Aish quizzed over gambler rabbi

Andrew Feldman

Andrew Feldman

The Aish outreach organisation is re-examining its informal education programmes after a young professional gambler who met a rabbi through the organisation lost a gambling case against the rabbi in the High Court.

Andrew Feldman, a 22-year-old former JFS pupil, took Rabbi Simon Nissim, 34, to the High Court in an attempt to set aside a £136,000 bill.

In 2007 Rabbi Nissim, in his role in Aish's young professionals division, met Mr Feldman. Mr Feldman had lost more than £700,000 playing online poker. Rabbi Nissim said he would help Mr Feldman by giving him any winnings from his online spread betting.

But Mr Feldman, of Bushey, agreed to cover any losses, and ended up with the £136,000 bill.

Last week, Judge Richard Snowden QC ruled that Mr Feldman had not shown any grounds for disputing that he was indebted to Rabbi Nissim. Mr Feldman was ordered to pay the rabbi a total of £156,000 plus the entire costs of the case.

After he heard about Mr Feldman's huge losses, Rabbi Nissim, who no longer works for Aish and now lives in New York, suggested that Mr Feldman might try to recover his money through online spread betting, and offered to use his own account.

The judge said that the pair agreed that Mr Nissim would make spread bets on the Wall Street index on the basis that he would give Mr Feldman any profits made and Mr Feldman would indemnify him against any losses.

"Mr Feldman also accepts that he told Mr Nissim that he was prepared to risk £100,000 to £200,000 in this way," the judge said.

Jonathan Lewis, representing Mr Feldman, told the judge at a hearing in May that the two used to be friends and his client "looked up to and placed trust" in the rabbi.

But the judge said: "Risking large amounts of one's own money up front is not an obvious hallmark of a fraudster."

After the case, Naftali Schiff, chief executive of Aish, said: "This was a private matter in a private realm. The person in question was not a minor. Having said that, we would not condone involvement in gambling or encourage staff to get involved with a student in that way.

"We are in ongoing discussions with our rabbis and informal educators as to where the boundaries lie."

Last updated: 4:09pm, June 17 2010