Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

How Fallen are the Mighty!

This posting is an expansion upon a reply posting I made to another blog.

The Agudath Israel of America is an organization that is now in crisis. Accordingly, my relationship to AIA is now not entirely comfortable. On the one hand, AIA has long advocated for the needs of religious Jews such as myself, and has done -- and continues to do -- some very positive things (not all of which are visible on the radar monitor). On the other hand, AIA now has a leadership crisis. The AIA of today is not the same AIA of twenty years ago. The individuals constituting AIA's leadership are each too caught up in their respective personal or partisan agendas to effectively advocate for the good of the religious Jewish community at large (Harry Maryles has analyzed the dynamics of this).

And there are other religious Jewish organizations which, while not directly under the AIA umbrella, are, to one degree or another, de facto allies of AIA, on particular issues if not on a wholesale basis. But AIA has, with good foundation, long claimed to be the alpha (or, rather, Aleph) lion in the pride, and has implicitly been acknowledged as such by the various religious Jewish leaders.

But the individual rabbinical leaders have each tried (and, to one degree or another, succeeded) in having AIA take on the particular agenda of their own particular subconstituency, effectively taking a "one size fits all" posture for matters where this is definitely not appropriate. As a result of the various individual dysfunctions, AIA has now morphed from clean advocacy from the moral high ground to hastily wiping the shit off the collective faces of the religious Jewish community and categorically denying that there are any foul odors in the air.


Some examples:

On 25 September 2002, over 200 New York City firefighters responded to a blaze in Brooklyn. Two firefighters were injured. The fire was the result of arson, as part of an insurance fraud and bankruptcy fraud scheme by the Jacobowitz family. There was also an attempt to bribe a fire marshal. While the Agudath Israel of America did not explicitly come out to advocate lenity for the Jacobowitzes, the Satmar Rebbe (of whose insular community the Jacobowitz family is part) did try to mobilize support for them.

The AIA long denied that there was sexual molestation in the yeshivas, until it simply could no longer deny the obvious. Today, AIA still lobbies the New York State Legislature to prevent a relaxation of the statute of limitations.

AIA took a leading role in appealing for clemency for Martin Grossman, who was sentenced to die for brutally murdering a Florida Wildlife Officer while Grossman was out on parole for other crimes.


And today, they now are whining that the sentence for Sholom Rubashkin was unfair (okay, I concede that 27 years is a bit excessive for big time bank fraud, and I agree that a sentence of 7 to 10 years would be more appropriate).

And so, over a decade or so, the Agudath Israel of America has ceded the moral high ground, and now comes to me to beseech my support in helping out fraudsters, arsonists, child molesters, spouse abusers, and cop killers. Where do I, as an honest, law-abiding religious Jew, fit in to Agudath Israel's agenda? When will the Agudath Israel of America start to once again advocate for us, instead of viewing us collectively as a potential ATM to help finance their damage control for damage that they are no longer able to cover up? And how can we law-abiding religious Jews expect AIA to return to the moral high ground when its own Executive Vice President has disrespectfully flouted the law by not keeping his New York attorney registration current?

We law-abiding and honest religious Jews are becoming very frustrated at the Agudath Israel's disconnection from us, from the constituency it is supposed to represent and champion.

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