A storm of controversy is swirling around Rabbi Manis Friedman, the Lubavitcher rabbi from St. Paul, who is now backpedaling from his comments published in Moment magazine.
- Rabbi Friedman
The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) and the Pioneer Press (St. Paul) both gave ink to the to-and-fro following Friedman’s recent adventure in journalism. The Strib story quoted an official from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), responding to Friedman’s words: “They echo the extreme rhetoric that we all have been moving away from,” said Jessica Zikri, communications director for the Minnesota chapter of CAIR. “I’m surprised that a legitimate publication like Moment would publish this. They should have shown better judgment.”
KSTP-TV also reported on the verbal dust-up on their 10 p.m. newscast Wednesday night:Â
The “official” Jewish defense group in Minnesota, the Jewish Community Relations Council, also entered the fray, with a statement denouncing Friedman’s “outlandish remarks.” JCRC Executive Director Steve Hunegs characterized Friedman’s views as beingÂ “inimical to Judaism and a violation of the Code of Conduct of the Israel Defense Forces, which stresses through the ‘Purity of Arms’ the need to avoid the loss of innocent life.”
The leadership of Friedman’s own group issued a statement. Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters stated, regarding the rabbi’s Moment piece, that they “vehemently disagree with any sentiment suggesting that Judaism allows for the wanton destruction of civilian life, even when at war.”
As for the earlier mention of my talk with Nathaniel Popper of the Forward, here is his story, which examinesÂ Friedman’s persona as an in-demand speaker on relationship issues and Jewish mysticism, and his “less warm and cuddly side when … asked how he thinks Jews should treat their Arab neighbors.” Popper notes: “Friedman’s use of phrasing that might seem more familiar coming from an Islamic extremist has generated a swift backlash. The editor of Moment, Nadine Epstein, said that since the piece was printed in the current issue they ‘have received many letters and e-mails in response to Rabbi Friedman’s comments — and almost none of them have been positive.'”
— Mordecai Specktor
- Rabbi Eilberg
A local rabbi has written a response to Rabbi Friedman’s piece in Moment. Rabbi Amy Eilberg, the first woman ever ordained as a Conservative rabbi, penned a piece for the “Your Voices” blog at the Star Tribune’s Web site.
At the end of her article, Eilberg mentions that she isÂ “working with other rabbis to initiate a face-to-face dialogue with Rabbi Friedman.” Perhaps that dialogue will be open to the press — at least, the local Jewish press.