The Jewish Week and the Modern Orthodox

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Those of us who read the Jewish Week of New York are certainly familiar with the controversy that has arisen over Gary Rosenblatt’s article three weeks ago strongly attacking Rabbi Aharon Bina, the Rosh Yeshiva of Netiv Aryeh, a Jerusalem yeshiva that caters primarily to students who have graduated Modern Orthodox high schools and have come to Israel to study for a year or two. Rosenblatt’s article has resulted in what apparently is an unprecedented response. In his words, there have been “literally hundreds of comments posted online on our website,” amounting to more than fifty-five printed pages – and that was about a week ago. Here is how I view this matter:

1. The Bina article is but one more example of Rosenblatt’s obsessive bigotry and hatred toward the Orthodox community. There is scarcely an issue of the Jewish Week that does not contain in one way or another at least one or two attacks against Orthodoxy. In the issue in which Rosenblatt describes the Bina controversy there are two other articles hostile to Orthodoxy plus an editorial.

2. When I began to write what became a paid for column in The Jewish Week, I said that my intent was to counteract the newspaper’s hostility toward the Orthodox. I did not succeed, not by a long shot. As is true of all physical and moral diseases, the situation has worsened and The Jewish Week is significantly more hostile these days than it was when I began to write.

3. We do not have to accept entirely Lord Acton’s dictum about power to recognize that there are situations where power corrupts because it is unchallenged. The Jewish Week may be identified in some broad sense as a communal newspaper. It is not. It is controlled totally by one person who brings to nearly each issue his biases and hang-ups. I do not think there is another Jewish publication anywhere which is so bereft of countervailing forces.

4. As I have pointed out more than once, the proclivity and ability of The Jewish Week to attack the Orthodox is predicated in large measure on the wormy network of sources that constantly feed material to Rosenblatt. This is a phenomenon that does not occur in other segments of Jewish life. It is a lamentable aspect of Orthodox Jewish life today. We have in our midst too many people who believe that in order to get even, the path to take is to go to the media or to government. We are awash in mesirah whether or not we are prepared to acknowledge this truth.

5. In the aggregate, Rosenblatt and his newspaper have targeted the charedi sectors of Orthodoxy. There have been very few attacks against the Modern Orthodox. My observation is that when charedim have been attacked by The Jewish Week, too many of an MO orientation have applauded the newspaper. Now that one of their own has been unfairly attacked, there is a huge uproar. Isn’t there a lesson here?

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25 Responses

  1. cohen y says:

    Aaron
    February 16, 2012 at 10:02 pm
    ‘In all fairness the Jewish Week has an article this week highlighting some falsehoods against the Kiryas Yoel Satmar community being propagated in the new book “Unorthodox” by Deborah Feldman.’

    To paraphrase Meir Kahana:You’re in deeper trouble when and if they are siding with you than when they are attacking you.

  2. L. Oberstein says:

    The Jewish Week specializes in exposing wrongdoing, which is unique in Jewish Journalism. Most of our papers are either mouthpieces of the local Federation to show pictures of the donors or they adhere to a Party Line. Especially the very orthodox press is careful to filter reality through their prism. While it is certainly true that the Jewish Week has its slant , it exposes flaws in our society that no one else seems to want to deal with. I gather that many people are uncomfortable with having to confront corruption, crime and immorality in religious society. Of course, it isn’t limited to the ultra orthodox and that gives a wrong impression. However, when we dress and act in a way that makes a statement that we are “holier than thou” we open ourselves up to a higher standard.
    There are many crooks who are not frum, and they also get a lot of coverage. I recall reading in the Jewish Week about a Reform cantor who was a sexual predator, about Ponzi schemes by non orthodox crooks, etc.
    Marvin Schick is to be praised for his column which is informative.
    In my mind, the real issue is the lack of any objective press, the thought control demanded by the very orthodox on their followers. I subscribe to Hamodia and Mishpacha and note that they have to be careful not to go too far off the reservation. Hamodia recently apologized for printing a letter that defended their previous article on a woman who was a college teacher and supported her husband who was a Rosh hayeshiva, Dr Jean Jofin. They caught a lot of flac for setting up a college teacher as a role model and basicly had to apologize for the article. There are a lot of people who are afraid of any news that is not in concert with their opinions.

