Thursday, May 19, 2011

Straus-Kahn and his Orthodox Attorney

Unfortunately another Jew has been splattered all over the media – accused of sexually molesting a woman. His name is Dominique Straus-Khan.

Up until this point, he was actually seen by many as a likely contender for the Presidency of France. That is quite a statement considering that he is Jewish. His job until his abrupt resignation yesterday was as head of the International Monetary Fund. He was well respected in financial circles and so well known that people referred to him by his initials, DSK.

That he was Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel made for a very positive potential for France to go from almost anti Israel under Chirac, to moderately pro Israel under Sarkozy, to actually joing the United States, Canada, and Australia among the nation’s most supportive of Israel.

But that bubble has burst in a hurry. He is now in jail accused of some pretty vile things. And with this new accusation comes additional allegations from a French journalist in his past. She refused to press charges against him then for a similar attack and now regrets it. She is considering doing so now.

This is a fallen man and his sexual predation is reprehensible if true.

Is this a Chilul HaShem? Absolutely. But I do not believe that Strauss-Kahn is an observant Jew. While the behavior he has been accused of is abhorrent the Chilul HaShem is not on the same level as if it would have been had an Orthodox Jew done this.

Like when the former President of Israel did it.

That was a major Chilul HaShem because he was an identifiably observant Jew. And a very prominent one. He was found guilty of rape! There is no other way to describe the rape of a woman by a prominent and observant Jew other than to call it a Chilul HaShem.

But when someone like Strauss-Kahn who is not observant does something like this, then the Chilul HaShem is not as great. The world cannot blame Judaism of inducing this kind of behavior in its adherents. Nonetheless, that he is Jewish does taint us a little since not everyone understands this distinction. Guilt by association is a reality, unfortunately. It is therefore a Chilul HaShem at that level.

Strauss-Kahn is a sick man. He needs help. But if convicted he is also a criminal that deserves to get a punishment that fits the crime. Thank God we live in a country where most people recognize that behavior such as this is the responsibility of the individual and not the group from which he comes. In all the stories about him in the media that I have seen or read, his religion was not even mentioned.

But his attorney is Benjamin Brafman. He is an Orthodox Jew and one of the most successful criminal attorneys of our time. His clients include some pretty big names in entertainment and even some who are in organized crime. And so too are some pretty despicable other Jews who are observant and have nonetheless made their own Chilul HaShem.

One might be tempted to find fault with him for taking such clients. But I would take issue with that. Anyone in this great country of ours who is accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty no matter what he is accused of doing. And they are entitled to the best defense they can afford.

Mr. Brafman is certainly entitled to take unpopular clients and fight for them. As long as he retains his integrity and does not lie or mislead, he has every right - and once hired - even an ethical responsibility to do that.

He has an obligation is to fight for his client’s innocence if he truly believes in it. Or to seek the best possible outcome for him if he is guilty.

I therefore do not see taking on this high profile case where the accusations are as disgusting as a Chilul HaShem at all. That he is so highly regarded in his profession and at the same time recognized as an observant Jew may (...and I emphasize may) in fact be a Kiddush HaShem.