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Is It ‘Anti-Orthodox’ To Seek A Safer Community?
Mon, 08/01/2011 - 20:00
Editor And Publisher
Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt

It is sad, if not maddening, when this newspaper is labeled “anti-Orthodox” for its reporting on scandals and other disturbing incidents in a segment of the community whose culture places a high value on policing itself.

Such accusations are not new, but they have ratcheted up significantly in recent days following the tragic death of young Leiby Kletzky of Borough Park, and The Jewish Week’s report and Editorial (July 22 issue) calling into question the role of the much-respected community watchdog group, Shomrim, in terms of its procedures and relations with law enforcement authorities.

The headline last week of an Orthodox magazine, Ami, used the word “slander” in referring to our reporting on Shomrim. Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, wrote in Ami, where he is editor at large, that The Jewish Week “seems bent on viewing and portraying the charedi community with” a “jaundiced eye.”

Marvin Schick, an expert in the field of Jewish education who writes a paid-for column in The Jewish Week, goes further in his criticism, proclaiming in a blog that “Orthodoxy-bashing is alive and well” at The Jewish Week, which he said has reached a new low in offering up “a vile exercise in group libel.”

We generally choose not to respond to such charges, trusting that our readers can judge for themselves over time whether or not we are biased in our coverage. But such inflammatory rhetoric should not go unchallenged.

It should be noted that The Jewish Week, chastised for alleged insensitivity, published a full-page article on the large-scale communal search for Leiby in our July 15 issue (“Volunteers Scour Borough Park For Missing Child”), which went to press while the youngster’s whereabouts were still unknown.

The following week’s issue featured on Page 1, in addition to the Shomrim story, a lyrical essay, “Lamentations: Loss of a child, of a shul, haunts the city,” by Associate Editor Jonathan Mark, that included a description of his shiva call to the Kletzky family, and a Media column, “Haredi Sensitivity,” that praised Hamodia, a “Torah Jewry” newspaper, for its sensitive coverage of the tragedy.

In addition, last week’s issue included a Page 3 report, “Helping Families Ease The Mourning Process,” highlighting the volunteer efforts of Misaskim, the independent Orthodox group that assists families (including the Kletzkys) during shiva.

Would such a range of coverage be found in a publication bent on “Orthodoxy bashing”?

The crux of the matter, though, goes deeper, to the role of a community newspaper. We believe it is to report as fully and accurately as possible, seeking to combine journalistic integrity with Jewish values, with a duty to expose as well as a need to protect.

In this case, we sought not to expose Shomrim but to raise legitimate concerns about its practices in the hopes of better protecting the community.

Rabbi Shafran, in his critique, acknowledged that Shomrim’s practices and relationship with the police – issues raised by concerned members of the NYPD sensitive to the community — may need to be addressed. But he maintained “it is not a matter that deserves to be exploited by any reputable publication.”

We took comfort in a letter written to Ami magazine from a reader, Faigy Klein, who noted that “the relationship between the Shomrim was not exploited, it was explored, and every thinking person is free to draw their own conclusion.”

She asserted that our report “had nothing to do with vilifying the charedi community and everything to do with the quest for the truth,” and suggested that Ami take up investigative reporting and “find out the truth and possible mistakes which were made in the Leiby Kletzky case … and the lessons learned from all this.”

Similarly, Binyamin Flamm, another reader writing to Ami, called the magazine’s report “a full frontal attack on The Jewish Week, unwarranted and irresponsible.”

He wrote: “It is far from libelous to say that within ‘strictly Orthodox’ communities there is a general sense of taking care of issues internally before going to the secular authorities, if at all. I don’t think the leaders of many of these communities would argue this point and some would be proud of it.”

Flamm concluded his letter to Ami: “It is a disservice to your readers to attack a publication that tries to shed some light on a troubling incident which deserves a thorough review.”

I write these words virtually on the eve of Tisha B’Av, commemorating the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem and attributed by some sages to the belief that the Jews of that time were engaged in sinat chinam, or causeless hatred, one for the other.

