Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rosenblum Apologized - Deal With it and Focus and the Issues

[This was originally composed as a comment on a post on Natan Slifkin's "Rationalist Judasim" blog. As a response thereto, the Slifkin's post should be read first.]

It seems that Slifkin thinks that Rosenblum should have apologized for more than he did. His apology was directed toward his mis-characterization of Lipman's actions during the Orot incident, and that apology, as you noted, was "great".

The apology part of Rosenblum's article was not lacking in the way that Lipkin notes Shafran's or Tropper's were. His problem seems to be that Rosenblum didn't apologize even further. The “all-out attack” which follows was largely dedicated to defending his original statements, which Lipman attacked in his article. Slifkin may not like Rosenblum’s opinions, but he is entitled to them, and the fact that Rosenblum had something to apologize for does not mean that he has to keep quiet about everything else.

Slifkin's rule about giving two reasons sounds nice, but it can only be applied once the second reason given has been disproven. Why assume that the focus, both in Rosenblum’s original article and in Lipman’s response, on the Orot incident was not a distraction from real issues which divide the two, but is, in fact, the real issue? (Better question – why assume that it is the major issue?) Attempting to demonstrate that Rosenblum’s apology was incomplete, even if the assertion is correct, is immaterial when considering whether or not the Orot incident is a distraction in the larger context of Rosenblum’s fault-finding with Lipman.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not taking Rosenblum’s side. But he apologized for a specific fault, and he should be given credit for that. It may have been poor form to apologize for one thing and attack for something else in the same article, but poor form does not a hollow apology make. It’s ironic that Rosenblum repeated his offense of not checking his facts at the end of his article. However, most of the information which he ignored is hardly stuff which is widely known. Poor journalism, yes, but a transgression? Perhaps a bit harsh.

(This may not be his only apology. As Harry Maryles pointed out even before the public apology, Rosenblum and Lipman may meet at the RCA convention, and a personal apology may be proffered there. Of course, a private apology may be given before that, which may remain between the two, not even being shared with personal confidants of either of the two.)

Rosenblum makes plenty of specious claims. Let’s not waste time on what we think of his apology, and focus instead on his charges.

Side point: The fact that Rosenblum was given, both by Slifkin and Michael Lipkin, correct information about the Orot incident may or may not be relevant. It all depends on what other "information" he received at the time from other parties, which we don't (and may never) know. It wouldn't be a major shock to find out that someone sympathetic to the extremists' cause was feeding Rosenblum misinformation at the same time that Slifkin and Lipkin were giving correcting that information. True, he could have done better by getting a tour of the area, but perhaps, in his eyes, Slifkin and Lipkin are biased, so why should he have trusted their version of the facts?


  1. Rosenblum admits wrongdoing. But what wrongdoing? He acknowledged "halachic and journalistic failure," which he called an "error" Not doing "adequate research."

    That brings your side point into play: First of all, Lipkin said that he had given Rosenblum the correct information after Rosenblum published the same canard in the wake of the Orot incident. Doesn't that make Rosenblum's second offense deliberate? If Rosenblum had followed Hilchot Lashon Hara and privately rebuked Lipman, wouldn't he have been shown the videos? Is this really an "error?"

    It's notable that Rosenblum's "apology" first mentions that he compromised his own credibility. (Try starting an apology to, say, your wife for badmouthing her to your friends by talking about how bad your actions made you look to strangers, but your friends don't think it's a problem, and you're not planning on changing your friends... and then doubling down by going on the attack.)

    Let's assume that Rosenblum really is aware that he violated halacha, and wishes to apologize. OK, the checklist:
    Regret over the actions? He regrets having embarrassed himself. He made himself look bad. Making Lipman look bad? Feels terrible he published false accusations? Not so much. But lets's give him that one.

    Private confession to Hashem? We'll give him that one, too, even though his public enumeration of his error is incomplete and self-serving.

    Won't do it again? It looked to me like he was pretty much doing it again in the second half of the "apology."

    Making amends? "the speaker must go back to all those who heard his Lashon Hara and explain to them that what he said was incorrect. He must also apologize to the subject of the Lashon Hara and ask for forgiveness. If, however, the speaker is certain that the Lashon Hara was never accepted, he is only required to complete steps 1-3 [regret, confession, resolve]." (From

    You can take it to the bank that some of Yated's readers accepted the Lashon Hara (actually Motzi Shem Ra, though, wasn't it, even though Rosenblum maybe thought it was just Lashon Hara.) The feathers are in the wind now. So even if we give him steps 1-3, his amends need to be really public. Ideally, the apology should have been in the Yated. And supposing he really was being fed information that has now been shown, publicly, to be false. A mensch would have dissociated himself from those feeding him false and defamatory information. Publicly. Do we give him credit for asking for mechila, too?

    Summing things up: Even had Lipman been the only victim, to classify this as a good apology, let alone a halachically sufficient response to having promulgated Lashon Hara, debases the language.

    Lipman can certainly choose to accept this as a sufficient apology – for himself, even though from the second part of Rosenblum's Cross Currents screed, it looks to me as though he's not only claiming toelet, but maybe even believes that Lipman falls into that category of people it is permissible to defame. That would make his phony apology just politics, though we're still supposed to limit ourselves to the truth in Lashon Hara with toelet.

    But it wasn't just Lipman Rosenblum was falsely defaming, it was a group of Jews who are shomrei Torah and mitzvot.

    Is that something to "get over"?