  3. Michael says:

    Personally, I think it would be nice if all journalists first consulted with Poskim re the prohibition of lashon harah and other related issues.It would raise the level of the discourse enormously. In light of that, the general critique on Gary Rosenblatt may be fair (though I dispute Marvin Schick about the R’ Bina article…). I don’t at all mean this as a knock, but as an honest question. Who did Marvin Schick consult with regarding the appropriateness of writing and posting this article and who did he speak to about his critique of the community regarding mesirah?

  4. Aaron says:

    In all fairness the Jewish Week has an article this week highlighting some falsehoods against the Kiryas Yoel Satmar community being propagated in the new book “Unorthodox” by Deborah Feldman.

  5. bobf says:

    In business, people say all the time don’t do things , that even if legal and even if justifiable, you don’t want to have on the front page of the NY Times/ 60 minutes or whatever Media Source you want to name. The JW acts in that same way. People like Mr. Schick should stop staying its unfair to be forced to not do these things but rather, figure out how to get our organizations acting in a more responsible way so their isn’t things like Rav Bina/ Lanner etc to publish.

  6. A.Schreiber says:

    Reb Yid – hold your horses. The “confab” you mention is scheduled to take place over 3 days, in a few weeks time. Which means it is virtually certain it was conceived and planned long before Roseblatt’s attack. Which further proves the orthodox world does not need comments from outsiders like him to keep its house in order, thank you very much.(Assuming anyone really even needs this conference, which is quuestionable.) And moreover the conference has nothing to do with the peronal attacks oon Rav Bina and his methodology.

  7. Reb Yid says:

    Judging by this week’s JW editorial, Gorsetman and Rosenblatt have already had a major material impact. There will be an upcoming confab in Israel on this issue which will convene leaders of the Israeli yeshivot, US day schools, YU, etc which has never happened before.

    It is quite doubtful, to say the least, that any of this would happened at this level with the number of players involved had the JW not published anything. Kol HaKavod to them.

  8. DF says:

    “The Jewish Week has been printing your dissenting view for what, 20 years? Do you think Hamodia, Yated, Mishpacha, Ami or Binah would run such a column of dissent?

    With all due respect to the learned S., the above is meaningless. It prints the views of a single dissenter (and a relatively moderate one, at that) to give itself the veneer of diversity, and so it can congratulate itself for being “tolerant.” But that’s like saying the New York Times isnt left wing and liberal because it published the (relatively tepid) views of house conservative William Safire. It’s tokenism, plain and simple. I’m not saying the Voch doesnt have the right to be as strident against the orthodox as it wants, in the same way the Yated & Co. are strident against the non-orthodox. Just saying a dissenting view changes nothing, and in fact reinforces the point.

    “Rabbi Shick is obsessed with the Jewish Week.”

    Undoubtedly true, in the same way Rabbi Shafran is obsessed with the New York Times. The influence of these papers has long since waned, and its not healthy to constantly hand-wringing about them. [Obviously, as is true in all walks of life, paid commentators or lobbyists must get excited about things most of us pay no attention to.] I seriosuly, seriosuly doubt the comments of Gary Rosenblatt will have any mateiral impact on Netiv Aryeh, save to eliminate from that school the type of students they didnt want in the first place. Having said that, the fact that he obsesses about it doesnt make him wrong. But, not being a reader of the Jewish Week myself, I’ve no idea.

  9. Observer says:

    In speaking of Reform in letter 17 of the 19 Letters, here is what Rav Hirsch wrote:

    “Do not be angry with anyone–respect all of them for they sense a shortcoming; they desire the good as they conceive it; they have the best intentions for the welfare of their brethren. If they have failed to recognize the good, to grasp the truth, it is not they who must chiefly bear the blame; *the entire past must shoulder it with them*. Therefore respect their intention; but you may well grieve, indeed you must weep when examining their actual endeavors.” (Nineteen Letters, 243)

    We could all learn from Rav Hirsch’s openness to criticism of Orthdoxy even from it came from his opponents.

