There are two main routes to a captain's rank in the IDF. One is to enlist, go through a combat course, get sent to an officer's training course, serve as a junior lieutenant for a year and another two years as a lieutenant, and then, five years after enlistment, get promoted to captain. That's the conventional way; tens of thousands have done it.

The other, more convenient and much speedier way is to buy the rank. Not directly, heaven forbid, but indirectly, through a contribution mediated by the Libi Fund. Through that procedure, one goes through basic training, is demobilized, and gets captain's bars a few weeks later. The number of well-connected people who have found this route available to them consists of one person.

His name is Jay Ruderman, and he has been raising eyebrows lately in the greater Boston Jewish community. Over there in Massachusetts, they find it difficult to believe that is how things get done in the IDF. They're angry at themselves, for growing used to idolizing their heroes, Israeli officers. The story of Captain Jay has sobered them up. Those at the General Staff also were amazed by the story, and after checking it out, conceded it was true.

Ruderman, it turns out, comes from a wealthy family that showers contributions on Jewish organizations and Israel. He studied law, worked in the local branch of AIPAC, and is married to an Israeli woman who was homesick and convinced him to immigrate to Israel. Here, a new job was invented for him, right next to the office of Maj. Gen. Elazar Stern, head of manpower: the IDF liaison to the Diaspora. The job is "to meet with officers designated for overseas service, and connect them to the Jewish communities where they will be serving." He has "the necessary skills and knowledge to work with Jewish organizations overseas, and when they come to visit Israel, to deal with their character, language, and culture."

His Boston acquaintances, practical Americans that they are, are bothered by two questions: How did the army turn a civilian into a captain with the blink of an eye, and at whose expense? They suspect that the answer to the second question is through a roundabout donation that landed in the Human Resources Department, the new name for manpower. And indeed, according to the IDF spokesman, Ruderman "asked to volunteer and contribute his know-how to the army." His request was examined, "and with it, the need for such a factor." Stern and the judge advocate general "decided to approve his employment as an IDF civilian worker, for a year." After his enlistment and basic training, he began working as an IDF civilian worker, and was given a representative rank of captain. "His terms of employment - his salary, enlistment and rank - were in accordance with Stern's decision."

Stern cooked the stew, and his colleagues in the General Staff are ready for him to eat it on his own. The Planning Department has turned down any responsibility for the Ruderman affair: "His position in human resources was never raised - and did not need to be - for discussion and approval by Planning, which is responsible for policy, the distribution of resources and control over them, not over the handling of private cases. The handling of the position of officers at that level is under the authority of the various departments and arms of the IDF." The most scandalous aspect of the affair is Ruderman's salary, three-quarters of which is paid "on the basis of a contribution, which is transferred through the Libi Fund," as the IDF Spokesman's Office said, and the other quarter paid "by the IDF, on the basis of a personal contract," that, too, by Stern's order. Libi's participation in the financing of an officer or a civilian employee of the army dressed up as an officer does not harm military ethics, "because it is not a body that conducts commercial ties with the IDF." American Jews have come a long way since 1948, when they'd send woolen caps to the new Israeli army. Now they are volunteering their sons to liaison with themselves, and then pay to finance their commissions. On their way up, they are meeting the IDF slipping down the slippery slope.