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The Asifa Scam; How 60,000 Orthodox Jews Were Conned by a few Manipulative Askanim, Businessmen, and the Chareidi Press.

By: Dovid Teitelbaum

Important related post to read:
This post is a follow up to my 101 Questions on the Asifa

Preface and background: My intention for writing publicly was to try and give over only positive ideas regarding yidishkeit, as most of my articles do. I had hoped to express the feelings of today's youth in a manner that can improve our education system. Yet, as time went by, and more and more things became apparent to me, I realized there is no possible way to advocate for change without bringing to attention the very things that are causing the damage in the first place. Unfortunately, this sometimes may mean exposing fraud in our own circles.

If there was someone else that would release this information, I would be happy to let them. The general press along with others are supported by ads and therefore can be blackmailed into what they can and can’t publish. While I could have posted this all anonymously, it wouldn't have the same effect, and may just cause more of a chilul hashem.

If I come across a bit too harsh it's because I am frustrated. I am frustrated by the manipulative and immoral Askanim, the moral mafia that have caused tremendous damage and disgraces our frum community!

I will not mention the people behind this fraud, I think it is obvious and I don't gain from making specific accusations. If the public wants to know, they can address those questions to the Ichud. I also don't know first hand who was aware of this con from the beginning, and I would rather not speculate.

Unintentionally, I got myself stuck in the middle of a huge scandal and because of that I was given all of this information bit by bit. Some from the inside and some from the outside. Some through anonymous emails and some from yiddish blogs. Some facts I put together from my blog stats and other facts I got through leaked information. Many people helped me along the way but their names are not important.

In politics they say there are three types of people. Hard core republicans, hard core liberals and those that choose to use their own heads. I’m writing for the middle crowd. I don't believe the true haters of religious Jews need my post to fuel their rage and I’m also not expecting to change the views of those that choose to follow the crowd, no matter where it might lead them. I believe we still have a majority of self-thinking individuals that will realize mistakes were made and we have been led down an erroneous path. And it's to them I address my post.

Below is my version of the purpose of the Asifa as best as I know it to be true:

Maybe it’s because I grew up in a home where my father, Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum Z”L, was known to expose many scams or maybe it’s because I read all the books about charlatans sitting around the house. Either way, as soon as I saw the first ad for the event at citi field, I knew something wasn't right. These are some of the signs I picked up that told me it was a scam. (Here are other sites that highlights signs of scam, and you will see very similar definitions. link one second link Third link)

  • Too good to be true: i.e. The huge solution. The pill that cures all health. The life policy that doesn't end. The solution for longevity. This is the highlight of a scam. 
  • The big event. Most scams need the big crowd, the audience, and the frenzy. This gets people into the mood so they will jump aboard and accept what they are told, even spend more money than they can afford. 
  • Details withheld: Vague answers or none at all to key questions you might ask. i.e. not saying what the huge solution is. There will be hints leading up to the event so that it doesn't come as a big surprise, but no detailed information. 
  • The build up of horror stories! "In one extreme case, a couple in Korea would spend 12 hours a day away from home on the internet. They would run home once a day to feed their three-year-old daughter. She died of dehydration and malnutrition. There have been incidents of people who assaulted and even shot others for posting negative comments or embarrassing photos about them. One 15-year-old shot his own father after his internet privileges were revoked." - Taken from the Asifa Booklet
  • Not associated with any well established organization. The first ad just said Ichud without even any names behind it. Usually this has a recently opened bank account, so that if the scam falls through, they can just declare bankruptcy and the hoodwinks get away with it all. 
  • The man, Rabbi Nechemiah Gottlieb, running the entire operation is left out of the picture and not mentioned by name so that his negative reputation and previous history is not known. 
  • No Verifiable References or Testimonials. Anyone can make up references or testimonials that would make you believe in the business opportunity. But can you verify them? Do they list real names for the people who supposedly were helped? There were no reference on ads as there still are none. 
  • Using photos that are not related to the topic. (many photos of Rabbonim speaking in the first article had nothing to do with the quotes below them. At that point they were unaware of Citi Field) 

This was all noticeable to me in just the first ad. But every scam needs to make money, and unless I knew what the agenda was there was no way to alert the public. And so when I saw the first pamphlet of Ichud with the mention of filters I realized something was amiss. But there was still no mention of Kosher ISP filters.

