinto is connected to the leaders of NY City’s real estate industry, including, most notably, executives in Metropolitan Real Estate Investors and Prudential Douglas Elliman. His devoted followers include Jay Schottenstein, chairman of the American Eagle Outfitters clothing company, real-estate mogul Jacky Ben-Zaken, 5W Public Relations owner Ronn Torossian, Congressman Michael Gerard Grimm (R, Staten Island), and even basketball player LeBron James of the Miami Heat.
And, until his fortunes changed so radically, former Congressman Anthony Weiner.
Rabbi Pinto is a deal maker, an influence-peddler, admired by people with staggering amounts of money as “something between a guru and a Chasidic rebbe,” and useful to all of them in more than just spiritual advice.
All of the above is not what one would normally expect from a rabbi, but Pinto is no ordinary rabbi, and, as long as he continues to do good in the world—he has founded yeshivas and is supporting several others, as part of a global movement called Mosdot Shuva Israel—he shouldn’t have to apologize for knowing wealthy people.
Food preparation at a soup kitchen run by Rabbi Pinto’s charity in Ashdod. Photo by Yaakov Naumi/Flash90.
But there are cracks in that picture, through which we see flashes of the good rabbi’s skirting the line between what’s legal and what’s suspect.