I note with a deep sense of irony and a heavy heart that our critics no doubt ascribe such feelings to The Jewish Week. We do not see it that way. Far from it, and we harbor no such feelings in return.

We and our critics may disagree over tactics and strategy, particularly in terms of calling the police rather than a rabbinic authority when abuse is suspected – and immediately, when a child goes missing – but we share the same goals.

It has been said that the antidote to causeless hatred is causeless love, caring for our fellow Jews beyond measure or reason. Perhaps on the way to reaching that idealistic level, we can all focus on what connects rather than divides us, and how best to protect and strengthen the community that is our common heritage and our future.

anti-Orthodox, the jewish week

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having hella winston write about the chareidi community is like having Howard Dean writing about the tea party she maybe right but she has no credibility

If you think Rosenblatt cares one iota about the safety of the chasidic community, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. That's why JW sat on its hands during Crown Heights and why they slander the Shomrim now.

I am grateful that The Jewish Week chose to respond to these charges. It seems if anyone dares to question methods in the Orthodox community for dealing with crimes, they are castigated or worse, banned. 2.5 hours does seem an excessive amount of time to wait when a child has gone missing. Period. I love Shomrim - I think we're blessed to have this phenomenal group of dedicated volunteers in our community. But that is not really the point, is it? G-d forbid we should have an honest discussion or inquiry... they shouldn't be so afraid - the truth can hold its own.

I am waiting to hear what the Shomrim did wrong. Anyone want to fill me in??

I'm still waiting for details of what the Shomrim did wrong. SOMETHING. ANYTHING.

Otherwise, an apology is in order.

What I found most disturbing about the Jewish Week's coverage in their article on the Shomrim was the heavy reliance on anonymous sources for quotes and information. If you are going to make accusations, you need to name names. You can't build an entire article around nameless, faceless people who can never be held accountable for their statements or independently investigated to ascertain the truthfulness (or lack thereof) of their words. My policy: If you won't speak up in public, take responsibility for your words and subject yourself to the cross examination of the press and your peers, stop bothering me and stop wasting my time.

you and your team deserve the frum community's gratitude for sensitively challenging institutions founded on a European insular model founded in response to harsh anti-Semitic sentiment. That we continue to perpetuate insular institutions that take a para-official status, such as the Shomrim -- and have taxpayers partially fund it - is something we religious Jews should not take comfort in.
In the above critique, there is little objection to the journalistic substance of your newspaper .. and for good reason. The reports by Hella Winston and Steve Lipner and others associated with The JWeek are generally well thought out and thorough. Their stories force us to view our communities not through rose colored glasses but rather a magnifying glass.
We have much to be proud of as a religious community. We have created an outstanding network of Gmachs and other programs anchored in Chesed. But we've also, at times, gone too far, where our organizations have precluded authorised bodies (such as the police) from doing their jobs to the fullest.
So continue the good work. If there is a lesson in Tisha B'Av, it's that we can't hide from our sins.

Finally someone speaks up and tells it like it is. I agree The Jewish week is very brave to report the facts and make the community aware of the religious control, the cover-ups and the hypocrisy within our culture. this is not an issue just for the Orthodox-Jewish community to face, but many other similar closed religious orders. Also, this is not just an isolated incident or a problem limited to a few. The entire community, city, and neighborhoods suffer with such kind of ignorance and isolation. We live in such a global society with a global economic crisis which effects us all...we all cry the same, feel the same pain and believe it or not do share similar fears & values..but more so, we share a common interest which has to be consistent with the good of humanity and our country. I think it is time to set down the differences, barriers and start to understand each other. sending a message to the politicians that they cannot take advantage of the segregation. like children play with separated parents...There is prejudice and racial tension within all groups, mostly based on cultural & traditional values...nothing to do with Human value. anyways, I am getting off point. Good work Jewish Week..keep it up. eventually things will change for the better.

