Sunday, December 26, 2010

An Apology for a ‘Gift’ that Keeps on Giving

A few weeks ago my wife and I were involved in a court case that appeared on the People’s Court television program. We went before judge Millian suing a dry cleaner for damages to a Shaitel in the amount of $3000. Our intentions were good. We thought by going on the show and both sides being paid for appearing - it would be a win/win for both of us. Any judgement that would come our way would come out of the fee paid to the defendants for their appearance.

We did not lie about our damages. The wig in question was indeed ruined by them. The receipt for it was legitimate. But to our great dismay the judge somehow determined that we were lying and that the receipt we presented to the judge was in reality the receipt for its replacement.

We were surprised at the verdict and the accusation but we thought – that’s TV and made no attempt to show our innocence outside the courtroom.

What we did not realize at the time is the massive Chilul HaShem that the case as presented causes the Jewish people. And we strongly regret the part we played in it. We erred in several respects. We should never have taken this case to TV. How much we pay for wigs is not something we should be advertising on TV as it misrepresents our values to the world. We further regret our reactions after the verdict to the reporter. We should have done more to explain our innocence. Instead we look as guilty as the judge made us sound - thus further exacerbating the Chilul HaShem. After watching our performance I am embarrassed and fully understand the reaction of many of my peers.

It was indeed a Chilul HaShem and that rises far above our protestations of innocence. I realize the damage we have inadvertently done to the Jewish people. And we are profoundly sorry. I can’t change what happened or the terrible fallout. But I hope our contrition in this matter in some way leads to a better understanding of what happened and leads to a modicum of forgiveness for so seriously embarrassing the Jewish people.

Heidi and Mendy Hershkowitz

What a wonderful apology. There’s only one problem with it. It isn’t true. It never happened. How do I know? Because I just made it up.

Had they written anything remotely close to it I might have a different attitude towards them. But they have not even issued the slightest apology for their part in one of the biggest Chilul HaShems in recent history.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken has decided to take me to task for not being Dan L’Kaf Zechus to the Herhshkowitzes. He feels that based on Rabbi Yair Hoffman’s research we must be Dan L’Kaf Zechus. And that I owe them an apology for my strident attacks against them. He then cites my offer to apologize if they were proven innocent. He awaits my apology, he says.

Well they haven’t been proven innocent. I still await that proof. The only thing that has been proven is the plausibility of an alternative scenario that would support their innocence. But that is not enough in my view to ameliorate the Chilul HaShem they caused – inadvertently or otherwise. The video as presented demands greater evidence of their innocence than a mere plausible explanation.

The harm caused by that video is immeasurable. It has already been seen by millions of people and has the potential of being seen by millions more. It will no doubt be used by every Neo-Nazi group as proof of their claims about us. It portrays the worst stereotypical image of Jewish people as crooks who are out to cheat non Jews whenever they can. And Rabbi Mencken wants me to apologize?!

I will admit that I was a bit harsh in my initial speculation about what this couple was thinking. But whether that is true about them or not - it is not a stretch to believe it about some of our people. At least one Posek has privately told countless numbers of religious Jews that it is Halachicly permissible to steal from Goyim – despite the clear Issur in the Shulchan Aruch against it!

If this couple would have publicly expressed their contrition about this event in a letter like the one I wrote, I might feel more charitable toward them and perhaps give them the benefit of the doubt. But as of yet – nothing!

If I were Rabbi Menken I would rethink my position on this matter because right now he seems more concerned about my apology to the Herhskowitzes than he does about the Chilul HaShem they caused. And because it is on YouTube – it is a Chilul HaShem that keeps on giving!