Thank you for publishing this exchange. As a writer, I know very well the temptation to respond to a harsh review of my work– especially a review that I feel has misread or overgeneralized me. I appreciate Rabbi Rosen’s clarifications.
However, I’m a little uneasy at just how far Rabbi Rosen takes his critique of David Shasha’s review. Rabbi Rosen’s defensiveness takes away from the power of his critique — and it doesn’t seem to come from the same “assumption of good faith on the part of his progressive allies” that he asks of Shasha. Two instances stick out and make me deeply uncomfortable:
1. Twice, Rabbi Rosen bends over backwards to say that he wouldn’t want to accuse Shasha of racism — but then he goes on to back-handedly accuse Shasha of racism (in the “Having said all this” paragraph and the “Rather than criticize further” paragraph). Something smells funny in the kitchen here — a whiff of the disingenuous that affects how I read the rest of Rabbi Rosen’s otherwise important response.
2. My jaw dropped when Rabbi Rosen ended the piece quoting “an old joke [he] hadn’t thought of in years” — a joke whose humor utterly depends on the listener seeing women’s bodies as objects of exchange value. I get the joke, of course, and I’m not asking for so-called politically correct censorship. We need to laugh more than we do. But I am asking Rabbi Rosen why he thinks it’s appropriate in this instance to counter Shasha’s claims with a joke that deflects the issue of racism with the issue of sexism?
I’m a long admirer of Rabbi Rosen’s work and his politics. I also know that the best response to a bad review is sometimes to say nothing or to wait awhile before responding.