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April 10, 1987 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-04-10

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42

Friday, April 10, 1987

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

BACKGROUND

Jewish Information Service

Do We Share Guilt For
Pollard And Boesky?

"We must face up to the fact that Jews
behaved very badly and have tarnished
Judaism," says a rabbi and ethics
professor.

JOSEPH AARON

Special to the Jewish News

S

pring may have
sprung, but let's face it.
All the recent news
about Jews has not exactly
reminded one of springtime.
Let us count the ways:
• Mordechai Vananu,
traitor to his country, reveal-
ing secrets to the world of
Israel's nuclear weapon
capability.
• Ivan Boesky, Dennis
Levine and other like-minded
Wall Streeters with Jewish
sounding names, whose highly
illegal and very profitable in-
sider tradings were revealed
to the outside world.
• Jonathan Pollard, traitor
to his country, revealing
secrets to Israel belonging to
the United States.
Jews all and all doing
big,bad things that have
made big, bad headlines.
What are we to do? Es-
pecially in light of that oft-
quoted and oft-felt feeling
that "every Jew is responsible
one for the other."
Should then the run-of-the-
mill Jew feel guilty about and
take responsibility for the
wrongdoings of these promi-
nent Jews?
Yes and no.
So says Seymour Siegel,
professor of ethics and theol-
ogy at the Jewish Theological
Seminary. No, in that the
Book of Ezekiel tells us,
Siegel said in an interview,
that "every person is respon-
sible for his own sins. Unless
the sin is the result of a col-
lective action there is no
reason the Jewish community
'should feel collective guilt."
Yes, said Siegel, in that
when individual Jews falter, it
is the responsibility of all in
the community to "clean up
our community so that others
don't do misdeeds."
Not, he added, that the re-
cent spate of misdeeds is an
indication of the moral de-
cline of the Jewish people.
What's been going on, he
said, is nothing new. "Since
the beginning of time the
Yetzer Harah, the evil inclina-
tion, has been implanted in
man. The only difference is
that now misdeeds are more
exposed to the public. More
can look at us more carefully."
Which is why, he said, we

have to be more careful. For
in being more exposed, the
public sins of Jews are more
serious. "The more known the
sin, the greater is the Chilul
Hashem, the desecration of
God's name."
And Chilul Hashem, he
said, is something for which
the community suffers be-
cause of the actions of the in-
dividual. "If a Jew does good,
wins the Nobel Prize, it is
considered a Kiddush Ha-
shem, a sanctification of
God's name, something all
Jews take pride in. Pollard
and Boesky, on the other
hand, have put the name of
God, and so the Jewish peo-
ple, into disrepute. The sever-
ity of Chilul Hashem is rel-
ative to how known a quan-
tity it is. The greater the
fame, the more serious the of-
fense."
And when you're talking of
an offense that becomes
known to hundreds of millions
of people, Siegel said, you
start talking about Moser,
the sin of putting the whole
Jewish people into danger.
That's possible, he said, if
Pollard's action leads to U.S.
punishment of Israel or if
Boesky's leads to an outbreak
of anti-Semitism. "When
Jews do bad things, it's bad
for all Jews, reflects badly on
all Jews. We can't pretend
that in some way, then, all
Jews are not somehow re-
sponsible."
The problem, said Siegel, is
that just as modern methods
of communication have made
Jewish offenses more serious,
modern times have made the
Jewish community's means
of dealing with those offenses
less effective.
"There used to be central
authorities that could punish
Jews and make known the
community's displeasure in a
dramatic and direct way, but
we don't have those kinds of
central authorities and we
don't have such things as the
institution of excommunica-
tion."
Still, Siegel said, the com-
munity has to do what it can
do. In Pollard's case, he said,
Israel should use all the
powers available to it as a
sovereign state to punish all
those involved.
In the other cases, he said,
the American Jewish commu-
nity, as a non-self-governing

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