Thursday, December 15, 2011

An Apology Regarding the Tim Tebow Article and Interfaith Council Letter to the Editor

This week I wrote an article for the Jewish Week in which I attempted to explore the phenomenon of Denver quarterback Tim Tebow to make broad points about society and extremism. I now realize that some of my statements had the reverse effect of what I had intended and for this I deeply and sincerely apologize.

As many of you know, I have spent my entire career engaged in dialogue with people of all faiths while speaking out passionately against all forms of bigotry. I have the deepest respect for those who are committed to their faith, including Mr. Tebow. I realize the way in which I attempted to make my points was clumsy and inappropriate, inadvertently suggesting the kind of intolerance and extremism my article was intended to disparage. I sincerely apologize to Mr. Tebow, his family, the Broncos and Patriots and all those whom I may have offended.


We have been distressed to read the recent letters here about Rabbi Joshua Hammerman and his "Tebow" column. He admitted himself that he did not communicate well, and his attempt at hyperbole went too far. But we imagine we've all written or said something which we regret (often posted on the Internet for eternity) and we shudder to think of anyone who has written so many excellent columns being judged by one that misfired.

We object to seeing a valued friend and colleague smeared as prejudiced when he has been more active in engaging interfaith conversation and education than most. As Pastor Tommie Jackson said, "He does not have a vicious or bigoted bone in his body."

We think the vast majority of his congregants would agree. Rabbi Hammerman is a past president of the Interfaith Council, the first pulpit rabbi to hold that position. Temple Beth El hosted the Council's 9/11 Commemoration this past September, and many spoke of how amazing it was to see an imam chanting in Arabic on the bema in a synagogue -- that is a measure of Rabbi Hammerman's hospitality and willingness to engage "otherness."

Years ago he initiated the monthly "Learning and Latte," Stamford's only ongoing forum for interfaith conversation. He recently preached at a local Episcopal church, and a few weeks ago invited current Council president, the Rev. Kate Heichler, to address an adult education class at the Temple about Christianity, following an imam who spoke about Islam the previous week.

The leadership of Temple Beth El, rabbi and staff as well as board, has taken this matter extremely seriously. There has been no "sweeping under the carpet." Criticism on one news show does not raise it to the level of "national news" (Letters, Feb. 1).

In a healthy community, people can talk about matters of conflict without invective. In a healthy community, people see one another in the context of their whole lives, not by one misguided statement. In a healthy community -- especially in communities of faith -- people treat one another with mercy and truth and the kind of love that transforms us into the people we can be. We hope those attacking Rabbi Hammerman in these pages and elsewhere might remember when their missteps have been greeted with mercy, and practice this kind of love.

The Rev. Kate Heichler, the Rev. Mark LingleMarie Orsini RosenJack PenfieldImam Kareem Adeeb, Azra Asaduddin, Inni Kaur Dhingra, Patricia GallegosDeborah GoldbergFiona Hodgson, the Rev. Tommie JacksonMichael JohnstonDavid Daniel KlipperCantor George MordecaiJules NaudetBrian O'Connor, the Rev. ReBecca Sala, Laconia Therrio.

The signers, representing several branches of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Unitarian-Universalism, Sikhism, and non-affiliated congregations, are members of the board of directors of the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut.