The Jer­sey Sting

Ted Sher­man and Josh Margolin
  • Review
By – August 23, 2011
On the morn­ing of Thurs­day, July 232009, FBI agents arrest­ed forty-four per­sons in New Jer­sey and New York in one of the great­est coor­di­nat­ed oper­a­tions in the agency’s his­to­ry. The ongo­ing tri­als aris­ing out of this oper­a­tion have added a new chap­ter to the Gar­den State’s notable his­to­ry of polit­i­cal and finan­cial cor­rup­tion. Those arrest­ed includ­ed the may­or of Hobo­ken, New Jer­sey, a mem­ber of the New Jer­sey leg­is­la­ture, dozens of politi­cians and local gov­ern­ment offi­cials, and sev­er­al rab­bis. The charges includ­ed bribery, bro­ker­ing the sale of kid­neys, and laun­der­ing mon­ey through Jew­ish char­i­ties. The key fig­ure in this oper­a­tion was Solomon Dweck, a cor­rupt real estate pro­mot­er and the son of an influ­en­tial Syr­i­an rab­bi in Deal, New Jer­sey. Dweck was fac­ing a lengthy prison term for a vari­ety of real estate scams when he agreed to wear a wire for the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. Because he had become an informer, Dweck became a pari­ah to his own father and an out­cast among the Syr­i­ans.

The events lead­ing up to that morn­ing, includ­ing a detailed exam­i­na­tion of Dweck’s upbring­ing and his var­i­ous finan­cial schemes, are now recount­ed in all their sor­did and col­or­ful aspects by two reporters of the Newark Star-Ledger, the state’s lead­ing news­pa­per. The judi­cial pro­ceed­ings involv­ing those arrest­ed are ongo­ing, and this book, while inter­est­ing,= is nec­es­sar­i­ly not defin­i­tive. Nor does it have the depth of analy­sis that more sophis­ti­cat­ed read­ers seek. There is, for exam­ple, no attempt to explain the his­tor­i­cal and soci­o­log­i­cal rea­sons for the endem­ic polit­i­cal cor­rup­tion in New Jer­sey or for the wide­spread con­tempt for the law and for estab­lished busi­ness prac­tices preva­lent in the Syr­i­an Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. But, as the Mad­off and oth­er recent finan­cial scan­dals reveal, the Syr­i­ans are hard­ly unique among Amer­i­can Jews in this respect.
Edward Shapiro is pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry emer­i­tus at Seton Hall Uni­ver­si­ty and the author of A Time for Heal­ing: Amer­i­can Jew­ry Since World War II (1992), We Are Many: Reflec­tions on Amer­i­can Jew­ish His­to­ry and Iden­ti­ty (2005), and Crown Heights: Blacks, Jews, and the 1991 Brook­lyn Riot (2006).

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