The Sound of Silence

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A number of Jews, including Orthodox Jews, have been implicated in financial crimes over recent months.

Some of the scandals have proven somewhat less scandalous than when they first appeared on front pages and were seared into readers’ minds. Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, for instance, currently stands convicted of misleading a bank to secure a loan. Although that conviction, amazingly, could result in an effective life sentence, charges that Mr. Rubashkin knowingly hired illegal aliens were dropped; and more lurid accusations – that he mistreated employees, abused animals and ran a methamphetamine factory – are no longer heard.

In some other cases, accusations have been made but evidence has not yet been heard; and both Judaism and American law insist on a presumption of innocence.

But there have certainly been cases in the Jewish community where guilt has been well established. Bernie Madoff may never have been Jewishly observant, but the Orthodox community has certainly had its share of fraud convictions, if on smaller scales, as well.

Jewish crimes, imagined, alleged or proven, have been prominently featured in the media. But they were prominent too at Agudath Israel of America’s recent 87th national convention. The opening plenary session, on November 26, was dedicated to the Jewish mandate of honesty in business and personal dealings. Two of the Orthodox world’s most respected rabbinic figures – Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe and Agudath Israel’s rabbinic head; and Rabbi Mattisyahu Salomon, the dean of students, or Mashgiach, of the famed Lakewood yeshiva – addressed the many hundreds who packed the large hall of the East Brunswick Hilton (with thousands more listening to a live broadcast of the proceedings or, later, on tapes and cd’s). The speeches were pointed, pained and powerful, and their message came through clearly: Honesty is no less a Jewish imperative than any. In fact, in many ways it is a greater one.

There were, as it happened, two other speakers that evening, although they were not there, unfortunately, in person: Rabbi Shimon Schwab and Rabbi Avrohom Pam, may their memories be a blessing.

Video excerpts of addresses presented by those two revered figures years ago on the subject of business ethics were projected onto large screens before the crowd. As the men on the screen spoke there was utter silence.

Rabbi Schwab, who served as the spiritual leader of the Khal Adath Jeshurun Orthodox Jewish community in Washington Heights for nearly four decades, had addressed an Agudath Israel “Halacha Conference for Accountants” on January 24, 1989. In the excerpts of that speech broadcast at the recent convention, he minced no words about the wrongness of “cutting corners” when it came to honesty in business.

“Those who resort to… dishonesty,” he said, “while they may have the outward appearance of G-d-fearing Jews, deep down they are irreligious” – and he loudly emphasized the “ir” of “irreligious.” G-d provides us what He knows we need, Rabbi Schwab explained. To steal is to deny that fact, and any gains thereby ill-gotten are an inheritance bequeathed by evil.

He noted, further, that the dictionary has an entry for the word “Jew” as a verb, as in “to Jew” someone, i.e. to cheat him. How terrible a desecration of G-d’s name, Rabbi Schwab bemoaned, that His people are viewed as defrauders. Even if the definition carries the smell of anti-Semitism, he explained, it is a desecration of G-d’s name all the same.

“I live for the day,” he mused, with a pining, sad smile, “when there will be a new definition for ‘to Jew’: to be a stickler for honesty… ”

Rabbi Pam served as the dean of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath (where he taught for more than 60 years) and was a member of the Council of Torah Sages. His excerpted speech was recorded on November 22, 2000 and screened the next day at that year’s Agudath Israel convention. He was seriously ailing and it may have been the last public address of his life. The anguish in the rabbi’s face and words, though, were clearly the product not of illness but of the pain he felt at having to even address the issue.

Speaking in Yiddish, he characterized a good Jew as someone who is “ehrlich” – honest and trustworthy – “in his profession, in business, with one’s workers, with one’s partners…” and, like Rabbi Schwab, he stated clearly that the same honesty with which a Jew must interact with another Jew must characterize a Jew’s dealings with non-Jews.

When one arrives in the next world, Rabbi Pam reminded his listeners, quoting the Talmud, “the very first question he is asked is ‘Did you conduct your business in [good] faith?’”

