A sign posted by the synagogue with the rabbi's explicit permission argues that giving beggars money does not fulfill the mitzvah of tzedaka (giving charity) and claims that helping them is perpetuating their frauds. It says some of these beggars are on "government programs" and don't buy kosher food with the money given them, anyway.
A new sign posted at Landau's shul in Flatbush argues that giving many beggars money does not fulfill the mitzvah of tzedaka (giving charity) because they are not truly needy.
It further claims that helping them is perpetuating their frauds. Some of these beggars are on "government programs" and don't buy kosher food with the money given them, it insists. Some are not Jewish, either.
The sign quotes a terrible article published by the Jerusalem Post and based on another terrible article in the NY Post that appears to have been planted by Landau or someone close to him. The article finds a beggar who isn't Jewish but who has begged in Borough Park for almost 20 years and a Jewish-looking female beggar who ran off when the Post's "Hebrew-speaking" reporter asked if she spoke Hebrew. She "looked confused," said “Jewish,” and then "then ran off."
That fact that many hasidic women in Brooklyn don't speak or understand Hebrew was not mentioned by the Post. Neither is fact that many of these beggars are mentally ill Jews, including haredim, who really need the money and could easily be scared off by a reporter.
And there's nothing new about fake beggars. They've always been with us and always will.
So what is the actual halakha?
• If you know with certainty that a beggar is not poor or needy, then the money you give him would not fulfill the mitzvah of tzedaka.
• But if you do not know that for sure, you must give him money just like you would any other poor person – a fact Landau conveniently forgets to state.
• The idea that someone who is homeless and gets food stamps and a small welfare payment is not needy and does not qualify for tzedaka is absurd and has no basis in halakha at all.
• A beggar who owns a home but has little income due to illness, injury, or unemployment and needs tzedaka to continue living in that home is entitled to tzedaka under halakha.
• A beggar who is Jewish and qualifies for tzedaka but who does not keep kosher must still be given money. His needs go far beyond food and, even if there was a rare case where all a non-kosher-keeping Jewish beggar lacked was food, you would be mandated to give him money to buy that food or immediately give him kosher food to eat in its stead.
Beggars continue to tell me that Landau only lets hasidic beggars or other known haredi beggars inside his shul and bans all others from entry. The non-haredi beggars can't come inside, even in cold weather. They can't use the bathrooms or get water to drink, even if they have their own cup.
Beggars also tell me that Landau has not checked the backgrounds of most of them and has no real idea who they are. He just banned them with no investigation based on their perceived lack of religiosity or their non-haredi status.
This is despicable and it is also against halakha.
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