I am stunned that David Suissa would air his reservations about this new program in the Jewish Journal. It is not often that he comes across as a skeptic. I am sure the rabbis are shocked too, expecting only applause for this initiative.
On the surface, this program, which was founded “in conjunction with leaders in the business and legal communities,” seems like a progressive slam dunk. It takes a noble and abstract idea — improving ethical behavior and standards in the Jewish community — makes it specific and puts real teeth behind it. Let’s face it: hanging a proclamation on a wall regarding legal compliance is serious business.
But while I love the daring nature of the initiative, the more I think about it, the more it makes me uneasy.
First, let’s imagine that I’m a perfectly lawful Jewish merchant on Pico Boulevard who would prefer, for whatever reason, not to trumpet my compliance with any set of laws, which is my right. Is it fair that I might end up looking bad — or even unlawful — and that my business might suffer, just because I choose not to get the Peulat Sachir document?
Also, isn’t it weird to announce that you’re following the law? Isn’t that like running an ad that says, “We don’t steal”? And if legal compliance is important, why single out treatment of employees? What about suppliers, clients, competitors or the INS and the IRS? Are they any less important or ethically relevant?
Where do you draw the line? If you’re going to look at laborers in the workplace, should you also look at the thousands of Jewish households in our community who violate labor laws when they employ illegal workers?
In short, is it smart for spiritual leaders to get involved with the messy business of legal compliance? What will they do, for instance, if they hear a sexual harassment accusation in a workplace? Try to figure out who’s telling the truth?