Israel – Maariv’s Expose of Rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf, the Powerful Boycott-Maker and Breaker

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    Rabbi Yitzchak GoldknopfIsrael – Maariv published an expose of Rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf, a pivotal Gerrer askan who stands at the head of the Igud HaTatim, the Bais Yaakov Kindergarten network, and the Committee to Observe Shabbos.

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    Not only does Goldknopf, 60 and the father of 10, concentrate immense political power in his hand, but he does so in an aggressive manner that intimidates potential opponents and rivals from chassidic rebbes to businessman. As if that wasn’t enough, he also has key control of the chassidic Hamodia daily, the main information channel for a large part of the chareidi community.

    Goldknopf almost singlehandedly crushed the Shefa Shuk mehadrin supermarket chain belonging to the secular Ribua Kachol conglomerate owned by David Weissman. The financial sanctions he implemented speedily brought El Al to agree not to travel on Shabbos.

    As the economic power of the chareidi community has grown, the more power has accrued to the head of the Committee for Shabbos.

    “The chareidi public has gray areas which are run by various power bases. Whoever dares to harm them is endangering his status and in certain cases, even his life. Goldknopf and the group that surrounds him are one such power base,” explains a person who has followed Goldknopf’s waxing power in recent years.

    Another person who is acquainted with Goldknopf describes him this way: “He a strong man, intelligent, completely discreet, and runs his affairs zealously. He knows the intimate workings of all the different chareidi publics and sits on critical intersections which connect contributions to rabbinical courts.”

    Goldknopf sits in his office on Belilius street until the late evening, running his numerous affairs which include real estate and phone companies. His greatest power lays, however, in the public organizations he runs. He is the general director of Petachya, a special education organization; a general director of Igud Hatatim; and a committee member of the Hisachdus Hatatim. These organizations get numerous funds from the government, and Goldknopf is the one who decides how to divvy them.

    Slicing the Earnings of Impoverished Kindergarten Teachers

    The organization which gives him the greatest power base is the Bais Yaakov kindergarten network which thousands of chareidi children attend. A State Comptroller study carried out in 2008 on the kindergarten network reported that 20% of the kindergarten teachers received only 82-85% of their proper salary, while 38% received only 86-90% of their required salary. Some kindergarten teachers only earned 75% of their legal wages.

    How did he pull this off? In the summer months, the network didn’t pay some of the kindergarten teachers and aides in July and none of them received wages in August. Numerous teachers were sent to request unemployment from the government. “The state paid the network twice,” the report says.

    “These are women who are working to provide for 7-8 children,” says a furious relative of a kindergarten teacher employed in Goldknopf’s network. “While municipal kindergarten teachers made 4,500 NIS a month, Goldknopf’s made 3,200. He divides the money according to his personal interests – some employees get more, some get less. His attitude is, “I’ll do what’s best for me and to hell with everyone else.”

    A Gerrer chosid confirmed, “He employs women who are close to leading members of our community, and doesn’t slice off their wages as he does for others.”

    At least 13 members of Goldknopf’s own family have found his organizations an unfailing source of jobs. His 85-year old mother is employed in the Bais Yaakov network in an administrative position, his wife is employed in Petachya, his 4 daughters serve as kindergarten teachers and administrators, his two sisters are also working in Bais Yaakov, as is his daughter-in-law, sister-in-law and nephew’s wife. Another daughter-in-law works in Petachya. “Thirteen family members working in an organization is not proper administration,” the State Comptroller’s Report notes wryly.

    Since becoming the head of these organizations in the 1980’s, Goldknopf has attained a pyramid of power among Gerrer chassidim. A close friend says, “He travels abroad a lot, disappears from the office for several days and always travels in first class.”

    His Selective Battles Against Shabbos Desecration

    The battle of the chareidim against chillul Shabbos took a new turn 4 years ago, when various rabbonim decided that a committee had to be set up to coordinate between the public’s leading rabbonim. The various streams sent their representatives, but from the beginning, the organization was usurped by Goldknopf who turned it into another power base.

    “We discovered very quickly that they had taken over the committee and used it as a ‘kardum lachfor boh’,” says a former member of the committee. “They inserted all kinds of people with personal interests and took it to completely different directions, with Goldknopf pulling the strings. This position gives power and money to one who knows how to manipulate. The ways it’s run today, it destroys businesses and doesn’t even promote Shabbos observance.”

    A person who worked with him in the past, avers, “Everything is kosher in his eyes and whatever he asks of you, better be done. He doesn’t threaten with words, but he has his people and it’s enough he looks at you.. He’s dangerous. I know a person who couldn’t step foot in his own shul because of him.”

