In dan­ger of con­ning our­selves

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Ge­of­frey Al­der­man

THE STORY OF fraud­ster Dan Ja­cobs is a mis­er­able tale, made worse by the knowl­edge that his vic­tims in­cluded his wife’s par­ents and an el­derly grand­mother. Ap­pear­ing at Har­row Crown Court two weeks ago, Ja­cobs ad­mit­ted five counts of fraud, to­talling £120, 573. Pass­ing sen­tence on him (a well-earned five-year jail term), judge Ian Stern ob­served that Ja­cobs — a for­mer yeshiva stu­dent and mem­ber of El­stree & Bore­ham­wood Syn­a­gogue — had sub­jected his fam­ily to an “un­be­liev­able” level of de­ceit to fund a gam­bling ad­dic­tion. Ja­cobs (the judge ex­plained) “com­pletely con­trolled’’ his rel­a­tives for four years while liv­ing with them af­ter his own home had been re­pos­sessed. They had been left “dec­i­mated”.

It is, as I say, a mis­er­able tale. Could it have been pre­vented? I ask this be­cause of the rev­e­la­tion that Ja­cobs al­legedly stole £40,000 from the char­i­ta­ble trust es­tab­lished to oversee the con­struc­tion of the El­stree & Bore­ham­wood eruv. The frauds for which Ja­cobs was jailed occurred be­tween 2010 and 2015. But in 2006 Ja­cobs had acted as sec­re­tary of the then newly in­cor­po­rated trust, a post he held for three years. Ja­cobs re­lin­quished this of­fice in 2009. The eruv was es­tab­lished the fol­low­ing year. But in an as­ton­ish­ing state­ment is­sued by the trust fol­low­ing his con­vic­tion, the trus­tees dis­closed that “around May 2009” they “were un­able to ob­tain the man­age­ment ac­counts which they had re­quested from Mr Ja­cobs.” “Upon in­ves­ti­ga­tion… it be­came clear that Mr Ja­cobs had taken funds from the trust’s ac­count with­out au­tho­ri­sa­tion.”

But this theft was never re­ported to the po­lice. Ap­par­ently, Ja­cobs’s rel­a­tives re­paid the money stolen. Var­i­ous un­spec­i­fied “sanc­tions” were im­posed on Ja­cobs by lo­cal sy­n­a­gogues. The eruv was con­structed. And that, so far as the trust was con­cerned, was that. Case closed.

Ex­cept, of course, that it wasn’t closed. To fund his ad­dic­tion, Ja­cobs then ap­pears to have turned to mem­bers of his im­me­di­ate fam­ily, with dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences. Had the eruv trust called in the po­lice, it is likely Ja­cobs would have been brought to trial ear­lier, and pun­ished ac­cord­ingly. The con­struc­tion of the eruv might have been de­layed but the suf­fer­ings of the fam­ily would have been much cur­tailed.

I can well understand the dilem­mas that the eruv trus­tees faced. I can even sym­pa­thise with them — to some ex­tent. There is a very long tra­di­tion of Jews not re­port­ing other Jews to the sec­u­lar au­thor­i­ties. There is a deeply held be­lief that where Jews do re­port other Jews to the sec­u­lar au­thor­i­ties, any re­sult­ing scan­dal will be ex­ploited by an­ti­semites, and will thus bring pub­lic op­pro­brium (and per­haps worse) upon the en­tire com­mu­nity.

This is the mind­set that in­formed the phi­los­o­phy of the Rus­sian rabbi Yis­roel Ka­gan (1839-1933), whose cel­e­brated mono­graph Chofetz Chaim warned against say­ing dis­taste­ful things about a per­son even though what is said is ab­so­lutely true. This is the mind­set that drove the only wit­ness to a Whitechapel “Rip­per” mur­der to refuse to tes­tify against the Rip­per, a fel­low Jew by the name of Aaron Kos­min­ski. It’s the mind­set that per­suaded those then in charge of the Fed­er­a­tion of Sy­n­a­gogues not to re­port to the po­lice the crimes of the Fed­er­a­tion’s late pres­i­dent Mor­ris Lederman, who stole mil­lions from the Fed­er­a­tion’s cof­fers. It’s the mind­set that ex­plains why syn­a­go­gal au­thor­i­ties in this coun­try have his­tor­i­cally de­clined to call in the po­lice when faced with ev­i­dence of sex­ual abuse per­pe­trated by con­gre­gants.

It’s a mind­set which I’ve never ac­cepted. In the first place, and as the Baby­lo­nian Tal­mud says, “the law of the land is the law”— es­pe­cially in re­la­tion to mon­e­tary trans­ac­tions. In the sec­ond, by at­tempt­ing to deal with law-break­ers “in-house,” we are giv­ing am­mu­ni­tion to those who claim that Bri­tish Jews do in­deed con­sti­tute ‘‘a state within a state.’’ And in the third, preven­tion is al­ways bet­ter than cure.

It’s easy to be wise af­ter the event. But in not re­port­ing the theft of funds, it seems to me the El­stree & Bore­ham­wood trus­tees were derelict in their duty. They have a lot of ex­plain­ing — and apol­o­gis­ing — still to do.

Some claim that Jews con­sti­tute a state within a state

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.