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From Gary's beliefnet.com biography:

Gary Rosenblatt is editor and publisher of The Jewish Week of New York, the largest Jewish newspaper in the U.S.

Before coming to New York in 1993, Rosenblatt was editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times for 19 years. He has won numerous awards for his writing from secular and Jewish organizations. His analysis of the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the category of Special Reporting in 1985. The honor marked the first time an article in a Jewish publication was cited in the Pulitzer competition, which dates back to 1917. His investigative reporting on a rabbi's abuse of teens received national acclaim. It won the Casey Medal for Meretorious Journalism in 2001, and led to the arrest and conviction of the rabbi.

Rosenblatt is chairman of the Fund for Jewish Investigative Journalism and founding director of Write On For Israel, a Jewish Week-sponsored advocacy journalism program for high school students.

From the Columbia Journalism Review November 2000:

Public beratement, private pressure, advertiser ultimatums -- such is the usual scenario when an ethnic news organization exposes a scandal within the ethnic community it serves. And so it was for New York's Jewish Week, whose June 23 edition carried a disturbing front-page special report. "Stolen Innocence," by editor and publisher Gary Rosenblatt, documented a long and longtime record of allegations that Rabbi Baruch Lanner, a revered educator in the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations who worked closely with its teenage members for more than three decades, had sexually, emotionally, and physically harassed and abused scores of youngsters in his care. More unnerving -- and embarrassing -- still, was the further revelation that the Orthodox Union, fully aware of Lanner's behavior, had chosen to avert its gaze. On learning of the newspaper's investigation -- which included dozens of on-the-record interviews with Lanner's victims -- OU officials, invoking the Jewish law against "malicious gossip," pressed Rosenblatt to keep the matter private. But Rosenblatt's better journalistic angel prevailed, and Jewish Week went to press. This is what happened after that: the OU forced the rabbi to resign as director of regions of its youth organization, and commissioned an independent inquiry; two congregations suspended their OU membership in protest of the cover-up; more victims came forward and filed complaints with local prosecutors; two rabbis used their pulpits to castigate the paper; a major advertiser threatened to lead a boycott; and readers showered Jewish Week with letters of praise.

On its Web site, Gary's paper makes these questionable claims:

The Jewish Week, an independent community newspaper, is recognized widely as the largest and most respected Jewish newspaper in America. With its five regional editions-- Manhattan, Long Island, Queens, Westchester/The Bronx and Brooklyn/Staten Island -- it reaches more than 90,000 households each week. In covering the Jewish world, from Midtown to the Mideast, The Jewish Week and its award-winning editorial staff report on news, trends, features and analysis from Israel as well as from throughout the New York metropolitan area. In seeking to build and strengthen Jewish community while championing an aggressive and independent press, we are supportive of, but not beholden to, the organized Jewish community. Our first loyalty is to the truth..

A former stand-up comic and a dynamic public speaker, Gary Rosenblatt, editor of The Jewish Week, sounds half asleep, partly distracted and somewhat medicated when we chat by phone Thursday morning, June 24, 2004.

"How happy are you with your job?"

"I love it."

"How happy are you with your paper and which parts if any most need to be improved?"

"I'm happy with the paper overall. We could stand improvement across the board. We're always trying to reach more readers, particularly younger readers, more people outside the organized Jewish community."

"Would you describe The Jewish Week as a compelling read?"

"I don't want to tout our paper, but it's certainly our goal to be a compelling read."

"Would you describe it as the best Jewish newspaper?"

"I'd have to give the same answer."

"What do you think are the obstacles to good Jewish journalism?"

"I sometime describe our ongoing dilemma this way -- a Jewish journalist works with two competing mandates. The first commandment for journalists is to probe, explore and uncover and all the things people expect when they pick up their daily paper. On the other hand, one of the commandments in the organized Jewish community is the opposite, to cover-up and create a unified front, and not present any negative impression to the outside world. The Yiddish expression, shandze fer de goyim (scandal for the goyim). You're always walking that tightrope -- doing the job of a journalist and being a responsible part of the Jewish community."

"How much status does a journalist for a Jewish paper have in Jewish life?"

"We're like the Rodney Dangerfields of Jewish life. We don't get any respect. On the other hand, it is incremental in building respect. I think it can be there. It depends on the paper and the individual. It is too easy to hide behind the notion that there is some inherent part of our job that makes us not respected by the community. If you do a good job, you are respected by the community."

