Rabbi Arrested in Drive on Charity Racket
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Rabbi Arrested in Drive on Charity Racket

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New York City’s campaign against charity rackets was continued Friday when the four persons arrested Thursday for alleged soliciting of funds for so-called charitable purposes and then keeping the proceeds were held for hearings in the First District Magistrate’s Court by Magistrate Adolph Stern on August 1 and 6. All defendants pleaded not guilty.

Rabbi Jacob Bienefeld, 53, of 1057 Hoe avenue, The Bronx, head of the Downtown Synagogue at 96 Liberty street, and his seventeen-year old son, were held for hearing on August 6. Maurice G. Wahl, Assistant District Attorney, who directed the arrests, said that in the case of the Bienefelds and that of the other two defendants, the names of prominent persons, as well as jurists from other communities, were used to influence donations through the telephone and the mail. Young Bienefeld was alleged to have accepted a $74 check, signed by Rudy Vallee, from Detective Harry Lichtblau, posing as Vallee’s secretary in Vallee’s office. Both Bienefelds were held on $500 bail each.


Nathan Iskowitz, 50, of 215 East Eighteenth street, and Zisa Billik, 64, of 1319 East New York avenue, both of Brooklyn and officers of the United Relief Association of 216 Madison street, Manhattan, were held for further hearing in the First District Magistrate’s Court for August 1. Herman Levin, investigator of the Department of Public Welfare, was the complainant against these two, who were arrested Thursday charged with soliciting and obtaining money under false pretenses. Rabbi Haim J. Weinberg, who held services at the Association’s headquarters for a weekly wage of $25 which was paid by the two officers of the society, has promised District Attorney Dodge he would testify for the state at the hearing on charges against the two defendants.

Eight other members of the United Relief Association will also be held for further hearing for August 1.


Deputy Commissioner Stanley H. Howe, of the Department of Public Welfare declared Friday that this first concentrated drive against charity rackets will be continued indefinitely until all illegitimate organizations bearing religious names and obtaining money by fraud are wiped out. He estimated that at least $1,000,000 yearly is being obtained from New Yorkers under false pretenses in this manner. He hoped that the Board of Aldermen would revoke Section 199 of the city ordinance which exempts religious organizations from needing a license for the soliciting of funds. This section makes it possible for people to start “bogus” religious organizations and collect money under false pretenses.

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