Hours after leaving the hospital, his wounded hands wrapped in blue bandages, Chabad Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who survived the Poway synagogue shooting, steeled himself to face the national media and delivered an emotional account of the attack.
In the days following the shooting, the whole of America empathised with the Rabbi, he ticked all the right boxes: a Jew, a victim, a survivor. The American President invited him to the White House, CNN let him speak his mind, the UN General Assembly offered the rabbi a platform so he could moan about the history of Jewish suffering. The Rabbi didn’t miss an opportunity to shout: “Am Yisrael Chai, the nation of Israel is alive, do not fear and do not falter, Because God is protecting us and we will survive, we will grow and get stronger and stronger…” The Rabbi was correct, the nation of Israel is alive and kicking, but his message was hardly universal or inclusive.
Our Chabad rebbe didn’t manage to maintain his reputation for long. This week most American news outlets reported that the “Rabbi Shot in Poway Synagogue Attack pleaded guilty to federal charges of elaborate tax and wire fraud involving fake "donations" to the Chabad of Poway.”
Rabbi Goldstein pleaded guilty to a scheme involving the misuse of at least $6.2 million in contributions and donations to the synagogue. Of those millions, Goldstein admitted to keeping approximately $620,000 for himself.
The details of his fraudulent operation are alarming: Robert Brewer, United States Attorney for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, held a news briefing Tuesday in San Diego to detail what he called “an elaborate, long-term scheme” by Goldstein that “involved careful planning, attention to detail and significant deception all to give the appearance of legitimate donations to the Chabad and lawful deductions.”
The Jewish community leader wasn’t a lone operator. Goldstein pleaded guilty to his role in a scheme where donors (as many as 18 found so far), made large contributions to Chabad of Poway, but then secretly got most of their money back. Typically, Goldstein would keep a portion of the contribution — 10% — then funnel the rest of the funds back to the donor.
The LA Times reports that “with help from an unnamed office administrator at the synagogue and others, Goldstein would generate charitable giving receipts on Chabad letterhead acknowledging the donors’ “generous tax deductible donation,” according to the court document.” So someone who donated $100 would receive in return $90 and a receipt for a charitable donation of $100. The missing $10 went to the rabbi.
According to US Attorney Brewer, the investigation into Goldstein’s alleged tax fraud began in November 2016. The rabbi knew he was under federal investigation long before the Chabad of Poway shooting and, according to Brewer, had been preparing to plead guilty to tax and wire fraud since late 2018.
The federal documents reveal that agents with the IRS and the FBI executed search warrants at Goldstein’s home and the synagogue on Oct. 17, 2018 – six months before the synagogue attack. This means that when Rabbi Goldstein was invited to the White House and the UN General Assembly and was presented as an ‘American hero,’ he was already suspected of a tax fraud operation. The FBI and the IRS suspected that the Chabad rabbi wasn’t exactly a righteous man. More troubling is the acknowledgment that when the Rabbi addressed the American people from a White House podium he already knew that he was suspected of stealing taxpayer money.
America gives Israel about 4 billion dollars of its taxpayers’ money year after year. The actions of Zionist rabbi together with some members of his congregation in defrauding the US tax authorities and stealing money from the state that scarifies its future and its young soldiers for Israel are really unthoughtful.
But there is also good news here. Not many American news outlets failed to point at the ‘victim’ rabbi who fraudulently pocketed American taxpayers’ money. Maybe America’s tolerance is wearing out.