Speaking of the Dead

Every Man Has a Name
Every man has a name/ given to him by G-d/ and given to him by his parents
Every man has a name/ given to him by his stature/ and the way he smiles/ and given to him by his clothing
Every man has a name/ given to him by the mountains/ and given to him by his walls
Every man has a name/ given to him by the stars/ and given to him by his neighbors
Every man has a name/ given to him by his sins/ and given to him by his longing
Every man has a name/ given to him by his enemies/ and given to him by his love
Every man has a name/ given to him by his feasts/ and given to him by his work
Every man has a name / given to him by the seasons/ and given to him by his blindness
Every man has a name/ given to him by the sea and/ given to him/ by his death.
 לכל איש יש שם by Zelda Schneersohn Mishkovsky


Those who speak of the murdered have obligations. The ones who report the death to relatives must be ready to manage their shock. The burial society must respectfully and gently ready the body for its final journey. The eulogist must speak of the good and evoke sorrow. The medical examiner must find and report facts that can help locate and prosecute the culprits, however embarrassing these facts might be. Homicide detectives have to be cynical about the victim and have to cast the net of their suspicions widely. They serve the victim and justice by bringing his murderer to justice, not by eulogizing the victim. Reporters have to locate the facts which will be of interest to their readers. Newspaper editors, who write the headlines, answer to owners who want sales, and to readers who respond to sensational headlines.  Community leaders have to make pronouncements that serve their group’s interests. Politicians usually feel obliged to say what their constituents want to hear.

Sometimes, a life and death are so straightforward that all these voices complement each other, either to say a good man was murdered by evil people with no justification or to report on a murder victim so vile, and a murderer so justified, that in spite of the crime, our sympathies lie with the executioner. But such simple scenarios are few and far between.

The story of Menachem “Max” Stark’s dealings and demise is complicated. He had a wife, children, siblings, and other relatives who were heartbroken. He was part of the Satmar community where he gave charity to both factions and regularly hosted fundraisers. He operated many rental properties in and around Williamsburg and most of his tenants thought he cheated them by not providing minimum maintenance and by stealing deposits. He owed a lot of money to lenders and they accused him of bad faith in his dealings as did others.

Stark was under pressure from lenders and feared for his life for some weeks. We can assume he was dealing with shady operators. Banks and commercial lenders can be ruthless, but they do not threaten physical violence. Thus it makes sense to assume we are dealing with mobsters, whether Jewish or gentile, white or black, homegrown or foreign. One consultant to a news organization spoke of Lubavitch but bobbled the name and mispronounced it Lubabavitch. If he actually had some basis for this assertion, I doubt he was talking about the main Hasidic group based in Crown Heights but was probably referring to Russian Jewish mobsters who are often loosely affiliated with Lubavitch (Chabad), the dominant Jewish power in Russia because they have allied themselves with Vladimir Putin. In fact, it is a good guess that he was dealing with Russian Jewish mobsters. When Hasidim deal with mobsters they usually prefer dealing with Jews, and these days, the Russians are at the top of that heap.

Whoever these mobsters were, they nabbed him outside his office on Thursday night (1/2/14), drove him away in a van, suffocated him, burnt the lower half of his body, and disposed his body in a dumpster in Long Island. This was not random violence, nor was this a ransom scheme. It was a murder with a message to those still alive, “Pay up or you’re next.”

The message was probably directed to his partner, Israel Perlmutter, other partners, and perhaps others in the community who vouched for Stark, implicitly co-signing his loans with the mobsters. The message may also have been aimed at other lenders with non-performing loans, in or out of the Hasidic community.

The New York Post infuriated some people with their front page headline, “Who didn’t want him dead?” It led to protests about antisemitism and a press conference on the steps of Brooklyn’s Borough Hall. However, as Corinne Berzon wrote in The Times of Israel:

 The New York Post ALWAYS uses insensitive, obnoxious headlines in huge, bold print alongside photographs of whomever they are publicly humiliating. They have insulted Asians, women, African-Americans, gays, and pretty much every nationality or group residing in New York. From A-rod to Anthony Weiner, the Post makes a business out of shaming people on their front page, be they dead or alive.

