To the Editor:
In your article, “Rep. Bill Pascrell Invites the Editors,” (August 22, 2013) you state that Congressman Scott Garrett “voted against FEMA funding for Bergen residents.” However, Scott Garrett did vote for H.R. 152 – Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill, for a cost of $50.7 Billion, on January 15, 2013. The following is a link to Rep. Scott Garrett’s voting history for that day and that bill: http://www.opencongress.org/people/voting_history/400145_scott_garrett/15. As you can see, he voted “Aye.”
To the Editor:
It is very gratifying to finally have a Torah Jewish newspaper in Bergen County. The Jewish Link serves an important and useful function in keeping our community informed about events and issues relevant and important to it and trying to do it from a non-secular perspective.
But a Jewish paper must be governed, like everything else that we do, by the Torah. The laws of lashon hora, codified by the Chofetz Chaim regulate what we can say and print. Therefore, I would like to, respectfully, point out an article, that seems to have been printed in violation of these laws.
The law of lashon hora prohibit disseminating information that may be disparaging (lashon hora) to an individual or to a group or may incite enmity between different individuals or groups of Jews (rechilus). This prohibition applies even if the information disseminated is 100% true. The article “Beitar Ilit bans all-female Zumba classes” seems to be doing both of these. It certainly casts “the rabbanim of Beitar Ilit” in a negative light and arouses enmity towards these rabbanim and the communities that they lead and that follow them.
Perhaps it may be argued that this article falls under the category of lashon hora l’toeles, negative information that is being spread for a constructive purpose. In this case, I would assume, the constructive purpose would be fighting against religious extremism that threatens to turn a Beitar Ilit “into Afghanistan” and leads to “illogical halachic rulings.” The Chofetz Chaim does permit such kind of constructive criticism (Laws of Lashon Hora, Ch. 10, Laws of Rechilus, Ch. 9). However there is a number of conditions that MUST be kept in order to disseminate constructive criticism, among them:
1. To be very careful not to decide right away whether the wrongdoing criticized is in fact wrong.
2. Not to exaggerate the wrongdoing, even by omitting information that may put the object of criticism in a more favorable light.
3. That the intention of the one speaking lashon hora l’toeles, has to be for the sake of Heaven and not out of personal enmity.
4. That there will actually be a positive benefit from his words, as opposed to many cases when the criticism, while accurate, will not have any effect on the criticized party.
It is not possible for me to judge to what extent criteria 1-3 have been complied with. But it does seem to me that the article published fails the 4th criterion. What possible benefit is derived from Modern Orthodox Jews in Bergen County reading about “religious extremism” half a world away? Criticism of any community’s failings is beneficial when it is directed to that community or to those at least somewhat like it, for they then can understand what is or can go wrong and avoid it. If the criticism is directed to those who are not under even a remote suspicion of the particular failing, the only thing that can result is a sense of self-satisfaction at one’s goodness and disdain for the other. If the Jewish Link really wanted to criticize, in a constructive manner, the ruling of the rabbis of Beitar Ilit, then this article should have been printed in a newspaper read by inhabitants of Beitar Ilit or Ramat Beit Shemesh, or, closer to home, Monsey or Passaic. Publishing this article in a newspaper read by the Modern Orthodox readership of Bergen County, that is very far from falling under sway of rabbonim of Beitar Ilit does not serve any constructive purpose at all. It does however succeed in creating a sense of enmity between different group of Jews.
The lesson of the Arba Minim that we have just taken over the Sukkot is unity. In the words of Yalkut Shimoni (Emor:651): “Just like the mitzva of Arba Minim requires all the species to be taken as a group, so too, the Jewish people will not return to their Land until they will become one group.” Let’s hope that the editors and publishers of the Jewish Link will continue to devote their considerable talents to benefit the community and promote unity among all Jews.
Fair Lawn, NJ