7/24/09

Is Rabbi Saul Kassin the Godfather of the Brooklyn Syrian Jews?

Rabbi Saul Kassin leaves federal court after being charged with money laundering

Rabbi Saul Kassin, the chief rabbi of Sharee Zion in Brooklyn, leaves court after being charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity. Kassin was one of 44 people charged in a corruption probe by the FBI. (Video by A.J. Chavar, Michael Monday, and John Munson/The Star-Ledger)

There are disputes out there about what to call the expected new HBO series based on the crooked New Jersey politicians and rabbis who were arrested yesterday by the FBI:

The Syrianos or The Sephardos?

Either way this is a true tragedy, not a cable TV series.

We wonder about the arrested Brooklyn Syrian chief rabbi, Saul Kassin. We make a fair assumption that the FBI does not arrest a high profile religious leader like that unless they have a whole Talmud of evidence against him. The FBI does not want to mess up that kind of arrest.

So then we have to wonder how and why does a saintly religious leader become so corrupted and get himself arrested by the FBI? The answer is - he does not wake up one morning and say, "No more Mr. Nice Guy."

Corruption creeps up on a person like that, one step at a time. And some of you say, let's give him the benefit of every doubt. He may have been cleverly fooled by those around him - and he may never have known about what was going on. We say okay, that's your right. Think that if it makes you feel better.

The actual road to corruption is not a slippery slope. It is a rocky path. First step, nobody says anything. Years go by. Times get tough. Second step, climbing down gets easier. Still nobody is the wiser. And the community benefits, doesn't it? Well, not right now.

Sarina Roffé wrote this about the Kassin ancestry:
The name Kassin is traced to a long line of rabbinical scholars, as well as to the French wine merchant and Jewish community leader Fedia Jacob Joseph Cassin and French jurist and statesman Rene Samuel Cassin, winner of the 1968 Nobel Peace Prize. The name can be spelled a number of ways, including Cassin, Kassin and Katzen.

The Kassins have nearly five centuries of rabbinical and Torah scholars behind them. Indeed, they fulfill the meaning of their ancestral name, Cassin. The Hebrew term Cassin means head of the community. The biblical word refers to captain or judge and occurs often in the Tanach. Kassin pre-dates the 1492 expulsion of the Jews from Spain, indicating the family held positions in Spain as judges and leaders for hundreds of years. The name Kassin was also recorded as a Jewish surname in Vauclause, France in the 14th Century. The Kassin family spans over 500 years of unbroken scholarship and leadership, compared to great Jewish dynasties in Eastern Europe.

Their story is traced to 16th Century Spain, where, according to original Hebrew records translated by Rabbi Shaul J. Kassin in his 1980 book, The Light of the Law, his ancestor Señor Shlomo Kassin lived in 1540.

As a wealthy Spanish merchant, Señor Shlomo Kassin fled Spanish persecution for the safe haven of Aleppo, Syria in 1540 where he soon became head of the Jewish community there. In Aleppo, Señor Shlomo devoted his energy to Torah study and to good works.

1 comment:

NYCdad said...

This is very interesting to see the Kassin name traced back to the glory days of Spain. Rabbi Kassin had the kind of power to stop illegal behavior, and instead contributed to it. After being exiled from Spain so many years ago, the Kassin's family name is now in exile, it seems. Only, this time the next destination is not Syria, it's prison. Perhaps Rabbi Kassin will do teshuva and say what is the truth here: this happened to teach that no person is beyond temptation if the tacit culture of a community accepts collusion, fraud, tax evasion, and the cash economy. We all do it, right?