    Goldknopf’s first publicized boycott took place in December 2006, and within a month both sides reached a compromise which was hidden from the public. “The fight over El Al flights on Shabbos stunk. Not only didn’t he reveal the compromise he reached with them, but the fact is that the company continues to fly on Shabbos,” says someone close to the committee. Chillul Shabbos continues to be massively carried out by El Al’s subsidiary Sun-dor. Recently, El Al required its workers to carry phony Sun-dor employment papers when they travel on Shabbos, in addition to their regular El Al employment documents which they carry during the week.

    “The Committee for Shabbos controls today the two largest media in the chareidi public — Hamodia and Yated Neeman. Whatever they don’t write, the chareidi public doesn’t know. They’re a real mafia,” says the above source.

    Despite Goldknopf’s immense power, voices have been raised in the past year against the selective way he chooses who to boycott for chillul Shabbos. Rabbonim have privately expressed their disagreement to his bombastic campaigns that feature prolific street posters, raucous articles in the newspapers and swift consumer boycotts against certain targets, but fear to openly oppose him.

    Goldknopf ran an uncompromising struggle against the Shefa Shuk mehadrin supermarkets owned by Dudi Weissman, whose Tel Aviv AM:PM network are open on Shabbos. The success of the struggle can be seen by the fact that half of its 47 flourishing supermarkets were forced to close down.

    For inexplicable reasons, however, many other businessmen are not in Goldknopf’s sights. One obvious sample is Nochi Dankner and his chareidi businessman partner Shulam Fischer, who own a supermarket mehadrin network under the Supersol Group, many of whose businesses are mechalel Shabbos. Neither of them have yet felt Goldknopf’s imperious assault. Among the Shabbos desecrating companies run by these two are the Cellcom cellphone company, Natur transportation company, Golf and Kav, Chadera paper and Chugla-Kimberly disposable diapers.

    Fischer is a partner of Matthew Bronfman from the Iris Hagilboa Group, who owns Israel IKEA. The Group purchased last December 9.5% of the shares of British Israel, owned by the British religious billionaire Louis Noe, who owns 18% of all the shopping malls around the country. Some are open on Shabbos, such as Chonim-Konim in Rishon Letzion, Dodge shopping mall in Upper Natzeret, Queen of Sheba shopping mall in Eilat, and Bilu Center at the BILU intersection.

    Goldknopf’s Targets Respond to the Hypocrisy

    Could the reason be because Fischer and Dankner are close to the chareidi public? Dankner is a close donor to Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel Iferghan (the “Xray”) of Netivot, and he also “adopted” Hatzolah Israel to which he contributes millions of shekels.

    “Fischer donates lavishly to Gerrer and Belz chassidic organizations, and this is just a fraction of what he gives,” says a man close to Fischer’s charity enterprises. “He gives hundreds of thousands of shekels every month by bank order. Whenever they need a building, mikvah or shul, they go to him. Every holiday, he gives coupons worth 1.5-2 million shekels out to friends and family. He’s very connected to the Gerrer chassidim.”

    The fact that Goldknopf is blind to Dankner and Fischer’s Shabbos desecrating businesses rankled on their rivals in the chareidi sector, and a month ago, the streets filled with posters featuring Fischer and Dankner’s pictures and warning the public, “Look who is responsible for the greatest chillul Shabbos in the Holy Land.” Under their pictures was a list of their holdings in companies that desecrate Shabbos. The poster was signed “National Committee to Uphold Shabbos.”

    “Some people are fed up with the hypocrisy. The story with Shefa Shuk was sordid. Why did they go against Shefa Shuk but not the others? This was a far-reaching phenomenon but they chose to boycott only one and turned a blind eye to the other,” said one man formerly involved in the struggle to observe Shabbos.

    Goldknopf’s Response

    Goldknopf refused to address any of the claims made against him and instead issued this response, “I see no reason to respond to things unrelated to me. I don’t know where you extracted all this from. The Rabbinical Committee for Shabbos has done and will continue to do its work faithfully, and there is no need to attribute anything improper to it.”


