Unpublished letter to Newday about the Patchogue apology after the Marcelo Lucero Murder

Letter to the Editor;

I went to Marcello vigil today. There were many politicians present and asking that in a Judeo-Christian tradition the Latin community rely on its spiritual traditions and forgive the assault that is widely being described in Newsday as an assault on our entire community.  I arrived a few minutes late, I figured I must have missed something… the part where the guilty party admits its guilt, shows some contrition and asks for forgiveness.    [ see footnote below  Rabbi Marc Gellman]

The Village of Patchogue Mayor, Paul Pontieri, got up and spoke for the local community about how members of his family are immigrants also and how Patchogue is a pro immigrant place. Actually, I was expecting more from the leaders of our community. I was waiting for Mayor Pointier to say, as did Attorney Brian Egan, that the Village of Patchogue had broken the law. I was expecting him to admit that as late as June 1, 2008, they had an illegally armed police force without proper police training because they were not police in the first place. In the audience were Pattersons’ Human Rights commission, the NAACP and countless other organizations, I was expecting the Mayor to come clean and admit that Patchogue has a illegal and unconstitutional fake police force that was created in response to the immigrant population. A police force that is morally wrong and ask the forgiveness of the entire Latin community for this criminal affront against them.  Well, maybe that wouldn’t even be enough, because just as those 7 boys are said to have attacked the entire community, it is pretty obvious that for 17 year the political leaders of Patchogue attacked our entire community—a reign of terror, full of fraud and deception, which closed, destroyed many businesses, closed out oldest standing veterans home and put them out on the street, illegally ticketed and targeted motorist and home owners. These acts were a similar attack on our entire community.

In order to have such an effective and colossal attack upon a community you have to have a few other things “fixed.” You have to fix it so that in order to pay the Village of Patchogue Constables, the Trustees had to pass a fake law, defraud the taxpayers and Suffolk County Department Civil Service and tell them that you don’t have an armed constables force. But there is more, more than a reign of terror and lawlessness spilling right out of the Village of Patchogue’s Board of Trustees and the Village Justice Court, which includes the suspension of the right to speak, fraudulent documents and the wholesale destruction of 17 years of constable personnel records. The fix goes even further, you have to have the apathy of other government agencies and regulators.

Where were the government regulators? Where was the Department of Criminal Justice Service?  Where was the District Attorneys Office? Where was District Attorney Spota, whose office both prosecuted the tickets, got dress up and moonlighted along with the Patchogue’s make believe cops? Where was the Suffolk County Police Department when the Village of Patchogue was impersonating police officers?

Prior to this vigil, officials in Patchogue boasted and would tell you that this is what it took to keep the likes of the Marcello out of the neighborhood. Why did Patchogue officials armed themselves? You have to begin to understand it from the Village of Patchogue’s Trustees perspectives. In their view, Patchogue was “at risk.” In fact being invaded! Hence they were defending their Village. If Latin America was going to come to Patchogue, the Trustees felt they had to take matters into their own hands and ironically become like a Latin America, where civil rights have little meaning and the cops are corrupt. So what if their friends got all the development rights and the outsiders had to carry the extra regulatory burdens? And what’s a couple of million dollars in illegal ticketing? So what if they were pretending to be cops without proper training? So what the Latin population bore the larger brunt of the illegal tickets? And so what if the legitimate minority American population lived in fear and was denied police protection because Suffolk County Police Department turned a blind eye? So what if Marcello Lucero lived in fear? All is fair in war…even if it is undeclared.

Dated: November 14, 2008

Patchogue, New York



I think the best text supporting the view that Christianity is not in favor of unconditional forgiveness is the famous parable of the prodigal son. In this story, the father forgives and fetes his profligate son, but only after the son has first asked for forgiveness: “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” — Luke 15:21 (KJV).

Similarly, in Matthew 5:23-24, we have perhaps the clearest teaching of Jesus that reconciliation must precede forgiveness: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (KJV)

Those who interpret Jesus’ teaching in the conventional way as requiring absolute and unconditional forgiveness do have textual support for this view. Most powerfully, in Luke 6:27-29, we have the turn-the-other-cheek teaching that’s often used to support Christian pacifism: “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.” (KJV)

In Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus also seems to teach the virtue of repeated unconditional forgiveness: “Then came Peter to him, and said, ‘Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?’ Jesus saith unto him, ‘I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”‘ (KJV)

This looks like a clear and unambiguous support for unconditional forgiveness, but even here it’s not clear to me whether the 70 times seven forgivenesses are or are not dependent upon 70 times seven apologies. Perhaps the best text for proving that Christianity teaches the virtue of unconditional forgiveness is Luke 23:34, where Jesus on the cross pleads with God on behalf of his unrepentant tormentors: “Then said Jesus, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ ” In sum, I think that Jesus’ teachings about forgiveness are susceptible to different interpretations.

In Judaism, by contrast, the teachings are much less ambiguous. Forgiveness must be given, but only to those who ask for it. Jewish law requires a sinner to ask three times for forgiveness even if he or she is rebuffed by the offended person……..

On the other hand, my life as a rabbi has also taught me to see the value of conditional forgiveness. Forgiving some evil monster who’s not only unrepentant but also might, as you say, revel in his or her ability to hurt you, seems to me both psychologically and morally impossible.

Parents who forgive the unrepentant murderers of their children are not admirable to me. They are incomprehensible to me. A pious Christian friend once told me that Jews should forgive Hitler. I couldn’t even begin to consider this a productive spiritual challenge. And yet I know the corrosive weight of keeping score and carrying around old hurts. In the end, I believe that we must forgive, but that we also must be asked.

Newsday 12 8 12


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s