"What do you love and what do you hate about your job?"

"I write about and deal with issues that are meaningful to me. One of my first jobs was with TV Guide (sports editor from 1970-72). If you get a high from writing for a big audience, that was great. Now I get to combine my love of journalism with Jewish life. The downside is the same. Sometimes it can be dispiriting when you see the pettiness of the community you really care about. People you admire until you meet them. See their egos and the things that motivate them. Sometimes you wish you had just known them from a distance."

"How do you deal with threats, such as threats to the financial survivability of the paper if you publish something that a powerful person does not want?"

"It is part of the nature of the job. I remember in Baltimore, we did a story about Israel bonds. We were told that if that story appeared, it would not only hurt that local bonds drive, but the state of Israel was going to suffer. They both survived.

"That doesn't mean I'm dismissive of what you'd call a threat, which is a pretty strong word. A cautionary message. I try to take them all seriously and not be so cavalier as to not think about the consequences of things we write. My experience has born out that the sun will still come up the next day. I have yet to see the kind of article that would be so destructive. There are threats of boycotting the paper and boycotting our advertisers but it hasn't gone anywhere."

"Your paper was famous for its investigation of [Rabbi] Baruch Lanner and the abuse situation. Many people think that have you information about other rabbis who were similarly abusive. You even wrote a column about information pouring in to you. But you didn't seem to go on to investigate other rabbis with the same zest you applied to Lanner?"

"I don't think that's accurate. I have a lot of files. One rabbi in particular I've been trailing for over three years. I've talked to many dozen people. I have to apply the same standards as I would for the Lanner story. We have done stories about other rabbis and other cases of abuse. Until it meets that bar, I have continued to pursue some of these stories.

"I think the Lanner stories have had a corrective element. I've written that I don't think that the newspaper should be the mechanism for dealing with these issues. There should be communal mechanisms. The reason people come to us is that they have struck out everywhere else in the community. They come to us out of frustration and desperation. There was a rabbi [Willig] who was on the Beit Din on the Lanner case who I wrote about last year. He did a public mea culpa about his role."

"How would you rate the quality of Jewish journalism done on the Federations?"

"It depends on city to city, newspaper to newspaper, issue to issue. If I pick up a Jewish newspaper from different parts of the country, I sometimes wouldn't know what community I was reading about if I covered up the masthead. It's a lot easier to run a JTA story about what is going on in Israel than to send a reporter to cover a conflict in your own neighborhood. It's cheaper and safer to the run the JTA."

"Are there any individuals in the Jewish Establishment who you would regard as the greatest threats to Jewish journalism because they're bullies?"

"Yeah. I wouldn't name them. I've met some national Jewish leaders who've told me, not in a bullying way, that they believe that the role of Jewish newspapers is to promote Israel and the Jewish community and to unify the community and not to write critical articles about the community. I differ with that. The best way to educate, enlighten and involve people in the Jewish community is to tell them what is really going on. If we tell them we are one, all we do is lose our credibility. I don't think we are one is a goal."

"How often do you encounter bullying?"

"There are varying degrees of it, from canceling subscriptions to stopping advertising to getting my friends to do those things."

"What's the biggest hit you've taken for publishing a story?"

"It's hard to measure. When the Lanner story first broke, we were threatened with institutions pulling their advertising. We didn't see it happen."

"What are the joys and tribulations of being a Federation paper?"

"We do not consider ourselves a Federation paper. We have no formal ties with the UJA Federation. There was a time when the UJA were ex-officio members of the board of The Jewish Week but that stopped about eight years ago. They buy subscriptions for people who give $50 or more to UJA."

"Does that make them the dominant force behind the paper?"

"Yeah, in that sense, sure. Then we have close to 30,000 subscribe directly."

"How many papers does the Federation buy?"

"It depends from year to year."

"Approximately."

"Between 55,000 and 70,000."

"If they are buying about twice the number of papers than subscribers, could not the paper be fairly called a Federation paper?"

"I don't think so. We have no formal ties. They don't have any say in editorial or financial matters. It's their choice. They think it serves them well to supply their donors with a Jewish newspaper.

"Some of the pressure I got in Baltimore, where we were an independent paper, was just as strong as the pressure I get here. From the Federation and the Establishment community."

"If you wrote a memoir, would you have a pile of stories you weren't able to work into the Jewish papers you've worked on?"

