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We should have checked first

We erred.

In an editorial last week, we noted that no “official representatives of the Orthodox community were present at” what amounted to a rally at Temple Beth El in Hackensack on the last night of Chanukah, called to protest a Dec. 20 hate attack – the second such attack to an area synagogue in 10 days.

While that is true, it implied two things: The first is that the RCBC and its membership knew the event was taking place. The second is that their absence also meant that they were silent about the vandalism against another segment of the community.

We also wrote that it “is hard to escape the conclusion that the absence of Orthodox leaders from the Hackensack event had everything to do with the fact that neither synagogue [that had been vandalized] is Orthodox.”

This last statement suggests to some, at least, that the Orthodox leadership in northern New Jersey has no problem with someone painting swastikas and other hateful symbols on the walls of non-Orthodox institutions.

Nothing can be further from the truth and we regret that anyone read it that way.

As to the other two implications, we erred because we made an assumption. The notice of the event was originally sent out by the JCRC within a day of the vandalism against Temple Beth El. The JCRC uses an e-mail list compiled by it and the Synagogue Leadership Initiative, and that list includes the RCBC and its members.

On the previous Thursday, The Jewish Standard website published an editorial urging everyone in the community, regardless of affiliation, to show up at the rally. We also sent the text of that editorial to our e-mail list. The next day, Friday, the eve of Shabbat, Jason Shames, the chief executive officer and executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, referred to the editorial and provided a link to it in his weekly e-mail that went out to the entire JFNNJ list.

In addition, an Orthodox rabbi, Tzvee Zahavy, published both the JCRC announcement of the event and our editorial on his “Tzvee’s talmudic blog” site.

With all of these references, we assumed that the RCBC and its member rabbis were aware of the event. That is where we erred. We assumed it, but did not know it for certain. We have now been assured by both the current and two past presidents of the RCBC that, in fact, they were not aware of the event. We also did not consider the busy schedules many Orthodox rabbis maintain and how many e-mails all of us, regardless of affiliation, are subjected to in a given day. Merely because e-mails were sent does not mean they are read in a timely manner.

The RCBC representatives who contacted us said that they and their members should not be held accountable for missing an event that they did not know was taking place. As the current president, Rabbi Shalom Baum, wrote in an e-mail to us, “I clearly would have responded and attended if I was called about this event. I and many of my colleagues have a long history of working with all members of the clergy, both here and in Israel.”

When reporting a news story, we insist that the facts be checked and double-checked. We should have done the same in preparing this editorial.

We also want to note that on Dec. 29 the RCBC did send a letter of support to Temple Beth El, and also discussed that attack and the Dec. 11 attack on the Maywood Reconstructionist synagogue at an RCBC meeting. “I am sure that this has been a difficult time for your synagogue community…,” Baum wrote on the RCBC’s behalf to Beth El’s Rabbi Robert Schumeister. “I wanted to express our solidarity with your community. Please let me know if there is anything specific that we could do.”

Because the RCBC did not make any public statement, we assumed that it had not made any private one. Again, we assumed something when we should have checked.

Another statement we made was that “there are rabbis in the Orthodox community who follow the opinion of some Orthodox decisors that it is forbidden even to walk into a non-Orthodox synagogue.” While no one denies this is the case, we are assured that it is not the case with members of the RCBC. Again, our error was assuming a fact not in evidence.

We also stated in our editorial that ours is the only Jewish community in the United States that has two boards of rabbis. This, too, was an error. What we meant to say is not what we did say, and we regret that. What we meant to say is that ours is the only community that we know of where the Orthodox and non-Orthodox rabbis do not sit together as colleagues to discuss areas of common concern, such as occurs regularly, say, in the New York Board of Rabbis.

We continue to bemoan the fact that ours is a Jewish community with a divided religious leadership that finds it difficult to sit together to work on the problems that the Jews of northern New Jersey face. We have been assured that the RCBC in the last few years has worked to change that. We hope that the North Jersey Board of Rabbis extends its hand in collegiality to the RCBC for the benefit of the entire community.We should have checked first

We erred.

