|Click to enlarge.|
The "About Me" section of Hamodia's website justifies the position in this letter quite clearly. They state that the purpose of their newspaper is "to assist in the critical battle against the strong winds of assimilation that threatened the very foundations of our nation. In this struggle for survival, these Gedolim and others recognized the power of a Torah-true newspaper as the appropriate response to the lure of the spiritual war being waged against the Torah camp by popular youth movements."1 This makes perfect sense for the Haredi audience targeted with its ultra-orthodox-centric "Torah perspective."2 With that understanding in place, it's understandable that this newspaper would not want to bestow any postmortem honors on someone who did not live an orthodox life.
Let's back up for a second.
The Hebrew term "zichrono levracha," abbreviated "z"l," means "of blessed memory" and is often used to denote a non-rabbinical figure of good character. Hamodia's use of the term after Ariel Sharon's name prompted reader Y. Friedman to write to the newspaper stating that he/she
was astonished and astounded to see that [Hamodia] honored Sharon with a very undeserving title "z"l" (Zichrono Levracha.) Even though the writer attempts to describe him as a very proud Jew, it seems to be quite irrelevant when the proud one is actually not practicing what he's proud of. Hamodia, being an orthodox paper with Torah values should of [sic] not honored an unorthodox person with this title. 3Hamodia's editor agreed with the writer of the letter that it was an "oversight" that a person who was not orthodox was given this honor. I thought about the baalei teshuva (newly religious) readers of Hamodia who might have non-orthodox family and might find Hamodia's stance to be offensive. I thought about the people involved in kiruv who read and support this newspaper. I thought of the potential BT's (baalei teshuva) who might find this article while spending a Shabbos at the house of an orthodox family and be put off by such a statement. Who gave Hamodia's editorial staff the right to decide who is of blessed memory and who is not? Why not err on the side of tactfulness? Why create a further embarrassment (chilul Hashem with your coffee, anyone?) by publicly passing judgement on whether or not someone should be given honors and by retracting honors given? Instead of backing the writer of the original article, the editorial staff apologized and took the stance that non-orthodox Jews do not deserve honors after death. Hamodia could have easily taken the high road and not even printed this letter. Instead, they opted to widen the rift between orthodox and non-orthodox Jews. I am not in favor of deceptive kiruv, but I'm puzzled as to why such a widely read publication would not take the opportunity to bring people closer to Judaism or just leave them alone, but instead play the "us and them" card. It seems like there may be a bulb out in this light unto nations.
1. Hamodia. About Us. accessed January 25, 2014.
3. Y. Friedman. Letters to the Editor. Hamodia. January 23, 2014. (note: at the time of publication of this blog, this letter did not appear on the online version of Hamodia. The picture submitted is from the print version only.)