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May 20, 2012

A Tzaddik In Sodom

I heard this story of amazing chessed on Friday on the radio, and was just reminded of it when I saw it described on Bechadrei..

A few years ago a institute in southern Israel ran into serious financial troubles and had to shut its doors. The institution ran a variety of organizations; kindergartens, schools and kollels, that all had to shut down. The guy running the show disappeared because of the heavy debt he was leaving to a variety of gmachs around Israel.

Unfortunately for his avreichim, they had all signed as guarantors of his loans from the gmachs. They must have trusted him completely, and they probably figured they were doing their part in saving the institution in a difficult period.

It came back to bite them when the gmachs took the group of avreichim to beis din demanding they be held accountable, as guarantors, and pay back the loans. Some of the avreichim even claimed that their signatures had been used over the years without their agreement or knowledge, as the borrower repeatedly used their original agreement signature without their permission on later loan documents.

At the end of the case, it was decided that the avreichim are responsible to repay the loan as guarantors.

So, these avreichim who were already hard up for cash were now thrown into this situation where they had to add to their monthly expenses these loan repayments.

Fortunately for them a baal chessed, in this intstance a haredi philanthropist, stepped forward. After reviewing the details of the case, he decided to repay the entire debt and take the burden off the avreichim. To him it was untenable that these avreichim should be in this situation, and have family problems because of it, even worse financial problems, and bittul torah. The avreichim were just told this past week that the debt has been repaid in full by the philanthropist.

מי כעמך ישראל!

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  1. There is a reason bankers call co-signers "Fools with pens" Really if someone is asking you to co-sign something it means that the lender does not think he will pay it back and they want to make sure they will get their money another way.

  2. A great story!
    It reminds me of an incident over twenty years ago when the menahel of our son's cheider used the parents' post-dated tuition checks as collateral to cover his personal loans from the bank, and the bank wanted to take them all when he defaulted on payments for his loans (this followed a huge chasnah he made at Nofei Yerushalayim, etc.). Since none of the 500 or so parents knew about writing "l'mutav bilvad" on the checks, the bank had the right to take all the checks.

    In this instance Rav Ravitz was the hero. He took up our case, and threatened that he would initiate a country-wide boycott on the bank if they took the checks. So we got out of that one. Since then I will rarely write post-dated checks, and if so, only with "l'mutav bilvad". If anyone wants to know more, see this link, for example, about how to do it: http://voleh.org/check-writing-in-israel/

    1. Why did the parents care what the bank did with the checks? They had paid the cheder, and the menahel stole from the cheder. The whole problem should have been the cheder and the menahel; the parents were off the hook anyway you look at it.

    2. I don't know all the details, only what we were told at an asifa. But I do know that the cheider went bankrupt and was closed down. So the situation was that there would be no cheider for the boys, we'd have to find and pay for another place, and the checks would have been cashed by the bank. After the settlement with the bank was made, the chedier re-opened under a new name and new management, and the rebbes got their jobs back.

    3. Dovid from ModiinMay 21, 2012 10:41 AM

      I always have my checks preprinted with the two parallel lines and Lamutav Bilvad.

  3. I fail to understand why the bank is the bad guy in David's story. The Menahel borrowed money he had no chance to payback and used something that was not his as collateral. Except as the bank should never have written the loan in the first place they were not the ones who committed fraud. And yes using something you don't own as collateral is by definition Fraud.

    1. Zach and Abbi: I don't mean to imply that the bank was the bad guy, the menahel may have committed fraud, or theft, whatever it would be. He was never prosecuted for anything, though, and kept his job as the menahel of another popular and large Yerushalmi Talmud Torah.
      The story we heard was that the menahel made the personal loan and then the bank seized the checks we wrote for the cheider tuition. Obviously, something is missing from that story. I assumed he offered the checks as collateral, otherwise, what right would the bank have to seize them? Back then, we were led to believe the bank illegitimately grabbed the cheider's checks when he couldn't repay his loans, and they backed down after negotiations with askanim such as Rav Ravitz. So the menahel was a misken and not a rasha. I never believed that, but I had no way of knowing what really happened.
      I really can't say whether or not they had every perfect right to seize the checks, but I have to assume they were operating in a lawful manner. I'd have to assume that, under pressure (and I wouldn't call that blackmail), the bank worked out another means of payment for the loan (because it's a bank, after all, not a charity, and they wouldn't just give up on repayment) and let the parents off the hook.
      Also, who can say if there was a threat of boycott or not? All I know for sure was that the cheider was closing down, hundreds of kids were without classes, and we had pre-paid for another nine months.
      I should have realized back then that something is rotten in Denmark.

  4. Completely agree with you Zach. And threatening the bank with a boycott when it was acting completely within its legal rights is just piling blackmail on top of the fraud.

    The title of this post is also confusing. How hard is it to be a Tzadik in Sodom?

    1. Since the checks didn't belong to the menahel, the bank didn't really have a legal right to them, it seems.

  5. hmmm.. you think the title doesnt give him enough credit.. could be. I'll try to think of something better


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