Thursday, June 19, 2014

Another Frum Jew Goes to Prison

Former Jerusalem Mayor, Uri Lupolianski
I had hoped I would never have to see this headline: Ex-Mayor Of Jerusalem Sentenced To 6 Years Prison In Bribery Case. But this is the headline at VIN this morning.

I was a big fan of Uri Lupolianski. He was a Charedi that I thought we could all be proud of. He founded the charitable organization Yad Sarah, an organization that helps the elderly and disabled. It lends out medical equipment, supplies and services to anyone in need without regard to which segment of Judaism they belong.

He came to national attention when he succeeded his predecessor, Ehud Olmert and was elected mayor of Jerusalem. Prior to that time Lupolianski was deputy mayor and a member of the National Building and Planning Committee.

What an accomplished individual he was. Before becoming mayor, he won several awards and in 1994 he accepted the Israel Prize on behalf of Yad Sarah.

By all accounts this Charedi individual who belonged to the Degel HaTorah (Lithuanian) faction of United Torah Judaism was a very popular and effective mayor.  He did not seem to favor any particular faction and governed the citizens of Jerusalem fairly and equally. It was widely assumed that if he ran for a 2nd term, he would easily be re-elected. But in a rotation deal with the Agudat Yisroel (Chasidic – mostly Ger) faction, he was to hand over his slot to their candidate, Meir Porush. Meir Porush then proceeded to lose badly to a secular Jew, Nir Birkat.

A lot of Charedi Jews were upset that Agudat Yisroel insisted on their turn. They had a Charedi Jew in power with all indications pointing to an easy re-election… and basically handed over the reins of power to a secular Jew.

I remember feeling angry at that too. Not that I have a problem with Nir Birkat. I’m sure he is a fine mayor. I was upset because here we had a Frum mayor of a holy city that was popular with the majority of Jerusalem’s voters and basically threw it all away. He governed in a way that made a real Kiddush HaShem. Or so I thought.

Unfortunately it does not end well for Uri Lupolianski. Which means it doesn’t end well for Frum Jews. Uri Lopianski was convicted of taking bribes while he was deputy mayor and and a member of the National Building and Planning Committee. For those bribes he advanced various real estate ventures, particularly the Holyland development, a complex of luxury apartment buildings in Jerusalem, that critics say are ugly and intrude on the city skyline.

As was the case with the Spinka Rebbe, these ill gotten gains were not taken for personal use. They were distributed to charitable projects that help the poor in the city. That’s nice. But that does not make him any less a crook, same as the Spinka Rebbe. He was convicted of corruption in March of this year and today sentenced to 6 years in prison.

How truly sad it is when good people go bad. I still believe that Lopianski is a good man. His goals were helping the poor. But when a Frum Jew is convicted of corruption, it is Chilul HaShem - no matter what his intention was. He pushed through a project for pay. And not necessarily for the benefit of the city or its residents.  What a sad day for Lupolianski. What a sad day for his family. And what a sad day for Frum Jewry.