Accountable - A Torah Guide to Fiscal Responsibility

Orthodox Crime

There are, to our great shame, Orthodox Jews who have committed serious financial (and other) crimes...and the days when that fact could be hidden are now, thanks to the popularization of the Internet, long gone. If we care about protecting our families and communities from corruption, we've got to respond with clarity and determination.

Unfortunately not everyone in the Orthodox world seems to understand it that way. A disturbing number of frum individuals and organizations seem to assume that any outwardly religious Jew who is tried or convicted of a financial crime must somehow be perfectly innocent and the victim of a dishonest and antisemitic court, not to mention a deeply corrupt Federal Administration.

In advocating such versions of the events, one risks making heroes out of people who are most likely unrepentant criminals.1 Worse, an entire generation of Jewish children will grow up convinced that the most benevolent and generous government in the history of our exile lacks the basic rule of law and whose most trusted judges are nothing more than the willing puppets of dark political interests. Think about some of the consequences: if the government is as crooked as some Jews would have us believe, then may we not conclude that it is reasonable to "take back" - or withhold - what's "rightfully" ours (i.e., through tax evasion or welfare fraud)? Will that not inevitably help further break down any psychological resistance to financial crime that still exists in the frum community?

What right do we have to ignore the possibility that the courts are right? Or, if even that's too much, to ignore the perception that the courts are right? Is this approach likely to enhance basic moral standards among frum Jews?

In the 1970's, Rabbi Shimon Schwab wrote an article (later included in "Selected writings: A collection of addresses and essays on hashkafah, Jewish history and contemporary issues" C.I.S. Publications) in response to criminal convictions of "frum" Jews engaged in white collar crimes. I would imagine that, were he alive today, Rabbi Schwab would have applied just these sentiments to the many similar horrors we face today. What else could these words mean: