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August 22, 2014 / 26 Av, 5774
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Rabbi Avi Shafran And The Jewish Press

We are saddened by some assertions made by Agudath Israel of America spokesman Rabbi Shafran in last week’s Forward newspaper. We have, until now, avoided any editorializing on the continuing and animated exchange of opinion that has appeared for several weeks in our Letters To The Editor section, preferring to let our readers explore the issue of Agudath Israel’s non-participation in the recent Washington rally in support of Israel. And we will not now address the controversy. However we cannot leave unremarked some of Rabbi Shafran’s comments.

The Forward quotes Rabbi Shafran as saying, “Jewish Press readers, to a large part, are more centrist or Modern Orthodox readers. They may have a pre-existing animus for Agudath Israel and used the rally to jump on us and to both misconstrue and misrepresent us.”

Rabbi Shafran should better have focused on the message rather than the messengers. He did not help his cause by laboring so hard to suggest that the demographics of our readership somehow skewed the totality of the commentary that appeared in our paper. After all, “a large part” of our readership is not “most of it”. Nor is the notion that our readers “may have a pre-existing animus for Agudath Israel” all that persuasive. Of course, Rabbi Shafran knew that the demographics are not what he tried to communicate to Forward readers. These sort of contrivances should be beneath a national organization that acts out of principle.

More important, Rabbi Shafran also left unaddressed the signal fact of Agudath Israel’s participation in the 1974 mass demonstration in Dag Hammarsjold Plaza against the PLO, despite his having claimed that Agudath Israel stayed away from the Washington rally because of a “longstanding policy” against such involvement. Indeed, The Jewish Press did not create the statement of Rabbi Moshe Sherer, a”h, on the importance of Agudath Israel’s demonstrating “wall-to-wall” support for Israel despite the organization’s dissent from some of what went on there. We just reported it.

Rabbi Shafran apparently feels that Agudath Israel is uniquely shielded from having to explain anything it does. But he must now know that there are consequences to such a posture.

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