I suppose that the “Rabbi” in the title should be used with very heavy quotation marks.
A few years ago, a friend of mine who attends a large synagogue in the South Bay complained to me about her rabbi. “He doesn’t talk about God,” she said. “He doesn’t talk about spirituality. He doesn’t talk about Torah. All he talks about is Israel, and everything is straight down the Likud line.” Depressing, but not surprising, I thought.
What I didn’t know is that the rabbi in question is alleged to have been a thief in service to the Republican Party:
In response to the Haiti earthquake in January 2010 and the Carmel forest fires in Israel in December 2010, members of Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay, like so many others, wanted to donate money to help the victims. So, many of them directed donations through Rabbi Isaac Jeret’s discretionary fund.
But their money never made it to organizations working on the ground in Haiti and Haifa.
Jeret, who led the 500-member Conservative congregation in Rancho Palos Verdes for seven years, allegedly not only did not send the money where he was supposed to, but instead he is believed to have taken money from his discretionary fund to make political donations to congressional campaigns across the country, according to Timothy Weiner, the synagogue’s treasurer from September 2009 through June 2012, who participated in an internal investigation of the matter.
I’m not sure what is more outrageous here: that allegedly Jeret 1) didn’t spend the money where he said he would; 2) that he spent it on campaign contributions, which is illegal and threatens the Shul’s tax-exempt status; or 3) that he decided to give the vast majority of the money to Republicans. (That’s a joke, but not by much.).
The Jewish Journal, in an attempt to be fair and balanced, reports that Jeret gave money to both Republicans and Democrats, and that is true. But at least in the public listings of the $11,500 in contributions that he made in 2008 and 2010, $9,500 went to the GOP, and in 2010, all $7,500 went to Republicans — $7,000 to one Congressmember, Dan Rohrabacher. Rohrabacher represents the district in which the congregation is, but he’s in a safe seat: this was clearly designed to be sent to House GOP candidates all over the country.
To be sure, Democratic Jewish leaders are hardly without sin — no one is — but I have never seen anything as egregious as this in terms of the alleged use of a rabbi’s discretionary fund. And in any event, Jeter — who unsurprisingly, has resigned his post — was hardly a bit player. He gave a speech at the Republican National Committee dinner in October 2010, where, shortly before suggesting that President Obama had “bowed down” before foreign leaders, he said:
I pray that a majority in the House and the Senate emerges in November that champions these traditional and historic American values and principles and calls upon the President of the United States to abide by them in the discourse and conduct of American foreign-policy.