Slander is an ugly word, but it is the only one that seems accurate to describe the unprofessional and misleading front-page article “When politics came to synagogue” (Feb. 16). For the past 25 years I have been a congregant at Congregation Agudath Israel in Caldwell. I am in shul nearly every week, I am a past president, and I am actively engaged in the life of our community. It is outrageous that the references of one anonymous former congregant could be highlighted as representative of our community without any fact-checking, without any interview of our professional team, especially the rabbi, and without any interview with any of the current lay leaders at the shul. NJJN should be ashamed of itself for publishing such an article and placing it on the front page.
Without question the issue of the too-often divisive nature of political discourse within the confines of a religious institution is complex. Thus as the article describes at six of the seven shuls referenced, there is an effort by the rabbis to explain their particular orientation on this difficult subject. Only Agudath Israel is treated differently. Agudath Israel is the only synagogue mentioned in the article where the rabbi is not offered the opportunity to express his perspective on this challenging subject. How easy it would have been for NJJN to learn that neither Agudath clergy, lay leadership nor congregants are monolithic in their political views, and that political advocacy of any kind is out of bounds in shul.
As the rabbis teach, lashon hara is among the most negative of human behavior precisely because once spoken the words can never be pulled back. While the written word cannot be pulled back either, NJJN now has a responsibility to address the slander you have inflicted on our community.