The word used there, he noted, quite literally means “faith,” because – here he echoed Rabbi Schwab – acting dishonestly in order to “supplement” our income denies G-d’s ability to provide us our sustenance.

When the screens went black, before applause ensued, the silence persisted for what seemed, at least to one person in the audience, a very long time.

© 2009 AM ECHAD RESOURCES

[Rabbi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.]

All Am Echad Resources essays are offered without charge for personal use and sharing, and for publication with permission, provided the above copyright notice is appended.

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38 Responses

  1. Jewish Observer says:

    “I think the Rebbe pretty much covered all those. What more would you want?”

    – I could get into it, but I don;t think it will be productive, as I think you are firm in your point of view here. For me, in all his apologies I never heard the Rebbe decry the evil nature of sin itself, versus the cheshbon that it is not worth doing it. I could cite support for this but, as I said, I don’t think we will get anyware with further back and forth as we are not debating the facts, but how our sechel tells us to interpret them.

  2. Rachel W says:

    What’s so soon? You may have just heard about it but this broke a while ago; he got his due justice.

    According to what I was taught, Teshuva consists of 3 steps (according to Rambam): Being Modeh on your Cheit (admitting the sin), Charatah al HaAvar (regretting the past) and Kaballah al HaAsid (accepting to improve in the future). I think the Rebbe pretty much covered all those. What more would you want?

    Is not sponsoring forums where accountants and lawyers clarify the rules for other mosdos and hiring a tax compliance in his own mosdos not proof that he is trying to improve and pointing out to others that what he did was wrong? His Mosdos are in a financial crisis now. Is he going back to his old ways? (I can answer that – no)

    And don’t forget – bimakom shebaalei teshuva omidim….

  3. Jewish Observer says:

    “He admits in public that he did wrong and is working hard to change”

    – the thrust of his admission was that it was neither worth it nor is it necessary to do thse things. Compare, for example, to the level of aveirah the rabbonim of the infamous kol koreh characterized lipa’s behavior.

  4. Jewish Observer says:

    “Additionally, the Roshei Yeshiva (Rav Mendel Zaks , Rav Kravets, etc. come to mind) most emphatically receive a Shlit”a”

    – you had to go back 50 years to find a YU RY who deserves the same honorific as a man who got it imedoately after he “regretted” his cheating.

  5. Jewish Observer says:

    “Have you never heard of Teshuva”

    – so fast? on such a big sin?? without a real acknolowledgment of the wrongtness of the act??? (as opposed to – I realized that crime doesn’t pay and isn;t necessary)

    so let’s keep my scenario – a rosh yeshiva was caught coming out of a movie, then apologized. would he still get a shlita? I am not saying don;t acce;pt a teshuva, but are you a shlita so fast?

    “Methinks someone has a great big chip on his shoulder”

    – uncalled for

  6. Rachel W says:

    “Oib azoy …. why does the Agudah continue to venerate the Spinker Rebbe? RCDZ used the Shlita honorific on him AFTER the maaseh. Would AI ever use sh”lita or ZTL on someone known to have gone to the movies or teach at YU”

    Have you never heard of Teshuva. The Spinka Rebbe has been going out of his way to sponsor forums and speeches (and RCDZ and Agudah are working with him on this) warning mosdos to stay honest and bringing professionals to show them the way. He admits in public that he did wrong and is working hard to change.

    The movies is not something AI -a chareidi org -can condone or encourage; you can be sure if someone used to go to the movies and stopped,his past would not be held against him. Additionally, the Roshei Yeshiva (Rav Mendel Zaks , Rav Kravets, etc. come to mind) most emphatically receive a Shlit”a after their names. Law professors do not – but, then again, neither do the Agudist law professors get titled with Shlita. Methinks someone has a great big chip on his shoulder.

  7. Naftali says:

    May I suggest that we combat the dishonesty crisis by emphasizing the biography and teachings of Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky?

    Let us say his Divrei Torah in his name often.

    Let our yeshivahs teach his values as part of the curriculum.

    Let us name our synagogues, yeshivahs and sons in his honor.

    Let us create a web site dedicated to his biography and teachings.