Another milestone for the"WEAK JEW" Publication

To label The Jewish Week, and Gary Rosenblatt in particular, "anti Orthodox" for asking difficult questions and shedding light on certain practices in the Orthodox or Charedi community that should be examined, is simply unfair and not in accord with the facts. The Jewish Week deserves much of the credit for the progress that has been made in dealing with issues such as child abuse. Do you really think that, absent the spotlight under which these practices were put, meaningful changes would have been made? By pursuing these matters, often in the face of harsh attacks questioning his motives, Mr. Rosenblatt has done a real service to Klal Yisrael.

Today, Congressman Jerry Nadler met with Borough Park Shomrim members to present them with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for their tireless efforts in searching for Leiby Kletzky last month, and for the remarkable work they did to organize hundreds of volunteers to assist in the search.

“While this search ended in terrible tragedy, it is important to recognize the efforts of these volunteers, along with the NYPD, the FBI, Hatzolah, Chaverim, Misaskim, and the many people from Borough Park and beyond who aided in the search,” remarked Conressman Nadler.

The award ceremony took place at 11 a.m. at the Boro Park Shomrim headquarters on 14th Avenue at 36th Street in Boro Park.

The Jewish Week is not perfect. They have things to improve upon. But the other side is not being responsible, by trying to muzzle it and make it into a version of Hamodia or Yated Neeman, and to suppress exposure of potential problems in the community.

Beating up on the Jewish Week and the like may be a safe and fun pastime for some people, earning them points within their community, but the loud protestations of Marvin Schick and others bring to mind the words of Shakespeare - "The lady doth protest too much".

The Jewish Week needs to be more careful with what it prints, but should continue to seek the truth and look beyond propaganda, party line, and political correctness.

Excellent article, a superb rejoinder and your respectful tone towards those who criticize you is one that ought to be reciprocated by your attackers.

The self-appointed folks who claim the paper is "anti-Orthodox" are probably the same ones who would call criticism of the US waterboarding policy "unpatriotic", or anything to the left of the ZOA as "anti-Israel".

If all they want is uncritical views, let them bury their heads in their Artscrolls.

In a city where your paper is viewed as authoritative by many with no knowledge of Orthodoxy, the Jewish Week , aside from the excellent Steve Lipman, needs more reporters who understand the Orthodox community, its ups and donws, but also its vitality and committment to Torah, ASvodah and Gmilus Chasadim-facts which rarely come across in the editorial or news coverage. Instead, all readers are treated to are a diet of scandal and innuendo masked as hard facts.

The murderer Levi is one of ours he was produced by our institutions including Torah Vodaas where he was reportedly taught through grade 8:

Jeanette Friedman writes "A few years ago, one guy, B, was kicked out of Torah Vodaas and sent to my cousin’s kehilla. I called my cousin and reamed him out and basically got the same drill…he had charata, he did teshuva, etc. etc. etc. A few weeks later I got a phone call that I was correct in telling my cousin that his congregation should not be the garbage can for Rav Pam. The question is, where is B now?"

Similar allegations are written at:

The principal finished his meeting with my parents, and asked me and the rebbi to come to his office. My parents quietly told me not to worry, to tell the principal exactly what happened and not be scared of the rebbi. I told the truth. The principal asked the rebbi to respond. The rebbi's response was that I was a liar, and had banged my own head against the wall when he demanded that I stayed late, and that he did not lay a hand on me except to restrain me from hurting myself further.

The principal's response was to berate me for making false accusations against a rebbi, and he actually forced me to apologize to the rebbi. The rebbi was not fired and I went back to his classroom.

On the last day of school, the rebbi asked me in front of the entire class to forgive him. I responded sarcastically that there was no reason for me to forgive him, since I had thrown myself against the wall, and he never touched me. He then asked me privately for forgiveness, and I ignored him.

Other people were beaten in that yeshiva. It certainly wasn't routine, but there typically were one or two incidents a year throughout the school. After I posted, a friend of mine reminded me that in our 7th grade class, a rebbi hit a boy in the head with the metal part of a clipboard.

Certainly I have heard of many accounts beyond Robert's. My guess, however, is that it is not tolerated today. I can't imagine people my age putting up with their children getting beaten at school.

