The New York Times has been known incorrectly as a Jewish newspaper for over a century. Even when its publishers were Jewish — and the present-day Sulzberger is a practicing Christian, son of a Christian mother — there was nothing Jewish about its editorial policies. During the Hitler era, both before and during the Holocaust, it relegated news of Nazi persecution and extermination to a few inconspicuous column-inches far away from page 1. It has rarely had anything positive to say about the State of Israel, except when it was flirting with suicidal concessions.
As an example of its skewed myopia, about twenty-two years ago, the Times actually had a religion editor (it doesn’t anymore), a distinguished journalist named Ken Briggs. That year, at Purim time, Briggs and his Vietnamese photographer came to Boro Park to do a background story on the Orthodox community. It was suposed to run a few days before Passover.
It didn’t. Briggs was upset and wanted to know why. He was told that the Times does not run two “Jewish” stories on the same day, and on the day Briggs expected his piece to run, there was a page 1 story on the high incidence of mercury in Great Lakes fish, which caused the price of fish to spike upward before the Jewish holiday. Jewish stories don’t get more Jewish than that, do they? Unless one of the fisherman is Jewish.
What sparks my current indignation with the Times is a recent story on a controversy in and about the World Jewish Congress.Whether it is or is not a legitimate “scandal” does not concern me. Responsible people are dealing with it and the truth (but not peace) will emerge — although reputations will not easily be retrieved.
The Times villain of the piece is Israel Singer, a distinguished intellectual and servant of the community, who is accused of financial irregularity, even though he has been cleared by an audit and internal investigation. Singer is an ordained yeshiva alumnus who has never been a practicing rabbi, yet the Times identifies him every time his name is mentioned as “Rabbi” Singer. The implication is clear. Rabbis, especially Orthodox rabbis — as demonstrated by Singer’s skull-capped mug shot — are not to be trusted. They are like the heinous Hareidis in Israel who insist that a Jewish country must be Jewish in more than name, and the big bad evangelicals who kept the butcher of Baghdad in the White House for four more years.
To identify Singer as a rabbi every time his name is mentioned is like identifying Charles Krauthammer as an M.D., Rudy LaRusssa as an attorney, or Condoleeza Rice as an African-American — true, but irrelevant.
The newspaper of record has blotches on its record.