I read Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz’s article “Ask Why We Mourn on Tisha B’av” (July 28 issue of Jewish News) and was greatly disturbed.
Yanklowitz labels the Phoenix Jewish community as “divisive and fractured” and a “broken, failed, tragic story” and conveys his point with unsubstantiated rhetoric. He indicts specific local communal factions by rhetorically criticizing the Orthodox and pluralistic groups of rabbis for not talking or collaborating with one another.
It’s enlightening and highly problematic that Yanklowitz chose Orthodox and heterodox leadership as the focus of his targeted sanctimonious criticism. By nature, a pluralistic group should be willing to collaborate with almost anyone, hence it appears his real objective is an attempt at “Orthodox shaming.”
The prototypical Tisha B’Av sinas chinam (baseless hatred) story is that of Kamsa and Bar Kamsa, where a party host with a personal axe to grind shames his enemy Bar Kamsa. That event set off a chain reaction which lead to the destruction of the Second Temple. Just several Torah portions ago, Pinchas only got a pass (and was even rewarded) for his extreme zealotry by being completely unbiased. The message is clear: Unless one truly has no self-interest or even perceived personal agenda he should not be rebuking and challenging others.
Based on Jewish Law, Orthodox leadership has very specific modes of engagement with heterodox organizations and their leadership. That’s a complex issue that requires much more discussion than incendiary soundbites of criticism that incite hatred. Personally, most Orthodox Jews are happy to embrace and engage Jewish laity regardless of affiliation.
I did not appreciate the negative tone of Yanklowitz’s article. For example, I assume that all local Jewish institutions, whether Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or non-denominational would challenge that they’re not “warm and inclusive.” In essence, Yanklowitz’s entire article is lashon hara (forbidden derogatory speech) against the entire Phoenix Jewish community. Who made Yanklowitz the public arbiter of alleged community strife?
Rabbi Mark Einhorn