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Lashon Hara about an organization


Rabbi David Sperling

Iyyar 28, 5774
Greetings, I have a question concerning Lashon Hara in relation to a public organization with questionable practices. Is it Lashon Hara if one publicly, in a forum setting, discusses the credentials of an organization which performs duties that they are not qualified to do? A few examples of what I mean: 1) where their professional credentials must be known but they refuse to give them. 2) where they publicly advertise themselves based on misinformation about older and more established organizations. 3) where their choice of name may cause confusion with another, separate, organization that once had the same name but is not directly connected to them. 4) when people can be professionally and emotionally affected by not knowing the facts about said organization. Thank you in advance. Regards,
Shalom, Thank you for your question. The laws of Lashon Hara are very important, and it is heartwarming to receive questions on this topic which reflect a true desire to keep these laws. Basically you are asking if the laws of forbidden slander or gossip also apply to Jewish organizations. The answer is certainly "yes". (See the Hafetz Haim, 10, 12, as well as the Peleh Yo'etz, "Lashon Hara"). Not only do the laws of Lashon Hara apply, but it would appear to be an even greater sin as one is sinning against many people at once. So, for example, to say that "such and such" an organization are crooks is certainly forbidden, just as one is forbidden to say such a thing about any fellow Jew. None the less, one should certainly invest the time to learn the laws of Lash Hara (which today can be found in many good English translations). You will discover that there are many circumstances where it is not only permitted to point out faults, but a mitzvah. Many of the examples you wrote about may be totally forbidden in certain cases (for example when said with malicious intent – even if true), and a great mitzvah in others (for example when said based on first hand knowledge in order to save someone from being taken advantage of). After learning the laws in depth you will be able to use any knowledge of organization's wrongdoing in a permitted way to both help "clean-up" the organization, and save others from falling into the wrong hands. Until then, you should be careful with what you say – and if you feel there is a particular need to speak up, please feel free to be in contact again with the exact details of the situation. May you be blessed that all your words bring only good into the world.
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