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December 19, 1986 - Image 46

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-12-19

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Let's Talk About
Jews And Money


Special to the Jewish Times






30878 Orchard Lake Rd.
Farmington Hills, MI

23720 Southfield Rd.
Southfield, MI.


A tar
and dis

fine jewelry and gifts








26400 West Twelve Mile Road
Northeast corner of 12 Mile & Northwestern Hwy.

Friday, December 19, 1986 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

he current Wall Street
arbitrage scandal, the
New York Parking Vio-
lations Bureau scandal, The
Maryland Savings and Loan
scandal, and a number of
similar events recently have
brought to the attention of
the American Jewish com-
munity a segment of its
membership that we would
generally rather ignore: white
collar criminals who exist in
fair profusion.
When non-Jews bring up
this subject, we often become
suspicious that their remarks
contain veiled anti-Semitism.
The part of every Jew that is
worried about what the rest
of the world will think cannot
help but react to the news of
these scandals by bemoaning
their visibility. We find
ourselves hoping that the
Jewish connection will not be
obvious. I even catch myself
thinking that this kind of
thing happens to every ethnic
group so that I need not feel
that Jews have any special
cause to worry.
But where crime is con-
cerned, I have no desire to be
like everyone else. Our aspira-
tion has always been to be "a
kingdom of priests and a holy
people." The issue is not one
that pertains just to an
isolated few. It has come to
affect Jewish institutions as
well. What happened? What
does it mean when a Lower
East Side yeshiva linked to
one of the most revered tal-
mudists of our time launders
money for criminals in order
to keep its doors open in the
face of declining contribu-
tions? When those being ar-
rested for white-collar crimes
are members of the boards of
some of our most important
philanthropic and educa-
tional institutions cutting
across all ideological and
political lines?
These questions have many
possible answers. Without at-
tempting to be exhaustive, I
want to suggest a few. First,
we have been so interested in
uniting all members of the
community and in financing
Jewish institutions that we
have tacitly agreed to an
unspoken moratorium on
struggling with the most im-
portant areas of personal
adult morality, particularly
the areas of money and pro-
fessional ethics. And the few
who have ventured out onto
that thin ice have either
spoken with doctrinaire
assurance about the answers
that Jewish law has always
offered or have talked about
the issues completely outside
a Jewish framework. Neither
the mass media nor ancient
Jewish sources can substitute
for a Jew's personal search for

moral values.
If we are concerned with
the current moral fraying of
the Jewish communal cloth,
we need to create a dialogue
reagarding personal morality.
This is subject matter for
courses, lectures, and other
educational events, and it is
no less the stuff of which
crucial board discussions and
policy deliberations is made.
The resulting dialogue
should help each of us to
rethink the way that Jewish
tradition and contemporary
lifestyles speak to each other.
The tension between the two
will make for some difficult
soul-searching for our com-
munity, and there will be no
universally agreed upon
answers to the hardest ques-
tions. But the communal
debate about such questions
as the qualifications for board
membership and standards
for public recognition of in-
dividuals would strengthen
the moral content of com-
munal leadership.
Any discussion of money
will be exceedingly delicate in
the Jewish community. We
are as well organized as we
are only because of the com-
mitment to tzedakah of the
Jewish community in general
and its wealthiest members in
particular. We can sustain our
myriad institutions only if we
keep the financial pipelines to
them filled. That requires
heavy voluntary commit-
ments of time, effort, and
thought, as well as money
from our leaders, and it is a
matter of simple fact that
fundraising on the scale that
it takes place in the Jewish
community cannot happen
without the unstinting sup-
port of the largest givers.
Every institution from UJA
to the smallest day school
therefore is faced with the
challenge of finding those
whose support is crucial
without selling its soul. And
institutions that take the
moral high road all too often
pay a financial price. Only
those caught between finan-
cial pressures and moral ones
understand fully how delicate
and difficult these choices are.
But that is all the more rea-
son, it seems to me, to face
them forthrightly.
A second piece of the
answer lies in reviving the
mitzvah of tochecha, of giv-
ing moral advice and criti-
cism. We in the Jewish com-
munity have by and large ab-
sorbed the privatism domi-
nant in American society. We
do our best to protect our own
privacy and that of others.
"What other people do is
their own business." The
result is that we no longer do
what the Jewish community
has customarily done: we do
not teach each other morali-
ty. It is urgent that we re-

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