    Let us give a copy of his biography to every Jewish teenager.

    %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

    Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky (lived from 1890 to 1986)
    was one of the greatest leaders of Orthodox Judaism.

    When he was over age 90, some of his students
    asked him how he merited to live so many years.

    He answered them:
    In my entire life, I have never told a lie.
    %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

    Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky often told this true story:

    When he was Rabbi of Tzitovyan, the postmaster
    always gave him too much change for his purchase
    of postage, which he always returned.

    Years later, the postmaster helped Jews escape
    the destruction of World War II.

    SOURCE:
    The Torah Profile: A Treasury of Biographical
    Sketches, by Rabbi Nisson Wolpin, Editor, 1988,
    Mesorah Publications, Brooklyn ISBN 0-89906-860-X.
    Page 178 of 328, Chapter entitled: Reb Yaakov
    Kamenetzky, pages 154-183.

    %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

  8. dovid says:

    “the rules that are not the rules of this majority community need not be abided.”

    Miriam, someone who steals in America is a thief according to the Torah law, in addition to the law of the land. These fellows have no Torah, notwithstanding the moneys they donate to yeshivos, this or that custom that they follow, the levush they wear, or chumoros (stringencies) of this or that mitzvah that they practice. It is million times preferable to eat gebrocht and not to steal, rather than not to eat gebrocht, and steal.

  9. dovid says:

    “I’m thinking about Rabbi Shimon’s psychology.”

    The Brisker Rov and his sons took contributions only from people they knew and trusted. Lack of money is a very difficult and draining test, both for individuals and yeshiva administrators. It requires an immense amount of emunna, that the money will be there, when needed, in the amount needed. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, זצ”ל, criticized yeshiva administrators in the harshest terms for cheating with regards to building codes related to fire protection, due to lack of funds. He called them murderers. So what could these yeshiva officials do if they didn’t have the funds to build it as required? Rabbi Miller wanted them to daven and plead their case with the One Who holds the strings of the purse. Such a cause is a good cause: the safety of Jewish children learning Torah. Nevertheless, it’s a draining endeavor, but has to be done.

    There is a price for allowing treife geld to fund yeshiva operations. A magid shiur told me that before his Bar Mitzvah, his father took him to Rabbi Shimon Schwab, זצ”ל. At one point, Reb Shimon asked: Why couldn’t America produce Torah G’dolim in the past 30 years? He said that talmidei chachamim in Lakewood are not any less endowed with great talents than the G’dolim in Europe before WWII, and they are as devoted to learning and spend as much time learning as them. Reb Shimon knew what he was talking about. He learned with R’ Yerucham, R’ Yecheskel Levenstein, and R’i Chaim Shmulewitz during his stay at Mir. His answer was: Because of treife geld, because of dishonestly acquired money that sipped into the yeshiva system through donations of Jewish crooks who give to charity in order to mollify their qualms about stealing. It also makes them feel grand.

    “…where is that Gemara?”

    I promise בלי נדר to get back to you with the source. It will take me some digging. It’s a while since I dealt with it.

  10. Miriam says:

    Why do Jews in this diaspora steal and fraud if they are not under corrupt governments, and governments looking to kill and destroy them? Possibly, because so many of our communities are so insulated to the point that the people therein feel that there is NO galus, they are the majority, and the rules that are not the rules of this majority community need not be abided. Once the stealing starts, it’s hard to just keep it contained, I guess, and that’s why at least once a week there’s a meshulach at the door lamenting his plight: His business partner him off and absconded with the money leaving him with the creditors and no money.

    G-d should have mercy on us for the damage we do to His name, and to ourselves.

  11. Ori says:

    Dovid, you’re right. But would Rabbi Shimon be able to denounce Reuven in this case, or would he feel like an ingrate? Logically, Reuven is guilty, but I’m thinking about Rabbi Shimon’s psychology.

    This is the same as judges taking bribes. A judge could say: “I’ll take the bribe and ignore it”. However, that is still forbidden because human beings are unable to ignore a debt of gratitude in this way (at least, I think that’s the case).

    BTW, where is that Gemara?

