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New York - OpEd: The Journalists And The Jews

Published on: April 11, 2016 01:03 PM
By: Ezra Friedlander
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New York - Once again, Orthodox Jews have been dominating the headlines.

Let me begin by saying that I will not get into the specifics of the alleged charges or about the circumstances which surround their fifteen minutes of fame. 

Instead, I would like to address a very troubling pattern that the media has been guilty of for quite some time.  And what’s amazing to me is that almost none of the countless organizations or elected officials concerned about anti Semitism are addressing it.

When it comes to our community, the media delivers the news by gleefully describing the individuals involved based on their religious affiliation or in the context of their geographical location. This is unacceptable.

Just this past week, a New York Times article published on April 5th informed us that the FBI was investigating possible perks offered to police officials “by members of the Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn” and continued to say that “agents were focused on two Orthodox businessmen.”

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Similarly, a news article in the Wall Street Journal informed us in its very first sentence that the Mayor is facing questions about investigations “that involve supporters in the Orthodox Jewish community.”  Scroll down another few paragraphs and again, it repeats that the investigations involve “members of the Orthodox Jewish community.”

A CNBC story opens with allegations about a probe involving “members of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish communities,” and adds in the very next paragraph that “investigators (are) looking into two Orthodox Jewish businessmen.”  Lest we still don’t get it, we are made aware further in the story that “hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews live in communities throughout Brooklyn,” and that the investigation is focusing on “prominent members of the often insular and politically powerful groups.”

And so on and so forth.

We are living in an age of political correctness, for better or for worse.  This means that in most cases the press will bend over backwards not to offend others.  In doing so, they seek to demonstrate that all are created equal and that society and government should be fair to everyone without discrimination.  These are all noble and virtuous objectives.

Yet for some reason, when it comes to the Orthodox Jewish community, no one feels obligated to even pretend to play by these rules.  Instead, they are delighted to besmirch an entire community just because a lone businessman is in the headlines or is accused of an alleged misdeed.  Suddenly, he is identified by his religion.

Imagine the uproar if we were to take out the word “Jewish” in any of these articles and substitute “Catholic” or “gay” or African American” or “Latino.”  That uproar would certainly be justified.  People should be judged as individuals, not in terms of their ethnic background.

To the best of my knowledge, in the two recent stories that have dominated the news, none of the alleged misdeeds were in any way related to the way these individuals worshiped or to their religious background.  Yet newspapers as highbrow as the New York Times blatantly publish their stories with quotes about these individuals as being members of the Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish community.  What’s the relevance here?

Yes, I understand the media’s fascination with our community.  They enjoy calling us insular, although I have no idea why.  To the best of my knowledge, the vast majority of our community is engaged in normative behaviors that are expected of society at large.  We raise families, we go to work in the morning, and so on.  Just because we have our own standard code of conduct which may sound old fashioned to some, that doesn’t mean that we are insular.  If it does, then I carry that title proudly.

Yes, many of us dress distinctively Chassidic and I suppose I can understand the legitimate fascination with this.  ( I should add, of course, that we should be extra careful not to act offensively even in a benign way as that could lead to a negative portrayal of an entire community.)  But that doesn’t mean we should be condemned to the annals of insularity or portrayed as manipulative or as drags on society.

I’ve also noticed that the media, even when begrudgingly acknowledging what could be very positive aspects of our community, they do so in a negative way.  Even when stories focus on Hatzolah or any of our myriad chesed/social service organizations (largely funded by the community itself), that too is portrayed negatively as if we only care for our own people and not for society at large. Growing up in Boro Park as a child,  I wish I had a nickel for every time an elderly Italian woman called Hatzolah to come and save a family member.  Our community is a model community which should be emulated by society at large.  And it should be portrayed as such.

Our community provides a vast infrastructure and a social safety net for those less fortunate.  That means there’s additional dollars available in the general budget of our city, state, or federal governments for other purposes.  In the realm of education, our families don’t utilize the public school system.  That translates into savings of untold billions for the taxpayer.  We have organizations that feed the poor and heal the sick and the infirm and we try to keep our neighborhoods safe.  We do this because we care about each other.  But the city at large benefits as well.

I wish I was wrong about this tendency on the part of the media, but it happens way too often and I can no longer remain silent. Can someone explain to me how identifying someone immediately as a member of a specific Jewish community can be described as mainstream professional journalism? 

