Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ethical standards

For the sake of full disclosure, I'm going to do a preliminary rant before I get to my main rant. Bernard Stone is the alderman (Chicagospeak for city council member) of the 50th Ward, which includes West Rogers Park, home of most of Chicago's Orthodox Jews. I consider him his behavior as an alderman and as a public figure an embarrassment and a disgrace. That was the full-disclosure statement. I think I'd be annoyed by the following even if I liked Stone.

And now the main rant. The Parashat Yitro issue of Likutei Peshatim, a local Orthodox community newsletter, carried this ad: "Congregation [Whatever] would like to thank our Alderman, Bernard Stone, for his many years serving our community, and in particular, for all of the help and support he has given to our shul over the years. We wish you continued success in all that you do for our neighborhood."

For now, I'll overlook the joke about all that Stone does for the hood. Election day is February 27, and Stone has a fight on his hands for the first time in years. This notice from Congregation [Whatever] is clearly an endorsement, which is one of the things a synagogue can do if it wants its tax status to be reconsidered. If we were to point this out to the people in charge of the shul, they could reply that it's not an endorsement--it's just a thank-you note.

Right. What a coincidence that a few weeks before an actually contested election, a congregation wishes the incumbent "continued success." "Continued success"? But that means he should keep on doing what he's been doing. And what he's been doing is drawing an aldermanic paycheck. What annoys me more than the endorsement is that the shul is working in the world of plausible deniability, which involves both sleazy morals and treating people as though they're stupid. I'd like to think a synagogue would hold itself to higher standards, but I can't always do what I'd like.