Lashon hara and the news

Lashon hara and the news

We can’t imagine not covering the corruption scandal that erupted last week in which 44 people, including five rabbis, were arrested. That’s what we call hard news. The trouble is, it is very hard news – hard in the sense that it is painful: venerable rabbis, including one who looks older than his 87 years, charged with money laundering. Jews all over America cringed at the charges and images splashed across their television screens – and some Standard readers may feel this kind of news has no place in their Jewish newspaper.

But inasmuch as this is a newspaper and not a Jewish organization bulletin, we had to make some hard choices. First, we were particularly mindful that these rabbis and their associates are – as so many of the people interviewed for this issue have pointed out – innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, to put a photograph of a rabbi in handcuffs on the front page could be misleading (as well as being indelicate and abhorrent).

But not to run one at all would be similarly inappropriate. After all, people were arrested, not abstractions. And those people were Jews. And those Jews were rabbis. (We will not be running the rabbi’s photo on our Website, however, because of an arrangement with the AP.)

On the other hand, we’ve touched only in passing on the pols who were “stung.” To be sure, Hudson County, where a large part of the alleged criminal activity was carried out, is in our circulation area. For indepth coverage of that aspect of the case – and a larger look at corruption in New Jersey, which has been called, alas, the most corrupt of the 50 states – we direct our readers to a new source of information,

It’s important to remember that the arrests of the rabbis and their associates for money laundering – and of Levy Itzhak Rosenbaum for organ trafficking – have nothing to do with the larger corruption case. What they all have in common is the man who’s been called a “cooperating witness,” Solomon Dwek – who had already been in trouble with the law.

There is one glimmer of light, however. The rabbis’ arrests made news because they were virtually unprecedented. Jews tend to be impressively law-abiding wherever they live.