The Beadle writes:
Hi Dov Bear,
A rather heated discussion took place in my Shul this morning after Shacharit, and I was wondering what the view of your readers might be.
A well known and well liked member of my community, and friend of mine, was sent down for credit card fraud last November. He was, as am I, also on a Shul committee which hold dinners for young professionals every so often and is designed at encouraging them to return to Shul.
I am not in any way excusing his behavior but as a friend, as well as a fellow Jew we have been writing to each other since he went inside. He is due out in June and has indicated that he is looking forward to returning to the Shul as well as on to this committee. While inside he has been receiving counseling for his problems (some of them stem from the fact that he is gay and is an Orthodox community, but that is beside the main point), and plans on continuing this when he gets out. He has also said that he has been very unhappy in his personal and professional life, and the only place he has ever been happy has been when he has been in this community. Although not (yet) shomer shabbat, he had been increasing his weekday attendance in Shul, attending shiurim, and I was helping him with his Hebrew reading and general all-round Jewish knowledge. He was slowly but surely returning to Judaism in a way that had not even considered in the last 40 years of his life. His involvement on this committee made it a great success and both he and the Shul had benefited greatly from it.
My personal belief is that once he has done the time, he has paid his debt to society and there is no reason on earth he should not be welcomed back to the community and that he should be allowed to play his part within the Young Professional committee, albeit not in a financial way. Some of the others opined that while he cannot be stopped from entering the Shul, he should not be overly welcomed and should certainly not be allowed onto any committee as he is “nothing more than a crook a we don’t need his sort round here”. It could be that this view is just a hook on which to hang their homophobia, who knows?
Not only do I feel that both he and the Shul would benefit greatly from his return, but also I always though that the Jewish way was to move on once the person has done his time, and expressed genuine regret, of which he will have done both.
As I said, I am curious to know the views of others out there.