A pornographer is elected head of a prominent British Jewish non-profit. A scandal erupts. Rabbi Jeremy Rosen asks a very important question: Should this one man be singled out for criticism when criminals and other dubious sources of money are regularly welcomed by Jewish charities? Then Rabbi Rosen notes:
There has always been a very strong tradition in Hassidism of Rebbe money-launderers. Let me explain. One of several lines of thinking in Hassidism goes that the Rebbe is the saint who redeems the Jewish (and non-Jewish) universe. An ordinary person cannot hope to rise to his level of proximity to God. So simply by association and, where possible, rendering financial support, a person is elevated by the Rebbe’s relationship with God and participates in the Rebbe’s sanctity.
This explains those Rebbes who positively encourage sinners to come to them, to donate where possible vast sums (and I can assure you no questions were asked), and, as a result, both parties feel a lot better.
Nowadays, in addition to Hassidic Rebbes there is a whole industry in Oriental mystics and wonder rabbis to which streams of corrupt businessmen flow, carrying large donations, as regularly as flights to Las Vegas. Not all Rebbes, Rabbis, or followers are like this, of course, but there’s a heck of a lot of it going on quite openly, even brazenly, and all hallowed by religious fiat…
Of course I detest pornography but if we do not shrink from turning a blind eye to dubious sources of funding throughout the religious and the Jewish world, then we must not pillory one man just because he is an obvious and easy target.