I call upon every responsible news outlet to immediately adopt a fair and proper standard.  This should not be tolerated by anyone, and especially not by the various Jewish organizations and elected officials who profess to care about our community. 

I sit in amazement, really shocked at how our own elected officials who represent us have lost their voice here.  I have not seen them rise to the occasion to defend the fine reputation of their constituents.  Normally, they are the first to condemn, protest, or take action, even on international affairs when they feel Jewish lives/honor is at stake.  Yet now the silence is deafening.

Most of the organizations have remained silent as well, except for a lone statement of protest by the ADL.  Clearly, this is not enough.

It seems to me that there’s a certain underlying attempt by the media to delegitimize an entire community.  They are quick to point out any perceived failures.  But they won’t even make a half hearted attempt to acknowledge our strengths and self reliance in many areas.

Media outlets should take a good hard look at themselves and once and for all put an end this yellow and sensational journalism.

If nothing more, they are guilty of incitement.  And they know it.

Ezra Friedlander is the CEO of the Friedlander Group, a public policy consulting group based in New York City and Washington DC.  He can be reached at ezra@thefriedlandergroup.com



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Manhattan, NY - A 24 year old homeless man has been arrested for the Friday morning slashing of a Chasidic men on a Greenwich Village subway platform. Marvin Taylor... Rockland County, NY - An official with the Department of Education blasted a Town of Ramapo fire inspector for dangerously shoddy work at several local private schools...

 

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Read Comments (32)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Apr 11, 2016 at 01:16 PM bennyt Says:

Here's the solution to all of this unfairness by our media -- let's start behaving like truly orthodox Jews.

2

 Apr 11, 2016 at 01:19 PM Yitzchok848 Says:

BS"D

Well written, well said.

yg

3

 Apr 11, 2016 at 01:20 PM Eliwexler Says:

It's been like this for thousands of years. We are in golus and whether we like it or not, we have always been scrutinized more than anyone and we must do our best to avoid these chilul hashems. Instead of complaining about the media maybe we should look where we can improve and avoid these kind of situations

4

 Apr 11, 2016 at 01:39 PM Anonymous Says:

Let's behave better and we won't be in the news daily. And stop blaming the press....it's our fault they print this news.

5

 Apr 11, 2016 at 01:41 PM savtat Says:

Being the "chosen People" means, by definition, that we are scrutinized. Like it or not, our behavior has to be exemplary. When we do something questionable, it is going to be reported and it will reflect on all of us. And, so, you watch the media and realize how wise the Chachomim were.

6

 Apr 11, 2016 at 01:51 PM Hasid Says:

Well said Ezra!

7

 Apr 11, 2016 at 02:01 PM Phineas Says:

When you claim that you are a light unto the nations, expect to be held to a higher standard.

8

 Apr 11, 2016 at 02:09 PM shvigger Says:

You are right on target, except for one thing: we are Jews and all the freedom, political correctness, objectiveness or whatever does not apply to us because we are in galus.

9

 Apr 11, 2016 at 02:12 PM Brooklynite Says:

The author fails to mention that the two businessmen accused of paying off officials were doing it to benefit the Orthodox Jewish community. That's why it is relevant for the press to mention that they are Orthodox. It's time that we stop shooting the messengers and behaving like upstanding citizens of this country.

10

 Apr 11, 2016 at 02:17 PM shimon11210 Says:

The answer is very simple. Comment #1 borders on it, but doesn't really answer the question. Why are we picked on? It's clearly divine. HKB"H is talking to us: "I don't want you in the newspapers." That's the message when we have unexplained disproportionate prominence in the media. You can scream at the stick all you want as the dog does. But a person should realize who is holding the stick and try to figure out the message. When we see so much of this we're supposed to look inward. We all have our stuff to fix. It's not yelling at the others in the group that should be our goal, rather we should realize that this message is directed toward all of us as individuals. how can I improve? That is the only question I should be asking.

11

 Apr 11, 2016 at 02:18 PM jsjcbs Says:

While I don't disagree I think it's more important to focus on not committing the crimes instead of not making headlines.

12

 Apr 11, 2016 at 02:03 PM achassidisheyid Says:

Let me explain the facts of life to you, Mr Friedlander. The reason the media identifies the (alleged) criminals as orthodox, is because of comments like yours eg "Our community is a model community which should be emulated by society at large. And it should be portrayed as such." When you shout from the rooftops about how great we are, then the press points out that we are not. As Chazal say, all who run after kavod, kavod runs from them. I assure you that as soon as the 'Catholic, gay, latino, black etc communities demand that everyone emulate them because their way of life is so superior to everybody else, the media will be very quick to point out their foibles.

13

 Apr 11, 2016 at 02:12 PM Anonymous Says:

We can start by being good neighbors. My neighborhood is changing to ultra orthodox and I'm a conservative Jew. I always smile at my new neighbors when I take a walk. As a female in my 70s, I surely do not look threatening with my hat and coat, yet not one new neighbor will even look at me when I say "good morning " and smile. They are OK with cutting through my property and stepping on my flowers to get to shul though!

14

 Apr 11, 2016 at 03:09 PM Zaidyatrisk Says:

The difference is we Orthodox Jews claim to be better and holier and more honest and more G-d fearing than non-Orthodox Jews or Goyim or Blacks or gays, etc, etc. So like when a TV evangelical preacher is caught violating that which they preach the media loves to puncture the inflated hypocrisy of those who pretend to be holier than everyone else.

15

 Apr 11, 2016 at 03:13 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

Let's behave better and we won't be in the news daily. And stop blaming the press....it's our fault they print this news.

So according to your logic the Holocaust was our fault. I have news for you even if Jews behave in the most upright manner it will still occur because there is such a
thing called הלכה בידוע שעשיו שונא ליעקב if you don't understand what it means than start going to cheder.

16

 Apr 11, 2016 at 03:45 PM yonasonw Says:

Italians object to being identified, because of organized crime implications, true or not. Blacks object to the number of times Black perps are racially identified, gratuitously, in crime stories. And Yidden too...yawn.

Crime stories are like breaking wind...Every ethnic group thinks their rats don't smell as bad as others, but they do...and every ethnic group protests that the press identifies them in crime stories for no sensible reason, when in fact they do so when it's newsworthy...

The extent to which Yidden in levush get caught in fraud is in fact newsworthy...I doubt there are many of you reading this who have not heard at one time or another, from some ner-do-well in black or another, that it's really not geneiva to take from the government if the money is going to mosdos...or to assault men to extract from them a get.

If the shoe fits...

17

 Apr 11, 2016 at 03:48 PM shvigger Says:

Reply to #9  
Brooklynite Says:

The author fails to mention that the two businessmen accused of paying off officials were doing it to benefit the Orthodox Jewish community. That's why it is relevant for the press to mention that they are Orthodox. It's time that we stop shooting the messengers and behaving like upstanding citizens of this country.

How were they benefiting the Jewish community? Just 'cuz you want to make it so, doesn't make it so. You think these two bribed police officers to benefit the Jewish community? I have a bridge to sell you.

18

 Apr 11, 2016 at 04:02 PM Anonymous Says:

Firstly, I do believe in racial profiling. I think certain communities are pron to break certain laws. And law enforcement should use that as a tool. But I guess you can't say to only profile jews.
Secondly, we do very little to help our non jewish neighboors. I don't buy freidland's hatzala argument. the little we do is only so that it can better serve us.

19

 Apr 11, 2016 at 04:14 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #13  
Anonymous Says:

We can start by being good neighbors. My neighborhood is changing to ultra orthodox and I'm a conservative Jew. I always smile at my new neighbors when I take a walk. As a female in my 70s, I surely do not look threatening with my hat and coat, yet not one new neighbor will even look at me when I say "good morning " and smile. They are OK with cutting through my property and stepping on my flowers to get to shul though!

I can empathize with you. What these yeshivas don't teach their students is derech eretz to their own families, let alone to people whom they consider to be beneath them.

Thank you for publicizing your plight!

20

 Apr 11, 2016 at 04:47 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #15  
Anonymous Says:

So according to your logic the Holocaust was our fault. I have news for you even if Jews behave in the most upright manner it will still occur because there is such a
thing called הלכה בידוע שעשיו שונא ליעקב if you don't understand what it means than start going to cheder.

Going to cheer won't help. The biggest fraudsters learned in cheder.

21

 Apr 11, 2016 at 04:50 PM Anonymous Says:

The truth is the reason they single us out for our religion because they know that the vast majority of Orthodox Jews are law abiding, moral, decent people who live their lives in a virtuous way. When there is a rare case of criminality, it stands out, and they jump on the opportunity to try to prove we are "no better than the others," This is why it is crucial that we maintain our high standards, live according to the Torah, and nev cause a chilul Hashem.

