Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Jewish ethics of Penn State's fired president: what role did they play in the scandal?

Outpourings of Jewish ethical superiority: The Graham Spanier case

(Occidental Observer) -- by Kevin MacDonald --
Mondoweiss has posted a summary of articles by rabidly pro-Israel rabbis who have waxed indignant about the Penn St. situation, basing their arguments on a rather tendentious reading of Jewish religious ethics. The article by Rabbi Moshe Leib Gray, the head of Chabad at Dartmouth (described by Mondoweiss as promoting Israel “to a faretheewell”) makes it clear that not informing when others are suffering is forbidden by Jewish ethics:
When it comes to saving a life, physically or spiritually, we must to do everything in our power to push aside our natural inclinations, to depart from our comfort zone and to speak harsh words; to do what is right, even when it challenges the will of God Almighty. (Emphasis in text)
This is a strong ethic indeed. Mondoweiss makes that point that these same rabbis manage to look the other way in the face of Palestinian suffering and Israeli ethnic cleansing. Good point.

Beyond that, these high-flown statements of Jewish ethics don’t seem to apply to mesirah–the prohibition against informing on other Jews. Some of the most egregious examples of mesirah come from Orthodox Jewish communities like Rabbi Gray’s Chabad—e.g., this blog by John Graham which describes mesirah advocated by Agudath Israel in the case of reporting child abuse allegations within the Jewish community.

Rabbi Gray’s article also notes that “the university’s president seems to have been held accountable.” Yes he has been held accountable. And for good reason. The Grand Jury report makes it clear that Penn St. president Graham Spanier was informed by Athletic Director Tim Curley about Sandusky and did nothing about it, even approving the policy that Sandusky would not be allowed to bring young boys on campus. Indeed, since Spanier was the president, he bears ultimate responsibility for not telling the police. People like Paterno and Curley probably rationalized their inaction by thinking (wrongly) that they had done their duty by reporting to the highest levels of the university.

But Rabbi Gray never mentions the name of the Penn St. president and the wording is apparently designed to minimize any culpability by Spanier. Neither do any of the other three pontificating rabbis mentioned in the Mondoweiss article. This sin of omission can also be seen as an aspect of the mesirah mentality, because it is well known that Spanier is Jewish, as noted by his Wikipedia page. Rabbi Gray and the other rabbis can’t quite bring themselves to acknowledge that the person who bears ultimate responsibility is a Jew. Instead, the implication is that Paterno and others who failed to do anything simply hadn’t imbibed the morally superior Jewish ethical code. Viewed from another perspective, however, Spanier’s behavior is a secular version of mesirah: protect the Penn St. community at all costs, even if it means allowing suffering to continue and criminals continuing their exploitation of children.

Incidentally, in 2010 Mondoweiss noted Spanier refused to sign a petition condemning the Israeli flotilla attack, saying it was against policy to sign petitions. However, he “was among nine college presidents who organized a petition to endorse Columbia University President Lee Bollinger’s statement denouncing a boycott of Israeli educational institutions.” This behavior conforms quite well to that other well-known Jewish ethical principle: Is it good for the Jews?...MORE...LINK

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