I was saddened and disappointed to read that Professor Martin Jaffee will no longer be writing his column for this paper (To the family of Myron Cohon and our community). He obviously made incorrect and hurtful assumptions in his last column about Myron Cohon, and the Cohon family was understandably outraged. But the paper’s apology and the family’s response raised some issues for me.
First, there was no appreciation of Professor Jaffee’s contribution as a columnist for almost eight years. I’m sure there are reasons why more wasn’t said, but I would like to take the opportunity to thank him. I very much enjoyed his columns and looked forward to them. I found them to be interesting, funny, educational, and thought-provoking. I don’t think the problems with his last column should completely overshadow an otherwise distinguished career with this paper, and he deserves better recognition.
Second, I appreciated the family’s heartfelt response because it helped me get to know the real Myron Cohon, and in that regard I think it did a true service to his memory. But I think it went too far by personally attacking Professor Jaffee, questioning his piety, and making this about Reform vs. Orthodox and who is a better Jew. Finally, is there no room in all this for forgiveness? One thing I would hope we could all agree upon, regardless of our slice of Judaism, is that we allow each other to acknowledge our sins, to make teshuvah, and to start again. Professor Jaffee made a big mistake, apologized to the family, the paper, and the public, and will probably atone for it for many years to come. Doesn’t our faith offer him another chance? There are serious issues and tensions underlying this situation that our community should discuss, and Professor Jaffee is an important voice. What do we gain by silencing him? His columns just might be far more sensitive and insightful as a result of this painful experience, and we too would benefit from keeping the conversation going.