Saul Klein Identifies Luxury as the Great Pitfall for Hasidim

In a telephonic lecture this past Tishoh beav, Saul Klein excoriated the haredi trend to pursue luksus (luxury) at the expense of basic necessities and a profanation of God’s name. The 40-minute lecture was given in a program called hotzi shiur (half measure) accessible on the Kol Mevaser telephone hotline. Klein belongs to the Old Guard, harboring memories of R. Joel Teitelbaum and the formative years of Satmar hasidus in America. He has distinguished himself as an expert in haredi education and he is also a columnist on the Aaronite newspaper Di Zeitung.

Klein cited several examples of the luksus he despises:

  • An advertisement in a hasidic paper showing a burger with the subtitle “decadent”.
  • An advertisement for a haredi group cruise on a yacht, with a concert, and with gourmet meals served by uniformed white-gloved servants.

He reminisced how in the old days people would wrangle over who would get to pay the least –a mere $50 for the summer– for a bungalow, whereas nowadays the contest is for the bigger, better-furnished and most expensive “bungalow”. He wistfully recalled the days when the mere purchase of a car was considered flaunting one’s wealth and dubious, whereas now two  “luxury Lexus” cars (alliterative pun intended) are acceptable.

Aside from the crass ungodly materialism such a lifestyle entails, Klein criticized it on the grounds that its adherents neglect to abide by more basic communal and familial financial commitments, e.g. the one who was behind four months in tuition but somehow had the funds to travel to Uman for Rosh Hashonoh.

People are naturally xenophobic, says Klein, e.g. the post 9-11 animosity toward Muslims. When we flaunt our wealth and employ legally questionable methods to maintain our profligate lifestyle, we trigger the ire of the gentiles and sometimes even that of modern Jews.

When the federal government hands down an indictment against a Hasid accused of defrauding a welfare program, “the media do not go to Saul Klein to get an expert explanation; they go to Samuel Heilman” and what Heilman tells them is that Hasidim lead a legally-defined poverty-laden life by choice, even as the community’s coffers are full and even as many recipients of welfare programs have plenty of money for other things. What Heilman does not acknowledge, bemoans Klein, is that the costs of maintaining a haredi lifestyle are so high that even with the underreporting of income haredim are still indigent and morally justified in seeking government aid.

Nevertheless, Klein exhorts, if we would economize more and not splurge on unnecessary material comforts we would not be compelled to seek government aid fraudulently and the resultant antagonism toward hasidim could be averted.

Samuel Heilman is the author of a dozen books on hasidism, including the recently published Who Will Lead Us whose ripples have been felt among hasidim, e.g. this KaveShtiebel forum thread

Kol Mevaser lectures are popular with Internet-barred young hasidic lads who resort to Kol Mevaser’s telephonic technology to access words of wisdom by haredi rabbis and experts, as well as a steady stream of news.

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7 Responses to Saul Klein Identifies Luxury as the Great Pitfall for Hasidim

  1. Yoel Braver says:

    Hasidim live very much like communal life, we are a very tight knit community, social pressures takes away our individualistic life and we do what ever others do.

    Shaul Klein is an odd ball in the community yes we respect him but he is not the typical hasid he goes with colored shirts not only white and writes openly that he reads gentile books.

    No rabbis are against him because he is active in the community helping people and he is kind of an older person.

    If any younger hasid would do what Klein does he would be shamed for the sin of reading books or being OTD. Unless we are Hatsala or Shoimrim members we cannot undo our white shirts…

    No other society in history and in current life has so much superstitious strictures and social norms that makes no sense as Hasidim.

  2. A. Fried says:

    Heilman indeed does mention our larger tuition costs but he also explains other factors like non-education etc. – and that is what bothers Klein…

  3. Ben Moshe Yoisef says:

    People who refer to themselves in the third person, as this shaul Klein does here, I do not trust.

    Also, saying people “are naturally xenophobic, post 9-11” is the conventional wisdom straight from the left wing press. I don’t care if he wears a shtraimel – left wing nonsense is left wing nonsense.

  4. Berl Jacobowitz says:

    “What Heilman does not acknowledge, bemoans Klein, is that the costs of maintaining a haredi lifestyle are so high that even with the underreporting of income haredim are still indigent and morally justified in seeking government aid.”

    WHAT!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Orthodox Jew says:

    Can I also get free money to live above my means? Or must i be a Hasid?

  6. Berl Baal Agule says:

    Shaul Klein is an intellectual. Samuel Heilman is just a hater of Hasidim. Thanks Rabbi Klein for standing us for g-d’s chosen people the Hasidim!

  7. Deborah Kaplan says:

    “When we flaunt our wealth and employ legally questionable methods to maintain our profligate lifestyle, we trigger the ire of the gentiles and sometimes even that of modern Jews.”
    I agree 100%. There is more than enough anti-semitism in the world today
    without fueling the flames. Few people, modern Jews or gentiles, wish to pay for someone else’s life choices, whether religious or otherwise, with their hard earned income. I realize that there are genuinely indigent Haredim and for those individuals, the social safety net is available. However, fraudulently obtaining government funds to support other than one’s basic necessities is morally wrong and unjustifiable.

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