  12. Jewish Observer says:

    “Speaking in Yiddish, he characterized a good Jew as someone who is “ehrlich” – honest and trustworthy – “in his profession, in business, with one’s workers, with one’s partners…” and, like Rabbi Schwab, he stated clearly that the same honesty with which a Jew must interact with another Jew must characterize a Jew’s dealings with non-Jews.”

    – Oib azoy …. why does the Agudah continue to venerate the Spinker Rebbe? RCDZ used the Shlita honorific on him AFTER the maaseh. Would AI ever use sh”lita or ZTL on someone known to have gone to the movies or teach at YU?

  13. dovid says:

    “denounce Reuven as a crook”

    Ori,

    There is a Gemara stating that Reuven, the businessman, did not need to steal in order to acquire the money that he did. All the wealth Reuven stole, was destined to be his anyway. All he needed to do was to find the lawful way to acquire it. Instead, he acquired his wealth in a forbidden fashion. Not only that, but even when he spends money on otherwise worthy causes (supporting a yeshiva for example), it is a mitzvah habah b’averah – a mitzva acquired through wrongful means, and thus is not a mitzva. But to mentally realize this, we need (1) an inspiring and learned rabbinical mentor, (2) to learn Mussar, Gemara, Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat included, and (3) do cheshbon hanefesh (an accounting of our deeds) on a regular basis. This will (A) increase our faith and (B) will deliniate permitted and forbidden courses of action. Not one of the Jews who that committed white collar crimes searched for an inspiring and learned rabbinical mentor; neither did they bother learning, or doing daily cheshbon hanefesh.

    I used to work for O&Y, a firm owned by the Reichmann family in Toronto. The principals were savvy businessmen, whose heads were working at a much faster clip than that of their counterparts, partners, bankers, etc. Nevertheless, they never used their advantage to fleece others. They earned a sterling reputation in the business world. Even vicious anti-Semites grudging ackowledged that the Reichmanns were exceptionally honest. They were born and grew up in Hungary. They did not resort to excuses mentioned in this forum (which is not an excuse!!!!) to defraud others. They stuck to Choshen Mishpat at every turn. They brought immense pleasure to Hashem and honor to all of us.

  14. Ori says:

    Bob Miller: Ori, in your scenario, is there no way the yeshiva could have secured untainted funding from the outset by doing appropriate background checks?

    Ori: Probably not. The crime here is usually fraud, and people who know how to commit here are really good at hiding their tracks. Often they manage to fool professional fraud finders for years. I doubt a Rosh Yeshiva would be better able to detect fraud than a bank loan officer or the IRS.

  15. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the Comment by Ori — December 8, 2009 @ 12:34 pm :

    Ori, in your scenario, is there no way the yeshiva could have secured untainted funding from the outset by doing appropriate background checks?

  16. Ori says:

    I suspect part of the problem is the charity driven nature of so much of Jewish communal life. It is really hard for Rabbi Shimon to sit in a yeshiva building donated by Businessman Reuven, speak in front of students who couldn’t not afford to be there without the scholarship provided by Businessman Reuven, and denounce Reuven as a crook.

  17. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by cvmay — December 7, 2009 @ 10:04 pm :

    I don’t know who’s to blame. Since we’re each responsible for our own actions, we have to accept a share of blame when we go wrong. I would have hoped, though, that our leadership (with our cooperation!) would have found a way to confront this societal problem in a sustained and effective way before it became so public and embarrassing.

  18. Nathan says:

    In message # 18, Chicago said:

    “Unless our mosdos band together to treat criminals as criminals and disassociate instead of honoring them, all speeches, conventions, and symposiums are worthless.”

    That suggestion was made a few months ago on a few prominent Jewish web sites.

    The suggestion seemed to be favored by less than 1% of the audience; with several people expressing concern over the welfare of the criminals if they rest of the Jews would unite against them.

    I must be trapped in some strange alternative universe, because in the universe I come from, stopping Chillul HaShem is much more important than potential harm to the feelings of criminals. Maybe this is the Mirror Universe from Star Trek, where everything is the opposite.

