The Hardyberg Boys

So the latest international scandal in the old mining village of charediville is the case of the smuggling chassidim. Otherwise known as “the type of story I would never hear about if I didn’t read Mishpacha”. (Incidentally, I once tried to start a conversation at a Shabbos table about something I read in Mishpacha. Before I got a chance to explain what it was everyone laughed at me for mentioning I read Mishpacha.) The story of the young bochrim who were caught smuggling cocaine through Japan? Apparently they agreed to smuggle, but they thought it was art, or so Mishpacha said.

If you missed it, it’s been the topic of all the editorials for the past three weeks or so, and is also apparently the cause of chassidim worldwide being stopped for extra security checks. Personally, I’m wondering how one would confuse art with white power. The way you’d smuggle art is quite different as well, I’d imagine. Here’s a hint: neither Monet nor Rembrandt ever painted on small granules of anything. They may have been on small granules of things, but they never painted on them with the notable exception of Michelangelo’s three day bender when he did a large Iron Maiden mural in the Sistine Chapel that he later had to paint over. I noticed the initial letters on the subject seemed to convey the idea that the Japanese government are showing their anti-Semite colors by arresting the boys. One column inch I particularly enjoyed was a bit talking about how the Japanese prison system has been in touch with Chabad to provide the boys teffillin and have also been cooking their fish on foil and serving it on plastic as they were instructed to do so that the boys could eat kosher. This was one page after an article mentioning how cruel and inhumane they were being treated and the Japanese system is in general.

If nothing else it’s been a boon to Mishpacha, who after several months of lazy issues have managed to milk this for all its worth, even doing a full feature on customs officers in Ben Guerion to see if they really are pulling aside all chareidis.

9 Responses to “The Hardyberg Boys”

  1. outaline Says:

    From what I can understand of the story they were offered free tickets to somewhere (not sure were) if they first went to Japan to deliver a package. Chances are they knew exactly what they were doing and if they didn’t what were their parents thinking?

    I don’t understand why people feel they don’t deserve to be punished. Imagine they were trying to smuggle drugs into the US and didn’t get caught and they somehow managed to find their way to your child, or friend. Wouldn’t you want them to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. In my opinion (and it might be harsh) anyone caught smuggling drugs be they Jewish or not should rot in prison.

  2. I think they were naive kids who didn’t really know the ramifications of what they were doing. I don’t think they necessarily knew it was drugs. I’m sure the stuff was disguised in some sort of package. Were their parents aware of the whole story? Nobody really knows the whole story, so I won’t rush to condemn anybody.

    I do remember reading an article in the New York Times when I was in high school (so this is back in the early to mid 90’s) about a court case involving young yeshiva guys who had actually and knowingly been recruited to smuggle drugs when they were flying back and forth through Europe. The judge (who had an obviously Jewish name) seemed genuinely upset and practically in tears about the situation, saying he didn’t understand how something like this could happen, etc, why wasnt’ there more adult supervision over these boys who were being given way too much freedom and how could religious Jews recruit these boys for illegal activity. I think in that case the boys got off with a slap to the wrist.

    I read Mishpacha, too, and really agreed with one letter to the editor which was basically saying that nowadays in lots of frum homes the kids are kept so sheltered that they end up being quite ignorant. A lot of people are too trusting nowadays; think about how many people end up losing money in scams or through pyramid schemes–I’ve read stuff about frum people who really got in over their heads with that kind of stuff.

  3. Chris_B Says:

    Odd but so far I cant find any reference to this in the Japanese news. Google shows me about 20 versions of the story though all with conflicting details.

    Drug crimes are zero tolerance here in Japan. Even a single marijuana seed gets you in jail. For the record, the japanese jail system is not known for its human rights record, but they do make effort to accommodate the special needs of foreign prisoners. Since smuggling drugs is quite a serious crime, yet these two men are having their special dietary needs accommodated as well as being allowed personal possessions (teffillin) which would be denied to regular prisoners, its hard to cry anti-semitism or human rights violations.

  4. Ignorance isn’t an excuse in the human law system. Give me a break. Before G-d, fine, and perhaps in our own minds, but if we allowed people to claim they “didn’t know” or were “too sheltered” before courts, everything becomes arbitrary and relative. That’s just not how it works, Starr.

    When was the last time you agreed to take unmarked and/or unknown packages for someone you barely know, anyway? Never? Thought so.

  5. Chris: How do you find Japan and are you teaching English or doing something else? I don’t know if you’re Jewish (Chris… ) but if you are, what are the options for kosher food? If you’re not Jewish, have you tried the ethnic foods? I saw a band interviewed who said that in Japan and far East countries they stick to McDonalds. Too many bad experiences with blind guessing and being served fried octopus and stuff.

    Shua: I don’t know how often you travel, but is it really possible you’ve never been asked to deliver chocolates or a book to one of your parents friends, and stuff like that? You should always check to make sure it is what it is, but the consensus in this case seems to be that the kids were naive and trusted a fellow chossid.

  6. Chris_B Says:


    I find japan to be quite solid except during earthquakes which we get more than I’d like. I been here about 10.5 years now, email me if you want the story, its kinda funny. I’ve never taught english, I got sent here by an IT company and have been in IT/Finance ever since.

    About kosher food, unless you stay at chabad house or cook your own veggies or fish, fuggeddaboutdit. Alot of the local food can be really tasty but you gotta be careful about what goes into it. Not that there are disgusting surprises but shrimp goes into many unexpected things and I was surprised to find out that one of my favorite pretzel type snacks lists “contains pork” in the ingredients (in japanese of course). If you want to keep “torah kosher” as opposed to “talmud kosher” then if you speak the language a little bit you can manage but dont be surprised at the surprises. I’ve had cases where I ask if there is pork or shrimp in something, get a negative response and the food comes with what they call bacon all over it…

    So, am I jewish? (With a name like this?) No, not at this time. Lets just say I’m looking into it/moving in that direction. Again, happy to talk about it by email.

  7. normal yid Says:

    i think shua and outaline are ridiculous for ranting on bout these kids for trusting some other jew bout package!either way i def dont think anyone (especially two jewish kids) deserves to be imprisoned in such cruel conditions that not even rapists and murderers have in usa!! the crime does not fit the punishment at all!perhaps you guys should use your mouths to pray for there release or at least better conditions instead of ranting on condemning them!!!!!

  8. Robbie Taylor Says:

    Not much in the local or world news about these young men (they are not boys anymore). Any suggestions how to keep up ?

    PS; Good luck with your journey. Feel free if you have any questions?

  9. Robbie: Last I heard their case was under review for the possibility of them being deported to Israel to finish out their sentence.

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