Thursday, June 18, 2009

 Misplaced Sympathy - Misplaced Outrage

The story about the prison Bar Mitzvah refuses to go away.

There has been some apologetics for what Rabbi Leib Glanz a Satmar Chasid who is the prison chaplain did for fellow Satmar Chasid Tuvia Stern - who is an inmate. The claim is that the media is unfairly criticizing him for arranging a Bar Mitzvah party in prison for his son ... and that he is being unfairly punished for what was at worst a lapse in judgment. To that effect there have been two glaring public criticisms. One by Agudah and one in Yeshiva World News (YWN).

As reported in the Forward, the Agudah has written a draft of a letter - as of yet unsent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

“The reports in the media pillory Rabbi Glanz, in the most cynical and derogatory fashion imaginable, for his role in accommodating Jewish prisoners’ religious requirements and helping them participate, personally or vicariously, in milestone family celebrations,” the draft letter says.

While Glanz’s action’s may have crossed lines, the draft letter states, “We also have no doubt that any such improprieties were nothing more than lapses of judgment; and that they emanated from a good place, a heart overflowing with empathy and concern.”

I can understand Agudah’s concern. They feel the media has been sensationalist in reporting this event. Perhaps they were. But even though Rabbi Glanz may have been operating ‘from a good place in his heart’ this is far from merely crossing a line. Crossing a line might have been allowing any celebration at all.

This was a catered party for 60 guests with a major singer and a band. All for Tuvia Stern, a 'religious' Jew who stole money in a scam and left the country with his entire family for 16 years to Brazil - a country that has no extradition treaty. He thumbed his nose at the US and lived his life as though he had done nothing wrong. All one big Chilul HaShem! He is now paying for all that crime.

By having this party he again thumbed his nose at this country and added to the Chilul HaShem. He is seen by the world as a criminal who is treated with special favors because of a manipulative Chasidic Jewish chaplain - while other prisoners suffer the typical indignities associated with incarceration.

The apologetics of Agudah while understandable are nonetheless misplaced in my view. If I were Agudah I would not send any letter to the Mayor as that will compound the Chilul HaShem even further. No good can come from being seen as defending a man who abused his power and the system for the sake of a Jewish scam artist.

It's too bad that Agudah decided to take this route. Because that takes away from a Kiddush HaShem they made in another matter as reported in Cross-Currents. They wrote a beautiful letter of condolence to the son of the guard who was murdered by a racist anti-Semite at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.

But the Agudah letter pales in comparison to an editorial in YWN.

Now I have no quarrel with the issue of Mesirah. There is no love lost between me and a Moser. He is usually nothing more than a lowlife out to protect his own skin, or out for some vendetta, or out for personal gain. I have no pity for individuals who are guilty of Mesira.

That said, the outrage against a supposed snitch responsible for leaking this story to the media is grossly out of proportion to the outrage that there should be against the crime, the criminal, and the chaplain. Instead of seeing what this chaplain did as a Chilul HaShem, they see it as Kiddush Hashem. They see the Moser as destroying an individual with extremely good intentions whose 'hard work has been 'able to shield these individuals from countless unknown potential atrocities'.

While that may be true it does not diminish from what he did here. This was not about protecting a Jewish inmate from 'atrocities. It was about granting special favors to a Jewish criminal.

So they blame the Moser. The Chilul HaShem is all about the Moser. The Chaplain? A saint! The Moser? A Rasha. As if all the chaplain was trying to do was a good deed for an unjustly jailed Jew and is now being punished for it all because another Jew snitched on him.

The problem is that one cannot make a Chilul HaShem by reporting on a good Deed! If the Mesirah is seen as a causing a Chilul HaShem it can only be because people will see Jews in a negative light because of it. Good deeds are rarely seen that way.

Enabling a constituent Jewish prisoner to live a lavish lifestyle in prison while others suffer the indignities normally found there is not a good deed. But those condemning only the Moser do not see this contradcition. It is a testament to the blindness they have to the crime itself. You can't imply something is a Kiddush HaShem and then say that reporting it to the media is a Chilul HaShem.

So YWN is guilty of a compounding all of this further.

We ought to not be defending criminals and lauding those who ascertain special favors for them. We ought to be condemning them. If this Chaplain really wanted to make a Kiddush HaShem he should have been helping all the prisoners. Then I would have been the first to sing his praises.