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Quality Control
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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1/22/07

Reflections on Blogs, Bloggers, and Blogging

Our chazal (sages) inform us that Rosh Chodesh ought to be a time for reflection and the type of self-analysis that leads to spiritual and personal improvement.

In my professional life, one of the most fascinating developments of this past month was the fact that I opened my website and articles to instant posting, commonly referred to as “blogging.” As hashgacha (fate) would have it, two of my weekly parenting columns (Click here, for #1 and here, for #2) dealt with the very sensitive topic of sexual abuse prevention – just as my website had been opened to unscreened comments. The usual give and take regarding points that I raised in the columns turned personal and rather stinging when I posted a request for funds to publish a booklet designed to help parents keep their children safe. Many of the posts were personally insulting, and in my (unbiased, of course) mind a bit ‘over the top’.

As soon as those negative comments appeared, I received more than a few emails from friends informing me that these comments were posted on my site and asking me to remove them from my site. (I was in middle of sheva brachos week for our daughter and did not have much time to check the site.)

After giving it some thought, I decided not remove any of the negative comments. (For the record, I removed the posts that mentioned people’s names or names of institutions with regard to the abuse issue.) Why? Because I felt that once I decided to open my website to unedited comments, I felt that the honorable thing to do was to leave the negative ones on the site as well as the complimentary ones. Additionally, I felt that once I chose to solicit funds using the site, it was fair, if not unpleasant, for people to question my motives.

In the greater scheme of things, the flow of comments posted to my columns – positive and negative – in the past month has been eye opening for me, and I feel that my response ought to be to read them all carefully.

Let’s face it. Blogging is here to stay and people will respond to my columns in one way or another. On my website or on someone else’s. If anything, the exponential advances in technology will only add to this phenomenon of instant polling and interactive discussions in ways we cannot even imagine at this time.

I think that I am best off following the sage advice of Dovid Hamelech (Kind David), who, sadly, knew a thing or two about discord and adversity. “Be’komim alay me’reim tish’mana aznei (Tehilim 92:8)– When my adversaries rise against me, my ears should hear [their words].” There is a Chassidic interpretation that Dovid prayed to Hashem that he maintain the moral strength to carefully listen to the rebuke of the people who were criticizing him, rather than ignore their words as those of ‘enemies.’ I ought not get defensive or reactionary, but rather reflect on the criticism of those who took the time to post the comments – and hopefully grow from reviewing them.

As I see things, if I wish to continue writing and lecturing about things that I feel passionate about, I have three choices:

1) ‘Shut my ears’ – turn off the blogging capability on my site or edit out negative comments

2) Stop writing these columns (basically, listen to my wife)

3) Keep things as they are

Well, I think that there are important discussions that need to take place in our community – about how to transmit our holy Torah and tradition to the next generation of Jewish children, how we fund Jewish education, how to deal with children who are not making it in our school system, how to stop the violence and extremism in our community, how to keep our children safe from predators – the list goes on and on.

I equally feel that the active participation of you, the readers, is of paramount importance in moving the process forward. I ask that all discussions take place in an atmosphere of ne’imus (tolerance), where we can agree to disagree. But I hope to always continue my policy of allowing unscreened comments to be posted.

Best wishes for a Gutten Chodesh

Yakov Horowitz



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