22

 Apr 11, 2016 at 04:52 PM LebidikYankel Says:

Nicely written. At the same time, the mention of our affiliation is the greatest compliment. Dog bites man is not news, man bites dog is. That a frum person is caught is noteworthy only because they are generally more honest than anyone else...

23

 Apr 11, 2016 at 07:29 PM Brooklynite Says:

Reply to #17  
shvigger Says:

How were they benefiting the Jewish community? Just 'cuz you want to make it so, doesn't make it so. You think these two bribed police officers to benefit the Jewish community? I have a bridge to sell you.

Why do you think the Jews were showering the cops with gifts? Because of their love of the NYPD or because they expected something in return? They were bribed in order to get preferential treatment for the Orthodox Jewish community, plain and simple. That's why it is relevant to note that these two businessmen are Orthodox Jews.

24

 Apr 11, 2016 at 07:29 PM favish Says:

Reply to #7  
Phineas Says:

When you claim that you are a light unto the nations, expect to be held to a higher standard.

I never claimed I should be light unto nations

25

 Apr 11, 2016 at 08:30 PM Liepa Says:

Reply to #24  
favish Says:

I never claimed I should be light unto nations

As Jews, following in the ways of Torah we are supposed to act more virtuous, more disciplined, more honorable, in our day to day life and guess what, as a Jew that's whats required from all of us, whether you like it or not. (Not, I presume!)

26

 Apr 11, 2016 at 08:39 PM Anonymous Says:

Mr. Friedlander has no problem wearing his religion on his sleeve all the time. So you can't have it both ways.

27

 Apr 11, 2016 at 09:46 PM jason Says:

Article falls short. You must look at it from your everyday America point of view. If it were Amish that were in the news the headlines would absolutely read Member of Amish community..... any group that chooses to separate itself will be identified as such. There is no antisemitism here.

28

 Apr 12, 2016 at 12:07 AM LionofZion Says:

I am outraged by everything about this story and this ridiculous article. The guy was a chaplain! That is a religious position. He only had it because he was religious! And you expect religion to not play into it? When catholic priests did terrible things to young boys it was more terrible because they were priests. And of course, we know about them being religious clergymen. You guys dress like you are Rabbis, you adopt a position of being a representative of MINE, you use the promise of votes and proteczia in MY community to do dirty deeds. How dare you! And the Ribono Shel Olan has the same complaint that I do. How can you position yourselves as His special "Rabbis" and not accept any responsibility? Shame on you.

29

 Apr 12, 2016 at 11:07 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #21  
Anonymous Says:

The truth is the reason they single us out for our religion because they know that the vast majority of Orthodox Jews are law abiding, moral, decent people who live their lives in a virtuous way. When there is a rare case of criminality, it stands out, and they jump on the opportunity to try to prove we are "no better than the others," This is why it is crucial that we maintain our high standards, live according to the Torah, and nev cause a chilul Hashem.

Vast majorty are law abiding?? Really. Yes we don't do blue collar (rap murder etc..) But white collar? The vast majorty is 100% honest?

30

 Apr 12, 2016 at 12:12 PM yonasonw Says:

Reply to #21  
Anonymous Says:

The truth is the reason they single us out for our religion because they know that the vast majority of Orthodox Jews are law abiding, moral, decent people who live their lives in a virtuous way. When there is a rare case of criminality, it stands out, and they jump on the opportunity to try to prove we are "no better than the others," This is why it is crucial that we maintain our high standards, live according to the Torah, and nev cause a chilul Hashem.

Yup..that's the same reason they single out Roman catholic Priests in sex abuse stories..."They know that the vast majority of...[Priests]... are law abiding, moral, decent people who live their lives in a virtuous way."

I got news for you Reb Yid..Yiddishe poop smells just as bad as Goyishe poop...and it becomes more of a problem because of those among us who forever look for tainas and make excuses when our poopers are exposed.

Stop being an apologist...we need to face it for what it is...and then clean it up.

31

 Apr 12, 2016 at 05:48 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #20  
Anonymous Says:

Going to cheer won't help. The biggest fraudsters learned in cheder.

I never knew Bernie Madoff went to cheder. You could always learn new things when visiting VIN

32

 Apr 18, 2016 at 06:28 PM Unasked_Question Says:

I guess it's time for another OpEd by Ezra....
( Due to the new story with someone charged for gun-license bribe)

33

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