The moment we read them, we knew something was amiss. The strident content did not match up with the personality of the rabbi whom we knew from our many years in the Twin Cities.
Now the good rabbi has come forth with an explanation. Damage control. That's good to hear. We accept his backpedaling and his apology.
We think you should accept it too and move on. Yes, Rabbi Friedman is a Kosher guy.
As to Moment Magazine, they did not have to publish those words. This episode shows poor judgment, bad editing, no common sense on the part of that journal.
St. Paul rabbi's comments set off storm of protest
By JEFF STRICKLER, Star Tribune
A St. Paul rabbi ignited a tidal wave of protest Wednesday when he was quoted in a Jewish magazine as advocating the killing of Arabs.
"Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children," wrote Rabbi Manis Friedman of the Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies. "With their holy sites destroyed, they will stop believing that God is on their side. "
He quickly retreated from that position when the comments were assailed by both Muslim and Jewish groups. He posted a blog entry saying that his words were "misleading" because they were the answer to a different question than the one that was posed at the start of the article.
Friedman was not available for further comment, but his supervisor, Rabbi Moshe Feller, director of Upper Midwest Chabad-Lubavitch, said that he had reprimanded Friedman.
"Rabbi Manis is not like that at all," Feller said. "He's a very soft-spoken man, a very quiet man. But what he said is wrong. It was an irresponsible remark."
In his blog posting, Friedman apologized "for any misunderstanding the words printed in my name created" and tried to "clarify" his answer.
Friedman's statement was one of several from rabbis around the country that were printed in Moment, which bills itself as a magazine of Jewish politics, culture and religion. The other rabbis, each representing a different denomination, all advocated finding a peaceful solution to Arab-Israeli conflict.
His statement opens with: "I don't believe in western morality, i.e. don't kill civilians or children, don't destroy holy sites, don't fight during holiday seasons, don't bomb cemeteries, don't shoot until they shoot first because it is immoral."
The headline over the statements says: "How should Jews treat their Arab neighbors?" Friedman insisted that the question presented to him was: "How should we act, in a time of war, when our neighbors attack us, using their women, children and religious holy places as shields?"
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) denounced his comments. "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."
The article drew fire from Jewish organizations, too. Jewish Voice for Peace issued a statement calling Friedman's statement "an affront to all people, but especially Jews who value all life equally."
Rabbi Haim Beliak, executive director of the national educational foundation HaMifgash, was equally harsh, saying that Friedman's ideas "suggest a debased morality and an atrophied ethical sensibility. Friedman does not speak for Judaism."
His answer was specifically tailored to address a military invasion, he said.
"I attempted to briefly address some of the ethical issues related to forcing the military to withhold fire from certain people and places, at the unbearable cost of widespread bloodshed (on both sides!) when one's own family and nation is mercilessly targeted from those very people and places," he said.
"Any neighbor of the Jewish people should be treated, as the Torah commands us, with respect and compassion."