In last week’s edition of the Queens Jewish Link, there were six letters to the editor responding to columns I had written. What this tells me is I am picking topics that people are interested in and make efforts to send in responses. I know it is not an easy choice to decide to respond. People who have told me that they are afraid to write anything in because they are afraid of a backlash. Therefore, a person who puts their name on a letter to the editor knows that they could be subject to a negative response in the paper or in person. They write because they feel it’s necessary. I respect them. The only ones I don’t respect are individuals who frequently use either initials or a nom de plume to voice their opinions. If you don’t have the guts to use your real name, then you shouldn’t be writing.
The letters serve an important function. Having a give and take is important. Unfortunately, in our society, there is a tendency to only listen to those whose opinions are consistent to the individual’s beliefs - for example, on FOX, CNN, or MSNBC.
Some of the letters this past week were from people who were upset about the letter to the editor from the executive director of HAFTR. They felt that he went over the top in personally attacking me. I do not let any personal attacks bother me. If I did, I could not write my column. I do not think that the executive director of HAFTR helped his argument or the reputation of the school by personally attacking me, but it was his choice.
I do not want to continue litigating the issue of whether it is a good thing for Orthodox Jews to be playing professional baseball. I tried not to make this issue about one individual because the issue is more important than one person. Also, each person’s situation is different. Nevertheless, I expected when I wrote that column that there would be a backlash and that some people would take it as an attack on Jacob. Thus, it wasn’t surprising that the negative response came from his school and coach.
The only reason I found out about the draft was that it was in the newspapers, including the general papers, and then HAFTR made a big public announcement of congratulations, noting how this is a monumental achievement. Those who decided to make this is a cause célèbre should have expected that there could be a different reaction.
The publicity took it out of the realm of one person and his plans, and instead made it a global statement on how the frum community should view the idea of an Orthodox Jew going into professional baseball. To put it another way, the question does not become moot if tomorrow, Jacob - like Elie Kligman, the other Orthodox player drafted - decides that he would rather go to college than play pro ball. Now that there was a public announcement about Orthodox players, it is reasonable to anticipate that others, if they only see positive feedback, may try to follow in their footsteps. Also, the response to having Orthodox Jewish professional players can be applied to other areas. Thus, I felt it was important to give another approach to the issue.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, Rabbi Oren Kagen, and Michael Rollhaus all have one thing in common: They disagree with me on numerous other issues, including Donald Trump, but they all wrote responses stating that they agreed with me on a particular issue. It is easy to write a letter in support of a person whose ideas you always agree with. It is harder to do so when you disagree on other issues. There is nothing wrong with agreeing with someone on occasion and putting it on the record; you are not being disloyal to the cause. I try to do the same in my columns. I rarely agree with my fellow columnist Moshe Hill, but if I am writing about a topic where I agree with him, I make sure to mention his name.
This reminds me of what is going on in Congress. Right now, there is an infrastructure bill that has bipartisan support in the Senate. There is also a second bill, a reconciliation, which only has Democratic support and can pass without Republican support. Some Republicans, including Trump, are criticizing the Republicans who are supporting the bipartisan bill. Some progressive Democrats, including The Squad, are criticizing Democrats for working with Republicans on a bipartisan bill. Both Trump and some progressives look at the other party as the enemy and say you should never work with them. This approach is wrong.
People who may have different viewpoints should work together, or at least put agreements on the record when there is common ground.
Also, people should respect each other. I do not know Rabbi Kagan. However, I know both Rabbi Schonfeld and Michael Rollhaus. Although we may disagree on policies, on a personal level we have good relationships. Just to prove the point, Michael included a picture taken of us together. Hopefully, he will not have to go into the witness protection program.
Now it is Elul, and Rosh Hashanah is coming. We must remember that while we may disagree, it has to be done in a way where only the merits are discussed and there should not be personal attacks.