"I have a file I keep called, 'My Last Issue.' Not necessarily a tell-all memoir, I'd just like to deal with some of these issues."

"There isn't a market for hard-hitting muckraking Jewish journalism for a Jewish audience?"

"Jewish readers tend to be very bright, well-read, sophisticated people, and if you present them good journalism, I think they will want to read it."

"What did your father the rabbi think of your going into journalism?"

"He was proud of me. He used to tease me that if I stayed away from the rabbinate because I saw you live in a glass house, he'd say he only had his congregants giving him a hard time while I had everybody giving me a hard time. But they don't pay my salary directly."

"What's your relationship to Judaism?"

"I consider myself an active observant Jew."

"Do you believe in God?"

"I do."

"Choseness?"

"Yep. I think it is a misinterpreted word. I don't think it means chosen to be better than everybody else. It means simply to be responsible."

"You're happy to believe that the Jews are God's Chosen People?"

"I don't have a choice."

"Some Jews reject it."

"I don't reject it."

"How do you think the Internet and blogging is affecting Jewish journalism?"

"That's a good question. It's very hard to say. I always wonder who has the time to read a lot of these blogs. I don't get the impression that those audiences are wide but I guess they're pretty deep. It does give me a lot of pause because I think it has the potential to reach as many people as standard journalism but it doesn't have the checks and balances and an editing process that more normative journalism has. That's something to worry about."

"You think that's more of a downer than a good sign?"

"It's certainly worrisome. People can come home late at night and write anything off the top of their head and send it out and it's out there."

"Is that scary?"

"It can be."

"Do you think we have too many checks and balances in Establishment Jewish journalism?"

"No. They are the same checks and balances you have in any professional journalistic enterprise, maybe with an added element of sensitivity, which I don't think is a bad thing. I don't think it is a question of whether or not you do a story but how you do a story. I don't see any stories that are absolutely verboten, but it depends on how you treat it."

"You should be sensitive to save people's feelings?"

"You should be aware of feelings. At times it is inevitable you will hurt people's feelings, say a rabbi who's losing a job. You have to weigh that against what you owe the readers in the larger community. Those are tough calls. I don't think there are clear definitions. They are ad hoc and made as much from your kishkes as from your brains."

"Did you read the book The New Rabbi?"

"Yeah."

"What did you think of it?"

"Well, you know, there was a lot that I admired and I think he went a little too far sometimes in exposing people, specifically embarrassing them in ways that he could've handled a little more indirectly and gotten the same message across and not be as hurtful."

In my interviews, I never found a journalist who was willing to criticize Gary on the record. Most of them wanted to be friends with Gary. They regarded him as Mr. Jewish Journalism. Rosenblatt is hard to dislike even if you passionately disagree with him. He's not a threatening guy.

Gary views Jewish journalism as another form of Jewish communal service, like working at a shul or the Federation. Most hardcore journalists regard journalism as a holy calling unto itself.

.......................

April 21, 1997

Gail J. Hyman
Group Vice President Marketing & Communications

To: Mr. Gary Rosenblatt
Jewish Week
1501 Broadway New York, NY 10036

Dear Gary:

I wanted to put in writing our growing concern over the continuing lack of presence for UJA-Federation we feel in the page of Jewish Week.

Despite several regional pieces that ran last week on agency activities and the Joint Passover story on page 44, it is still difficult to locate UJA-Federation's name or communal role in the paper. Only a thorough read of all editions of the paper uncovers our identity; there remains no visible presence for us organizationally.

I bring this perspective to your attention because our leadership's increasing frustration and dissatisfaction with Jewish Week is at an all time high. Coverage of UJA-Federation, even as we engage in dialogue with you to change the situation, remains inconsistent. It is no longer sufficient to tell our leadership we are making progress when the newspaper demonstrates otherwise. It would seem that unless improvement in coverage of UJA-Federation is immediately forthcoming, meetings with the new subcommittee will not be of any use.

Gary, it would seem that based on the paper's track record in recent weeks, your commitment to assuring a consistent presence for UJA-Federation is in question.

I know that you are out of twon over the Passover holiday. I do hope that you will call me as soon as you return so that Steve, you and I can meet to discuss the seriousness of this situation and try to help avoid continuing on a course that could ultimately be very detrimental to Jewish Week.

CC Stephen D. Solender

.............

