Flights without risk

Flights without risk

Although accused of laundering millions of dollars, several of the rabbis caught up in New Jersey’s largest corruption sting have been allowed to travel back and forth to Israel since their arrests.

Defendant Rabbi Eliahu Ben-Haim, the former leader of Congregation Ohel Yaacob in Deal, for example, was permitted to travel to Israel to officiate at his cousin’s wedding, according to the Associated Press. In return, he had to sign a waiver of extradition and increase his bail collateral.

Three other defendants have also traveled to Israel, some several times.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office disapproves and has challenged the trips in court, saying the defendants remain flight risks. But Ben-Haim’s attorney, Lawrence Lustberg, argued that his client showed responsibility by pleading guilty, met the court’s requirements, and returned from Israel as promised.

The story is interesting for the way it reveals what may be obvious to Jews but surprising to others: how Israel has become for many an extension not just of Jewish identity but of a Jewish way of life. “Going back and forth to Israel is really kind of part of the landscape for this community,” Lustberg said.

Other defendants have also demonstrated their good faith in meeting what was required of them. As long as the accused are not receiving special treatment (and apparently there is ample precedent for defendants to travel overseas with a court’s blessing) and are living up to their end of the bargain, this seems like a reasonable accommodation.

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