December 30, 2007
Grand Rabbi pleads not guilty
(Page 2 - Previous Page)While no rabbi today would condone any illegal activity, occurrences of tight-knit religious communities defrauding the government dates back to Europe, says Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University. "I think that in Eastern Europe, especially where corruption was rampant, it was very common for Jews to engage in, shall we say, 'extra-legal activities,' when they believed they were doing so not for their personal gain but for the good of the community or for some higher purpose." Since the governments for the most part were corrupt, it became part of the culture, he said - a culture that unfortunately may have at times carried to the United States.
In the New Square case, the money was diverted for Jewish education, he said.
"I think the idea is that Jewish education is so important and so expensive and the folks say to themselves, 'we're forced to pay for public education which we don't use,' and they manage to sometimes justify in their own minds these kinds of activities that are for the sake of a holy end."
But no one condones it, he added. "Naturally in a free country that runs according to law that we vote upon, we do not permit individuals to violate the law."
If convicted, all of the defendants face substantial federal prison sentences, a trial date has not been set.
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