On Wednesday, May 4, a conference took place at the Ateres Golda Hall that drew thousands of members of the community, Rabbanim, elected officials, and legal and financial professionals — for the purpose of increasing awareness of the law, and the imperative that we, as Torah Jews have to go above and beyond to conduct ourselves in the spirit of kiddush Hashem.
The event was presented by the Dror organization, whose mission is to ease the plight of those who find themselves incarcerated — which means that they appreciate more than most the need to avoid any encounter with the law, and to lead a just life.
Harav Ephraim Stein, the Faltishaner Rav, is the founder and leader of Dror. He spoke of the plight of those behind bars, and despite herculean efforts to effect their release, they must often remain there for years, and sometimes decades. At the same time, it is incumbent for the entire community to do everything possible for their release — never losing sensitivity to their plight.
He related the time that the Tosher Rebbe, zy”a, called him at 2 a.m. — soon after he had begun his askanus. The Rebbe asked him whether he knew where a certain individual was incarcerated. Harav Stein responded that he was under the impression that he was imprisoned somewhere in America. The Rebbe admonished him, “How is it that you don’t know that he was extradited to England?” He further explained that he had on the phone a prominent lawyer from England, and one from Canada — and he asked that he call attorneys Mr. Nat Lewin and Mr. Alan Dershowitz, so they could strategize legal defenses together on behalf of the extradited individual.
Rav Stein said that, while he can probably get them on the phone, couldn’t this wait until the morning?! The Rebbe explained, “No it can’t. I need you to realize that every moment matters when it comes to a Yid sitting behind bars!”
Reb Avraham Follman spoke about the intricacies of insurance claims and how it relates to homes and businesses that are insured, and how to avoid pitfalls related to them. “If you want to know whether you have enough insurance, go through your home and take inventory of what you have. That is how much insurance you need. There are no two ways about it.”
He spoke of the way a client of his jeopardized a completely legitimate $1 million policy through a very small indiscretion — stressing how important it is to comply with the laws.
A roundtable entitled, “In Touch With the Law” was comprised of the Hon. Peter P. Sweeney, the Kings County Supreme Court Judge; Mr. Frank Seddio, head of the Kings County Democratic party; Judge Barry Kamins, a retired criminal law judge; Mr. Murray Richman, Esq. a criminal defense attorney; and Mr. Gary P. Jenkins, executive deputy commissioner of the Human Resources Administration.
They touched on issues of financial honesty, mortgages and equity, and noted that in New York City, someone caught driving with a suspended license must be arrested. “You owe it to yourself to periodically check the status of your license.”
At the same time, citizens have rights. You never help yourself by talking to law enforcement. Always politely tell an officer you will be contacted by my lawyer. Countless people have gone to jail, not for a crime that they had committed, but for saying one word too much. “Once a word comes out of your mouth you are enslaved to it.”
Noted accountant Mr. Zechariah Waxler delivered a presentation on accounting matters.
Mr. Abraham J. Backenroth, Esq., business lawyer, specializing in bankruptcy laws; Mr. Benjamin Z. Epstein, Esq., real estate lawyer and Mr. Glenn H. Spiegel, Esq., real estate lawyer, served as panelists for a forum on civil and business issues.
The highly informative evening touched on many important topics, and inspired participants toward a life of v’asisa hayashar v’hatov, living an ethical and just life.