August 25, 1995

From Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of The Jewish Week:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. [Lawrence] Tisch [of Rye, NY 10580]:

I have been told that you were hurt by my column in last week's issue of The Jewish Week [pointing out that the Tisch family owns Lorillard Tobacco Company, Lawrence Tisch was once president of the Presidents Conference] and for this I sincerely apologize.

My intention was not to cause you embarrassment but to highlight some of the complex issues involved regarding Jewish views on smoking.

This unfortunate incident reminds me of the moral of a story my late father, who was a rabbi in Annapolis, MD, for 40 years, used to tell. [Man, Hasidic rabbi, gathering feathers for lashon hara.]

I am particularly mindful of that lesson now, and if I had it do over again, I would have tried to express my views in the column without bringing specific names into it.

In writing columns and editorials in Jewish community newspapers for more than 20 years, I have always tried to be sensitive to those I write about. But in these last few days I have come to appreciate that I can never be too attuned to people's feelings and I will strive to be more diligent in the future.

Perhaps I had come to think of your family as an institution rather than consisting of real people with real feelings. In any case, please know that I have the greatest respect for you and your good works and hope that in that spirit you will understand, if not forgive, my words from last week.

.............

August 31, 1995

Draft Letter To All Jewish Week Board Members

[From Richard L. Hirsch, president, cc'd to Gary Rosenblatt, Richard Waloff]

As part of my responsibilities as president of the Board, I wanted to bring you up to date on some important matters.

By now, most of the Board members are probably aware of the controversy that erupted following publication of Gary's column "Where There's Smoke" in our August 18th issue. The Tisch family and Lester Pollack took umbrage at the criticism leveled therein and, not surprisingly, UJA took up the cause in defnese of their honor as major philanthropists. On August 24th, a meeting between representatives of The Jewish Week and UJA was held, yielding two outcomes:

1. An oversight had occured and the Board expressed regret along with unwavering support of The Jewish Week staff. Gary on the one hand, and MOrt and I on the other, would send the Tisch family and Lester Pollack conciliatory letters to smooth over any offense that might have been taken.

2. This relatively small controversy -- which for the most part has been resolved -- has further galvanized UJA's desire to dissolve its formal association and financial ties with The Jewish Week over a shorter time period than previously agreed upon.

The second point above is the larger issue which we at The Jewish Week need to focus on. The Board has courted this matter over the years but the time has come to address it proactively.

With that in mind, The Jewish Week and UJA have agreed to form a joint ad hoc committee to study options and opportunities, and to recommend a path for accelerating the amicable and mutually-beneficial separation of the two organizations. I suggest that The Jewish Week delegation comprise Stuart Himmelfarb, Larry Kobrin, Gary Rosenblatt, Rich Waloff and myself.

I believe that we must tread cautiously in these discussions, but at the same time be sensitive to the position of UJA. The Jewish Week has a terrific staff and an excellent product and we must protect not only our financial investment but, most importantly, the Week's raison d'etre.

..............

August 31, 1995

To Mr and Mrs Lawrence Tisch

[From, Richard L. Hirsch, president of The Jewish Week, Morton A. Kornreich, Chairman]

Dear Billie and Larry:

We understand that Gary Rosenblatt has contacted you in an effort to resolve any misunderstandings that may have been created in the wake of the publication of his column titled "Where There's Smoke" in the August 18th issue of The Jewish Week. We would liek to add emphatically that the mention of the Tisch family name in this editorial context was not meant to detract from the magnitude of your philanthropic acts, which are legendary. Rather, its purpose was to sound a plea on behalf of the younger generation for the help which certain of the most powerful members of the Jewish community are uniquely positioned to provide. Unfortunately, the tone of the column was perceived as more critical than intended, and Gary and we regret that.

The Jewish Week strives to achieve journalistic balance in its coverage of the New York-area Jewish community. However, insofar as concerns the Tisch family, striking this balance would require that every paragraph of criticism be followed by pages of praise for your many acts of generosity. We are all mindful of your leading and multi-facted philanthropic role and for that you have earned the gratitude and respect of many, including us.

...............

August 26, 1995

From Lawrence A. Kobrin
To: Gary, Richard

I sent this after the lunch meeting. While it may state the obvious, we seem to be drifting into an "assumption" that the communal "Nirvana" would be no payment of any kind from UJA-Federation to the Week. From their point of view, this would be simply crazy and they should not go around hinting to us or anyone else in the discussion that this is the real goal.

....................

