Panhandlers on the Parkway - By BZ Kravitz

During a recent visit to New York I was enjoying a peaceful stroll down Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. The night before, New York had been anything but peaceful. Times Square had been evacuated after the now infamous car bomb abandoned on the street in an attempt to carry out a deadly terrorist attack.

I decided to stop the first New York Police Officer I see and let him know how much their service to the community is appreciated, especially their fight against terrorism. I spotted a Man-in-Blue on foot patrol, something I don’t see too often in Los Angeles, and introduced myself as a crisis counselor and Reserve Police Officer from California. I also presented him a patch from our department as a token of appreciation.

Our 20 minute conversation progress with me sharing my expertise and insights into weapons training, and he described the types of local crime he encounters. In this section of Brooklyn, located near a Chassidic orthodox community, he told me one of the biggest crime challenges are the panhandlers.

It is a common practice for Orthodox Jews to give charity to legitimate needy people asking for handouts. However, recently there has been an influx of impostors masquerading as Orthodox Jews with beards and skullcaps. These charlatans, many of whom are not even Jewish, take advantage of the good graces of a community of caring individuals, and then actually use the money to fund illegal drug habits.

The NYPD officer told me that after the recent arrested one of these fake panhandlers it was discovered that he had almost $100,000 in his bank account.

Once again critical thinking skills must be employed to make carful decisions, even when it comes to giving money to the poor. But how does one discern a legitimate hardship from an illegitimate one? Perhaps a solution is to create a charity committee that will investigate and verify the individual’s need and distribute community funds with vouchers to food stores.

Masquerading as Orthodox Jews also occurs in some cult groups who use this tactic to proselytize the Jewish community. Questioning and making informed decisions are the best tools we use to avoid being taken advantage of by spiritual and criminal charlatans.

BZ Kravitz is a crisis counselor, chaplain and Reserve Police Officer. He is proficient at scuba diving and martial arts, and is also a certified firearms instructor. He is the founder of and, non-profit organizations that promotes critical thinking in response to deceptive cults and missionaries

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