I also knew the rabonim were not about to change their policy about the internet and there was no way a new private organization can force them to do it without a conference of the Gedolai Torah. This led me to write my article about filters not being effective which got a very positive response by both Rabonim and parents, and this was a big problem for the Ichud. I didn't realize this at the time but my article was very destructive to their goal. And this was the reason for their change in tactics.

Behind the scenes:

All one needs to do is read the transcript from the Agudah convention and you will hear a diatribe of blaming all our problems on the internet. Key Rabbonim were being challenged and questioned for the first time, on internet blogs and new-sites. There were complaints about the corrupt botai bes din and this was causing great harm to the system in place. Child abuse in the community was not being dealt with and many Rabonim were even covering up for them. There was so much hypocrisy within the system that the current leaders were losing all respect. Klal Yisroel was going through many difficulties, but the entire focus of these Rabonim was the modern technology. And although there was a ban on the internet, almost everybody was online and this was causing the Rabonim who were promoting the ban to become “irrelevant”.

The Chareidi press was losing readership quickly. The news blogs were taking over the news and the Torah blogs were taking over the Divrei Torah. The numbers were incomparable. With just one click of a button, my first blog post received over 100,000 hits in one week, this is not something any chareidi paper could match. In addition, Chareidi press costs money to produce and distribute. The Rabbonim that were bihind the ban did not allow them to take to the internet and this was causing them to lose business. They were also hostage to the advertisers. They needed the advertisers for money and therefore had to turn all their information pro-advertisers, pro-rabbanim and pro-community, whether it be truthful or not. The blogs didn't survive off advertisers and the ones that had, could do without. The Torah blogs also had the advantage of the comment system which creates a dialogue; something that the orthodox community needed. The real concerns were taken to the blogs while the chareidi press continued printing highfalutin stories about the horrors of the internet. At the end of the day the chareidi press needed a way to get online to compete.

Most families did have filters, but they used the new K9 or similar products. This was a free download and if configured properly more effective than any Kosher Internet Provider. Kosher ISPs cost money and there was no use for them anymore. And so an organisation was created that will orchestrate an event to "fix" all these problems.

The Ichud HaKehillos LeTohar HaMachane

The Huge Solution i.e. SCAM

The plan was to force people to sign up for kosher ISP providers. They will remove the internet ban both for home and business as long as you pay for this service. Except like any crooked deal this couldn't be told to the public. The Rabbonim gain because they were told that ISP filters will only allow what the Rabbonim want to get through on the ISP side and they won't have to worry anymore about being in control. The chareidi papers will now be able to go online and they of course will continue broadcasting the same propaganda, only this time cheaper and with no blog competition. The Kosher Internet Providers will make a fortune. Think about the numbers and you'll understand. 60,000 x $50 is $3,000,000 a month! That money gets distributed to all those involved. This will benefit everyone except the simple naive Jew who was unaware what was going on and thought he was listening to the gedolim.

Things did NOT go as Planned:

Things were not as simple as they thought. Many Rabbonim caught on to this and didn't want to be a part of this fraud. Other Rabbonim wouldn't sign on unless they were told what the solution was. Many Rabbonim, while not pro or against the internet, didn't want to make the internet sound kosher, with some kind of huge solution. They understood that no matter how good the solution will be, the internet will always come along with problems. But the “solution” couldn't be publicized or the Rabbonim wouldn't support it, so instead they had to change their campaign.

It now became about an Asifa that all the Gedolei Hador will attend and you must also. A massive campaign went on trying to force as many Rabbonim and schools to make their constituency attend. Lots of Rabbonim realized they were being used, others were informed or picked up on this charade. Signatures were forged and that just got Rabbonim even more upset. And so with all this effort there was just small progress. Many of the more moderate yeshivos weren't on board and wouldn't enforce the attendance. And so this didn't work as planned either. Although massive pressure was applied to all institutions, it just wasn't working, at least not the numbers they needed.

Chasidim to the rescue:

There was only one group of Jews that can now save this event, the Chasidisha Oilem. If the Rebbe says to go then go they will. So a massive new yiddish campaign started and each Rebbe was asked to help out. They were offered many incentives and they started making progress. This was working but it also came with problems. Each Rebbe had his own ideas and they wanted to know what was going to be said at the Asifa. They also wanted to speak and say what they believed. But this wasn't the original plan except to make everyone sign up for filters. So as more Chasidish Rabbonim signed up things got messy.
Signature paper

Not going as planned:

While the asifa was a huge success in terms of numbers the scam was not working. Because of outside pressure the expo had to be cancelled and with it the Asifa booklet. (The Asifa booklet is propaganda material to encourage people to sign up for Kosher Internet Providers. The plan was to have everybody at the Asifa sign the last page and give your word to sign up for the kosher filters). Instead, some Ichud speakers tried to emphasize the importance of filters but other Rabonim trashed the internet completely. The last minute Rabbonim that spoke had no outline and therefore no unified message went out. The Ichud had very little control over this.

