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February 20, 1987 - Image 39

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-02-20

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Until his indictment in
November, Ivan R Boesky
headed several investment
companies specializing in
"risk abitrage," and was
known on Wall Street and
beyond as one of the
country's most powerful
investors and richest men,
as well as a generous
philanthropist to Jewish
and cultural causes.

is of the private imagination, latent," says
Feingold. "Still, this will certainly stim-
ulate that:' On the other hand, the Wall
Street scandals shatter our image of Jews
as a peculiarly ethical people.
Examples of the less tolerant view of the
indicted men were in full evidence in the
Yom Kippur issue of Sh'ma, a publication
edited by Rabbi Eugene Borowitz of the
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of
Religion in New York City, which contain-
ed two severely moral essays about the
young men and the Jewish community's
response toward them. One, by Rabbi
Samuel Dresner, who has written exten-
sively on Abraham Joshua Heschel, asked
whether rabbis take as courageous a stand
as that assumed by the Roman Catholic
Archdiocese of New York when it refused
to offer mass for a reputed mob leader.

"Synagogues," he writes with some anger,
"are usually the very last to censure their
own Jewish criminals." And Rabbi Walter
Wurzburger of Congregation Shaaray Tef-
ila in Lawrence, New York, reminds us in
the same issue of Sh'ma that the vidui (the
confession of sins) includes references to
transgressions we know we have not per-
sonally committed. He writes:
"Religious leaders and institutions can
hardly avoid sharing a measure of
responsibility and blame for the total
disdain for moral standards which is so
rampant in contemporary society. We
may wax eloquent in extolling moral vir-
tues, but a variety of ethnic and finan-
cial pressures have combined to bring
about a state of affairs where ethical
considerations are shoved into the back-
ground. When it comes to the promotion
of Israel, religious institutions, or other
philanthropic causes, the promoters are
frequently interested only in the "bot-
tom line" and are totally indifferent to
matters of character or ethical proprie-
ty"
Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, executive vice
president of the (Conservative) Rabbinical
Assembly of America observes: "Jewish
tradition teaches naval b'rshut hatorah —
you can be a scoundrel yet meticulously
observant to the Torah. That is why, what-
ever the law permits, there are certain
things you don't do." We are sitting in his
book-lined office on the sixth floor of the
Jewish Theological Seminary. Across the
courtyard stands the school's beautiful,
recently completed Ivan F. and Seema
Boesky Family Library. (The seminary re-
cently dropped the Boesky name from the
library.)
"Maybe you know the story about the
great Hasidic mystic, Levi-Yitzhak of Ber-
dichev, who's been called to bless the
Passover matzoh," says Kelman. "A
number of women are in a room, rushing
to get the matzoh done on time, exactly to
specification. They are working very hard
and being terribly underpaid. Levi:Yitzhak
looks around and shakes his head. 'I'm
sorry, I can't give the blessing. There's
blood on your matzoh.' "
Kelman reminds me that in the Jewish
tradition there are four basic human drives:
food, power, sex, and material possession.
In Judaism, these drives are neutral,
neither good nor bad. There's no more vir-
tue to being powerless than to being power-
ful. "The point is how you use these God-
given gifts," says Kelman. "Do you use
them to exploit others, or with measure,
and to add a dimension of holiness and

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