What I find interesting is how much energy is going into protesting a dozen words in one newspaper article vs. how little is going into demonstrating to demand justice as they did when a Hasidic couple was killed by a speeding car, or as they have usually done when other Hasidim are murdered. It is almost as if they are more concerned to manage the coverage rather than prod the investigations. I suspect they fear and expect that the investigation will include a lot more embarrassing news about Stark and his associates.

The New York Post fiasco is over, but the fulminating will have its own half-life of decay. Meanwhile the investigation is moving forward and the bad news will drown out all the protest noises except to those in the community that prefer paranoia.

Menachem Stark’s name was given to him by his parents, his life, and now his death. The reputation of the community will not ultimately be assigned by a newspaper headline, but the good and bad deeds they tolerated or opposed.


20 thoughts on “Speaking of the Dead

  1. Stark was generous with Hasidim while acting as an uncaring greedy slumlord and loan shark in the non-Hasidic world. Nothing surprising about that: to Satmar goyim are nothing and exist to be exploited. What this affair will serve to do is to provide fodder for the tabloids as each ever-nastier revelation is splashed on their front pages besmirching all Jews in the process. A mini-Madoff situation; this one involving a murder, Madoff’s culminating in the suicide of his son. If Stark was killed by Jewish mobsters so much the worse. I feel sorry for his children.

  2. ‘Most tenants …’ Can you back up that statement with anything? The tenants with gripes posted on line and the rest did not. You are willing to villify a person with zero evidence. ‘He sometimes was overwhelmed by the amount of units he had’ is a possibility, ‘He should have had more supers’ may be true, I am not sure if even that is true. The mob likes to hate the rich and we should not be feeding the hate frenzy.

    • Fine, so let me shlep this out over a longer few sentences to satisfy you.

      “Almost all reactions to his conduct recorded before his death on landlord evaluation sites, and court records showed him to be a lousy landlord, aka a slumlord who rented out uninhabitable properties without them being legal under NYC law and not even refunding rent deposits when some were evicted because the city declared the properties uninhabitable.”

      Do your own research on New York Times, Legal sites, and landlord review sites (using each of the names of his various corporate entities). What I found over several days of browsing is that there were many strong negatives and no positives. On scales of 1-5, where one is the worst, he managed to get 1 from every single tenant. That is exceptional. Now of course his publicists are stuffing evaluation sites with positives since his death. But that of course is not ratings from tenanats but from his propagandists.

      • I agree with your analysis but I do want to point out that the NYT interviewed one tenant who had positive things to say and said all his neighbors felt the same way.

        It could be he ran different buildings with different standards.

        • It’s more likely that this one tenant might get his repairs done faster thanks to his assistance.

          It does not appear that any of the “neighbors” made similar comments to the NY Times or other publications.

          It is clear that there is an extensive PR campaign is being conducted to whitewash Stark’s known history as a landlord.

    • Zero evidence?


      Even as flophouses go, the Greenpoint Hotel has an unenviable distinction. According to a motion for foreclosure that federal prosecutors filed last month, the hotel has decayed in recent years into one of the most dangerous S.R.O.’s in the city, a Brooklyn version of Manhattan’s notorious Kenmore Hotel, where drug dealers and prostitutes ruled until a federal takeover in 1994.

      About 20 deaths have occurred in the Greenpoint since 1998. Most of those were due to drug overdoses, but at least one was a drug-related murder, according to the motion filed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn by the office of the United States attorney, Roslynn R. Mauskopf.

      Federal prosecutors say most of those were casualties of a sophisticated drug-dealing operation that was run out of the hotel for more than a decade by Rafael Perez, known as Macho, who is awaiting trial. The United States attorney’s office is seeking to take over the hotel.

      “I’m surprised it took them so long,” said Richard Santos, 44, who lived in the Greenpoint for two years and who still hangs around Manhattan Avenue, drinking beer out of brown paper bags and asking strangers for change. “Drugs were rampant back then. Management always had a hand in it. There was a drug for every floor.”

      Workers at the hotel, he said, turned the security cameras on and off to allow dealers and prostitutes to enter the building without being caught on tape. The bodies of those who had overdosed were taken out a back entrance, put into a car trunk, and dumped elsewhere. “With addicts, one dies, another one takes their place,” said Mr. Santos, who said he was a former heroin addict, onetime crack smoker and an alcoholic.

