Progressively Speaking: Can we forgive those who make fun of the Holocaust?

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Progressively Speaking: Can we forgive those who make fun of the Holocaust?

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith takes a topical issue and looks at a Progressive Jewish response

Grazias new contributing editor and diversity champion Stephanie Yeboah has apologised for antisemitic comments
Grazias new contributing editor and diversity champion Stephanie Yeboah has apologised for antisemitic comments

Blogger Stephanie Yeboah, who writes about positive attitudes towards body shape and beauty, lost her job as a contributing editor and diversity champion at Grazia magazine after writing deeply offensive Holocaust tweets.

It was impressive she apologised, deleted the tweets and expressed willingness to learn from organisations such as the Board of Deputies about what the Holocaust will always mean to Jewish people and humanity.

A few weeks after the High Holy Days we might think that apologising fulsomely and sincerely should be enough for Yeboah to keep her job and that the Jewish community should encourage the magazine to reinstate her.

Indeed, a constant refusal to accept an apology is seen as the wrong way to behave, according to Talmud Yoma 87.

However, our Jewish business ethics fully justify Grazia’s actions. Our Talmud developed a principle whereby certain employees should consider themselves on a permanent warning that they could be summarily dismissed if they cause damage that could not be repaired.

The examples given in Talmud Bava Batra 21 are of a planter of crops, a teacher of children and a town scribe.

If they get it wrong, it’s too late to repair the damage when the crops don’t grow, the children will grow up with insufficient knowledge to face the world and poorly written documents can have dreadful legal consequences.

Our Shulchan Aruch in Choshen Mishpat 306 notes that all of these people are public figures and so their mistakes damage more than individuals.

This is what would have been achieved had Grazia not taken the action it did.

The magazine could not have a diversity champion who was unable to be sensitive to the trauma of a whole people.

Perhaps one day, when Yeboah has enhanced her understanding of the Shoah, she can bring her skills to another publication in need of a diversity champion.

From a Jewish community perspective, we are right to accept her apology, but also recognise she should have another opportunity with a different employer once she has furthered her education.

Mark Goldsmith is senior rabbi of Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue

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