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Monday, July 28, 2008

Rabbi Pesach Lerner's unedited response

update (7/28/08): It's interesting that Rabbi Pesach Lerner's criticism of Uri L'Tzedek Executive Director Rabbi Ari Weiss lecturing at a Young Israel, converges with a news release that states,
The National Council of Young Israel is coordinating and leading a mission of several dozen Jewish community and rabbinic leaders representing major Orthodox Jewish organizations and large Jewish cities to the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa on Thursday, July 31.
Rabbi Pesach Lerner is quoted,
This mission is meant to provide Jewish leaders from across the United States with a factual perspective of the true situation at the Agriprocessors plant, untainted by the rumors and innuendos that have been circulating in many circles. As one of the major producers of kosher meat in the U.S., the success or failure of Agriprocessors is an issue that will directly impact Jewish communities that purchase kosher meat and poultry across the country. The situation warrants that we approach this with an open mind and obtain a first-hand account of the situation so that we can draw our own conclusion for the betterment of the American Jewish community.
This may be one reason why Rabbi Lerner is "embarrassed" -- A Young Israel congregration announces that they're hosting a leading critic of Agriprocessors while NCYI announces that they're leading a delegation, that one might infer, is biased towards supporting Agriprocessors. I give NCYI a lot of credit for leading a delegation with "several dozen Jewish community and rabbinic leaders representing major Orthodox Jewish organizations and large Jewish cities". That seems to be one visit more to Postville than any of Uri L'Tzedek's leaders.

From my back/forth email dialogue with Rabbi Pesach Lerner it is apparent that Rabbi Pesach Lerner's original intention was for me to publish his unedited response to Uri L'Tzedek leader to lecture at Young Israel.

After I posted Rabbi Pesach Lerner Responds, Rabbi Lerner emailed me, "You have added words, phrases to indicate things I did not say or possibly mean. You could have put up my response w/o your commentary—" I then edited my original article with clarifications based on his criticism.

I wrote Rabbi Lerner that "I am more than happy to still post your complete response to me. Please just let me know. The reason I did not do so was because your tone appears scathing and incendiary in a way that I couldn't imagine you would want to be published 100% verbatim."

Rabbi Lerner responded, "I have no problem for you to post my original. I made some honest statements and asked some basic questions."

Rabbi Lerner is the executive director of a national Jewish organization and the Jewish community deserves to hear his thoughts on this matter. Since I solicited a response from Rabbi Lerner, it is only fair that I post his unedited response to ensure that his comments were not taken out of context, especially if that is his desire. As one can see from my comments above, I was hesitant to publish Rabbi Lerner's response, as-is. Hence, I wanted to doubly confirm that it was acceptable to publish his complete response. Some of Rabbi Lerner's "strong" comments were included in my blog post, Rabbi Pesach Lerner Responds. However, I (hesitantly) included certain comments of Rabbi Lerner's only after accepting his criticism of my original article.

If Rabbi Ari Weiss would like to respond to Rabbi Lerner's questions and comments, I would be happy to post his unedited response at my blog. Although, I think that is a generous offer considering that Ari Hart, Director of Uri L'Tzedek has not answered follow-up interview questions that I emailed to him and questions I published in my posts Uri L'Tzedek, an Exposé and Agriprocessors still not "kosher" enough for Ari Hart .

Here is Rabbi Lerner's unedited response:

I feel embarrassed for the membership of the young Israel of Stamford.

If they want to be lectured to by a young man with limited knowledge of ethics, of kashrut, of the totality of Judaism, by a young man who has limited experience in life in general, in Judaism more specifically, I guess that is their prerogative.

Ethics is not just a buzzword, it is real. One must earn the right to discuss the ethics of something. Let the members of YI of Stamford decide if this young man has earned that right.

Does he have direct first hand knowledge of what he speaks? Ethics or kashrut?

Does his ethics dictate to him to harm other Jews?

Does his ethics dictate that one not give another person the benefit of a doubt?

Is his ethics applied to everything he does?

I am just wondering—

There are so many experienced, educated individuals ---starting with the Young Israel of Stamford’s new rabbi, who impressed us with his breadth of knowledge and presentation ---within the synagogue, the Jewish community of Stamford and greater Jewish community, who can speak on a myriad of Jewish and general topics. It is a shame that they are not asked to share their knowledge.

Sept 13 is two weeks before Rosh Hashana, there are so many people to invite and so many relevant topics to discuss. Sept 13 is two days after Sept 11, an event that carries with it so much memory, discussion, introspection.

I am sure that many members of the Young Israel are embarrassed by this topic and speaker; I feel for them.

The National Council of Young Israel has access to so many wonderful speakers on so many topics.

We share this information to our branches, all over the country. We are happy to assist the Young Israel of Stamford as well.