My parents, perhaps both being educators, were almost always on the teacher's side. This incident was the sole exception. I don't think my parents follwed up; I assume that there was a tacit understanding that the rebbi would leave at the end of the year, but the principal foolishly felt that I should not be aware of that understanding.

Some one should publish this as an advertisement in the Jewish Week:

Marvin Schick has allowed the abusers to move around quietly.

Here are excerpts from his own son Joe's blog (and Joe's comments to same - posted in two comments due to length):

When I was in sixth grade [in Toras Emes], in 1984, we had a chasidic rebbe, probably in his mid-30's, for the 12-1 chumash session. One Friday toward the end of the school year, he demanded that a number of kids stay after school. I ignored him, and walked out the door, when, presumably infuriated by the affront to his honor, he grabbed me, slammed my head and body against the wall and punched me repeatedly. This went on for quite a while. When he was done, he warned me not to tell my parents, or he would have me thrown out of the yeshiva.

I did not tell my parents, however, on Saturday night, my mother noticed that my back was badly bruised. I reluctantly told her what happened.

The next morning, my parents went to the yeshiva principal, a man who was principal of the yeshiva for more than 40 years, to demand that the rebbi be fired. It is worth noting that my family had a fairly good relationship with the principal, and that my father was fairly well known in the community.

Gary: Your father would be very upset with the direction your paper has taken. You lead your readers to believe that the Orthodox people are deviant criminals. Remind your reporters: Bernie Madoof was a dirty Jew, not a dirty charedi. Yes, it hurts to be osttracized.

So many responses indicate that there is a problem. Not with the Shomrim - with JW.

Shafran never stops.

Excerpts: Silencing Abused Women

Family Violence? Not in My Community!
Alexiou, Alice Sparberg. Lilith. New York: Spring 2004. Vol. 29, Iss. 1; pg. 8

Miklat, the only battered women's shelter in Israel specifically for Orthodox and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish women and children, has announced plans to open a second shelter, somewhere in the center of the country. Experts say that the country's current crisis mode has increased violence against women. Miklat founder and president Estanne Fawer told LILITH that in the last year and a half, the shelter has had to turn away 70 women and their children because of lack of space. Fawer created Miklat in 1996.
Breaking the silence on abuse in the Orthodox world, both in North America and in Israel, apparently upsets Agudath Israel, an organization representing the ultra-right wing of Orthodoxy. In January, Agudah spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran sent LILITH a press release complaining that the attention now being focused on spousal abuse among Jews is tantamount to Orthodox-bashing.

"All the Orthodox rabbis I am privileged to know are exquisitely sensitive toward women, as they are towards men," he writes. Those who take seriously those rabbis' advice, Rabbi Shafran says, "would be rendered virtually incapable of abusing his or her spouse."

Tell this to the women in the Miklat shelters.

[Whenever the Baltimore Jewish Times exposes local rabbis who prey on children or women, Shafran takes the time to write to the editors. He is the unnamed employee at Agudath Israel.]


Andrew A. Buerger, Publisher Baltimore Jewish Times, March 21, 2008
“This case is now closed. But there’s more to come. Other victims will come forward in other cases; we now know that authorities are investigating other local rabbis. So this is just the sad start and not the end.”

“We also received a stream of letters from an employee at Agudath Israel, a right-of-center Orthodox group, that nitpicks the semantics of our stories, but ignores the responsibility of religious organizations to make sure that children’s lives are not ruined. Some people, it seems, are quicker to protect perpetrators than victims.”

“We are working on several stories regarding alleged perpetrators, but we will not print them without a thorough investigation.”

“We won’t be intimidated by allegedly pious leaders. And we won’t stop printing the truth.”

Com on Gary, why don't you tell the real story about Shafran? Has he ever apologized for his libels and putting our children in danger?

Quotes from Shafran’s book about the reform and conservative movements that was online just a few years ago. It has since been removed:

“These people are not so much meant to be hated as enemies and wished dead for the sake of ‘revenge’ or to see them dead. The way we hate such people is not like the ‘cat hates the mouse,’ but rather like the ’storekeeper hates the vermin’ which infest his store, not hating the vermin themselves but wanting them gone in order to arrest the damage they are causing. We resent their existence. So, in lieu of the fact that we are not allowed to physically harm these people today, we should still treat them with utter contempt and disrespect, avoiding contact with them as one would with any destructive fiend.”

