I was disturbed this week to read in The Jewish Week about an Orthodox rabbi (Rabbi Purzansky)’s comparison of the Jewish Week to Der Strumer, the Nazi propaganda newspaper of the 1930s. I recognize that this rabbi was bothered by The Jewish Week mentioning that he shared the company of Rabbi Freundel, who was arrested and charged with voyeurism. Nevertheless, the fact that the preeminent Jewish paper in New York was compared to a paper which incited people against Jews was shocking. It took me back to my days at the University of Wisconsin, when I was by Capitol Hill seeing a protest of the Iraq War. One of the signs that I saw had a picture of President George W Bush on one side, an equals sign and then a picture of Adolf Hitler on the other.
Hyperbolic, sensationalist statements like this anger me because they show the short-sightedness of those who communicate them. Making an absurd comparison is a way to engender animosity, destroying relationships and completely misinforming the audience. The better approach is to step back and attempt to engage the other in dialogue, understanding his or her perspective. While people may want to see these statements (after all, they sell papers), they cause so much harm and unnecessary damage. I wonder what would have happened if Rabbi Purzansky had taken a moment of introspection, realizing that The Jewish Week was not trying to link him to Rabbi Freundel. Maybe he would have called the editor and had a lengthy conversation that would have led to the editor publishing that no such connection was intended. The outcome would have been the same without the irreparable damage that it caused.