From: Lawrence A. Kobrin
To: Ms. Louise Greilsheimer; Dr. Stephen Solender
Re: Communications, community, and continuity

At our meeting earlier this week concerning Jewish Week, there was some discussion of the long term financial plan for the relationship of UJA-Federation to the publication. In fact, a "blue ribbon" committee is now scheduled to explore the matter, although there seems to be an expectation or assumption that its final conclusion will be elimination of financial "subsidy" from UJA-Federation to the Week. From the point of view of the Week, that may be an acceptable long range conclusion about which the principal concern is one of timing or schedule. From the point of view of UJA-Federation, however, it wouldbe a terrible mistake which would undermine the very things we are mandated to do under our strategic plan and ultimately create a financial disaster for UJA-Federation. Several of us around the table were both directors of the Week and of UJA-Federation. It is from the latter perspective that I write a caution.

If one were to fantasize that the Week had suddenly achieved a large paid subscription base outside of the mailing list of UJA-Federation and was thus able to eliminate any financial relationship with UJA-Federation, the theory under which we appear to proceed would be that the best next steps would be for UJA-FEderation to eliminate any financial payment, to advise its donors that there was no further subscriptions although they were free to subscribe on their own. Based on our experience with the Long Island survey, in which the majority of those surveyed did not bother to respond and a substantial portion of those who simply did not [want] any Jewish publication sent to them, I would venture the guess that the vast majority of our donors, at all levels, would simply stop the Week and not receive any substitute (unless you consider The New York Times a source of Jewish news information).

As I said at the lunch meeting, our greatest problem is indifference and inattention to any Jewish information (beyond that contained in the Times or the Journal). If we do not force our way into the mailbox, for most of our donor population, and certainly the segment that is unaffiliated with synagogue life, there will be no contact or communication.

It is not clear to me how the opponents of the relationship of UJA-Federation to the Week propose to deal with this problem. Are we to rely on voluntary subscriptions to reach our prospective donor base, the Jewish community at large? Why will the marginally interested subscribe to anything? The Forward has been unable to attract a large reader base in New York. The World is similarly unable to do so. The Sentinel has become a joke with most of its "distribution boxes" abandoned or used for other publications. The Jerusalem Report, a slick and well written publication, has yet to hit big numbers in the New York area. The various national magazines have had similar difficulty. The Hebrew language HaDoar is in desperate condition and the scholarly journals have a limited subscription base which reach the scholars and few beyond.

Thus, once "independence" of the two institutions is achieved, UJA-Federation would have to proceed to consider what means to use to reach its donor base and hopefully beyond. The only means avaialble to do would be through the kind of publication that the Week now is. Anything more limited in scope or content would be viewed by most recipients as a house organ "throw away" and treated accordingly. Presumably, there would then be a negoations over the "discount rate" subscription price to be imposed for large direct mailings. I suspect that we would then be exactly back where we started except that the payment involved would be listed in a different way on the UJA-Federation administrative budget.

Perhaps I have missed something, but I fail to understand, from the point of view of a director of UJA-Federation, how all the rhetoric about "freedom of the press" and "playing fields" changes any of this analysis or projection. What the exploration of the strategic plan process, the several successive continuity studies, and our own experience at UJA-Federation should have taught us is that the greatest enemy is a complete indifference (particularly in the younger generation of non-traditional Jews) to all things that conern our organization. If we do not communicate with that group, we will ultimately have no Jewish agencies to which to allocate any budget or funds. That would be a disaster of unimaginable proportions.

I would hope that the study now to be made would keep this need in focus as the real goal and not simply the current pressures from specific communities or individuals or the need to find some extra savings in the administrative budget.

........................

To: Jewish Week Board of Directors
From: Louise Greilsheimer, Stephen D. Solender
Date: April 7, 1997
Re: Strengthening the UJA Federation/Jewish Week Relationship

While we recognize and take great pride in our longstanding and generally positive relationship with Jewish Week, we also acknowledge that there is a need to improve it. Indeed, at times, the relationship between UJA-Federation and Jewish Week has been a difficult and ambiguous one. We wish to clarify and strengthen it by each of us committing to our shared long-term goal of providing the Jewish community with news about it and the work of UJA-Federation, its campaigns and agencies.

To that end, UJA-Federation will continue to make its donor list available to Jewish Week for subscriptions so long as Jewish Week provides UJA-Federation with the regular "presence" it needs.

While we recognize Jewish Week as a quality paper in which we can all take pride, we believe it can maintain its quality while also fulfilling UJA-Federation's need for presence.

