Shul Membership Continued

To continue from yesterdays theme about letting a sex offender into one’s shul or not. When there is a risk to the children, the problem does need to be looked at in depth. But I was curious – how would you deal with a convicted felon? Who had served his time – perhaps for murder, manslaughter, or robbery? What about if they are out on bail and have yet to prove their guilt / innocence? What about if it was white collar crime and this person embezzled money or perpetrated a fraud on the government? How about someone who served time, but still maintains his innocence? What about someone who is a known Kofer / Apikores (heretic) and has been vocal about it? Should he be allowed into shul to daven (pray), when you know he doesn’t believe a word he is saying? Someone who entered the country illegally and plans to stay? Someone know for low morals?

Where on earth does one draw the line? Are we not all guilty of some sin to some extent? Have there been any teshuvot (answers) written on the subject?

(I remember when I was dating. I was talking on the phone to someone I had been set up with. Sixth sense made me ask him if he had ever been in prison. After he recovered from his absolute shock that I had thought to ask that, he told me that he had been incarcerated for 5 years, it was ONLY white collar crime, he took the fall for someone else, and that his community backed him up 100%. Needless to say I was not interested in dating a convicted felon especially one who obviously didn’t think he had done anything wrong. But that phrase stuck with me. “Only white collar crime”.)

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6 responses to “Shul Membership Continued

  1. Funnily enough, we’ve dealt with some of these other situations you’re talking about, specifically the white collar crime and the something sort of like an apikores, although neither in my current synagogue.

    The white collar crime, as far as I understand it, he really was the fall guy – and knowing the guy, I could believe it. He did serve time, and made several art pieces that are hanging up in the particular synagogue that he attends. This happened over 10 years ago, and he has been president of the synagogue for two years now. I know he even mentioned that he was so glad to be trusted now, by the congregation, when he hadn’t been perfect in the past. It’s a really interesting situation – depends if you believe in teshuva/the ability to change.

    The second situation, a gentleman in a different shul disagreed with certain practices and thus acted in a way that was interpreted badly by fellow shul-goers. He was therefore not allowed to daven in front of the amud and eventually left the shul.

    I feel like it depends on the situation, I think. We talk about limits, but they can be hard to find…

  2. Did you see the video I posted? A Purim spoof by a rabbi where someone calls about a shidduch, and he checks the elementary school report card on his Palm Pilot. He tells the caller, “Oh, only white color crime. ”

    In a book I read about hasidim in Boro Park, the white collar criminals are forgiven as long as they do it to help the community.

  3. i’m interested to know what made you ask that question!

  4. I think it would depend on whether the person is a danger to others or not. Someone who committed white collar crime or is an apikores is not a danger to others, their misdeeds are between them and god, so to speak, (especially if they have served their time) and they should be allowed in shul. A pedophile is a potential danger to the children who are present, which is why he should be excluded.

  5. I would go one step further and say that a pedophile is not a potential danger to children – he/she is a danger…What a perfect place to find victims, a shul and a place where most people find only the good in others and find a hard time believing someone would do that… Once harmed in that manner, the child has problems throughout life, hence I think that all people with children should check the Sex Offender Registry in their State to see where they live. And, push comes to shove, if the a question was asked of people in one’s circle of friends and relatives, and if they were able to be truthful, many would admit to having been molested. One more thing… most often, a family member is the perpetrator.

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