Jul 27, 2005
On Monday, July 25th, The RCA responded to the Jewish Press via a letter to the editor as follows:
To the Editor:
The Rabbinical Council of America wishes to state for the public record that it is particularly pained by the most recent editorial of the Jewish Press in the matter of the RCA and the expulsion of Rabbi Mordecai Tendler. Our discomfort is not, however, occasioned by any editorial comments regarding the credibility, honor, and internal affairs of the RCA and its leadership. Rather, what prompts this letter to the editor is that the Jewish Press has now taken to vilifying, whether explicitly or implicitly, not just the RCA, but others, whether individually or by reason of their religious affiliation.
For there is no good reason for any Jew, let alone a Jewish newspaper that claims to reflect and promote the honor of Torah, to stoop to identifying the findings of a nationally respected investigative agency, which the RCA used ONLY as a preliminary tool, as tainted because one of its investigators happens to be “a woman of the Christian faith from Texas.” This, in 2005, in America?
And there can be no justification for impugning the integrity and good name of a world renowned and respected Beit Din, in appropriate proximity to Monsey, with all the evidence and witnesses near at hand, because the Jewish Press labels it “chassidish,” and therefore to be assumed without further argument to be hostile to Jews who are not of chassidic practice or persuasion. This, in Tammuz 5765, in the days preceding Tisha Be’Av?
And there is surely no halachicly acceptable reason to publicly defame honorable and knowledgeable talmidei chachamim, no matter whether they are a Modern Orthodox Av Beit Din or a “Satmar to’en,” by implying that they are incapable of either presenting or judging evidentiary procedure and halachic argument, or indeed recusing themselves therefrom. Such labels and stereotypes are not simply gratuitous, they violate many halachic issurim, and they inflict permanent damage on the fabric of Jewish communal life, not to speak of grievous harm to an already weakened Bet Din system.
If the Jewish Press wishes to continue to attack the RCA’s response to a Jerusalem Bet Din on halachic grounds, because it can show it to be mistaken or worse, by all means do so. But it is unnecessary, and unbecoming, to stoop to the gutter with these dishonorable tactics.
We can only hope that these xenophobic outbursts on the part of the editorial board reflect a momentary lapse in judgment or oversight, which will in due course be corrected or retracted. “Est past nisht,” for these words do not pass the bar of acceptable discourse in Jewish communal life. And it surely is beneath the dignity of the memory of the late Rabbi Sholom Klass, a man whom we at the RCA knew for many years to have been a true Ohev Yisrael, and a man who also understood the importance of respecting the faith commitments of other Americans.
In any case, the public should know the following: Ironically, it is Rabbi Tendler, through his representatives, who since his expulsion has proposed going to the Beth Din of America. It is the same distinguished Bet Din that the Jewish Press has so contemptuously rejected, but which the RCA itself, to avoid even the appearance of partiality, chose not to name in its response to Jerusalem. The RCA had every right to decline to appear in Jerusalem, and did so in timely and proper fashion, following full halachic procedure. Any implication to the contrary by the Jewish Press is either in ignorance or disrespect for halachic practice.
Rabbi Dale Polakoff
Rabbi Basil Herring
Executive Vice President
The Rabbinical Council of America