The worst happened when Rav Wosner gave his psak, the internet was not to be used in the home with or without a filter under any circumstances! Furthermore, no school should accept any student who had Internet access, (even with a filter) in their home. This was against everything the organizers wanted! Businesses were not their goal, they were controlled by the company and home users were not allowed internet, meaning the Kosher Internet Providers and the Chareidi Press were losing out. To make things worse, R’ Wachsman said that whatever edicts were initiated at this event would be binding on all of Klal Yisroel. This was a disaster for the Ichud. But not to worry.

Follow up plan:

Despite the overwhelming disappointment by the crowd that was left with no message, the Chareidi press and the Ichud kept the fraud going. They just ignored or modified what Rav Wosner said, almost as if it never happened or as if he was talking to another crowd. All that was supposed to happen at the event needed to be done now through the chareidi press instead. Huge ads for Kosher Internet Providers were displayed in the papers with the usual haskamos from Rabbonim and insinuating that the asifa was all about filters once again. Very little was mentioned that one can download free filtering software that is just as good or better. And despite the Psak Halacha, the chareidi papers are all going online even though the internet was only to be used for business.

The Asifa Booklet 

The Asifa Booklet that has now been distributed online and is making its way around, seems like a well meaningful handbook but it's full of misrepresentations. The dangers of the internet are grossly overstated. The horrors stories are mostly fabricated and hyperbolic. But most importantly the suggested filters are Kosher Internet Providers, with a small mention of free software! This is also completely untrue and my future post “Why home filters are better then Kosher Internet Providers” will explain this in detail. You will also notice ads for new “kosher phones”, another scam.

So Who and What is Ichud?

From all the sources I have I'm convinced there is a direct connection between the Vaad Hatznius, run by Rabbi Mordechai Blau another askin with personal and corrupt agendas, who tries to force yidden to his personal ways. Both of these organization are connected with NativeUsa a new filtering company that tries to sell a product, with fake endorsements of Gedolim who are unaware that this software is available for free and have also not given their haskama for its use except for business. There is much more corruption going on here, but I believe at this point the public can figure it out and those that don't want to hear wont listen anyways. Like the saying goes a sucker is born every second!

My conclusion:

Using the above information you can answer all 101 questions I posed to the Ichud. It also explains why the constant flimflam and incoherent messages of the Asifa. If someone has another explanation or has a sincere question you can comment below and I will try to respond. Please don't use names as this isn't about people but about a misguided event that took place.

Some will say the above is all true but why do you call it a scam? Don't people have a right to sell a product? I don't know the legal issues here but I do know that what was done is completely immoral and against everything the torah stands for. That this was done under “Daas Torah” makes it even more sickening.

I'm also sure they’ll try to pin this deceit and deception all on one person or just the Ichud organization, don't buy it. I believe all those involved should be held accountable, but I have done enough and would like to get on with my normal life. Pose your questions to the Rabonim involved. Let the people who attended the Asifa or those that bought these filters figure out what to do. Ironically they won't be able to read this post, but I'm sure it will make its way off the internet and into their hands.

My Final Words:

I do believe that all the great Rabonim who spoke at the event were sincere in what they said. Whether they were fooled about the event, about the realities of the internet, or about the ambitions of the organizers is for them to say. Almost all rabonim I know personally are great and holy people that want the best for us. Despite this ordeal and what I have experienced these past few months, I have great hope for the future of Klal Yisroel. This episode of my life has given me a great opportunity to make contact with incredible mechanchim in Klal Yisroel. These are people who have no ulterior motives but to serve the community. I believe these Rabbonim will be the new leaders of Klal Yisroel one day. Some just need to learn how to blog!

Update: I didn't write this but its an interesting post. Internet Filter Scam Part 2

Important related posts to read:
his post is a follow up to my 101 Questions on the Asifa

“If you want to make enemies, try to change something." -Woodrow Wilson

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” -Mark Twain

"A man hears what he wants to hear, And disregards the rest" ~ Paul Simon

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