Seven years ago, at the Agudas Yisrael Convention, I was honored to be mentioned by Rabbi Uren Reich, in a now-legendary speech. Yesterday, November 26th (my anniversary!), I was honored to be mentioned once again, this time by Rabbi Shimshon Sherer.
He read out from my Jerusalem Post article on Post-Charedism. There wasn't much substantial criticism; he seemed to feel that merely reading out extracts of my article, with expressions of horror, would suffice to show how wrong it was. If only he knew how many people in the audience identified with it!
But his speech misrepresented what I wrote. He asked the audience to "Listen to what he writes!" as he introduced the reasons that I gave for rejecting Charedi ideology. First of all, he entirely omits the first two reasons that I gave, and instead begins with the third reason. And he read out from my article: "When rabbinic authority is invested in yeshivah deans who are isolated from wider society, abuses of rabbinic power are inevitable." Rachamana litzlan! he added.
When I heard that, I was somewhat taken aback myself. Had I really written such a thing? I went back and checked what I had written. And I found that I hadn't written that! What I had written was:
"When rabbinic authority is invested in yeshivah deans who are isolated from wider society, and often “handled” by various assistants (emphasis added), abuses of rabbinic power are inevitable."
He had missed out the crucial phrase!
(UPDATE: I subsequently discovered that the edited version of my essay which appeared in Jerusalem Post had placed the emphasized phrase in parentheses. Personally I still don't think that it was justified for Rabbi Sherer to omit the phrase, but I can understand that others might see it differently.)
Does anyone seriously deny that Gedolim are manipulated by askanim? Jonathan Rosenblum even said so explicitly in Mishpachah! Did Leib Tropper not manipulate Gedolim?! Was it not due to manipulation that Lipa Schmeltzer's concert was irredeemably treife one year and suddenly kosher the next year? Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank wrote about how "young writers who frequent the home of the ancient Rav Yitzchak Yeruham Diskin (may his light shine), for this old man is under the influence of young secretaries... they manipulate him whichever way they please and obtain his signature for all their antics." Rav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler and other Gedolei Torah recently wrote a letter where they admitted to having signed a letter of condemnation due to being manipulated and fed false information! Rav Aharon Feldman, sitting next to Rabbi Sherer, even wrote a letter in which he attested that Rav Elyashiv had said that about various other Gedolim!
But even if one does personally believe that Gedolim are not manipulated - how is it legitimate to allegedly be quoting my words, and yet to omit a crucial phrase?
Rabbi Sherer: You should do the right thing and apologize for falsifying my words.
(Incidentally, he then quotes, with horror, another sentence from my article: "And a siege mentality developed in which any criticism of haredi society, even coming from the inside, was to be fought or silenced." Little does he know that I learned the phrase "siege mentality" about 15 years ago from none other than Rav Aharon Feldman, sitting next to him, who made this precise point in a criticism of the Israeli Yated!)
To my readers: If you would like to register your displeasure with Agudah, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Follow this link to see the video on YouTube, at the time when he starts speaking about me.)