Opinion: Glorifying the Guilty in Our Communities


white-collar-crimeBy S. Friedman, Matzav.com Newscenter

Outrageous. Disgusting. Appalling. These are the words used by the media to express feelings over the recent release of the only man convicted in the bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland. While Scotland was trying to be “humane” with their release of the dying mass murderer, the terrorist then received a hero’s welcome complete with a parade and dignitaries upon returning to his homeland. No shame, just glorifying the villain for all of the world to see, not to suffice with just letting him return quietly to his family to spend his final days.

There are many stories of Gedolim who condemned people who cheated. One was recently posted here (link) on Matzav.com with Rav Chaim Kanievsky telling a bochur he should sit in jail for what he had done (driving without a license). Another is a famous story about a boy who cheated on a test and Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky expelled him from yeshiva. Years later he was indicted on fraud charges, to which Rav Yaakov reflected that if only other yeshivos had not been so quick to accept this boy back, perhaps he would have learned his lesson.

Financial integrity has been at the forefront of our community as of late, and while there are those who are trying to better themselves, there is still a disturbing cavalier attitude that permeates some segments. We thought that recent events would have gotten rid of this attitude, but on the surface at least, it appears that it hasn’t completely gone away.

I know of someone whose rov chastised his kehillah to avoid dealing with people who can cause chillul Hashem. When he tried to act upon this by distancing himself from associates who were indicted, he was met with scorn and resentment, as if he was a frum Benedict Arnold amidst others in the business.

At the same time, for some, the release of a personĀ  who commits fraud on a large scale might be cause for great celebration.

To see honesty shunned and criminality glorified is contradictory and embarrassing.

When we glorify those who break the law, we put ourselves in danger, literally and figuratively. We don’t need to give fodder to those who wish to report how hypocritical we are. Do we really need to invite the scrutiny and criticism for which there is no good answer? What message do we send to our young people if we send mixed messages about right and wrong? What about younger people who observe approval from of our society to criminal actions?

In stark contrast, we have three yeshiva bochurim rotting away in jail in Japan, who were completely unaware of what they had gotten themselves into. We need to daven for them and try to obtain their release. We will celebrate the day they come home, iy”H very soon.

And then there are others. Others who may have known what they were doing. Others who we wish the best for and who we want to be returned to their families. While we don’t want people to sit in jail and we empathize with the families and don’t begrudge their return to society, shouldn’t it be an awkward situation, not one of blatant celebration?

Rav Chaim Kanievsky, who we run to for yeshuos and advice won’t give such a person a bracha. Should we be celebratory? What an olam hafuch…

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. I agree with this article for we should not glorify those who have committed crimes. But we should totally condemn the ones who have been convicted of crimes against children.

    People who laud the ones who have gotten out of jail only makes it seem permissible to others in the community to follow suit.

    Some might say “Hey, this is cool if I commit fraud I will come out and they’ll throw party”. We need leadership like in the past where rabbis and community leaders took care of the ones who didn’t know better. When I was growing up, the community took care of their own.

    I wonder if it is a community at all. I just call them Jewish neighborhoods for the community model has faded away.

  2. When a person is so wicked that he purposely harms a fellow Jew, encourages and provides material support for someone to harm a fellow Jew, such a person does not deserve the support of the community and should be treated as one from outside of the camp. His family deserves ZERO sympathy. Let them figure a way how to support themselves and prove they are not like the dad.

    However, a stupid businessman who’s actions caused no Jew direct harm should obviously lose all rights for honorarium, but the family should be helped thjrough te whole ordeal.

  3. – #2

    The family should be helped in any case. The children certainly had no part in the father’s wrong-doing. They will suffer enough from shame. If they lack necessities because the father is in jail, they should be helped.

    In most cases the wife either didn’t know what was going on, or her husband wouldn’t have listened anyway. Unless she took part in the crime herself she should also be helped.

    If the criminal himself makes tshuva and expresses his remorse publicly after his release, he should be helped to regain a proper place in society. However, that does not include glorifying his “exploits.” He should be sincerely sorry, and encourage others to stay far away from dishonesty.

    This also goes when the crime is against civil law. Most poskim hold that cheating a non-Jew is just as forbidden, and in any case Dina d’malchusa dina. Not to mention that a chillul HaShem is caused.

    The Torah view as seen in the halacha seems to be a) make restitution for the crime b) lead the wrong-doer to do sincere tshuva. Nowever is punishing the family mentioned.

  4. #3:

    You are a very good person looking at the world as a very ideal place. I may have been a bit harsh. However, please look at the facts on the ground.

    1] Children of criminals do not feel ashamed for their father. Worse yet, they are looked at as ideal candidates for shidduchim. The greater the notoriety the greater the catch, and the higher the chances are of getting a picture into the frum newspapers as a noted askan.

    2] Who benefitted from the criminal’s activity? The wife. So even if for arguement sake didn’t participate in the crime, she did reap the benefits (fancy house, nice SUV, etc). Sadly, too many wives know full well what the husband had planned.

    3] How did the criminal himself do teshuva? Did he pay what he owes? Did he rebuild the lives of the victims?

    Honestly now, how many criminals ever make restitution for their crimes?

    On the other hand…..

    The victim has lost money or has sustained personal injury.
    The victim has lost the sense of security.
    The victim is deeply in debt to pay for the losses caused by the criminal.

    Please be fair and honest answering this question:

    The victim is in dire straits as a result of the criminal activity. And, as result of the legal fees, fines, etc. the criminal’s family is also in dire straits. Who is priority, the victim and his family or the criminal’s family?

    By all means love the family of criminals, but your tzeddakah dollar goes farther by loving and supporting the real deserving ones, the VICTIM.