  19. Aryeh says:

    As embarassing as these stories are to the Jewish community, it is good to see that some Jewish communal leaders are making an effort to remind us of our Halachic responsibilities. I hope the messages is taken to heart. At times, though, I feel that mixed messages are displayed, as when at the recent Seudas Hodaah (after his homecoming from prison), someone was feted by many of the leading personlaities of Lakewood. This was despite his continued efforts to avoid paying restitution to the the victims of his admitted crimes. It appears that a great opportunity to teach a lesson through example was lost.

  20. cvmay says:

    “Has our Jewish society been encouraging Jews to engage in unseemly, conspicuous consumption?”……This is not a rhetorical question, Has our Jewish society encouraged this? Bob, where & at who would you say the finger should be pointed?
    Tzippi, I agree that your first comment does hold water, yet Is it an accurate assessment of why dishonesty and fraudulent activies are found among Jewish observant society???
    Could this behavior be at all connected to our holy country, Israel, which leads the list in corruption/fraud/bribes/secret deals and handshakes? I WONDER…….

  21. Reb Yid says:

    The attempts by Nat Lewin and others to minimize what Rubashkin did are futile.

    The government offered Rubaskhin a plea deal–and he refused outright, deluding himself into believing that he was totally innocent.

    Let’s not make the same mistake, shall we?

  22. Paul Stein says:

    Rabbi Shafran’s credibility is undermined when he tries to make it look like the immigration charges were dropped because there was no case. The Feds were trying to do us a favor by not spending any more money on a case in which it is likely that SMR will be in jail for many years for that which he has already been convicted. Moreover, Rabbi Shafran was not entirely honest in his description of SMR’s bank fraud. That is very disappointing because the overall message of the article is a good one, although this message should have been being preached from the pulpit and from the gedolim forever and a day!

  23. Chicago says:

    Unless our mosdos band together to treat criminals as criminals and dissasociate instead of honoring them, all speeches, conventions, and symposiums are worthless.

    Anyone can talk the talk!

  24. tzippi says:

    Glad to see I got the ball rolling.
    This was not my chiddush, it’s conjecture I’ve heard from others and sadly, I think it’s true in some cases. Clearly not in all but enough that I think it’s somewhat valid.
    And one may say that we’re not dealing with first generation Americans, children of refugees, but we may dealing with segments of society that got a particular chinuch, implicit if not explicit.

  25. objective observer says:

    Is Rubashkin The Victim In Agriprocessors Verdict?

    by Nathan Lewin
    Special To The New York Jewish Week

    Is the guilty verdict returned against Sholom Rubashkin by a jury of seven women and five men in Sioux Falls, S.D., the ultimate vindication of those who condemned Rubashkin from the time allegations against the kosher meat giant Agriprocessors were first publicized? Few will look beyond the word “guilty” and the seeming enormity of 86 counts to see whether Rubashkin actually committed acts that deserve criminal condemnation and imprisonment.

    Although Americans have always been rightly proud of the principle that no one can be severely punished as a criminal without a jury’s imprimatur, jury verdicts are fallible. Cardozo Law School’s “Innocence Project” cites 245 defendants who were exonerated in recent years by incontrovertible DNA evidence after juries or judges had found them guilty.

    Jewish Theological Seminary
    />Sholom Rubashkin’s defenders cannot ever hope that DNA evidence will demonstrate his innocence of the many counts of bank fraud that federal prosecutors think they proved during a four-week trial. His lawyers announced that an appeal is “certain,” and there appear to be substantial grounds to challenge the fairness of his trial. But well over 90 percent of federal criminal convictions are upheld on appeal, and the distorted public perception of Rubashkin — falsely portrayed as an ogre in the general media and even by many Jewish publications — deprives him of the sympathy that an appellate judge should feel for a father of 10 who is facing prison.

    But it is worth stepping back to evaluate whether — even taking the prosecution’s proof as totally credible — Rubashkin deserves the condemnation he is receiving. Even the prosecutors did not claim that he intended, when arranging Agriprocessors’ $35 million line of credit from a St. Louis bank, to steal the bank’s money.