      The hotel’s current owners, Max Starck and Sam Pearl of Brooklyn, who bought the hotel in 2003, did not return numerous phone calls, to their homes and offices, requesting comment.

    • Stop spinning Mark.


      At 239 Banker Street, a former factory Mr. Stark converted into trendy lofts, the building racked up a series of serious violations, including lacking a certificate of occupancy and working without a construction permit. In September 2009, after an inspector found workers had plastered over fire sprinkler heads, the city ordered the building vacated. Residents tried to contact Mr. Stark to recover their security deposits, but lost them when he proved elusive, they said.

      When the building reopened in 2012, violations continued to accrue. So did problems with wiring and heating.

  3. It is sad to hear of anyones death. I read almost all of your post and any extra links within the posts, I like to read them to educate / understand the culture differences. We may follow different beliefs, But there is only one GOD who is the creator and judge of all mankind. I have read many a post / stories and am sad to still see that though we different beliefs there is still this underlining dislike. I am a non jew, referenced as goyim or other slang terms and reading that Satmar’s beliefs are non jews are nothing & exist only to be exploited is very troubling. Any beliefs that follow this thought process will only prove to emulate more hostility to each group of people. There was a time when I thought some sins were worse then others, but as I evolved in my faith, it is clear this is untrue sin is sin it is not weighed or have a value. I continue to find this disturbing I am unable to make sense of it, a person who steals some groceries for his family has sinned vs. a murderer or molester has sinned. For I am certain of one thing, all of us will sit before GOD the creator and only his Divine can be judge.

    • >There was a time when I thought some sins were worse then others,
      >but as I evolved in my faith,
      >it is clear this is untrue sin is sin it is not weighed or have a value. I continue to find this
      >disturbing I am unable to make sense of it, a person who steals some groceries for his family
      >has sinned vs. a murderer or molester has sinned

      So the “sin” of stealing food when you are starving is equivalent to murder or molesting a child?

      Your belief system is abhorrent and vile. I hope I never “evolve”.

      Seriously, you should seek medical help if you believe your nonsense.

  4. So Stark through his business dealings can be linked to:

    1) Rafael Perez, known as Macho who ran a sophisticated drug-dealing operation out of one of Stark’s properties.
    2) the Latin Kings gang that were involved in the sophisticated drug-dealing operation run out of one of Stark’s properties.

  5. YL, I disagree that the Stark’s story is “complicated”. Almost every evil person has some worthy characteristic. Stark’s generosity with stolen money is not a positive character trait. Stark was a pig; end of story.
    However, I take my hat off to you in the way that you frame your exegesis. It’s too bad that the Satmarer would never even look at it, much less have the generosity of spirit you demonstrate.

    • I would at least give him the benefit of the doubt that he was good to his children and loved them and they loved him. But I agree about the charity. I am sick of people making it a virtue to give charity from stolen money. A man who cannot pay his debts is stealing from his creditors when he makes of show of giving charity.

      • >Stark was a better man than you’ll ever be.

        Stark as a landlord:


        “The shaft of the freight elevator [in the building] was dangerously close to collapsing … rats and other creatures roamed vacant, trash filled apartments freely. We came to learn none of the plumbing and general infrastructure had been updated since it was built almost 100 years ago. I personally had no windows, but boarded up holes in the walls of my 1,200 square foot apartment … I had no kitchen for a time, no heat, and occasionally no running water or electricity. I would frequently come home to find my door ajar, strangers inside cutting drywall just beside my bed, smoking cigarettes out one of the boarded up holes.”
        One day, “The Department of Buildings showed up at 239 Banker Street to vacate the property. This ‘luxury’ rental property had sewage leaking uncontrollably on the first floor, which was also the floor Mr. Stark decided to hide months worth of his tenants trash in — in unfinished apartments — rather than pay to have it picked up regularly.”
        “The inspector gave every tenant 4 hours to clear out everything they owned, then the doors would be barred. I was lucky enough to have family nearby, so in a dizzying and furious spell, I threw everything I owned into boxes and threw the boxes into a U-Haul to bring home. We left behind us 20 or more people who had no easy solution to their predicament.”

      • Please, moshe, what is your connection to the deceased? You speak with such authority (and admiration) that it behooves you to inform those of us who read this blog what your kesher is. The basis for your praise?, thanks.. .

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