  10. Observer says:

    The whole premise of the article that the Jewish Week only attacks Charedim is wrong. Baruch Lanner was not Charedi, he was MO. Mordecai Gafni was not Charedi, he had smicha from Rav Riskin and then became non-orthodox etc…

    But let’s assume that the premise was correct. If someone ran a Democrat publication that always ran exposes on Republicans and then ran an expose on a Democrat, would you attack the publication for hating all Americans?

  11. Michael says:

    It is controlled totally by one person who brings to nearly each issue his biases and hang-ups. I do not think there is another Jewish publication anywhere which is so bereft of countervailing forces.

    Really? I agree with “S.”:

    The Jewish Week has been printing your dissenting view for what, 20 years? Do you think Hamodia, Yated, Mishpacha, Ami or Binah would run such a column of dissent?

  12. Avi says:

    I don’t follow the Jewish week closely enough to know whether Rosenblatt has a problem with charedi Judaism. I do follow Orthodox Judaism closely enough to know that it has problems it needs to deal with, not repress.

    One issue which you have raised for another purpose is that of power. Our’s is a top down religion where the average person of common sense has no input, often resulting in decisions lacking common sense. Worse than powerless, this person of common sense is socially intimidated into not even expressing his opinion. If there is a phenomenon of “mesirah” as you call it (with quite a bit of hyperbole), it is because this is the only way the common man can affect communal decisions.

  13. Tzvi says:

    I agree with Marvin Schick regarding the biases of the Jewish Week, but not that this article represents that bias. “Yesh kona olamo bsha’ah achas.” I believe that Gary Rosenblatt is doing his duty when he warns parents of potential abuse in this article and also when he warned about Baruch Lanner, and I think it’s a shame that most of the writers on this site seem to feel that the media is the source for all problems in our community. The only way we ever fix things is when the media highlights what needs to be fixed.

  14. Mr. Cohen says:

    The Jewish Week receives awards for their alleged excellence.

    These awards could be revoked if the award-granting organizations
    would receive evidence that The Jewish Week has been unfairly biased
    against Orthodox Jews and Orthodox Judaism for decades.

    I feel frustrated when I see Orthodox organizations advertise in The Jewish Week.

  15. Steve Brizel says:

    A few years ago, I surveyed the state of the Jewish media, charedi to secular, at Torahmusings and Beyond BT. Dr. Schick’s comments re the Jewish Week and its editor are on the mark. One looks in vein for any positive coverage of the intense committment to Jewish continuity in the Charedi and committed MO worlds,and especially those sections of the MO world that the editor views as “too frum” for his taste. One can only look at the targets of the JW in this regard-highly respected RY and Talmidei Chachamim in RIETS and in Israel and a modus vivendi that champions pluralsim , egaliatarian feminism and trendy notions of “continuity” at the expense of any comprehension of the three pillars of continuity- Torah, Avodah Gmilus Chasadim. I can hardly wait for the JW’s coverage of the next Siyum HaShas.

    Unfortunately, the JW has far too often the following elements in its coverage:

    1) a legitimate investigation and segued the same into an exercise in kiruv bashing

    2) a thinly veiled assertion that day schools are too expensive a way to achieve a Jewish education;

    3) a Karoake like “I”m OK, you’re OK, and halacha and hashkafa are irrelevant considerations” view of Judaism with only the most LW talking heads able to present their POV in rather predicable sound bites,

    4) a promotion of intermarriage as a tolerable and acceptable communal goal

    I guess that some editors of the Commentator don’t leave their position, they merely become editors of Federation subsidized media organs, and assume the self appointed role of judge, jury and prosecutor of the entire Torah world.

  16. Moshe says:

    you are correct, MO who attack the article while cheering exposes on chareidim. They should cheer both. There was nothing anti orthodox about this article. Isn’t time parents who might send their children to netiv aryeh have the information they need to make an informed choice. The problem in the Jewish community is not “mesira” a halakhic category that many poskim as well as as this blogs R. Adlerstein feel do not apply in our circumstances, the problem is that people are more worried about being “machmir” on mesira, than machmir on protecting our children. Editorials like this dreive people away from torah. they do not help yidishkeit.

