Everyone in the Jewish community was shocked to read of the widespread corruption charges brought against both politicians and rabbis in New York and New Jersey. We are always disappointed when we hear of people who are supposed to be leaders and role models abusing their positions of authority for personal gain. But in an opinion piece in the Forward, Moshe Rosenberg thought it appropriate to use “unethical behavior” like money laundering and compare it to intermarriage.
The point of the piece is that the Jewish community must voice stronger negative opinions about any kind of behavior that “endangers the entire Jewish people and subverts our mission to be a ‘light unto the nations.’” To make his point, Rosenberg says:
If we want to avoid future scandals, we must be clear in our condemnations of unethical behavior. Orthodox leaders use the harsh language and terminology of taboo when we discuss intermarriage, and as a result intermarriage is rare in our communities. We cannot leave any doubt whatsoever that dishonest and illegal business practices are strictly taboo.
Framing intermarriage with terms like “unethical,” “dishonest” and “illegal” is remarkably disingenuous and, quite frankly, unnecessary. The article is about corrupt politicians and rabbis who went so far as to engage in human organ trafficking. There is no reason to use the incident as an opportunity to degrade all those in the Jewish community who are intermarried. Intermarriage and corruption are in no way connected. In his argument, Rosenberg is only helping to deepen a divide between intermarried families and the rest of the Jewish community that shouldn’t exist in the first place.
Rosenberg believes that, despite the corruption charges, the Jewish community can still “reclaim the moral high ground and serve as role models.” We agree, and we think the first place to start is to stop trying to turn intermarried families into pariahs and instead work to welcome them into the Jewish community.