In an editorial last week, we noted that no “official representatives of the Orthodox community were present at” what amounted to a rally at Temple Beth El in Hackensack on the last night of Chanukah, called to protest a Dec. 20 hate attack – the second such attack to an area synagogue in 10 days.

While that is true, it implied two things: The first is that the RCBC and its membership knew the event was taking place. The second is that their absence also meant that they were silent about the vandalism against another segment of the community.

We also wrote that it “is hard to escape the conclusion that the absence of Orthodox leaders from the Hackensack event had everything to do with the fact that neither synagogue [that had been vandalized] is Orthodox.”

This last statement suggests to some, at least, that the Orthodox leadership in northern New Jersey has no problem with someone painting swastikas and other hateful symbols on the walls of non-Orthodox institutions.

Nothing can be further from the truth and we regret that anyone read it that way.

As to the other two implications, we erred because we made an assumption. The notice of the event was originally sent out by the JCRC within a day of the vandalism against Temple Beth El. The JCRC uses an e-mail list compiled by it and the Synagogue Leadership Initiative, and that list includes the RCBC and its members.

On the previous Thursday, The Jewish Standard website published an editorial urging everyone in the community, regardless of affiliation, to show up at the rally. We also sent the text of that editorial to our e-mail list. The next day, Friday, the eve of Shabbat, Jason Shames, the chief executive officer and executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, referred to the editorial and provided a link to it in his weekly e-mail that went out to the entire JFNNJ list.

In addition, an Orthodox rabbi, Tzvee Zahavy, published both the JCRC announcement of the event and our editorial on his “Tzvee’s talmudic blog” site.

With all of these references, we assumed that the RCBC and its member rabbis were aware of the event. That is where we erred. We assumed it, but did not know it for certain. We have now been assured by both the current and two past presidents of the RCBC that, in fact, they were not aware of the event. We also did not consider the busy schedules many Orthodox rabbis maintain and how many e-mails all of us, regardless of affiliation, are subjected to in a given day. Merely because e-mails were sent does not mean they are read in a timely manner.

The RCBC representatives who contacted us said that they and their members should not be held accountable for missing an event that they did not know was taking place. As the current president, Rabbi Shalom Baum, wrote in an e-mail to us, “I clearly would have responded and attended if I was called about this event. I and many of my colleagues have a long history of working with all members of the clergy, both here and in Israel.”

When reporting a news story, we insist that the facts be checked and double-checked. We should have done the same in preparing this editorial.

We also want to note that on Dec. 29 the RCBC did send a letter of support to Temple Beth El, and also discussed that attack and the Dec. 11 attack on the Maywood Reconstructionist synagogue at an RCBC meeting. “I am sure that this has been a difficult time for your synagogue community…,” Baum wrote on the RCBC’s behalf to Beth El’s Rabbi Robert Schumeister. “I wanted to express our solidarity with your community. Please let me know if there is anything specific that we could do.”

Because the RCBC did not make any public statement, we assumed that it had not made any private one. Again, we assumed something when we should have checked.

Another statement we made was that “there are rabbis in the Orthodox community who follow the opinion of some Orthodox decisors that it is forbidden even to walk into a non-Orthodox synagogue.” While no one denies this is the case, we are assured that it is not the case with members of the RCBC. Again, our error was assuming a fact not in evidence.

We also stated in our editorial that ours is the only Jewish community in the United States that has two boards of rabbis. This, too, was an error. What we meant to say is not what we did say, and we regret that. What we meant to say is that ours is the only community that we know of where the Orthodox and non-Orthodox rabbis do not sit together as colleagues to discuss areas of common concern, such as occurs regularly, say, in the New York Board of Rabbis.

We continue to bemoan the fact that ours is a Jewish community with a divided religious leadership that finds it difficult to sit together to work on the problems that the Jews of northern New Jersey face. We have been assured that the RCBC in the last few years has worked to change that. We hope that the North Jersey Board of Rabbis extends its hand in collegiality to the RCBC for the benefit of the entire community.

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