By Larry Gordon –
Why, the question is frequently posed to us, isn’t this newspaper covering in detail some of the other widely reported stories about 5 Towns and other communal personalities who have run afoul of the law? And there is not one specific or clear answer.
The one response that plays itself over in my mind is that when there is such a widely reported event like last week’s arrest of some local school officials, what else, I think to myself, can I possibly add to the situation that has not already been reported with all its humiliating and unsavory details. Can we add something to the mix of all the reporting that will help to alleviate the embarrassment or minimize the chilul Hashem that these situations create and pose?
In football there is an egregious penalty called piling on. It’s not a serious as much as it is a sensible penalty. The penalty is assessed when a runner or a receiver is tackled and is already technically down on the field when another player jumps on the pile of players. Had we reported those arrests or the situation at the Met Council earlier this year or those related to the forced Get cases, or the matter when a community figure was forced to leave town, what could we have possibly said that would add some new or refreshing perspective to the matter.
Yes, I am, aware that for a conventional newspaper these omissions may be glaring, so let me explore and analyze why I feel that this is the best and most productive way to proceed on these issues. Frankly, on a personal level I feel for these people and their families. If whatever we report in these pages is going to inflict further pain and embarrassment, well that may be the raison de’etre for some media but that is not the case here.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to ignore the lessons that we need to absorb as individuals and a community from the plethora of these cases that seem to be coming at us at frequent and breakneck speed. So what do any of these cases have to really do with any of us as individual, upstanding law abiding and tax paying citizens? Well, unfortunately the answer to that is that it has everything to do with us.
Take for example the recent case of Jonathan Pollard who is now in a US prison for some thirty years having pleaded guilty to spying fir Israel. Granted, after all these years this case should have little or nothing to do with us as loyal citizens of the US. But realistically speaking that is not true or accurate. Since the Pollard affair unfolded in the late 1980’s every American Jew has on some level and to some extent been viewed in a more pronounced fashion has perhaps harboring an allegiance to Israel that is greater to our home country the US.
And don’t delude yourself, Pollard’s seemingly never-ending sentence is a constant shot across the bow at American Jews who might feel somewhere in their conscience a twinge of greater loyalty to Israel. Unlike Arab mass murderers and terrorists who enjoy international support for their release under the most deluded circumstances, there is no such sentiment or sympathy for Mr. Pollard.
And I cannot help but suspect that the long sentence of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin a few years ago for a financial crime is very much related in some incongruous way to the Pollard case. The sad reality is that in other communities when someone commits a crime—financial or otherwise it usually only impacts on them and perhaps to a limited extent on their families. But not here, not in this community. Here it has a ripple effect, spirals down and extends itself in every direction. Why is that?
For many of us it is a matter of the unfortunate downfall of some of our friends and then there is the extra added burden and problem of the chilul Hashem that scars us all regardless of our distance and lack of involvement. This is all exacerbated by high profile people engineering their way either wittingly or otherwise into these untenable situations. The fact of the matter is when people in these positions find themselves in difficult circumstances it lends others to draw the sad conclusion if what were otherwise thought to be responsible and capable people get involved in these situations then everyone down the line must be the same way.
Of course that sentiment is not really articulated from any responsible direction but rest assured that it is out there. It was out there with Pollard, with Rubahskin and it is out there with these latest assorted tragic cases of yarmulke clad men being led away in handcuffs.
So the Jewish media of which these days there are plenty, seemed to handle these stories in one of several ways. To some there is just simple moral indignation at the wantonness of not just possibly committing these awful crimes but of even allowing oneself to be placed or inserted into this type of tainted or questionable situation.
Is it possible that the people involved thought or believed—at the start anyway—that what they were doing was good, right or for some reason just had to be done? Yes, that is a stretch and requires some imagination but it is possible. And it is even more likely that these situations just plain got out of hand and the easy money dimension took on a life of its own.
A well know Orthodox criminal defense attorney who preferred not to be identified because of his involvement in some of the cases said, “Each case is different and each is embarrassing to the State of Israel and the community at large. It is hard to explain
these things happen. Sometimes it’s greed, sometimes naivete in a highly regulated arena and sometimes like in the Olmert case, a sense of misguided “entitlement” is allowed to invade an then control an otherwise ethical mind set. Very sad.” He pointed out that it is important to note that while these cases receive a lot of publicity, the overwhelming majority in the Orthodox community never get into any legal difficulty.” More in this week’s 5TJT