April 17, 2024
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April 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

With All Due Respect, Please Be Careful!

Dearest Roshei Yeshiva and Rabbinical leaders of our community,

Some background on this author: I spent my year in Israel at a Hesder Yeshiva. I graduated Yeshiva College where though I wasn’t the most consistent attendee, I attended Rabbi Sacks Shiur in the Mazer Yeshiva Program. I was proud of my MYP affiliation and felt at home in Shiur those days I was able to attend. My wife spent her year in Israel at an equivalent program, SCW graduate, and holds an advanced degree from an Ivy League institution. We raise our family in the greater New York Modern Orthodox community, are members of a Shul led by a YU Musmach who is a former RCA president, and send our kids to Orthodox Yeshiva day schools. All of this is to say, I am one of your people.

You raised me to understand that religious debate and rhetoric are part of the beauty of our beliefs. Throughout my years I have seen debates of all shapes and sizes. Thankfully, we live in a country and in a world, where these debates are predominantly tolerated, if not welcome. I am growing concerned for our young developing children and the messages they take from some of the more recent debates, and the impact those impressions will have on our community in the coming years.

Most of us have our own nuanced definition of a “Torah life”, but most reading this letter, differentiated by our personal nuances, hope our children will chose to continue our traditions in their adult lives, and we take great pride when they do, hopefully finding other sources of pride and connection for those who don’t. To that end, we can guide and teach, but, we do not ultimately decide. Every moment of our children’s lives, contains a religious message, and, as such is a moment of opportunity and risk. I know you live this every day as a community leader in our Yeshivot and in your Shuls, both privately and publicly.

Nuances can be lost in public messages. Large-scale public messages are constantly simplified to ensure they are preserved as intended. The good public messages acknowledge all those concerned, and pay respect to the entire community for which they are intended. I suggest we as a community invest in the preservation of our intended message to the same degree as our national political parties, regardless of the size of the immediate audience, recognize the echo and reverberation which social media generates – both amplification and distortion alike, and not let ourselves have loose dialog where intentions can become confused – because I feel the risk is too great!

We must also always consider the impact our intended words may have on those whose religious journey stands in conflict with our beliefs, no matter our opinion of their path. Ignoring such a consideration is to suggest that your words will not push such people (further) away from Hashem and His/our Torah, which I believe is never your intent. Please remember all of us are on a lifelong journey where we will make choices every day, and those choices, will always be influenced by the active conversations around us – for good and for bad.

As such, Morai v’Rabbotai, without getting into the specific debates, and without calling out groups or individuals, I have a simple request as you prepare your statements, as you determine your messaging: Please consider the children! I am not asking you to compromise your beliefs, or to silence your rhetoric. I am merely asking that you consider the impact your words will have on the entire audience, and recognize that audience includes my children, your children and grandchildren, and everyone who is actively developing their religious identity, and who’s choices you are affecting, with every word.

Shabbat Shalom!  

Fellow Jew, Concerned Congregant, Community member, father, person

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