Rabbi Steven Lewis of Temple Ahavat Achim in Gloucester sent me an email last week that included a reference to a rabbinic passage, the gist of which teaches, “Love unaccompanied by reproof is not love.”
To reprove is to reprimand or censure. I took it that the point of this citation that Rabbi Lewis said had been “stuck in my head like a catchy tune,” since the Rabbi and I had met at his synagogue the prior day was that the strong words he had directed at the Jewish Journal were couched in caring. Is it coincidence that Paul McCartney, one of the writers of “All You Need is Love,” had just rocked Fenway Park?
At that discussion last week, also attended by synagogue president Sam Silverman and Neil Donnenfeld, a relatively new member of the board of overseers at the Journal, Rabbi Lewis presented a written statement that expressed concerns about what he considered to be journalistic lapses on the part of the paper over the prior year. He read aloud:
“For many of us, parts of the paper have read like a blog or tabloid rather than a serious journalistic enterprise. Sadly, this has distracted many from the positive improvements the paper has made, particularly in its calendar section.”
There is little doubt that mistakes were made here during the period referenced by the Rabbi.
While we agree that some wonderful changes were made to the paper during that time that we are excited to carry forward, there was also a level of political coarseness and unnecessarily provocative content. Given those transgressions, Rabbi Lewis correctly suggested the following actions be taken on the part of the Journal:
“I want you to strongly and courageously address this question in the paper:
• Can the Jewish Journal be trusted to respect its diverse readers? And
• Can the Jewish Journal be trusted in general; in other words, is it committed to maintain a high standard of journalistic integrity?”
The answer to these questions is a simple yes. We can’t promise that we won’t dive into controversy, because we will. And we can’t commit to not having strong opinions on important topics of the day because strong opinions are good things – they help people with different outlooks who are willing to be open-minded clarify their own ideas and opinions.
And we do know that people may from time to time be displeased by some of the ideas we offer simply because this is the nature of such things. But we will know that any displeasure will not be intentional.
We commit to devoting ourselves to being a positive force in the community and to focussing on our role of being the glue that holds our community together. We will respect differences, welcome opinions from all directions and celebrate intelligent discourse presented in the context of traditional journalistic standards. We do not have to agree all the time for there to be respect and love.
Thanks to some tough love from Rabbi Lewis, we believe we are taking an important step to healing wounds and refocusing on our goals.