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. What follows are my thoughts on some of the points you make. They're not necessarily in order, but I tried to keep each point to its own paragraph. (I also have to split this into two posts for space reasons.)

      Regarding Rosenblum's actions after Lipkin got in touch with him, I don't think you understood my point. Just because he was presented with facts, it doesn't mean that he was in any position to assess how true they were. We have no idea what other misinformation he was getting at the same time. In retrospect, and from our point of view, he should have listened to Lipkin. But is Lipkin an expert? Does he have known biases? Maybe Rosenblum took those factors into account before dismissing his input. (That's assuming that Rosenblum has a chance to read every letter he gets. I imagine he gets plenty of fan mail, and plenty of non-so-much-fan mail.)

      I re-read the article, and didn't notice that he first mentioned that he compromised his own credibility. He does mention it, but only after apologizing. It seems to be the first part of an afterthought reflecting on how his being wrong impacted him. Adding such a reflection does not detract from the apology.

      You think his apology was self-serving? That's an unsupported accusation, and an entirely subjective one at that. It's an easy way of casting dispersion (irrelevant ones, for that matter) without having to back them up. In addition, you could make the same case for a lot of articles, including Slifkin's post and Lipman's article which prompted Rosenblum's. (I'm not saying that they are, and I'm not really interested in that aspect, but you could easily make such a case.)

      You're confusing an apology with Hilchot Teshuva. A public apology does not have to conform to the standards set down by the Rambam to acheive Teshuva. Perhaps Rosenblum did all the required steps, but it's between him and God. A blog post or newspaper article is not the venue for it. He spent several paragraphs admitting his wrong, then said that he apologizes. That's an apology. Was his sin erased from the heavenly ledgers? Not out business, and not the point of an apology. That's an issue of Teshuva. Demanding that anyone go through the steps of Teshuva publicly is not reasonable.

    2. (Part 2)

      True, ideally his apology should have appeared in the pages of the Yated. But as some commenters on Slifkin's blog had pointed out (and it's such an obvious point it doesn't really need pointing out), Rosenblum does not control the Yated; he can't decide what gets published. Perhaps Rosenblum approached them first, and they turned him down. Having his apology and clarification appear on Cross-Currents may be the best he could do in terms of righting the wrong, or it may be a first step.

      As far as disassociating publicly from those who fed him misinformation, I don't think that's a fair thing to expect. He can associate with whomever he wants, and disassociate from them as publicly or privately as he wants, without impacting his level of menshlichiet (I'm sure that's spelled wrong, sorry). A mature approach would be to take future information from these people with a heavy grain of salt.

      I never said that we should "get over" Rosenblum's defaming (in your words) a group of Jews who are shomrei Torah v'mitzvot, so please don't put those words in my mouth. But we should accept the fact that he apologized (not his apology itself, since it was directed at two particular people, and no us), and stop trying to prove that it was insufficient. There are more significant issues here (although, as issues go, probably not that significant in the greater scheme of things).

      Final point, and not related to anything you (or, as far as I've seen, anyone) said. Rosenblum said some pretty harsh things, some of which was not correct. Slifkin thinks his apology was insufficient, as do many others. Is his transgression so unique? Why the focus on him? When someone writes something hurtful against Chareidim, based on incorrect information, is he then expected to find everyone who read his article to set the record straight? Maybe he is, but I've never seen such a thing.

  2. Thank you for your detailed response, and you're right, "get over it" wasn't what you said.
    Rosenblum stated that he had to apologize because his conduct was unbecoming both a journalist and a Torah Jew.

    Perhaps I'm giving Rosenblum more credit (wrongly? maybe) than you do, but it seems to me that he has some responsibility for what he writes. He stated that this responsibility falls under two rubrics: "a journalist and a Torah Jew." A journalist has a professional obligation to get the facts straight. Period. That means fact checking, that means if possible checking with the subject of a story. Period. (I've heard some people defend Rosenblum by saying "he's not really a journalist, he's an opinion writer and PR guy. Well, he just claimed the title for himself.)

    And as a Torah Jew, well, as the commercial said, "we answer to a higher authority." Someone makes a detailed and easily verifiable assertion that Rosenblum erred in a matter of fact and Rosenblun not only fails to fact check himself, but repeats the same false assertion AGAIN, (showing that his "Torah Jew" conscience was lacking,) and in the course of doing so AGAIN became a textbook transgressor of Hilchot Lashon Hara false, disparaging statements about someone, failed to check with his victim before making his allegations public, etc.

    So yes, teshuva is required, (assuming, as I do that Rosenblum takes mitzvot seriously) and by halacha, the teshuva MUST be public. Public apology is a necessary but not sufficient part of the process which MUST include attempts to mitigate the damage (unless there is good reason to think that the retraction will make things worse, which I don't think is the case here.) Teshuva also requires not repeating the offense, which it seems to me Rosenblum did immediately following his "apology." Apology doesn't require Rosenblum to change his mind and agree with Lipman, but (hypothetically speaking) if Yated gets in the way of Rosenblum's teshuva by refusing to print Rosenblum's retraction, I fail to understand how anyone with yirat Shamayim could possibly continue an association with Yated under those circumstances, and given the situation the breach would probably be part of the amends, since there would be a real likelihood that Yated would be a michshol for him in the future.

    I also don't understand your final point. Because some people fail to fact check harsh statements about Chareidim a Chareidi spokesman gets to violate the Torah in return?