I first thought seriously about Madoff's Judaism when reading the recent New York Times article about how he not only betrayed countless individuals and non-profits, but more specifically—his people. His religion is separate from his crime, and emphasizing that connection so that all us "chosen people" can tut-tut is a bit self-congratulatory—this type of behavior from a Jew?! The idea that this was somehow about Jewishness was exemplified in Rabbi Visotsky's statement, "the fact that he stole from Jewish charities puts him in a special circle of hell." (Wait—we believe in Hell now? Oy vey.) The fact that Madoff made off with the money of charities—period!—puts him in a special circle of Hell. Would it have been better if he stole from non-Jewish charities? We, as a culture, do not need to take blame for this mishegos, just as we don't get credit if he had done a mitzvah.
(This blog post was also published in Reasoned Radical.)
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