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A Praiseworthy Apology

A reader sends in this lengthy apology a Jewish Harvard Crimson columnist wrote after publishing a column highly critical of more conservative Jewish religious practice. Excerpt:

At the beginning of last year, I penned an op-ed called “The Hillel Problem.” The piece lambasted Orthodox Jews and their religious practices. Additionally, it derided the Reform movement for its nascent embrace of tradition. For days on end, it was the most read article on The Crimson’s website, the object of pillory and plaudits.

A few months later, I regret ever having published it. Looking back, I made facile assumptions about different streams of Judaism, conflating Reform with Conservative and Modern Orthodox with ultra-Orthodox. Depicting the Orthodox as a monolithic group, I proceeded to make grave charges against them, both explicit and implicit. I caricatured them as undemocratic, insular, medieval, threatening, and disloyal. When it comes to some ultra-Orthodox factions, these criticisms clearly hold. However, the application of these descriptions to the whole Orthodox community was fatuous, journalistically shoddy, and intellectually lazy. It also bore the mark of bigotry. It was wrong. I apologize.

As I spent time at Hillel last semester, I realized that I had grossly mischaracterized the place. Hillel is not Borough Park on Mount Auburn Street. The only three-piece suits there are ones spun from whole cloth. Sideburns there are the product of an outmoded fashion sense, not a fanatic religious devotion. The members of Hillel’s Modern Orthodox minyan do not want to oppress women or impose their beliefs upon a civil state. Just like me, they seek to steer the ship of faith safely through today’s dangerous waters. Fixated on the shoals of modernity, they advocate a more careful, more conservative course.

What a commendable act. This writer, Daniel J. Solomon, re-examined his assumptions, and admitted clearly, in detail, and in public, that he had been wrong and unjust to the targets of his attack. You don’t see this sort of thing often, and that’s too bad. Good on you, Daniel J. Solomon! You give a good example to us all. Thanks too to the reader who sent this in. It’s always a pleasure to draw attention to someone doing the right thing, even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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