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    69 Comments
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    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    Actually the kindergarden issue is one major souce of tension between degel hatorah and ger .

    yosse nathan
    yosse nathan
    13 years ago

    that is what this is , one big jewish mafia and that is why all the frum people can’t work together in israel.
    its all about the money.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    He sounds like a mobster in a beard who fights to control the money of the underground world or else he will lose it all.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    ger takes care of their own, good for them.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    Threatened with their life??? puleez

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    Thank you VIN for highlighting this problem. The more I hear the less I give to tzedakas in Israel, of course my paltry few thousand a year is nothing to them but I would imagine that there are many others who feel the same way I do, the smell of corruption stinks across the oceans to these shores. ‘Leaders’ such as this Goldknopf line their pockets with donations and steal from the people they are supposed to be helping. They’ve already stolen an education from the masses as well as the ability to create any sort of financial independence, eventually the chareidim in Israel will be worse than the most ignorant savages in third-world countries. All because of the lust for power and greed by their leaders. I spit on Goldknopf and his ilk.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    “”Why he doesn’t go after Fischer who desecrates Shabbos?”” Stupid question. The answer is that Fisher is a brilliant business man who has figured out how the orthodox world operates. You feed their leadership with enough bribes aka chesed money/tzidoka and they will leave you alone. As soon as Fischer won’t be able to feed the non working Charedi communities with pet project donations, this “Rabbi” Goldknopf will organize a riot and boycott of Fisher business as well.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    Power is the money, money is the power, minute after minute hour after hour……..

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    The raid was that the gurys shorted elal before they attackes them then longed the stock before they came out with an agreement
    And dudi wisman is an aleksander chusid

    lost generation
    lost generation
    13 years ago

    Forget the money-An entire generation lost an education that would make them financialy viable young men/woman because of leaders that chose to NOT teach us a trade.

    I resent you and your “poverty pimp” friends.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    Stealing from Bais Yaakov teachers has got to be a new all-time low. The additional benefit of this article is in graphically demonstrating how Socialism destroys a society piece by piece, because one monolithic, monopolistic, all-powerful source controlling the disbursement of every penny effectively kills quality, perseverence, innovation, achievement and self-actualization. Why bother? Life becomes demoralizing and excelling at anything is an exercise in futility. The new form of Socialism is stealing from the Middle Class and giving to the Rich and Ezra Reichman demonstrates this in chilling detail. This would be a great opportunity for those B.Y. teachers to pool their resources and open their own school that competes with the establishment. Nothing like a good competition to break the power of monopolies.

    Charlie Hall
    Charlie Hall
    13 years ago

    It is a chiyuv of the Torah to pay workers their wages on time! How can someone responsible for stiffing employees be considered Orthodox?

    BL21
    BL21
    13 years ago

    For those who believe that this article is an unbiased investigative piece, you need a reality check. These people and groups, on both sides, are entrenched in a deep BUSINESS battle with many millions on the line.

    To me what is so telling is the absolute lack of an validation to claims, or names of people who stand behind any accusations. These people may depend on aggressive business tactic that may border on illegal, however the articles clear intent is to demonize Goldknopf. WHY NOT INCLUDE THE FACTS, OR PERHAPS THEY DONT WANT TO?

    sruli
    sruli
    13 years ago

    ger is trying to rule judisim, its a wake up call, get them out before they will control every part of our life!

    Dave
    Dave
    13 years ago

    My sandek (godfather)

    Charaidi
    Charaidi
    13 years ago

    A frumeh madoff, what’s new? noch a ganev.

    Simcha
    Simcha
    13 years ago

    This man is a goon. Why are you highlighting his sick antics that only encourage machlokes and blackmail. People like this need to be ignored and margionalized.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    All I can say after reading this above article, that if all these allegations are true, this is a chilul HaShem of gigantic proportions. This man behaves like a mafia godfather. Cannot understand why he is not investigated by the authorities and also why rabbanim are so afraid of him. Does he engage in violence? This is an oxymoron for someone espousing the holiness of Shabbat and acting in this fashion. Don’t know if this is true, but woe unto us as religious Jews that there is such behavior amongst us. Now this makes it easy to understand what it means when it says that ‘erev rav’ will have infiltrated within the rabbinic world also – wherever there is power, they will fill those power bases, in the time before redemption. Hopefully, the above is unfounded, but from what we read here, doesn’t look good. The world has reverted to chaos.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    Such “yidden”are a disgrace to klal yisrael these woman are not making ends meat cause this bearded animal has plans for they’re money. If he’s worried about burning in hell for shefa shuk being open on shabbos he roasting in hell for starving yidishe kids.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    Wow, it seems the biggest burglary here is the stealing the wages of the teachers, unbelievable.

    Green Tea
    Green Tea
    13 years ago

    Jewish Charlie Rangel.

    Think about it….he delivers votes in a block in exchange for the power to dole out govt funds.
    Classic poverty pimp.

    Tzavua
    Tzavua
    13 years ago

    Unfortunately his so called boycott of El Al for wanting to fly on Shabbos was quite hypocritical. The alternative at the time was Israir who was flying and still flies every Shabbos from Tel Aviv to Eilat and back. nobody ever boycotted them or demonstrated against them.