  17. bobf says:

    The point of Newspapers and the media is to investigate and to report. Journalism isn’t about making the readers happy or sad, its about reporting the news. Many people knew there was a problem years ago, but no one reported it to the general public because they were afraid someone like Mr. Schick would say they hate MO .Mr. Rosenblatt had performed a tremendous service in publishing the article and in reminding people what a real Jewish newspaper is.

  18. Gavriel says:

    Would it be better if problems in the Orthodox community were NOT exposed?! Nothing else does as good a job in motivating the Orthodox community to attend to its problems.

  19. cvmay says:

    “Now that one of their own has been unfairly attacked, there is a huge uproar. Isn’t there a lesson here?”

    Sure is, and positive it isn’t.
    We are a self-absorbed community that is fragmented, polarized and divided. Brotherhood is a lost art. If the “tzar” affects my landsman, then I am out there in large numbers, rallying, writing letters, making calls, davening and raising bucks for their legal, medical, physical well-being. BUT if the “tzar” is an ‘outsider’ – then it doesn’t even register on our seismic wavelengths.

  20. Dan Daoust says:

    Those of us who read the Jewish Week

    Looks like I can skip this one.

  21. S. says:

    The Jewish Week has been printing your dissenting view for what, 20 years? Do you think Hamodia, Yated, Mishpacha, Ami or Binah would run such a column of dissent?

    As for whether or not this particular rabbi was treated fairly or not, I don’t know, but nor do you.

  22. Steg says:

    Considering the incident where Rav Bina verbally abused and ostracized a student to the extent that other students wouldn’t count him for a minyan because the student was caught reading a book on evolution (of all things! oh noes! gasp! evolution!), I find it hard to take a claim that Rav Bina is Modern Orthodox seriously. The rabbinic pillars of Torah uMadda, Torah im Derekh Eretz and Torah va’Avoda all taught that the scientific findings of evolutionary biology are neither frightening nor offensive from a Jewish perspective. To ostracize a student for reading about it is incomprehensible to any form of Modern Orthodoxy.

  23. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Marvin Shick’s obsession with the Jewish Week goes unabated. With regard to the article about Rav Binah, he fails to mention that in the 55 pages of replies, a significant portion have been positive towards the article. With regard to his observations, I would note the following:

    1. There is a good chance that the facts alleged in the article are true. If so, then The Jewish Week has done the public a service warning parents to be careful before sending boys to Netiv Aryeh.

    2. As bad as Marvin Schick thinks the Jewish Week is, I have not seen anything there with the level of hostility shown by the Ben Hirsch opinion piece that ran first in the Forward and then in the New York Post. There are forums far more hostile to Orthodoxy than The Jewish Week.

    3. Marvin Shick moans that we are “awash in mesirah.” Unfortunately, as a community we have shown absolutely no ability to police our own with going to the outside media. There is no lack of misceants in our community that were allowed to function unmolested until the outside media were involved.

    4. About one thing Marvin Schick is right. When the Jewish Week has targeting haredim, the modern Orthodox have applauded. Now that they are attacked, they are offended. It’s about time to learn that the media doesn’t have to play favorites.

  24. Rivky says:

    Wow. “Rosenblatt’s obsessive bigotry and hatred toward the Orthodox community” is a pretty intense indictment of a frum man who davens in an Orthodox shul. And your reason for such harsh language is that he writes and publishes about problems, as he and his “wormy network” see them, in the Orthodox community? Is that reason enough to use language like this? I think he actually loves the Orthodox community and is frustrated with its unwillingness to deal with things he sees as intense issues within the society. Again, maybe you think he’s wrong, but someone who is bigoted and hates the Orthodox community?

    But more importantly, when Rosenblatt and his ilk negatively report about figures in the Orthodox Jewish community, wouldn’t it make more sense to write substantive responses? Instead of attacking Rosenblatt, why not write either A. that he is mistaken B. that he is correct, but… The irrelevant response is C. the author is anti-Orthodox.

  25. Bob Miller says:

    Marvin Schick asked, “Isn’t there a lesson here?”

    The lesson is don’t subscribe to or place ads in media outlets that try to offend you.