Whos to blame in the Marc Rich imbroglio

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Some Jewish leaders accuse former President Clinton of scapegoating Jews. Clinton claims he pardoned Rich because Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak and some prominent American Jews asked him to do so.

It appears Clinton is trying to take the heat off himself for accepting contributions from Rich's ex-wife, Denise. Nevertheless, too many Jewish organizations have dirtied their hands in this sordid episode.

Many ignored the fact that Rich fled to Switzerland in 1983 after being indicted on 51 counts of tax evasion, racketeering and violating sanctions against trade with Iran.

Even though he faced criminal charges, many Jewish organizations allowed Rich to buy respectability by donating to their causes.

He contributed to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Ben-Gurion University, the Israel Museum and the Jerusalem Foundation. He gave money to Israel to rescue Ethiopian and Yemenite Jews. He helped fund free Birthright trips to Israel for young adults.

Why did these groups accept money from a U.S. fugitive who owed $48 million in back taxes?

Luckily not everyone's eyes were closed to this travesty. The head of the Reform movement, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, said the Jewish community failed an "important moral test" by getting involved in Rich's quest for a pardon.

"The result is we have undermined our community's moral fabric, jeopardized our political standing, disillusioned our youth and compromised the sacred values of our tradition," he said.

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, director of the Philadelphia-based Shefa Fund, which promotes Jewish values through ethical giving, criticized charities that help "restore that person's good name without that person doing tshuvah [repentance]."

He added: "It is a rare Jewish organization that thinks carefully about the source of a donor's money."

Wouldn't it be wonderful if organized Jewish life would heed the wisdom from both rabbis and learn a lesson from the Rich affair?