    The evidence at his trial showed that Agriprocessors was in constant financial turmoil, and that Rubashkin was scrambling to maintain a cash flow that would enable him to pay cattle dealers and the huge ongoing expenses of a growing business. In order to meet these obligations and, at the same time, not disappoint the charities and Jewish institutions that had come to rely on the Rubashkins’ largesse, Sholom wheeled and dealed in ways that he could not justify when subjected to after-the-fact scrutiny by federal investigators.

    Would the lending bank have lost its money if federal agents had not conducted an immigration raid on the Postville, Iowa, plant in May 2008? Probably not. The evidence at trial established that the bank’s officers were aware or could easily have discovered much of what Rubashkin was doing to keep his business afloat, and that they really did not care so long as Agriprocessors continued to pay interest on its loans. The federal raid to find and arrest the 389 aliens who were working at the Agriprocessors plant even though they had entered the United States, illegally effectively closed the plant. It plugged the plant’s cash flow and threw the business into bankruptcy.

    The imminence of a possible raid in Postville was public because a detention camp was being prepared nearby. Rubashkin retained a prominent international law firm to negotiate with the federal immigration officials so as to resolve his immigration problems and remove illegal employees without a raid. The law firm had represented a large non-kosher beef-slaughtering operation that had employed hundreds of illegal aliens, and the lawyers had succeeded in avoiding a raid. In the case of Agriprocessors, the federal agents refused to call off the planned raid, and this enforcement action and its attendant national publicity doomed the Postville operation. (Under the Obama administration’s new immigration policies, immigration raids are no longer conducted.)

    United States law protects banks against deliberate fraud that is designed to steal their money. Federal prosecutors have recently taken to using the bank-fraud law to prosecute when borrowers’ records show dubious transactions even though the banks are not truly defrauded. After the raid, federal agents carted off Agriprocessors’ financial records and interrogated its bookkeepers. As a result, Rubashkin — who had been arrested once on charges that he violated a 1986 law that made it a crime to hire illegal aliens (not seriously enforced until almost two decades after its enactment) — was arrested a second time for bank fraud.

    Jurors in Rubashkin’s bank fraud trial were surely influenced when they heard that bogus invoices were created to puff up Agriprocessors’ receivables and when the lawyer who succeeded Sholom as chief executive officer testified that Rubashkin told him that payments to the bank were delayed because the money was needed “to pay operating costs.” The probability that the false invoices and the temporary diversion of receipts did not cool the bank’s ardor to continue the line of credit so long as Agriprocessors kept paying interest when it was due did not dull the impact of this proof on the jurors.

    Prosecutors knew that this kind of evidence would seal Rubashkin’s fate with a jury, and that is why they were content to have the bank fraud charges tried before the immigration allegations and why they refused to offer him, in plea negotiations, any prison sentence less than 10 years. The claim that Rubashkin knowingly hired illegal immigrants to work at the Postville plant remains to be tried. Whether the government will actually take those charges to trial given the successful bank fraud prosecution remains to be seen.

    Although she had directed that the immigration and the bank fraud charges be tried separately, the federal district judge allowed the prosecution to present testimony in the bank fraud trial that Rubashkin had approved the hiring of illegal aliens. The evidence established that the immigration agency had repeatedly sent an undercover agent to the Agriprocessors employment line with false documentation, but the agent was turned away twice because he could not establish his legal immigration status. Only after he was given bona fide documentation by the federal agency was he accepted as an Agriprocessors employee. This proof severely damages the charge that Agriprocessors had no screening process and deliberately hired illegal aliens.

    Rubashkin’s local trial lawyers appear to have presented an honest and forceful defense but were unable to counter the impression conveyed by the instances when false financial documentation was generated with Rubashkin’s approval. Specialists in criminal defense are reluctant to put their clients on the stand because they can be subjected to withering cross-examination.

    It is to Sholom Rubashkin’s credit that he took the stand and admitted to having “made mistakes,” but that acknowledgment apparently did not sway the jury.

