Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lack of Ethics

Oldie but goodie -- Appropriate in light of the Madoff scandal!

Lack of Ethics
Rabbi Gregory Marx

"I have a confession to make. I read the newspaper Jewish-style. I look for those articles that are about Jews and things that affect Jews. All events can be interpreted by the question, 'Is it good for the Jews?' 'Economy falters.' Is it good for the Jews? Middle East flare up…Is it good for the Jews? All heroes and criminals are subject to that probing question: are they Jewish and will their behavior influence public opinion about the Jews? ...

Tonight, I want to talk about other types of Jews who are in the news. And it doesn’t make me proud. I read recently that Jews from Israel are the leading importers of Ecstasy into this country. That’s right, the drug lords of New York speak Hebrew. Last summer, New York police seized over one million Ecstasy pills from Israelis David Roash and Israel Ahkenzi. They had a street value of forty million dollars.

Those of us who travel on El Al, are not only with Yeshiva students and Zionists, we are traveling with drug dealers as well. And who are the carriers?

According to the Jerusalem Report, Bobover Chassidim are paid $1500 and a free trip to Europe for carrying up to $500,000 in cash to Amsterdam and returning with a load of Ecstasy.

They travel back to Israel with 30,000 to 40,000 aspirin-sized pills, which are then sent to America, Australia and New Zealand for sale.

Colleagues that I work with have deeply disappointed me. In Florida, an Orthodox colleague of mine is currently in prison, serving a multi-year term for soliciting minors on the Internet. He solicited a 14-year-old boy and was caught establishing a liaison with the youth. In his depravity he decided not to prey on his Bar/Bat Mitzvah students, but went instead to outside youths that he met in Internet chat rooms and subsequently dark parking lots.

We still await the beginning of the retrial for a south Jersey rabbi who is accused of hiring a troubled man in his congregation to bludgeon his wife to death. Then there are the cantors from New York and Harrisburg who are accused of molesting young boys in their own family and beyond.

And of course, a neighboring synagogue suffered for the past year, having discovered that its trusted employee allegedly embezzled over $1.2 million. While the staff was taking pay cuts in order to stem the financial hemorrhage, two employees were allegedly cutting checks to themselves for thousands of dollars a week.

More often than I care to admit, Jews in the news are not making us proud ... Four Chassidim ripped off the government to the tune of millions and millions of dollars by getting federal grants for schools that didn't even exist! And that didn't stop their fellow Chassidim from coming to the defense of their cohorts by claiming they didn't keep any of the money for themselves.

The chief rabbis of the community defended their actions, because it was strengthening the religious efforts of the community against the evils of secularization. What is happening to our community?

Rabbi Elimelech Naiman was given a prison sentence for mail fraud and misappropriation of government funds. He was the deputy director of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Borough Park.

Rabbi Jacob Lustig got 3 years’ probation and a million-dollar fine for skimming more than 2 million dollars from his synagogue's bingo proceeds.

Rabbi Hertz Frankel got nabbed for cheating the government out of six million dollars.

Recently, Rabbi Yizchok Fried was arrested for dealing in drugs. Two Chassidim were jailed for rigging an election in England!

And headlines in the New York Post and Daily News told the world of the arrest of 14 Satmar Chassidim of running a multi-million dollars 'full service fraud factory,' which bilked banks, credit card companies, individuals and the IRS of millions of dollars.

These are just a few from within the Orthodox community!

Not only have Jews in the news sunk to moral lows, but worse still, they have failed to accept responsibility for their moral wrongdoings.

I will never forget officiating at the funeral of a mother of two infants who was stabbed to death by her husband from Monsey, New York. Her two children are too young to remember the events that changed their lives, but when they mature, they will sadly come to understand their loss of innocence, the intrusion of violence and the betrayal of trust that turned their lives upside down. One parent gone, another in jail for the murder. I know that it goes on all around us.

It’s part of the daily news that makes up the larger world. But I’m not talking to the larger world. I’m talking to our community. You’re the only ones who will listen.

We Jews are supposed to be a light unto the nations. We are supposed to define our characters by our behavior. And judging from the past years, we are in terrible shape ...

We are here to remind the world, that deeds not faith redeem the world. If we lose sight of this teaching, if we forget to live like decent people, then we lose the essence of our faith.

We have become irrelevant. The world won’t need Jews anymore.

With all these recent revelations and scandals, it's not so much my concern what God thinks about it, and it is not even my concern what non-Jews think and say about it.

My deepest concern is how our own Jewish children feel about it!

A congregant told me that she swelled with pride when she discovered her elementary school-aged children avidly reading a front-page story in the newspaper. But then she was horrified to learn what article they were reading.

It was the headline about jury selection for a rabbi accused of murdering his wife. Who would have dreamed that a Jewish standard bearer would gain national prominence before children’s eyes in this way? ... So yes, 'Why be Jewish?' is being asked by many. And 'Why marry Jewish?' is being asked by many more. Can I still say because of our moral passion?

Can I still say, that it’s because we Jews have historically taken the ethical high road?

What do I say when our children are bombarded every day with stories of Jews who are corrupt and have sunk to the lowest levels of inhumanity ???