I'm not sure exactly where it comes from, whether it be our cringe at chillul Hashem, our chizuk in the mitzva of Lashon Hara, our reluctance to hand over fellow Jews to non-Jewish authorities, our lessons learned in the history of our abuse at the hands of the nations, or all of the above and more, but I've definitely noticed that we Jews have a very strong cultural instinct to avoid discussing when our fellow Jews have been caught committing crimes.

If a big case hits the news of some Jew who committed fraud, we get asked about it. If our non-Jewish friend works at a Jewish company, and explains that his religious Jewish boss is committing white collar crimes, or is nasty to his employees, they come and ask us about it.

Our natural instinct is to shy away from the conversation, playing it down, due to all of the above, and my question is what is the actual halacha, as well as what recommendations from our leaders do we have to help us actually formulate the correct response to such questions?

What is the correct response when someone mentions a Jew who has committed a crime to us?

How do we explain it and what are we allowed and not allowed to say? And if the crime is still ongoing, are we to encourage the person to report it to the police*?

* I am generally not referring to violent crimes here, nor specifically actions that are only criminal by secular law

  • 3
    Story time. My friend taught at a non-Jewish, rough public school, and once a girl in class put up her hand and asked why she was in a Jewish bakery queuing up nicely, but some religious man barged in to the front of the line. My friend said that's impossible, a God fearing Jew would never do something like that. She pushed, and he didn't back down until she admitted that she made it up. Nice story, would be nice if that were always the case, but don't think this is the go-to response :)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 23 at 10:35
  • If only the natural instinct were to rectify the situation, embrace justice for the victim and attempt to correct the perpetrator. Avoiding the conversation - and the victim - looks the same as condoning the crime. Religious people have covered up for their own for a long time. Jews aren't unique in this. It just looks much worse to justify it with Torah.
    – user34203
    Jan 23 at 15:26
  • 2
    @PaulWalker I'd rather keep this question pinned down to the halacha, rather than how things look
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 23 at 15:49


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