The recent arrest and indictment of several—19 according to one source—members of Orthodox Jewish communities in New York and New Jersey on racketeering, money-laundering and organ-smuggling charges reminds us that this is not the first time Orthodox Jews have allegedly engaged in financial and other crimes.
In 2007, the Grand Rabbi of the Spinka sect of Orthodox Judaism, also located in New York, was indicted on tax fraud and money laundering, along with "several other defendants and five Spinka charities," according to the Los Angeles Times. In March 2009, one of the co-conspirators in that case, Rabbi Moshe Zigelman, was sentenced to 24 months in prison for these crimes. Unfortunately, the list goes on, with rampant sexual abuse charges as well within these tight-knit communities.
The resentment within the Orthodox Jewish community itself concerning such activities is clear from the resultant commentary by one of their own in an "Open Letter to the Money-Grubbing Jews" by Ben Sales, published in the National Jewish Student Magazine:
"Because you make me look bad, me and everyone else who wears a kippah, a long skirt and long sleeves, a black hat, a t-shirt with Hebrew writing on it, a necklace with a silver chai. Every kid who goes to Jewish school and Jewish camp, every college student who attends Hillel, every Zionist and post-Zionist, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform, Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Hasidic, secular must now bear the brunt of those who read of your exploits and think: there’s another Shylock, another Madoff, another Jew for whom the bottom line is more important than his own community."
Sales adds, "This concept, as I would think you know, is called a chillul hashem, a desecration of God’s name."
The "Good Book?"
This seemingly pervasive problem of "desecrating God's name" may lie not necessarily in the apparent corruptability of so many individual rabbis and other members of the Orthodox Jewish community but within the very scriptures themselves that create such religions, sects and cults. In this regard, it is clear from biblical traditions and dictates that "chosen people" are to be rewarded by God for their piety by being given the booty of "the nations," i.e., non-Jewish lands. Consider the following scriptures from the Old Testament part of the Bible, called in Judaism the "Tanakh"—which, as in Christianity, is considered by Orthodox Jews to be "God's Word":
"For you are a people holy to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth." (Deuteronomy 7:6)
"When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if its answer to you is peace and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; and when the LORD your God gives it into your hand you shall put all its males to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the cattle, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourseves; and you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the LORD your God has given you. Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not cities of the nations here. But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance, you shall save nothing that breathes..." (Deuteronomy 20:10-16)
"He [the Jew] should not press his fellow [Jew] for payment ...the foreigner [Gentile] you may press for payment." (Deuteronomy 15: 2-3)
"You must not make your brother pay interest, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything on which one may claim interest. You may make a foreigner [Gentile] pay interest but your brother [fellow Jew] you must not make pay interest." (Deuteronomy 23: 19-20)
"Foreigners (Gentiles) shall rebuild your walls, and their kings shall minister to you ...Your gates shall be open continuously; day and night they shall not be shut; that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession. For the nation or kingdom that will not not serve you; shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste...." (Isaiah 60:10-12)
"You shall suck the milk of nations, you shall suck the breast of kings; and you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob." (Isaiah 60:16)
"And strangers [Gentiles] shall stand and feed your flocks, strangers shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; but you shall be called the priests of the LORD, men shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory." (Isaiah 61:5-6)
Lest we underestimate the scope and influence of such Jewish writings within their own community, let us consider the experience by a dear friend of mine, now deceased, who was born and raised within the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in New York. Her father was a rabbi who had survived Auschwitz. Yet, she—a very lovely, intelligent, kind and generous individual—felt the need to escape from the oppression of her community, which made her shave her head, marry a man she did not love and suffer assorted other indignities and deprivations, including being barred from studying the Jewish text called the Talmud because she was a female. My friend was very aware of this exclusion because she knew how important that book was to her community, as she used to hide behind the door listening to her father teach it to the younger men.
