Sunday, January 29, 2006


(Hat tip: Friday night host)

This is sickening, courtesy of the Jewish Press editorial board.
In the larger sense the story is primarily about those officials Abramoff corrupted and, of course, about Abramoff himself. But we feel a special sense of loss given that Abramoff identified with Orthodox Judaism. Though he wasn’t raised as an observant Jew and thus was not exposed in his formative years to the Torah’s rigorous moral and ethical codes, any time a breach of this magnitude occurs — and, sadly, there have been other similarly disheartening cases involving Orthodox Jews in recent years — it is a matter of great concern. It should trigger a resolve in all of us to work harder to see to it that such things never occur in our community by drawing attention to the risks of modern-day life and the need for strict adherence to the ethics of Judaism.
Wow. I actually had to read the paragraph a couple of times before I could believe what I'd read. The Jewish Press just completely wrote off every single ba'al tshuva who becomes frum after his or her "formative years." Abramoff is corrupt because he didn't grow up observant and wasn't exposed to the Torah's 'rigorous moral and ethical codes'?! It is the 'risks of modern-day life', that ba'alei tshuva have grown up in, that are the problem?

It is a true shame that this paragraph was in the editorial - which was otherwise a sound editorial, questioning those articles that focused on the hat Abramoff wore. But however one tries to read this paragraph, it is impossible to understand it in any way other than a huge slap in the face to those who become observant later in life. A simple removal of those lines would have made the paragraph a very good one, lamenting the problems Orthodox Judaism faces and the need to deal with those issues. Instead, the Jewish Press took a low potshot at ba'alei tshuva and further increased the troubles they already have adjusting to the observant world.

It's too bad I don't subscribe to the Jewish Press. Now I have nothing to cancel.

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  1. I think they are just being defensive about the fact that he was frum. It was a way to emphasize somehow that what he did was against Torah values. I don't think they meant to slight Ba'alei Teshuvah.

  2. Oh, I don't think they were trying to; I just think they did so without thinking. As I said in the post: Take out those two lines, and re-read the paragraph. It's far better, without the slight.

  3. The Jewish Press has gone off the deep end lately, taking the side of R. Mordechai Tendler/the Jerusalem Beth Din against the RCA. It is certainly not the principled newspaper it once was.

  4. Anon - I'd prefer not to turn this thread into one about R' Tendler, but suffice it to say that don't believe everything you hear.

    Ben (and hi Ben!) puts it better (based on my limited JP experience) when he says it is against the principles of "good journalism".

    I'd prefer a decent paper that represented all streams of Orthodoxy. Part of the problem is the constant splitting.

  5. I cannot recall a scandal that involved a BT. As far as I know this is a first. The slight was completely unnecessary!

  6. Puhleez- making apologetic excuses. if he were stealing for the democrats theyd hang him out to dry. what do you expect from the JP?

  7. TTC - ? I'm not sure what you mean... If it's that they threw in the BT line to save conservative face [at the expense of BT's], I don't think so. But I think everyone can agree that Abramoff was a jerk, and the JP editorial was pretty bad too.

  8. Jack Abramoff's actions have been public knowledge for years. Yet they were tolerated by all, and even endorsed by a few in our community. Only after he pleads guilty IN A SECULAR COURT does anyone in the Orthodox community publically take exception to his actions.

    Did any rabbi take him aside and say, "Jack, this might be a problem?"

    Did any communal leader question whether there is a halachic difference between influence peddling and bribery, regardless of whether the secular world might think there is a difference?

    Did the *Jewish Press*, which is well known for its support of Republicans in Washington, allow itself to be blinded by Abramoff's political leanings?

    Even though my own political leanings are opposite those of the *Jewish Press* and Jack Abramoff, I am very saddened that a self-identified Orthodox Jew has done these things. I wonder how I might have been tempted by the trappings of power and access. I appreciate the difficulties that "court Jews" had in the past, trying to advocate for the community whose very existence was fragile. How did they manage to keep their principles, their sanity? Amazingly, a few, such as Rambam and Abarbenal, ended up being counted among our greatest sages of all time.

  9. I just ate. Excuse me while I go throw up.

  10. Charlie - exactly. This is an issue that we in the Orthodox community need to address - not shove off as a problem which BT's cause because they 'grow up without the morals and ethics'.

    Romach - Sorry.

  11. The Jewish Press was just downright insulting to the wonderful Ba'alei Teshuva that are part of our communities.

    Maybe their editorial staff should try a little exercise.

    List a name of all frum Jews who have been arrested for "white collar" financial crimes. Now, divide the list into two categories: FFB's and BT's.

    There is, unfortunately, no proof that the rigors of Talmudic study in one's "formative years" protects one from the yetzer hara. In fact, r"l, one might be able to draw the exact opposite conclusion based on this little assignment.

    If we want to root out the financial crimes that plague some of our communities, we need to have "zero tolerance."

  12. If we want to root out the financial crimes that plague some of our communities, we need to have "zero tolerance."

    Perfectly said, SL.

  13. Sorry, if that were the case, they could have removed the lines and still made the same point. They didn't, and it's telling.

  14. Sure sounded like a slight to me. Maybe the Jewish Press needs to add some Ba'alei Teshuvah proof readers to their staff to get a second opinion.

    Plus, the theory that studying more Talmud and halacha during the "formative" years would save him from the yetzer hara is, well, just ridiculous. I don't care to make a list of names of some of the biggest fraudsters in the frum world, but if I did, it would take up pages and Abramoff is probably one of the only BT's on the list.

  15. Abramof is as much a Ba'al Tshuvah as I am a Buddhist.

    Oh, for the record, I am not a Buddhist.