    There was a time when federal sentencing guidelines imposed mandatory jail terms under mathematical formulas that would, in a case involving fraud on a $35 million bank loan, result in an effective life sentence for Sholom. The Supreme Court has invalidated the mandatory aspect of these guidelines, but they are still highly influential with sentencing judges. Nonetheless, the courts are now obliged to consider a range of sentencing factors, including the impact on a defendant’s family and other criteria that call for a reduced prison term in Rubashkin’s case. Although the federal judge has heretofore shown little compassion, she has the authority to impose a sentence that is “sufficient, but not greater than necessary,” to satisfy the purposes of criminal punishment.

    What will history say about this concluded trial? Notwithstanding the jury’s verdict, it is still an open question whether the Rubashkin scandal is truly what was done by Sholom Rubashkin rather than what has been done to Sholom Rubashkin.

  26. Nathan says:

    Years ago, the Hakhel organization provided free public lectures about Dina DeMalchuta Dina. These summertime lectures were attended by many Jews. Years later, it is dissapointing to see how little impact these lectures really made.

    Maybe if these lectures were also held in: Mahnattan, Queens, Staten Island, Monsey and Lakewood, instead of just Brooklyn, our situation might be better.

  27. dovid says:

    8.Comment by tzippi: “we were concentrated in areas with corrupt governments”

    If we are this charitable with ourselves and justify economic crimes committed by members of our communities, blacks are equally justified to absolve violent crimes committed by members of their communities. It’s only right to call fraud by its name without resorting to historical justifications.

  28. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by tzippi — December 5, 2009 @ 11:07 pm :

    It’s been evident for many decades that America presents challenges and opportunities different from those in Eastern Europe, etc. How do we dispel the impression that we reacted this late on this scale to the Dina D’Malchusa issues in America only because of bad publicity? That’s why we need more than cursory soul-searching.

  29. dovid says:

    Comment by tzippi: “we were concentrated in areas with corrupt governments”

    Really, how much water does this argument hold? The frauds that recently earned us undue notoriety are 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generation Americans. If asked, many of them wouldn’t be able to point their ancestors’ home country on the map. BTW, had they committed much, much lesser economic crimes in the old country, they would have faced the firing squad.

    Bob Miller (comment 1)puts his finger on the problem: lack or insufficient learning of mussar, and ignorance of the chosen mishpat, which allows us to fund ‘unseemly, conspicuous consumption’, which is a problem in its own right.

  30. Joel Rich says:

    Dr. Bill,
    IIRC (if it is the same story) – the only way that ncsy could afford to hire a particular individual in a region was to pay him off the books. The Rav said better not to do kiruv than to do kiruv based on sheker (interesting implications for the content of kiruv as well)

    Asifot like this are interesting and of value, how about asking those businesses that are known not to charge sales tax to either do that or have protesters stand in front of their stores shouting “yashrus”

    Kt

  31. Ori says:

    Tzippi, what you write is correct – but how does it take to adjust to the condition of a new diaspora? People born in the US, whose parents were born in the US, and who don’t speak Russian (or Lithuanian, or Polish, or …) can’t use this excuse.

  32. tzippi says:

    Mr. Miller, the reason a significant segment of the population needs to be taught this might be that until this stop of the diaspora called America, we were concentrated in areas with corrupt governments wherein bribes and baksheesh were the necessary currencies, and where compliance with the law was largely out of fear of retribution, not respect for the government.

    Think of the story of the Berditchiver rebbe, who, one erev Pesach afternoon asked some Jews for items that were illegal in the country, but that could be and were often smuggled in. No problem procuring the contraband. Then he went around asking for a piece of chametz. It couldn’t be found, for any price. To which he said something along these lines: “Ribbono shel olam, look at Your children, who have more fear of and love for You than for a flesh and blood government.” Until recently, such behavior wasn’t immoral; at the very least, had such smugglers been caught, there wouldn’t have been the chillul Hashem factor.

  33. Naftali says:

    Babylonian Talmud, tractate Kiddushin, page 30B:

    Rabbi Yehudah taught:

    He who does not teach him [his son] a trade, teaches him to steal.

  34. Mr. Cohen says:

    Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky was asked if it is permitted to lie in order to receive benefits from a government program.

