Monday, November 28, 2005

Whether the Slifkin matter is over or not....

The following letter is printed in this month's Moment Magazine. As the letters aren't reproduced online I thought it may be of interest.

I would like to register my complaint against the irresponsible and sloppy recording of my views in Jennie Rothenberg's article regarding the ban on the books by Rabbi Nosson Slifkin.

The author reports "[Rabbi Feldman] coondemned Slifkin for defending himself." This has no basis in fact.

Rothenberg continues, falsely giving the impression that this is a reason for her previous statement, that "Felman lamented that Slifkin...has made the ban's signers look like simple-minded fools." A responsible writer would have made it clear that this quotation is part of my introductory comments to an eight-page article aimed at showing that they were not fools.

Rothenberg's slopiness had one beneficial side-effect. Since I was born and raised in Baltimore and the English language is my native tongue, anyone who knows me found her revelation that I "speak English with a thick Yiddish accent" quite amusing.

Rabbi Aharon Feldman
Baltimore, MD


Jenni Rothenberg responds:
Although the goal of Rabbi Feldman's article was to defend the ban's signers, his personal criticism of Rabbi Slifkin created a great deal of buzz in the Orthodox world and was thus relevent to my story. I interviewed many respected rabbis who had read Rabbi Feldman's essay and were concerned by statements such as these: "The ban was met with resistance by Slifkin, who vigorously defended himself on his Internet site....He portrayed the dispute as pro- or anti-science, with himself as a champion of truth and his detractors as uneducated deniers of the discovereis of modern science.... Slifkin's campaign was eminently successful.... As a result, many thoughtful, observant Jews were beset by a crisis of confidence in the judgement of the signatories." A number of rabbis were deeply troubled by Rabbi Feldman's implication that Slifkin ought to have remained silent instead of explaining his views. A few wrote public critiques that can be found at

I wish to apologize for incorrectly characterizing Rabbi Feldman's accent as Yiddish. Our phone conversation took place via a rather scratchy transatlantic phone connection and I mistook his inflection for a Yiddish accent. This mistake was immediately corrected in the version of the article that appears on Moment's website.
Edit: Romach asks a question that I didn't even know I had.

Edit II: The following letter of interest also appears in this issue:
I read Jennie Rothberg's article "The Heresy of Nosson Slifkin" and found it to be excellent. Really well-written and probably the most accurate article written on the subject, both in terms of facts and the larger context.
Rabbi Gil Student
President of Publishing
Yashar Books
Brooklyn, NY

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