Always Wrong

Letter to the Editor

Published September 05, 2012, issue of September 14, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

I vehemently disagree with Rabbi Steve Wernick and his supporters who contend that it somehow is acceptable to quote sources without attribution in sermons, as he contended in your recent August 31 article. “When May a Rabbi Use the Words of Others.” To plagiarize is unacceptable, and to attempt to justify plagiarism is equally unacceptable.

As a pulpit rabbi who previously was a broadcast journalist and for two years taught rhetoric at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, I can assure you that there is no distinction between the written word and the spoken word. When you repeat someone’s ideas or words, you attribute them. The principle of faithful attribution that applies to journalism is no less applicable to the rabbinate, and certainly rabbis should aspire to a higher standard.

To suggest that attributions in a sermon detract from the drama of the oratory and do not edify the congregation is, quite frankly, contrary to rabbinic tradition. Throughout the Talmud, generations of sages provided attribution of their teachings, and the attributions clearly were deliberately retained through many layers of redaction, both oral and written.

If they credited “b’shem omro,” how could we not? And if we take the time to attribute sayings and teachings to rabbinic and scriptural sources, how can we justify not providing due credit to contemporary sources of wisdom? Perhaps a little rabbinic humility and intellectual honesty are called for here.

Rabbi Audrey Korotkin
Altoona, Pa.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.