    His answer was an emphatic NO!!

    Then the questioner said: But many Gentiles do it!

    The Rabbi explained:
    They did not stand at Mount Sinai when the Torah was revealed!

    SOURCE: page XXI of Chofetz Chaim Lessons in Truth by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman, published by ArtScroll in September 2001

  35. cvmay says:

    Excellent post and to the honest point. Kudos Rav Shafran.

  36. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Rabbi Shafran writes that “Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin, “currently stands convicted of misleading a bank to secure a loan.” Actually the charges are a bit more severe, since he was also charged with using the banking system to defraud creditors of Agriprocessors.

    “Although that conviction, amazingly, could result in an effective life sentence” Given current sentencing policies, this is highly unlikely.

    “charges that Mr. Rubashkin knowingly hired illegal aliens were dropped;” Maybe the government decided that they don’t want to send to prison for more than he’s already been conviced of? They have reserved the right to bring the charges again.

    “more lurid accusations – that he mistreated employees, abused animals and ran a methamphetamine factory – are no longer heard” These are charges being brought by the State of Iowa, which is waiting for his federal trials to finish before going after him.

    Slanting the facts in Shalom Rubashkin’s favor is a nice thing to do, but it undermines credibility.

  37. dr. bill says:

    “Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, for instance, currently stands convicted of misleading a bank to secure a loan. Although that conviction, amazingly, could result in an effective life sentence, charges that Mr. Rubashkin knowingly hired illegal aliens were dropped; and more lurid accusations – that he mistreated employees, abused animals and ran a methamphetamine factory – are no longer heard.”

    Your sentences, in an otherwise excellent post and a fabulous conclusion, among many other daily occurrences, illustrate the problem. I hope I am wrong, but one might, God forbid, read your sentences to mean that the real charge of hiring illegal’s was dropped and the anti-Semites will put this man away for life on a technicality, a “compliance” issue, so to speak. I too hope his sentence is reduced on appeal and wonder if there were not some over-zealous prosecution, for various reasons. But that is a far cry from even a remote implication of innocence.

    If this were not the position of some Jewish media sites and prominent rabbis, I could be said to be hallucinating; but you and I know that prominent rabbis, who need not be named, refer to his case as pidyon shivuim and a prominent voice of chareidi journalism calls this case a blood libel. With NO denial of these positions by others in their general camp, this modern-day Shtikah keHodaya dishonors the entire (chareidi) community. And lest anyone be confused, the prosecutors had an obvious case on illegal aliens, a lesser charge, (a slam dunk in their minds) and a tougher job on the much more serious charges in various financial matters. having gotten a conviction (87 of 92 counts) on the much more serious issues, they did not feel any need to pursue the lesser charges.

    As long as prominent rabbis dance at parties celebrating the release of a walking chillul hashem and people allow talk of despicable fraud as a “compliance” issue, the result will be a continuous stream of chillulai hashem. I have more compassion for sinners than for those who cannot bring themselves to look at the nature of the problem and continue to sugar coat fraud. Most modern orthodox rabbis have learned that compassion for a sinner should never be confused with tolerance of sin. the famous daughter and wife of tannaim taught that 1850 years ago. I have still not seen or heard such clarity in the chareidi community.

    Let me tell you a story I heard last weekend from a very prominent MO Jewish leader who when becoming president of major organization found out that ONE rabbi (of dozens who controlled a payroll) in the organization was paying ONE employee off the books. He told him to stop and the rabbi said he would first ask the Rav ztl given the unique and pressing circumstance. The rabbi later came back embarrassed that he asked.

  38. Bob Miller says:

    To know where we go from here, we need an in-depth, fair assessment of how we got to this point. If ostensibly religious Jews who dress the part and learn Torah and do mitzvos need to be lectured now in public about the concepts and the nuts and bolts of legal business practices, some key element of moral education or its reinforcement must have been neglected earlier.

    We also need to know to what degree the societal pressures fostering dishonesty were self-induced. Has our Jewish society been encouraging Jews to engage in unseemly, conspicuous consumption?