Look again. That Hasidic panhandler on the streets of Brooklyn isn’t necessarily who you think she is.
The New York Post reports that non-Jewish beggars are posing as Hasidim in order to maximize their intake. They may not be members of the tribe, but the panhandlers have gotten wind of the mitzvah of tsedakah, or giving charity — especially prior to Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
“They’re good people. They’re righteous people,” said Vincent Maurizio, who has begged at 13th Avenue and 43th Street in the heavily Hasidic Borough Park for almost two decades. Maurizio reported that he had collected $750 during Passover this year.
There are also women out there posing as Orthodox Jews. They wear long skirts and cover their hair with snoods. Some also push children in baby carriages so as to blend in among the large Hasidic families in the neighborhood.
These savvy panhandlers have learned to use a few key Hebrew and Yiddish words, like “Shabbat,” “shalom” and “tsedakah,” but it is their mispronunciation of the latter that sometimes gives them away.
“They go, ‘Sedaka’… A lot of non-Jewish people can’t pronounce the ‘T’ and the ‘S’ [in ‘tsedaka’], so you know they’re not Jewish,” noted Bernard Vei, an Orthodox Jew.
However, if what the beggars have told the Post about their earnings is true, then the shoddy Hebrew accent has not been much of an impediment. It would seem that many Jews have given the impostors the benefit of the doubt.
“We’re good people; we always give. That’s the problem — they think we have all of the money in the world!” said Vei.