Corinne Berzon

The stark truth

Murder is bad. Orphaned children and widowed women are sad. Being thrown into a dumpster and burned is horrifying; I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But does being Jewish mean you are exempt from the legal and ethical standards of civilized society?

Menachem ‘Max’ Stark has become a kind of champion, a martyr, in the eyes of many Jews. The New York Post headline: “Who didn’t want him dead?” now a battle cry against perceived anti-Semitism. Some of the outrage is justified. The headline was shockingly insensitive, regardless of the religion or ethnicity of the victim, but anti-Semitic? Seriously? Let’s pull ourselves together here and stop crying wolf.

“They never would have written such a thing if he wasn’t Jewish.”

Well, actually the New York Post ALWAYS uses insensitive, obnoxious headlines in huge, bold print alongside photographs of whomever they are publicly humiliating. They have insulted Asians, women, African-Americans, gays, and pretty much every nationality or group residing in New York. From A-rod to Anthony Weiner, the Post makes a business out of shaming people on their front page, be they dead or alive. This time the supposed story was about a Hasidic Jew who swindled, lied, cheated, and eventually wound up killed by one of his many, many, many enemies. This is a great story for a tabloid, don’t take it so personally. Just wait, more insensitive Stark-related headlines are in the works. The cops are even considering Hasidic gang murder as a possible motive. Thug life, yo!

“He was a good Jew, a charitable man.”

What is a good Jew? Part of the story here is that Menachem Stark stole millions and then turned around and donated it to Satmar. Is this really how we are meant to give charity? I have heard, more than once, that it is permissible to steal from gentiles and that one need not obey the laws of the land if they contradict Judaism. It is possible that Stark believed that he was under no moral or legal obligation to those he is accused of cheating because they were not Jewish. I suppose in this narrow, ethno-centric definition he may be considered a good Jew. This, however, is definitely not a mainstream Jewish interpretation of ‘being good’. I for one believe a good Jew makes the world a better place through kindness, generosity and honesty

Stark was affiliated with Satmar, a sect on the fringes of Orthodox Judaism. This group actively opposes the existence of the State of Israel. The group has also recently made headlines over their vociferous defense of convicted child rapist Nechemya Weberman. In defending this known predator, Satmar went so far as to harass, discredit, threaten and assault victims and their families. Considering their history of obfuscation, I would question whether Satmar’s defense is any indication of Stark’s actual innocence. To call such a man a good Jew despite the many allegations makes our entire religion suspect. While they may not have been proven in a court of law, it is curious to completely ignore these accusations and their potential link to Stark’s murder.

“Look at this video of his poor children saying the prayer for the dead. They didn’t want him killed.”

It is terribly sad to wake up to the news that your husband or father has been strangled, burned and tossed in a dumpster. It is terribly sad for Stark’s widow and children to wake up to headlines like the one printed by the New York Post. It is also terribly sad that the father of seven did not maintain even the most basic standard of living conditions in his residential properties, where other people’s children live in rat-infested squalor. These alleged misdeeds cast all Jews in a negative light. Further perpetuating this disgrace is the loud insistence by the Jewish community that he was an innocent victim.

It is wrong that this man was killed. It is heartbreaking that his children have lost their father, his wife her husband. I truly sympathize with the family, and I sincerely hope they catch the brutal killers who did this. But Menachem Stark was not necessarily a good Jew, or a good man. Not all Jews are good, and pretending they are is narrow-minded and silly. Jumping to defend a man who may have personified every negative, bigoted, anti-Semitic stereotype since the Elders of Zion simply because he was a Jew will only do us disservice. The New York Post is sensationalist, and offensive, but that does not mean Stark was innocent.

“It is just like Nazi Germany. Those goyim…”

There are few things that anger me more than the misuse of the Holocaust to promote an agenda. When Israel haters, animal rights groups and Jews with persecution complexes shout: “NAZI!” I automatically dismiss them as morons. Because they are morons. Nothing is like Nazi Germany. Nothing is equal to the Holocaust. The New York Post certainly does not even come close, so why use this comparison? All it does is diminish the significance of the Holocaust and insult its millions of victims. Rupert Murdoch may be a sociopathic megalomaniac, but he is not Hitler.

Another one of my pet peeves is the term ‘goy’. Being a half-blood myself, I find it quite offensive when Jews use this derogatory term replete with a tone of mild revulsion. Not all non-Jews are on a quest to annihilate us. There are, in fact, billions of very lovely people in the world who are not members of the tribe. This chosen people complex only divides where we should be seeking unity. We are not obligated to defend every Jew regardless of wrongdoing. We are not required to turn a blind-eye to crime and injustice just because it is being perpetrated by a fellow Jew. Not every criminal case against an Orthodox Jew is anti-Semitism. Not every murder of a Jew is related to his Jewishness.

While murder is wrong, widows and orphans are sad and the Post is insensitive, Menachem Stark is not absolutely the innocent victim in this story. For us to continue rallying on his behalf under the banner of fighting anti-Semitism will only undermine our credibility when it comes time to combat real thing, and Lord knows there is enough of that to go around.


About the Author
Corinne Berzon is currently getting her PhD in bioethics. When she is not reading dense philosophical texts or dancing around the house to dubstep with her three daughters, she teaches yoga, runs in no particular direction and watches inappropriate television with her husband; Corinne loves Israel, but remains deeply and darkly cynical because it is more entertaining than the alternative.