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Funny, Your Values Don’t Look Jewish

Mr. Klinghoffer, I just do not understand what you are trying to say.

In your Forward article, you suggested that Jack Abramoff should be left alone because the money he got through illegal means was given to charity–an idea that most would find to be at best morally and Jewishly troubling. Where does it say in the Jewish tradition that one can steal so long as you give the money to charity?

Yet, as I pointed out in my earlier post about Abramoff, the charity you mention–an Orthodox yeshiva–is precisely the way Abramoff laundered his money!

If using an Orthodox yeshiva to launder ill-begotten money does not embarrass you, then what does?

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posted January 6, 2006 at 2:40 pm

There was an article not too long ago on on this very subject of using ill-gotten gains for good. It’s a troublesome issue without clear answers. Should the yeshiva benefit from “dirty” money? This is by no means a reason to condone Abramoff’s actions; it is strictly a question of how and if the yeshiva should use the money.

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posted January 6, 2006 at 4:44 pm

I have to go with Rabbi Stern on this one. Klinghoffer seems to be piling up justifications for Abramoff’s accusations, and making a statement like “Am I supposed to be embarrassed that Orthodox Jews are human too?” completely misses the point. Using the excuse of “nobody’s perfect” might — might — be permissible in the case of an inner-city kid stealing a stereo, but not in a major allegation of corrpution by a prominent figure in Washington. As for criticizing Abramoff’s sincerity or good faith as a Jew, I think it’s totally laudable. Personally, I’m proud that so many people can say that ethics are more important than religious affiliation or fulfilling mitzvot. Failing to follow basic ethical guidelines is an embarrassment to the Jewish world. Ultimately, I see little reason to try to justify or sympathize with anyone involved (or, yes, suspected of involvement) big-time D.C. corruption. There should be more indignation about it, not less, and there are enough upstanding Jewish philanthropists out there that they shouldn’t be sullied by association with Abramoff.

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posted January 6, 2006 at 4:52 pm

And all this is especially hilarious in light of the connection with Toward Tradition. So constantly casting righteous indignation on regular Americans is fine, but as soon as a conservative big-wig gets in trouble, it’s “nobody’s perfect”! If the hypocrisy was any thicker, I think I could swim in it! 😛

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Yahya Bergum

posted January 7, 2006 at 1:35 am

Could the money be offered to someone from whom Jack Abramoff had taken such money, such as his Native Americans clients? Could its purity conceivably be assured by instead using it for something more to the recipient’s liking? (Basically, once in a while, I try making peace with the Lord by hopefully helping someone whose loss has been my gain.)

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David Koven

posted January 7, 2006 at 9:57 pm

Money gotten illegally should be returned to who it was taken from. If restitution is not able to be made, only then could one think about using the money for some charitable end.

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posted January 8, 2006 at 4:39 am

The money–all of what was taken-and any increase said money produced should go right back to the people from whom it was taken. All of it, no variances, no exceptions. The Yeshiva should not use ill gotten gains–putting dirty money to good use does not cleanse the money–why spread the stain of Mr. Abrahamoff’s actions further? And, what better way to demonstrate to all those watching how the Jewish community views Mr. Abrahamoff’s action than to call for him to make public apology and return all the money and profits made from it? He should still be held accountable to U.S. and Tribal law for his actions as well.

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posted January 8, 2006 at 11:21 pm

Does not halacha, in certain cases, allow as much as a five-fold restitution for thievery? This is a common problem writ large, I’m sad to say. For example, the number of “observant” Jews who own slum buildings is a shanda and a confirmation of the worst stereotypes of our people. And before anyone says, “Well, other slumlords behaving in the same way that Jewish slumlords do,” remember that we are supposed to be a light unto the nations. It truly pains me whenever someone Jewish does something like Mr. Abramoff did, or some of the more egregious things that Yidden in positions of power do. How come we spend so much time teaching the minutae of kashrut, and so little time teaching Bava Metzia?

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