February 2, 2006
We stand guilty as charged -- and we are proud of it.
David Klinghoffer correctly notes ("In Defense of Jack Abramoff," Jan. 27) that Orthodox writers -- left, right, and center -- expressed their embarrassment about Jack Abramoff's behavior. Jews are meant to be exemplars of God's teaching. When they get it wrong, the Divine Name itself is desecrated. If the rest of the community fails to speak out -- with a communal "Not in Our Name" -- they are seen, with some justice, as being complicit.
Klinghoffer is right that Abramoff -- the person -- should not be abandoned or distanced. It is the behavior that needs the public criticism, not the person. We should feel for his tragedy, and wish him well.
He is wrong about other issues. Unanimous court verdicts are perfectly acceptable in a Jewish court, except in capital cases. Abramoff's repentance does not change the need to distance ourselves from the original misdeeds for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that repentance before God is ineffective in sins between Man and Man. Mitigating Abramoff's behavior with a Robin Hood defense is a worse error. It is precisely because so many people feel that they can take ethical shortcuts for a "higher" purpose that we need to remind ourselves and the world that this is unacceptable.
While I didn't claim to know what Abramoff was actually thinking when he wore the hat (I was trying to put a more positive spin on his behavior, something I recall that Klinghoffer elsewhere in his piece suggest we all do), I do have a pretty good idea of what I wrote and thought. I did not suggest that returnees are more likely to have character flaws than those born into observance. My life's work with returnees to Jewish tradition and my regard for them are a matter of record [at www.cross-currents.com], including my belief that many show up at the gates of observance with better character traits than those who preceded them since childhood.
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein
Sydney M Irmas Chair, Jewish Law and Ethics
Loyola Law School
David Klinghoffer's article on Jack Abramoff was so full of lies, distortions, half truths and illogic that it should win the first annual James Frey award for deception in Jewish journalism.
According to The New York Times (Jan. 10), Abramoff has expressed contritions to some, while "in conversations with people he considers sympathetic, he has insisted that his practices were Washington business as usual."
Klinghoffer said Abramoff's confession was "not a stark and true representation of crimes committed" but a confession squeezed by a plea bargain. But The New York Times also reported that Abramoff "recounted in detail" his crimes to prosecutors. Is Klinghoffer implying that Abramoff is now compounding his crimes by committing perjury during the testimony required in his plea agreement?
Finally, the Klinghoffer/Abramoff team can't even get its spin straight on the "fedora issue." Abramoff told Klinghoffer it was just a "a crushable rain hat." But The Forward (Jan. 6) reported that Abramoff purchased the fedora from Bencraft Hatters, a Brooklyn-based haberdasher, for $200. A quick look at The Jewish Journal cover or many of the other photos of that day show clearly that was no "crushable rain hat"
Hmmm, doesn't inspire confidence as to the rest of the article does it? It would take an hour of Oprahlike dissection of Klinghoffer's piece to do it justice.
Perhaps The Jewish Journal should publish future articles by Mr. Klinghoffer in its fiction section.
I am ashamed that The Jewish Journal not only carries [David] Klinghoffer, but that you allow such anti-Jewish hogwash when he spouts about the crook, [Jack]Abramoff. There is no question that Klinghoffer is spouting his Republican right-wing apology for Abramoff and does it in the name of Judaism. That is too much.
Abramoff stole money from Indian tribes, used the money to support his own style of life and has created a crisis in government in Washington through his using such money to buy Tom DeLay and Bob Ney. He created false organizations, including Jewish ones, hired wives and daughters of congressmen who did nothing but rake in money from him. Then has the chutzpah to want sympathy as a poor Jew in a black hat, and Klinghoffer supports him.
It is not bad enough that he has pleaded guilty to multiple crimes, but he has demeaned the good works of Jews in this country. Abramoff deserves nothing less than a prison term, a loss of citizenship and for my part, the use of RICO [Act] to take all of his possessions that he acquired. He is and has been an evil man, who has helped to destroy democracy.
How Klinghoffer can have the guts to absolve him and accuse other Jews of turning against Abramoff is totally beyond me. I would say the same whether Abramoff was a Democrat or a Christian. The fact that he was Jewish only offends me more. It means that he learned nothing from his religion.
The less said about your whitewashing this man due to his "good deeds" the better.
There is good reason to be critical of [Jack] Abramoff.
Anti-Semites throughout the United States will point to him as an example of the corrupting influence of Jews in the United States. What happens in the United States is reported throughout the world; so this will effect the greater Diaspora.
This is just something else that militant Islamic extremists will point out to their children as to why Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth.
Michael L. Stempel
We thank David Klinghoffer for his thoughtful article regarding the dreadful way many in the Jewish community have behaved toward Jack Abramoff.
Elaine and Robert Leichter
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