the schmooze
(to criticize)

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Masters Chairman, Billy Payne, said "Criticism hurts a little bit.  It's like when you go to a piano recital of one of your granddaughters and you hear somone say, 'Boy that's the worst kid I've ever seen.'  It hurts your feelings."

How many remember the letter that President Harry S. Truman wrote to Paul Hume when he was critical of his daughter, Margaret's, singing?  (Hume was the music editor for the Washington Post from 1946 to 1982.)  The letter said:


Mr. Hume:

     I've just read your lousy review of Margaret's concert.  I've come to the conclusion that you are an "eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay."

     It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful.  When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for, it shows conclusively that you're off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.

     Some day I hope to meet you.  When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!

     Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you  I hope you'll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflectIon on your ancestry.             H.S.T.

Truman was criticized by many for the letter.  However, he pointed out that he wrote it as a loving father and not as the president.

And then there's the story about a certain Rabbi who was adored by the community; everyone was enchanted by what he said.

Except for Isaac, who never missed an opportunity to contradict the Rabbi's interpretations and point out faults in his teachings.  The others were annoyed by Isaac, but could do "gornisht" (nothing) about it.

One day, Isaac died.  During "di levaye" (the funeral), the community noticed that the Rabbi was deeply upset.

"Why are you so sad?" someone commented.  "He was always criticizing everything you did!"

"I am not upset for my "fraynd" (friend), who is now in heaven," replied the Rabbi. I am upset for my own self.  While everyone revered me, he challenged me, and I was obliged to improve.  Now he has gone.  I am afraid I shall stop growing."

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman (Chabad's Ask the Rabbi) was asked the following question:

One of the guys who attends my local synagogue is a nag, who is constantly criticizing everyone, at every moment, every day.  Hey, he even critiques the rabbi!  I have had as much of him as I can stand, and in fact, I have actually told him this already. I refuse to be a doormat for this guy and I fear that I may boil over and yell at him. Any advice?

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman replies:
"I understand how absurd this guy is being, but I don't see why it has to bother you to such an extreme.  Because someone else has a headache, YOU need to take an aspirin?  This is HIS problem, not yours.

Pray for him that he will grow up and become a mentsch.  Pity his soul.  Put a few coins in the tzedakah box and ask the One Above to have mercy on the poor guy. Those things can all help.  Acid indigestion cannot.

As for the other people he criticizes, you can advise them to do the same.
                      Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

More recently, many Jews and non-Jews have criticized Rabbi Leib Glanz, who allegedly gave special treatment to Orthodox inmates in "turme" (jail).  He arranged a bar mitzvah for the son of an inmate at the facility known as the Tombs.

Glanz said of the accusations:  "And believe you me, I want to be respectful to you [newspaper reporters].  I am in public life for a lot of years, and I don't want to do bad to anybody.  But I can't make no comment about the situation and I hope you understand me."  Michael Bloomberg discussed the controversy and told radio host, John Gambling, "Oy vey."

Rabbis are not the only members of the clergy who are subject to criticism.  The Rev. Martin B. Copenhaver, a pastor at Wellesley Congregational Church in Wellesley, MA, wrote a touching piece titled, "Slings and arrows - Living with Criticism" (Christian Century, June 16, 2009).

Rev. Copenhaver writes that he was completely unprepared to deal with the criticism that comes with being a pastor. "It had never occurred to me that when you approach the world with outstretched arms, sometimes you get no embrace, but rather something more like a kick in the gut," he wrote.

During Copenhaver's first year of seminary he was working in a small church in Connecticut.  One Sunday, an usher handed him a note that had been left in a pew.  The envelope was addressed to him and he thought that this must be a "thank-you" note expressing appreciation for a sermon, or a pastoral visit.  The UNSIGNED note read:

"Why don't you cut off that beard and be the nice clean boy you were when you came here?"

Copenhaver wondered if the writer-- probably an older woman--had any idea that it hurts to receive such a note-- particularly when you are too young to have learned how to let such things roll off your back.

Sometime after receiving the note, Rev. Copenhaver shaved off his beard, but he said, "I never again would be the nice clean boy' I once was.  There is something about being the object of criticism--even about something as inconsequential as facial hair --that makes you grow up.  Or at least I think that was true of me."

We read, "To thrive, pastors have to figure out how to handle criticism."

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe agrees with Kevin Hogan, "Criticism is like smacking someone in the head, except with words.  And the fact is that just about all criticism hurts."


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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