The Talmud—which is not "Holy Writ" in itself but which frequently cites the Tanakh/Old Testament—is one of the most important texts within Orthodox Judaism. Not only did this exhaustive legal text take centuries to compile but it is pored over endlessly by Orthodox Jewish rabbis. Along with the Tanakh, the Talmud is repeatedly consulted for the very minutest details of orthodox Jewish life. As Jewish apologist Herman Wouk says in This is My God (181):
"The Talmud is not only an encyclopedia of law but a work of folk art, a hymn to the Lord rising out of many generations of men who spent their lives in the quest for him. This quest for God, the confident search for the holy in every busy detail of life, is its grand single theme. The Talmud recaptures a long golden age of intelligence and insight, and it is to this day the circulating heart's blood of the Jewish religion. Whatever laws, customs, or ceremonies we observe—whether we are orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or merely spasmodic sentimentalists—we follow the Talmud. It is our common law."
Following are some quotes from the Soncino edition of the Talmud:
"...R. Hanina also said: He who smites an Israelite on the jaw, is as though he had thus assaulted the Divine Presence; for it is written, one who smiteth man [i.e. an Israelite] attacketh the Holy One. (Sanhedrin 58b)
"It was taught: R. Judah used to say, A man is bound to say the following three blessings daily: "[Blessed art thou...] who hast not made me a heathen, [non-Jew]" ".... who hast not made me a woman"; and "... who hast not made me a brutish man."... (Menachoth 43b-44a)
"And he who desires that none of his vows made during the year shall be valid, let him stand at the beginning of the year and declare, ‘Every vow which I may make in the future shall be null.1 [HIS VOWS ARE THEN INVALID,] PROVIDING THAT HE REMEMBERS THIS AT THE TIME OF THE VOW. (Nedarim 23b)
These are but a few of the passages in the Talmud that reflect an "anti-goyim" or accountability-shirking attitude. Indeed, within both the Talmud and Tanakh appears a disturbing amount of material that foments xenophobia—the "stranger-fear" so evident from the clannishness of these communities—and apparently fosters corruption in the form of "sucking the milk" and "eating the wealth of the nations." This attitude can also be found in various quotes from Jewish leaders over the centuries, revealing that this mentality definitely does exist.
The question is why? Is it all blameable as a reaction to perceived "anti-Semitism?" Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Certainly, the Old Testament record of Israelites rampaging through the "Holy Land" and slaughtering non-Jews to steal their booty and virgin girls occurred long before "anti-Semitism" was ever conceived.
If people are programmed from birth with these various "religious" texts—some of which are said to be the very "Word of God"—is it any wonder they will behave in this manner? Defenders of such writings claim that these prejudicial parts are "taken out of context" and constitute only a small portion of the massive texts. Regarding this "out of context" quote mining, Wouk (181) also states:
"In a word, one can say almost anything about this tape recording of the talk of wise men through seven centuries, and then find a passage to support it. The enemies of Judaism in all ages have snipped out the harshest, strangest patches they could find, run them together, and offered the result to the world as the true face of the Jews' mystery book. The same technique could make a preposterous dummy of the New Testament or of the Old, of the works of Plato, Shakespeare, or Dickens, or the utterances of our American presidents."
These contentions are somewhat true, in that some of the passages used by Talmud-bashers are certainly taken out of context and paraphrased poorly, and that there is much more to the Talmud. But in light of the "holier-than-thou" attitude frequently developed by the most pious, can we really just ignore the effects that these "relatively few" bigoted writings have upon the human mind, particularly when searching for a source for the corruption of so many leaders of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and when factoring in the numerous scriptures from the Old Testament/Tanakh cited above that clearly dictate megalomania and hegemony?
Instead of conditioning children with anachronistic, ethnocentric and prejudicial "scriptures" from ancient times, let us portray and recreate humanity in a more evolved manner. The solution is not to pit culture against culture, with shrill cries using "hate speech," but to provide less hate speech in the first place in our "holy texts," which need either to be rewritten or to be scrapped entirely in favor of more enlightened creations.