Theres another wrinkle in the Hasidic tax scam case (previously discussed here). The case involves wealthy Hasids giving millions of dollars in tax-deductible donations to a Jewish religious center and then getting almost all the money back after it was laundered through an international religious network. The LATimes reports that a rabbi, Moshe Zigelman, who went to jail for two years ago because he refused to testify against other Jews, is again threatened with jail if he does not testify (U.S. threatens to send rabbi back to jail).

This is another example of the Jewish law of mesira which enjoins Jews not to testify against Jews: No earthly sanction will ever make Rabbi Zigelman abandon his religious precepts, Michael Proctor, an attorney for Zigelman wrote in court papers.

Mesira is thus alive and well in Orthodox communitiespracticed, as in this case, by the leading figures of the community. The prosecution will argue that Jewish religious law is irrelevant to the laws of the United Statesa blow for common sense. The article cites an expert in Jewish religious law who says that mesira does not apply in modern democratic societies, but originates from a time of oppressive and brutal secular authorities.

Whatever the disputes among religious authorities, the fact is that there are quite a few cases in the contemporary world among traditional Jews; as John Graham has noted, mesira is a likely reason why the Bernie Madoff fraud was not investigated properly given that the signs of fraud were so obvious.

Its another indication of the effectiveness of ethnic networks with a strong ingroup/outgroup ethic. Prosecution will doubtless be difficult without Zigelmans testimony.

Given that this fraud is taking place among the most respected, high-status members of the community, and given that pretty much all traditional societies would be classified as oppressive and brutal, the suggestion is that traditional Jewish groups thought of laws of the surrounding society as little more than obstacles to be overcome.

Russia under the Czars would surely be considered by Jews to be a prime example of an oppressive and brutal regime. The following passage from Chapter 4 (available here) of Alexander Solzhenitsyns 200 Years Together gives a flavor of the cat and mouse game between authorities and Jews regarding the trade in alcohol:

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