Panhandlers Impersonate Jews in New York's Hasidic Neighborhoods

Most of the panhandlers dress modestly and know a few Hebrew words, such as 'shabbat,' 'shalom' and 'tsedaka.'

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A panhandler (illustration.)Credit: AP

New York panhandlers in modest clothing and with a few Hebrew words have been staking out Hasidic neighborhoods in South Brooklyn, the New York Post reports.

The panhandlers favor popular food markets and the hours before Shabbat and Jewish holidays, the Post wrote. Sometimes, the panhandler will be pushing a child in a carriage.

Most have learned Hebrew words such as “shabbat,” “shalom” and “tsedaka” (charity.)

The Post quoted a local Orthodox Jew named Bernard Vei, 56, as saying: “They go, ‘sedaka.’ A lot of non-Jewish people can’t pronounce the ‘t’ and ‘s’ [in ‘tsedaka’], so you know they’re not Jewish.”

“We’re good people; we always give," Vei added. "That’s the problem — they think we have all of the money in the world!”

The Post said that one of its reporters had been approached by a panhandler asking for "tsedaka" in Flatbush last month. "When the Hebrew-speaking journalist asked if she spoke Hebrew, she looked confused, said 'Jewish,' then ran off."

Vincent Maurizio, 47, a panhandler who has begged in Borough Park for 18 years, said he collected $750 last month over the seven days of Passover.

“I learned how to speak Hebrew and Yiddish,” he said. “They’re good people. They’re righteous people.”