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A View from the U and the JTNews
Posted: January 4, 2012 By: Leah Jaffee

A friend who spent winter break in Hawaii returns and emails me: "Did you see the full-page fiasco information in the JT News about Marty's column?" I didn't take time over the break to read the paper. I do a search and get the update from Joel Magalnick, editor. It prompted the following letter from me emailed to the JT News last night.

"The situation regarding the article written by Marty Jaffee is unfortunate. The JTNews loses one of its more appealing features with the discontinuation of “A View from the U”. As someone very familiar with Professor Jaffee, his perspective is not one of self-righteous piety, even for an observant Orthodox Jew. His young adult years, while not 1930’s, are 1960’s replete with competing values and choices; Black Panther sympathizer goes frum. Go figure.

 His appreciation and love for Judaism are born of intense study of ancient texts. His dedication to his students instills in them a desire to study Torah and discover the beauty of Jewish tradition. As a reader of Professor Jaffee’s articles, the ‘view’ is frequently borderline irreverent. There lies the charm; piety unmasked with relevance in the life of Joe the Jew.

I offer my condolences to William Cohon, his family, and friends. I agree that the passing of Myon Cohon (z”l)  is not a literary opportunity, especially one in poor taste. Understandably, everyone is mortified, hurt and angry. That said, my preference is to read a rebuttal to Professor Jaffee’s article that emphasizes and celebrates the life and mitzvot of Mr. Cohon. It is enough to call out Professor Jaffee, get him dismissed from the column and set the record straight. The personal jabs at Professor Jaffee are over-the-top. William Cohon now demonstrates the same blind assumptions about how Professor Jaffee lives. Oy vey.  

As an editor claiming a desire to rise above the loshen hora, publishing William Cohon’s letter as is, flames the situation. Yes, you shouldn’t have published Professor Jaffee’s article. Just possibly, a gentle editorial nudge could have improved William Cohon’s response and left both him, and the memory of his father, on higher ground.  Had this heated exchange been diplomatically resolved, publically discharged with civility, my copy of the JTNews would remain relegated to the unread holiday mail recycle bin….and I wouldn’t be chasing the loshen hora train online.


Leah Jaffee"


I asked Aviva, my daughter with Professor Jaffee, what she knew of the situation. She couldn't believe that I didn't hear of it sooner. Thankfully, she doesn't seem scandalized by the sins of her father and understands the consequences.

I'm disturbed, though. Going back to my friend's question, she refers to 'a fiasco'. At this point, it shouldn't be a fiasco. Jews have a halachic system for every occasion that strives to defuse a conflict. I know Marty well enough to see without reading that his inappropriate piece is a twisted attempt to make a broader point and wasn't intended to be a personal attack on Mr. Cohon. Yom Kippur teaches us that intentional or not, to cause pain to another or libel is not permissible. Professor Jaffee has publically apologized.

The JT News editor has done what I call a "Ron Paul"....published something under their banner without reading it first or proper censorship. Not in the challenging the Constitutional right to free speech type of censorship but the "maybe this isn't the best piece you've ever written" type of pre-editorial work. I don't envy the paper's situation but  damage control should include expert legal advice from a Rabbi or Beit Din.

The 'fiasco' is not over as long as residual hard feelings permeate the communal air. An apology is only half the battle, the smaller half. The acceptance of the apology, as we all learn during Yom Kippur sermons, is the bigger half. It is part of the halachic process of healing a rift. In the end, the one wronged has the greatest challenge. Hashem indeed works in mysterious ways.

I write this because "A View from the U" has been on my 'favorite links' tab on my website. In general, Marty's pieces have offered a particular brand of enlightenment I've enjoyed. It is a pity that his entire collection be judged on the final entry.

It is my hope that Myon Cohon may rest in peace and that his memory is truly a blessing for his family, friends and community.




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