A Message from Moment Magazine

Despite the comments of ADL’s Abe Foxman, BeliefNet’s David Klinghoffer and others, we at Moment stand by our decision to include Rabbi Manis Friedman’s response to the question in the Ask the Rabbis section in the May/June 2009 issue: How should Jews treat their Arab neighbors? As we do for every issue, we invited a wide range of rabbis to comment on a question. We do this because it’s important to hear what different people think, even when we don’t agree with them. Incidentally, all the comments but one were more or less the same;  only one took a different stand.  Surely that very minority opinion deserves to be heard, even if it’s offensive to a lot of people. It’s crucial to know where people in our community stand. We can’t pretend different opinions don’t exist. This is why an independent publication is valuable and it is what makes Moment unique. Read the magazine and you will learn surprising things in every issue. Eric Alterman writes for us, as does David Frum. In the next issue we will hear from Gershom Gorenberg and Benny Morris. And of course, our Ask the Rabbis question and responses will be as provocative as usual.

—Editor Nadine Epstein and Moment editorial staff

2 responses to “A Message from Moment Magazine

  1. Sarah bat Moshe

    I was completely shocked at seeing such a piece of evil drek as Rabbi Manis Friedman’s response to your May/June Ask the Rabbis question (on how the Jews in Israel should treat their Arab neighbors) published in your generally fine magazine. It sounded so unlike any rabbi (Chabad or otherwise) that I have ever met, that until I saw the author’s statement on this site I even entertained the notion that it might be a hoax, that perhaps your correspondence with Rabbi Friedman was somehow intercepted and some anti-Semite inserted a vicious screed intended to make the Jews look bad. (This hypothesis was supported by the phrase “Old Testament” which of course is a Christian, not a Jewish, name for the Hebrew scriptures.) The thing isn’t even internally consistent; how does “Kill men, women and children” (second paragraph) yield “Result: no civilian casualties” (third paragraph) ?

    I’m glad the Lubavitch organization has disavowed this incendiary filth. In my opinion you would have been wise to do the same. I understand your reasoning that we need to know if such an opinion exists in the community (although I don’t agree with your assertion that it “deserves to be heard”). But you could have reported on it (with the appropriate follow-up questions and solicitation of reactions from Chabad and others), rather than including it among a sampling of “responsa” supposedly representing the various movements; clearly Chabad does not regard it as representing them. Yes, Rabbi Friedman, like the rest of us in this country, has the right of free speech. But that right is not unlimited; incitement to violence, for example, is not protected speech, nor is yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater. And his right to free speech does not create a duty on your part to disseminate his opinions.

    I have read elsewhere on this site messages from people who are acquainted with Rabbi Friedman, saying that he is a learned and accomplished individual who has done many kind things for many people. Let us hope that this particular piece of writing was a very unfortunate and temporary aberration (an adverse side effect of some medication, perhaps?), and that the reaction to it, including the reaction from Rabbi Friedman’s own movement’s leadership, was a learning experience for all involved.

  2. Your column ‘Ask the Rabbi’ purports to seek to “illuminate the diversity within Jewish thinking
    and create cross-denominational discussion that leads to deeper understanding.” Rabbi Manis
    Friedman’s alien and barbarous response (How Should Jews Treat their Arab Neighbors? May/June 2009)
    certainly did not fit that description. His comments have been rejected as not representing ANY
    denomination, they are completely outside the realm of true Jewish thought and action, and they hardly led to deeper understanding.
    When religious leaders abuse their role, and show disdain for the integrity of their faith–whether they
    are Rev. Jeremiah Wright or Rabbi Manis Friedman, there should be a venue for condemning this abuse.
    As his words have now floated out to your national audience like the proverbial feathers
    that cannot be fully retrieved from the torn pillow, I hope you will provide a sense of the outrage
    that they engendered.

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