Shafran writes about Conservative and Reform leaders that there is “a law which orders loyal Jews to kill these types of people if at all possible,” a law which was declared inapplicable today by the Chazon Ish but which “remains valuable for the light it sheds on the way Real Judaism” regards such people.

He states that Conservative and Reform leaders “qualify for the infamous titles of min and apikoros” and “are the followers of Korach;” Shafran states that “these man-made ‘religions’ [Conservative and Reform] are the most destructive forces in the history of the Jewish people and all those who seek to spread their noxious heresies are mesisim, instigators whose aim is to lead astray the masses;”

And yet what does the spokesperson for an organization that has blocked laws that would have directly protected our children, an organization that has worked with the Catholic Church to this end, an orgaganization that has left our children vulnerable and protected the sexual predators in our community, have to say about the sexual predator they protected for decades?

Shafran: “Why would we have comment about the arrest of an individual?”

Typical Shafran.

As someone who works for a newspaper, I found Ms. Winstons' article to be of poor quality due to it's large number of quotes from people who remained anonymous. It read much like an opinion piece. As a regular reader of the Jewish Week, I am disappointed that it has allowed the line between editorial and news content to become so blurred.

Here's a rare case where I agree with Schick and Shafran. The verdict is in. The Jewish Week is anti-orthodox. Your anti-Shomrim, anti-Ohel, and even anti-child protection advocate articles are the most recent proof. The articles are filled with sly innuendo, and unnamed sources. You don't print facts, you print condescending suppositions and hunches. Why don't you investigate some Federation institutions - hospitals and such. Because your subsidizers won't let you.

Gary - what "scandal" or 'disturbing incidents' have the Shomrim been involved in? Be specific. Or apologize.

Mrmoose writes: "While I am no means an expert on the complete works of Hella Winston, it seems that her major claim to fame is writing anti charadi books and articles."

Perhaps you should get familiar with Ms. Winston's writing before making such claims. I'd start with her book, Unchosen, which is a sensitive portrayal of individuals who are struggling to find their identities within and outside of their chasidic upbringing. This book gives the reader insight into the secret world of rebel chasidim, highlighting the complexity of this insular community, but at the same time conveying the author's unbiased and often warm feelings about this community.

Books aside, by definition, the job of an investigative journalist is not to fill up columns with whispered sweet nothings (for that you can read Ami magazine). It is, however, the investigative reporter's task to shed some much needed sunlight on murky subjects, and this is something the Jewish Week is courageous enough to do.

Ms Winston could have one of two legitimate journalistic identities. She could be a beat reporter covering the Orthodox community or an investigative journalist. If she is a beat reporter then one would expect her to write both positive and negative stories on her subject, if she is an investigative journalist ,her focus should be on as you say "shedding some much needed sunlight on murky subjects" in a variety of areas. It seems (and again feel free to link a proof to the contrary) that Ms Winston solely writes negative articles about the orthodox community. If she was in fact a legitimate investigative journalist , let her go shed some sunlight on non orthodox issues otherwise both her, and by extension the paper, come across as orthodox bashers.

Well, until the Jewish Week has Orthodox reporters onstaff, covering orthodox issues, the Jewish week will never have the proper understanding of the orthodox community, and will always be biased in its coverage. Gary, if your serious about improving your image in regards to orthodox coverage, its time to work on having a more diverse staff who represent the entire Jewish world, not just non-observant reporters.

It is nice that Mr. Rosenblatt and the Jewish Week now take comfort in the articles of those who do not harbor the bias that led to the criticism he now feels compelled to respond to. Both Shafran and Schick also cited those articles as examples of responsible and sensitive reporting.

