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A Volcanic Eruption of ‘Jewish Values’?

A precise definition of the term “Jewish values” seems curiously absent from the public sphere. But maybe we can come up with one of our own…

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By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | October 25, 2013

We often hear the term “Jewish values” bandied about these days (primarily by Jews, it seems) yet seldom, if ever, do we hear it defined. What exactly does it mean? Are people who use it trying to imply that the moral values of Jews are somehow superior to those held by the rest of us?

Type the term “Jewish values” into Google and you get back more than 24 million results. At the top of the list is a website called JewishValuesOnline.org. The site is taglined “multi Jewish perspectives on morals and ethics” and offers rabbinical opinions on a variety of political and social issues, such as gun control, but nowhere on the site does there seem to be an actual definition of the term.

Wikipedia has no entry on “Jewish values”—however, there is a Wikipedia entry on “Jewish ethics.” The article starts off with the following somewhat convoluted paragraph:

Jewish ethics are considered to be at the intersection of Judaism and the Western philosophical tradition of ethics. Like other types of religious ethics, the diverse literature of Jewish ethics primarily aims to answer a broad range of moral questions and, hence, may be classified as a normative ethics. For two millennia, Jewish thought has also grappled with the dynamic interplay between law and ethics. The tradition of rabbinic religious law (known as halakhah) addresses numerous problems often associated with ethics, including its semi-permeable relation with duties that are usually not punished under law.

A few years ago an Israeli rabbi by the name of Yitzhak Shapira published a book entitled The King’s Torah, in which he justified the killing of non-Jewish children. “There is justification in harming [non-Jewish] infants if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us,” Shapira writes. “Under such circumstances the blow can be directed at them and not only by targeting adults.” Perhaps that’s what Wikipedia means by the “semi-permeable relation” between Jewish ethics and “duties that are usually not punished under law.” So far as I’m aware, not a single Israeli soldier has ever been prosecuted for killing a Palestinian child.

A few days ago the Jewish JTA website published an article on a one million dollar “Jewish Nobel Prize” that is to be handed out to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Termed “the Genesis Prize,” the award is to be presented by the Genesis Prize Foundation. A relatively new outfit, established only last year, the Genesis Foundation is an offshoot of the Genesis Philanthropy Group, described as “a consortium of mega-wealthy philanthropist-businessmen from the former Soviet Union including Mikhail Fridman, Pyotr Aven and German Khan; the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel; and the Jewish Agency for Israel.”

Fridman, Aven, and Khan apparently go back a good many years together. All three have been involved with Alfa Group, a Russian banking and investment consortium, and in 2005 Fridman found himself caught up in a privitazation scandal in which property belonging to the Russian government was sold at prices significantly below market value.

The website Russian Mafia contains “dossiers” on all three men (see Fridman, Aven, and Khan respectively), with Khan being named as “Herman” Khan (though still apparently the same man). Naturally I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the information there, but the dossiers do make interesting reading.

The award to be presented to Bloomberg is the first annual Genesis Prize ever awarded. The article doesn’t exactly specify why the New York mayor was selected—but it does offer a quote from him:

“Many years ago, my parents instilled in me Jewish values and ethics that I have carried with me throughout my life, and which have guided every aspect of my work in business, government, and philanthropy,” he said.

Just why Mr. Bloomberg would think it important to mention this can perhaps be gleaned from a New York Times article on the Geneis Prize published back in June. “A charity founded by Russian Jewish billionaires is establishing a $1 million annual award for excellence in virtually any field, to honor those people who attribute their success to Jewish values.”—thus reads the opening sentence. The fact that the reporter, David M. Herzenhorn, would fail to enclose the words “Jewish values” in quotes would suggest he takes it for granted his readers know what the term means and that presumably they all understand that Jews have the most superlative values on earth. Who after all would doubt it?

But hey—take note! Here we have a whole prize (worth a cool $1 million no less) to be offered on an annual basis to that one lucky soul on earth deemed to exemplify “Jewish values” moreso than any other.

Perhaps the people of New York will breathe a sigh of relief now, knowing their mayor was singled out for such an honor. Yet still, sadly, we have no definition of the term (read Herzenhorn’s article from top to bottom and you’ll not fine one), and thus our quest is not over. But take heart! Perhaps a clue can be gleaned from a recent article in the Jewish newspaper, The Forward.

On October 21, The Forward published a story on a series of scandals that have engulfed Jewish charities and institutions over the past year. None of this is new. Each scandal, one after the other, had been reported previously on an individual, piecemeal basis, but what The Forward does is provide an overview of the whole mishmash as it has glissaded through the Jewish socio/cultural landscape:

The worst year for Jewish charities since the Madoff debacle in 2008 started in late December 2012, when the Forward reported that Yeshiva University’s longtime former president Rabbi Norman Lamm had admitted to covering up allegations of sex abuse of high school students from the 1970s through the ’90s. Alleged victims soon filed a $380 million lawsuit against the school.

Then, in May, the Forward reported that top officials at the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which distributes aid to Holocaust victims, had been warned of fraud being perpetrated by employees eight years before a full investigation uncovered a multi-million dollar scam.

Things got even darker over the summer. In July, the 92nd Street Y fired its executive director, Sol Adler, after learning of Adler’s affair with his assistant, Catherine Marto. His affair, though embarrassing, wasn’t the worst of it. Marto’s son-in-law was the Y’s head of facilities, and was accused of taking kickbacks from vendors on construction projects. The Y shouldn’t have been surprised: He had pleaded guilty in 1999 in a Mafia-backed Wall Street fraud.

All those scandals were just a warm-up for the firing in August of William Rapfogel, CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and one of the largest figures on the New York Jewish not-for-profit scene. Rapfogel was charged in September with stealing $5 million from Met Council in a two-decade kickback scheme. His predecessor at Met Council, Rabbi Dovid Cohen, resigned in September from his current job running the Jewish ambulance service Hatzolah.

The story also quotes an official who heads a “Center for Jewish Ethics” at a Pennsylvania rabbinical college who seems quite pained about the whole thing. “It (the series of scandals) has definitely shaken a lot of people’s confidence,” he comments before going on to express the view that “greater controls and better training” are needed for the people who run these Jewish institutions.

Yes, perhaps that will solve the whole problem.

A little bit more on the looting of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty can be found here:

Allegedly, Rapfogel and the Met Council diverted truckloads of food meant to feed the poor to a politically powerful Williamsburg hasidic businessman who owns a very large kosher supermarket. That hasidic businessman sold the food; the poor got none of it. It is unclear how much the businessman allegedly paid the Met Council under the table for the food or what percentage of profits was allegedly used to grease politicians. This businessman’s supermarket was also allegedly the only supermarket in Williamsburg authorized to take Met Council food vouchers. What the businessman had to pay Rapfogel for that monopoly is unclear.

The 92nd Street Y, one of the other scandal funnel clouds mentioned in The Forward article, apparently was formed as the Jewish equivalent to the YMCA, and much like the latter, it offers fitness programs, rooms for rent, cultural events, and the like. Its formal name is The Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association. Go here and you can see a list of famous people who have visited its facilities in New York.

All in all, what are we to make of it? Scandals galore—almost on the magnitude of a volcanic eruption—a spewing lava of corruption cascading down the slopes of what ostensibly are the most “noble” components of the Jewish community in America? Do the people connected in one way or another to these activities still regard themselves as God’s “chosen people”? If the answer to that is yes, then does this view of themselves persist in spite of their involvement in these exploitive self-enrichment schemes—or perhaps because of it?

Knowing the answer to that would help us to develop a clear definition of the term “Jewish values.”

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment