It is strictly forbidden to moser [inform the non-Judaic authorities on] either a Jewish person or his property. One who mosers a Jewish person or his property has no share in the world to come. (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, 388)More on Orthodox Judaism's code of omerta in Judaism Discovered, pp. 426-429.
Little outcry heard from alleged victims of pyramid scheme
By Steven G. Vegh
August 29, 2008
Investor Joseph Shereshevsky's fellow Orthodox Jews are the principal victims he allegedly defrauded in a multimillion-dollar pyramid scheme, prosecutors say.
But there's little public outcry coming from his synagogue, B'nai Israel Congregation, and Jewish law may be part of the reason.
At the first Saturday service after Shereshevsky's Aug. 11 arrest, Rabbi Chaim Silver reminded members that Judaism forbids gossip, also known as "lashon hara," or evil speech.
Participants at the service said Silver did not cite the scandal. But they said the connection was as obvious as the shock generated by the allegations against Shereshevsky.
"I don't think there's a single person in the community it hasn't affected in some way, just because he was a benefactor and so many people had invested in or worked for him," said a member who asked not to be identified.
Silver did not return several calls for comment. Other members also did not return calls, or refused to comment on Shereshevsky.
Shereshevsky is accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of diverting $100 million from investors with WexTrust Capital, where he was chief operating officer. His business partner, Steven Byers, also was charged.
Prosecutors call it an affinity-fraud case because Shereshevsky allegedly targeted other Orthodox Jews, in addition to other individuals ...
The silences may reflect not only the ban on gossip but a Jewish custom that frowns on being a "moser," or informant, said Samuel Heilman. A sociologist at City University of New York, Heilman writes about American Judaism and Orthodox Jews.
"The moser is somebody who hands over, literally, information that is hurtful regarding Jews to someone - to the authorities," he said. The custom harkens to Jewish historical experience with anti-Semitic civic authorities.
"The silence speaks volumes - there's an obvious embarrassment about this," Heilman said of the Norfolk congregation's quiet.
Banned from criticism, reluctant perhaps to commend the accused, for most members, "the most obvious and best tactic is to say nothing," Heilman said.
Jonathan D. Sarna, a Brandeis University scholar of Jewish history, said close-knit Orthodox communities can sometimes function as sub-economies, or networks for doing business or trading information.
"The price you pay is that that can also be abused and it's always very painful, much as it is in a family when a family member turns out to not be honest," he said ...