But those articles were inside the paper, not on its cover. Why did the Jewish Week assign its lead and cover story to someone not on its regular news staff? And if the Jewish Week felt that it was important to give space to an advocate, why not put the article on the op-ed page where it belongs.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and his spokesman repeatedly stated that the victim had no prior contact with his murderer and that there were no indication of abuse. The Jewish Week is well within its rights to pursue information to the contrary, but publishing unsourced and unverified (and as of this date, inaccurate) innuendo was and is out of bounds.

Causeless love was on display in the days and weeks after Leiby Kletzky's disappearance and discovery, as thousands of people from disparate communities came together to help and to search and to care and then, unfortunately to cry and to grieve. Mr. Rosenblatt's call for a return to that state of harmony should be heeded, but he should be self aware enough to acknowledge that he had a substantial role in its disruption.

I guess the Jewish Week was also anti-Orthodox when they did the expose on Baruch Lanner, too.

Gary, keep up the good work! You have more support in the Orthodox community than you think. Unfortunately, the most vocal folks are usually the ones most critical.

Please keep up with the great work you do in telling all sides of these stories. All segments of our society, Orthodox and not, have areas that could stand some improvement, and your job is to report on reality as it is, not as some would hope it to be.

The Shomrim editorial was disgraceful. An apology in writing is in order, not this kind of Clintonesque linguistics.

I totally agree with YUStudentPrez.

I'm sorry, your headline sounds very similar to the excuse that 'critics' of Israel use when they defend their slanderous reports on the state of Israel. 'But it's only because Israel should behave better and more morally than their enemies', they say. Wrong. A double standard is, by definition, anti-Semitic. I say, 'Spare me your respect and condescension'.
In the same way here, a double standard would be considered anti-Charedi. Whether you intend it or not, the Charedi viewpoint and lifestyle constantly and repeatedly comes under snide attacks by your newspaper. Individual mistakes by people are held up as symptoms of communal transgressions. Your paper, like the New York Times quotes the same 'experts' over and over with their agendas as authoritative. Yes, there is occasionally a thoughtful article here and there, but that does not mask the overall tone. I think Rabbi Shafran is absolutely correct in this.

As is often the case, your detractors will target you Gary, or your journalists, rather than deal with uncomfortable issues. "Shoot the messenger" they will cry, though they will not say so explicitly. Rather than focusing on whether Hella Winston is pro or anti-Orthodox, listen to what she is trying to convey to us all. Hella need not write anything flattering about us for us to take her seriously. And if there is anything sensational happening in the Jewish world, its not because of Gary or the Jewish Week, rather its because there are sensational things happening in the Jewish world! These issues desparately need media coverage as well as a community-wide effort to deal with them.

This is a good column.Any critique of the many human weaknesses orthodox Jews have are,according to Schick and Shafran,best left unspoken and certainly not reported.It is an attitude many in the orhodox community have as they endeavor to cover up the almost daily corruption,sexual deviant behaviors, and criminal activity that pervades the orthodox world.Yes,it's very sad to see all this,but victims can only be protected when criminals are exposed.That is,in Shafran and Schick world unacceptable.

Oh please Gary- your article sounds good, but it bears no serious journalistic weight. You have YEARS worth of explaining to do. All and any astute readers knows that you have a disturbing pattern of always seeking out the sensational when covering the orthodox world. You're like a running back in Football seeking the slightest hole of daylight in the offensive line, waiting to shoot right through. And if you disagree, well then remember this- either way it is your problem, since perception IS reality.

In fact,the Jewish Week has been overly moderate in exposing the dirty laundry of a sadly corrupted orthodox community.Perhaps Failed messiah is a blog that will keep you in the loop of what our people are up to.I'd hope the Jewish Week is even more open to exposing orthodox crimes and misdemeanors.

My issue with the article is not so much with what was written as with the author. While I am no means an expert on the complete works of Hella Winston, it seems that her major claim to fame is writing anti charadi books and articles. As a result, the Shomrim article came across as someone using the tragic event to push her agenda, as opposed to someone who is generally concerned. Can you show me anything Ms Winston ever wrote that is complementary of the frum community? If the answer to that is no, then the Jewish Week should thing twice about allowing her to write about the orthodox community.