    Arkia flies every Shabbos. Why no boycott/demonstration?

    Also at the same time Egged was and is being mechallel Shabbos eevery Shabbos and nobody boycotts them. Maybe no one would be able to come to certain tishes and grandiose weddings without them.

    Why are we so selective with our Shabbos boycotts and demostrations? If chillul Shaboos is wrong and warrants a boycott or demonstration then all chillul Shabbos should be boycotted/demonstrated against.

    Stamford Hilly Billy
    Stamford Hilly Billy
    13 years ago

    Everyone reading this needs to take it into perspective and realise this is only one side of the story.

    That being said Goldknopf was given a chance to give his take on the allegations and didn`t exactly give a wholesome answer. Generally I believe that there is no smoke without fire and at least some of these allegations must be true at some level for Mariv to have published this article, I like to give the benefit of the doubt and say they wouldn`t have printed something that is totally fictious, although there may be some exggeration to fulfil an agenda, only hashem knows the whole truth.

    I must also say that has a ba`al tashuva one reason that I do call myself and identify myself with charedim is because it seems that there is far too much of this sort of thing going on in the charedi world, and if this is authentic torah judaism(whatever that is) then no thank you. It seems to be the culpruits are people like this guy who are just below the rabbonim in the power hireachy and like to influence the rabbonim in ways that will provide and protect themselves with money and power. These people are disgusting mafia type figures who will get their din in shamiyim

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    As someone that lives in Israel for 3 years
    1) this is what the entire ger chasidus is build upon control control
    from the rebbe down to the bochurem who went out against porush by the votes last year
    2) about shabbos it’s pure buissnes to him look at egged, ger gets the service and they don’t care if anyone else does

    bunch of gullible losers
    bunch of gullible losers
    13 years ago

    You people. besides for being Mekabel this Trash to be true- you are a bunch of gullible losers who would buy the brooklyn Bridge plus the Triboro if given a 2 for one deal.
    Immature gullible grownups. You people are scary. OOOOOOOO- They wrote it so for sure it’s true-oooooooooooo-they have No agenda what so ever -oooooo- He didn’t choose to deny the allegations so it must be true–ooooooo!!!!!
    CHILDREN!

    Moshe
    Moshe
    13 years ago

    I worked for Yizchok many years. He is a nice honest man and treats his employees with the utmost respect. He is extremely intelligent and successful and that is why so many people envy him. He is and has been fully devoted to the Chareidi public for over three decades and has never taken nor received gratuities in return for his many services. No wonder the secular people and media hate him. They have nobody of his caliber and quality in their midst.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    After this article & comments watch this Golbknopf put a boycott on VIN just like he did to Chadrei Chareidim whenever he doesn’t like something he uses his bully acts to deal with it

    Michael in Seattle
    Michael in Seattle
    13 years ago

    As a Halachah, Ashkenazim are so preoccupied with making money (even on Shabbat) – to the point that it affects their emotional well being. See Sh”A 128:44, Rema

    Nosson Halevi
    Nosson Halevi
    13 years ago

    The tragedy of this story, which remember was originated by the vitriolicly anti-Torah Maariv, is the terrible Chillul Hashem it generates.
    All this stems from a support of power hungry leaders. By definition, a Torah leader is not power hungry. Moshe Rabeinu argued for 7 days with the Ribono Shel Olom, not to be selected as the leader.
    Our leaders are leaders of the spirit. DRocheho Darchei NOam. Bullying, power groups, violent hafgonos, these are all tools of Esov.
    Rebbes who fight to be the next rebbe, Rosh Yeshivas who are interested in the real estate value of the Yeshivah more than the students, Mechanchim who are there only because they don’t know how else to put bread on the table. These are all examples of using the Torah as a spade.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    It was ger that brought down Porush as the frum mayoral candidate, which resulted in all the chillul Shabbos in Jerusalem. That entire chassidus is known for itshysical violence and power brokering, true Yiras Shomayim! Gerrer Rebbe be proud.

    Joe
    Joe
    13 years ago

    Another reason for not making Aliyah

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    The El Al boycott he led was great for me and my family – our pilot trip to Israel was scheduled at that time, and we got a great deal on our El Al tickets. And there were plenty of chareidim on that flight as well. I guess when it comes to money, the money wins over boycotts.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    rumor has it that this good had great influence on the israeli courtsystem to block the extradition of mondrowitz the molester who btw also happens to be a ger chasid. this goon needs his closets checked by an outside firm becausemost believe at this point thathegot lots of skeletons hiding in them.

    Anonymous
    Anonymous
    13 years ago

    Reading all this I am reminded of a quote by great (non-jewish) author.
    If you want to avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.