Agudas Yisrael held a "historic" national convention last week in Netanya, as reported by HaModia. It was attended by "hundreds of Agudas Yisrael members from all over Eretz Yisrael, representatives in the Knesset and the local city councils, public figures and askanim, activists of the movement and representatives of the many communities identified with Agudas Yisrael." Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman said, “This is the time to unite and to proudly elevate the good name of this holy movement.” Leaders stated that the goal was to unite everyone in a mission "to increase kvod Shamayim."
And, in this mission of elevating their good name and increasing kvod Shamayim, they flew in a special guest speaker: Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin.
It amaze me that apparently there are people who see no connection between honoring a convicted felon and the recent news that the Jerusalem District convicted five senior charedi figures for hundreds of counts of fraud. This included swindling 24 million shekels from the Education Ministry by inflating the number of students learning at yeshivos, using forged identity papers, and busing in masses of impostors to fool inspectors.
When you honor someone who was convicted of 86 counts of fraud, along with numerous other charges against him, what does that say about societal values with regard to such crimes?
(It should also be noted that Litzman, along with Meir Porush of United Torah Judaism, also honored the truly evil Rabbi Eliezer Berland with a hospital visit.)
In sharp contrast, consider the following account, from Rav Shlomo Goren's autobiography, about how Rav Kook went to great efforts to save an accused Jew from an undeserved sentence - and yet would not honor him:
"...On his final appeal, Abraham Stavsky was acquitted of the murder of Dr. Haim Arlosoroff. I was sitting beside Rabbi Kook when he received a phone call from Stavsky after his release from prison. Stavsky said that he wanted to come and visit Rabbi Kook, to thank him for his tremendous efforts on Stavsky's behalf. Rabbi Kook asked Stavsky not to come to the Haifa hotel where Rabbi Kook was vacationing, but rather to wait until after he returned to Jerusalem.
"I asked Rabbi Kook about this. After all, he had made a tremendous effort and risked his position in order to save Stavsky from the gallows. Rabbi Kook had become embroiled with the British and with the high commissioner because Rabbi Kook was certain that Stavsky was innocent. Why then, when he wanted to come and thank Rabbi Kook, did the latter not want to receive him?
"Rabbi Kook replied that according to the testimonies in court, Stavsky was not of impeccable character, and his personal behavior and ethics were blemished. However, as long as Stavsky was in danger, and as long as Rabbi Kook believed that Stavsky had had no part in Haim Arlosoroff's murder, Rabbi Kook felt obligated to do everything in his power to save Stavsky. Under such circumstances, Rabbi Kook held that there is no difference in whether a Jew is an observant, God-fearing Hasid. Every person, as a human being - if he is innocent and in danger - deserves to be helped. As Hazal taught, "He who saves a single life, it is as if he saves the entire world," but now, when thank God Stavsky was out of prison and no longer in danger, Rabbi Kook had no interest in making a fuss out of the issue and in glorifying Stavsky's name. Thus, Rabbi Kook told Stavsky to wait. Now that he had been acquitted, there was no rush."
The sooner that charedi society adopts such values, the less shocking headlines we will see.