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September 28, 2016 / 25 Elul, 5776
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Jack Abramoff: Americans Believe The System Is Rigged Against Them

Abramoff today is committed to reforming the lobbying industry that he helped tarnish.


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Jack Abramoff

Jack Abramoff



If they doubt that the reforms I’m proposing will be effective, then come up with better reforms. If they think I’m trying to get in the spotlight, what good is it for me being in the spotlight? I don’t earn any money really off of anything like this.

Israel’s foes sometimes portray the Israel lobby as an all-powerful force that controls Washington. As a former insider, what’s your impression?

America’s support of Israel is, in part, because pro-Israel forces are organized. But it generally flows, not from the so-called Jewish lobby – frankly I fear there are more Jews lobbying against Israel than for Israel – but rather from the over 150 million Christians who believe strongly in the state of Israel. Otherwise there’s no way in the world this country would be supportive of Israel.

You reportedly became frum at age 12 after watching “Fiddler on the Roof.” Is that true?

It helped me. In those days, the early 1970s, there was no perceptible ba’al teshuvah movement. Where I lived in Beverly Hills, there were Jews, but the Orthodox were far away from us. I had no exposure to them. One of the first exposures I had was seeing “Fiddler on the Roof.” It was literally one of the only times in my life I had seen traditional Jews. It wasn’t the only thing that impacted me, but it certainly had an impact.

It didn’t have the impact the author of “Fiddler on the Roof” intended, by the way. Shalom Aleichem was anti-frum. He’s probably rolling around in his grave somewhere.

How did matters proceed after watching “Fiddler on the Roof”? Did you go to yeshiva?

No, I wanted to, but I wasn’t allowed. It wasn’t until I went to college that I was among frum people. I went to Brandeis. There actually weren’t too many frum people there either, but that’s where I could be more openly Orthodox.

As an Orthodox Jew, were you concerned about the chillul Hashem your arrest in 2005 caused?

Of course, I was absolutely concerned. I was mortified, but unfortunately I wasn’t in control of it at that point.

When did you do teshuvah? At what point did you cease being a ruthless lobbyist and start becoming a reformer?

It wasn’t until after my career ended and I started to sit down and analyze what I was involved in. I started to look at it honestly without having any skin in the game any longer. It was a process. It took months to come to those conclusions [about my behavior]. They weren’t quickly-reached conclusions and they weren’t conclusions that I didn’t fight against, but I came to them anyway.

Elliot Resnick

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press editor and writer, as well as the author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape" and editor of "Perfection: The Torah Ideal."


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