Martin Jaffee blew it. Jaffee used an individual’s life and death to illustrate a continuing concern of the Jewish community, the loss of member(s) to the majority culture. Jaffee assumed incorrectly that in the last part of Myron Cohon’s life, Cohon was lost to the Jewish community. The JTNews, in printing Jaffee’s piece equally blew it. Jaffee apologizes and is being fired, the JTNews apologizes (To the family of Myron Cohon and our community) and continues business as usual. Jaffee is being scapegoated.
Whether Cohon was “the right kind of a Jew” for all of his life is a secondary consideration. The main issue is, even if Cohon was “lost” to the Jewish community, Cohon was entitled to live his life as he chose, without criticism.
I assume Jaffee’s motives were honorable, that he was making the point that the best place for every Jew is in the Jewish community, for the individual’s good and for the community’s good, which, for what it’s worth, I agree. To quote a Christian adage, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” An “Onion” t-shirt reads, “Stereotypes are real time savers.” At least in the short term, assumptions can also be. Longer term, maybe not. Yet, let any who haven’t assumed and unnecessarily personalized it when making a point, raise a hand.
Anti-Semitism from those who think they’d like to make the world Judenrein, “clean of Jews,” not surprisingly promotes in at least some Jews feelings of being under such constant threat and maybe those who don’t have such fears are in denial. The loss of one member can feel like an existential threat.
So, though Jaffee’s religious beliefs aren’t mine — I don’t have any — I think that he has the interests of the Jewish people at heart, including people like me, and shouldn’t be punished because of a seriously insensitive gaffe. So maybe the JTNews needs to take a deep breath. Let him write in the JTNews. Don’t pillory him for an error that any us can make. Besides, he’s a very good writer.