Among those offended by Barbra Streisand’s use of a four-letter word during her October 9 comeback concert at Madison Square Garden was Rabbi Daniel Lapin, the head of the right-wing advocacy group Toward Tradition. Lapin, who tutored the superstar some two decades ago in preparation for her son’s bar mitzvah, fired off a column last week titled “Why The Streisand I Once Knew Was Never Obscene,” in which he blamed Streisand’s outburst — directed at a heckler — on her embrace of secular liberalism.
As it turns out, Streisand could just as well have fired off her own statement, under the headline: “The Rabbi I Once Knew Was Never Under Investigation by a Senate Committee.” Last week, Lapin and Toward Tradition were criticized in a report titled “Investigation of Jack Abramoff’s Use of Tax-Exempt Organizations,” issued by the Democratic staff of the Senate Finance Committee. The report, which alleges that Toward Tradition and four other organizations may have violated their tax-exempt status by aiding Abramoff clients, quoted Lapin as telling congressional staffers that he was in the process of shutting down his organization because of all the bad press.
Not true, according to Lapin, a defender of Mel Gibson who frequently criticizes other Jewish groups and argues for increased ties to the Christian Right. “At the time [of the discussion with Senate staffers] all options were being considered,” Lapin said. “At this point, it’s been determined that to close would be a betrayal of 20 years of work.”