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Shame on Jack Abramoff and His Rebbes

Let’s cut to the crux of the issue: Jack Abramoff is an embarrassment to Orthodox Jews. His rabbis and the religious figures supporting him and living off his dirty money are embarrassments to Judaism.

Lest you have forgotten the way Abramoff–the lobbyist who yesterday pleaded guilty to three felony counts in a deal with federal prosecutors digging into a burgeoning public corruption scandal–has used his self-professed Jewish piety to burnish his image, I’ll refresh your memory with the following story.

In 2000, Abramoff was nominated for membership in the Cosmos Club, an exclusive Washington insiders organization. Its members include Nobel Prize winners and retired congressman and senators.


Abramoff was flattered by the nomination, but knowing all too well just how newly cool he was in Washington circles, he feared the club would realize the emperor had no clothes. He needed some serious moral and intellectual credibility quickly.

So he called his “rebbe” and long-time supporter Rabbi Daniel Lapin, head of the right-wing fringe Jewish organization Toward Tradition and asked him if he could patch together some award in his honor–“something like Scholar of Talmudic Studies,” Abramoff said in an e-mail to Lapin. While Lapin was at it, Abramoff asked Lapin if he could make it appear “that I received these in years past.” Lapin assured him it was no problem.


The story only touches the surface of the sick symbiotic relationship between Abramoff and his “rabbis.”

In 2002 Abramoff founded the Eshkol Academy, an Orthodox Jewish school in Maryland. David Lapin, Daniel’s brother, served as the dean. According to emails revealed during U.S. Senate hearings into the Abramoff-Ralph Reed Indian gambling scandal, Lapin was paid $20,000 a month through Abramoff’s Capital Athletic Foundation. The Eshkol Academy closed in 2004 after questions were raised in the press about Abramoff’s financial dealings with Indian tribes. In 2004, 13 former Eshkol employees sued the academy, demanding nearly $150,000 in back salary. The teachers’ complaint claims that the Capital Athletic Foundation “was used to launder funds from the tribes to Eshkol.” Federal tax records show that various Indian tribes donated more than $1 million to the foundation, which in turn benefited the school.


Behind every corner of this investigation there is another right-wing rabbi or
“observant Jew” ready to “kasher” Abramoff’s antics. If it wasn’t one of the Lapins, it was Abramoff’s other crony David Klinghoffer blessing Abramoff’s actions.

Klinghoffer is a self-described Orthodox Jew who seems to revel in castigating Jews about the need for morality in American public life. Yet, as late as May 13, 2005, this great self-righteous moralist was still defending Abramoff in the Forward. In the artcle, Klinghoffer praised Abramoff’s yeshiva charity, castigating his readers and telling them, “I’d like to see Abramoff left alone in large part because, instead of spending the millions of dollars he raked in on Ferraris and yachts, he lavishly spent it on causes that I think are good and important: an Orthodox high school he founded in the Washington, D.C., area, headed by a rabbi whose taped lectures I have long listened to with admiration.”


Using biblical metaphors and justifying Abrahmoff’s actions as “mundane” Klinghoffer asked his readers to sympathize with poor Abramoff. “His humiliation is nearly complete,” wrote Klinghoffer, “yet who among us would not be humiliated if a decade’s worth of our e-mail were leaked by Senate investigators to be dissected by journalists eager to carve us up like a Thanksgiving roast?”

I am sorry, Mr. Klinghoffer. There is nothing remotely Orthodox or Jewish about your opinion. Jack Abramoff is a blot on the Jewish world.

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posted January 6, 2006 at 1:35 pm

Congratulations for having the courage to tell it like it is and call a spade a spade. Jack Abramoff is just another crook! He and his congressional cronies need a good taste of jail time!

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posted January 6, 2006 at 2:15 pm

True, You’re right. From my perspective, Abramoff brings shame not only on himself, but also on other Jews.

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Walter Dovid

posted January 6, 2006 at 2:57 pm

Oy vay iz mir! How can anyone justify the evil that this guy Abramoff seems to have done? He appears to have cheated Native American tribal leaders out of many millions of dollars. He will go to prison for a long time, but, since he had the goods on several other people, he will spend less time in prison than those whom he is able to rat out. Not only is he a crook; he is also a disloyal crook. Ikh vil brekhen!

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posted January 6, 2006 at 9:05 pm

It seems to me that Jack Abrahamoff needs to repair the damage he has done not only to the people from whom he stole, but to himself and to the people he claims to be a part of. In my opinion his actions go beyond embarrassing–they are the embodiment of greed, deceit and manipulation;availing himself of this country’s judicial system plea baragin construct demonstrates a weak character and continued tendency towards selfishness. No moment of supposed largess, designed to cover up the money trail, can possibly exonerate his actions. Trading names for sentencing leniency is simply a cowards game. If Mr. Abrahamoff is to approach setting the balance right, if he is to erase the blot he has smeared on us all, he needs to: admit his guilt; make a very public apology directly to the people of the Nations from which he stole; voluntarliy make full restitution to those from whom he stole; divest himself of all benefits he acquired through these ill-gotten gains (donating the additional resources directly to the people from whom he stole wold be good); place himself in the hands of the Nations from whom he stole and submit himself to their judicial decisions regarding his actions; accept full responsibility for his actions and accept his appropriate sentencing from a U.S. court; provide the names of the other crooks involved in this whole debacle; turn down any lessening of his sentence based on the names he provided. He would then have to walk forward in life with his actions embodying the concepts of tikkun olam, gemilut hasadim and tzedakah–none of which he seems to have considered while ripping off the First Nations. Too much to ask of a man? Not at all–true courage and strength reside in each of us, the question is whether or not Jack Abrahamoff has the ability to reach it within himself. May he find his way to it.

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Brother Bob

posted January 12, 2006 at 8:34 pm

Perhaps all those Orthodox Rabbis who blessed Marc Rich should also be so loudly castigated.

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posted January 17, 2006 at 10:06 pm

Brother Bob, When are you going to reopen your blog?

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