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Yated Doubles Down
A week ago, I wrote a post about a letter signed by Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin which appeared in Halacha Q&A section of the US edition of Yated Ne'eman - a letter which the halacha editor had fabricated, based on a conversation that I had with him. I immediately wrote to the Yated, demanding a retraction; my letter appears below. They did not print my letter, nor did they print a retraction. Shame on them for doubling down on their falsehood!
To The Editor:
As someone who has written several letters to the Yated Ne'eman over the years which were not printed, I was very surprised to see that this week's edition featured a letter from me. It was particularly shocking, because I never wrote the letter!
Over the last few weeks I have been engaging in correspondence with my old friend Rabbi Daniel Travis about the theological question of whether one can donate money to yeshivos and have the reward for the Torah study transferred to a third party of one's choice. He told me that he would be responding in his Yated column. Little did I imagine that this meant that he would fabricate a letter from scratch and sign my name to it! No doubt he had the best of intentions, and I know that he is committed to integrity (and even thanked me in a book that he authored on the topic). But the fact is that this is a dishonest and unethical practice.
Furthermore, instead of accurately presenting my position, he misrepresented it in several ways. Most distressingly, he presented me as accusing charity organizations of acting with a lack of integrity, which I never did. Thus, he ended up committing a particularly unpleasant form of motzi shem ra; making a false claim about my character and pretending that I myself presented it!
Newspapers often edit letters to the editor for clarity and length, with an explicit advance notification to readers and letter-writers that they are doing so (which, incidentally, I did not see in your paper). But I have never heard of them creating a letter to the newspaper where none exists, paraphrasing and distorting someone's position, and signing their name to it!
It is deeply disturbing that such a departure from emes happened. I must demand that you print a retraction and apology, stating clearly that I did not author a single word in the letter that you attributed to me. Given the misrepresentation, it would be appropriate for you to allow me to write an unedited letter with my full views on this topic. And you should also clarify whether you believe that in general, it is acceptable to fabricate statements and pretend that they were written by someone, when they are actually only the Yated staffer's own (and potentially flawed) understanding of what the person said.