We are suggesting that a joint group of UJA-Federation and Jewish Week leadership be formed to regularly monitor the agreed upon goals and execute the plan as detailed in this memorandum. As was stated in the UJA-Federation Board of Directors resolution of February, 1994:

"WHEREAS, a fundamental principle governing UJA-Federation's consideration is that it remains committed to having a Jewish newspaper reach all of our donors so that issues concerning the Jewish community, including the message of UJA-Federation's campaign and the story of our agencies, is told and a sense of commitment and community is developed among our donors at the lowest possible cost..."

We are committed to assuring that this resolution be realized through our strengthened relationship.

RECOMMENDATION: To clarify UJA-Federation's realtionship with Jewish Week, we recommend that the following statement be included in the paper's staff box: "Jewish Week is an independent community newspaper. UJA-Federation buys subscriptions for its donors to assure that they are informed of news of the Jewish community. UJA-Federation bears no responsibility for the news or editorial material contained herein. Any positions reflected are solely those of the Jewish Week."

The Executive Committee of UJA-Federation recommends the following changes to increase coverage and give UJA-Federation presence both graphically and editorially.

* Priority changes proposed by UJA-Federation's executive committee.

* EDITORIAL: Train and sensitize Jewish Week reporters and editors to UJA-Federation as a resource and seek out its perspective on important stories. (EXAMPLE: The December 27th issue, UP CLOSE section, "Target Practice." We would have preferred more opportunity to help shape the piece, as well as provide more balance through either a sidebar or column.)

* UJA-Federation's role should be integrated into any featured story concerning one of its agencies. Encourage reporters to use UJA-Federation professional staff as key resources to help shape agency-based stories from our perspective, with our insights. * Develop one UJA-Federation cover story per month in all editions (12 a year).

* LEADERSHIP COLUMN: Arrange for a monthly column by a broad representation of UJA-Federation leadership. Columbs would be assigned to appropriate leadership and scheduled to address timely and important organizational efforts/issues.

* ADVERTISING: UJA-Federation should be the first full-page ad; UJA-Federation should develop an ad to conform with the space of the inside front cover page.

* Greater sensitivity of all UJA-Federation ad placements that should emphasize not only which page the ad appears but what sections its appears in (i.e. Israel Experience ad should have appeared opposite Israel page).

* OTHER PROPOSED CHANGES: In addition to the above stated priorities we recommend the following changes be made to assure UJA-Federation's presence in the Jewish Week.

* EDITORIAL: Use the first 15 to 20 pages in the general N.Y. section (in all editions)to find ways to feature UJA-Federation programs and events (as done in the Dec. 20th issue). Also, in those pages, provide greater UJA-Federation presence in headlines or kickers - including our name whenever possible.

* Use cover-page teasers to UJA-Federation stories, including the UJA-Federation name whenever possible.

* Wherever possible or appropriate, augment Jewish Week human-interest stories with a UJA-Federation perspective (via box or sidebar of our programs). Encourage Jewish Week to share with UJA-Federation professional staff on a weekly basis stories that they are working on. This weekly story development list would provide UJA-Federation the opportunity to assure that its perspective be included in more stories.

* Seek ways to incorporate UJA-Federation role in the first three to five pages of the paper, "In the Beginning" section (see Dec. 20th issue, page four -- New World Symphony photo, NYANA, with no mention of UJA-Federation).

* Create special UJA-Federation mission calendar in travel section, update quarterly.

* Major post-event UJA-Federation stories should be covered, whether through a story or photo, in all editions, not limited to the calendar pages of one edition (Lawyers Division dinner photo in Dec. 20th issue deserved better placement, and its relevancy transcended the borders or the Manhattan edition where it appeared).

10/28/04

Rabbi Mayer Schiller writes in the YU Commentator about his experience with YU:

Many people accuse YU being a close-minded and intolerant institution. But here the YU student paper opens its pages to an advocate of racial separation, one who makes common cause with white supremacist groups. I find Orthodox life far more tolerant of such racial thinking as that blacks are less intelligent, on average, than whites. Other sectors of Jewish life tend to be intolerant of these views.

I suppose that racism is one of those sweet delights that the Almighty allows those who follow his Torah as a partial recompense for the harshness of the Oral law.

I remember when a class from the liberal temple Ohr HaTorah took a class at YULA (Yeshiva University Los Angeles) with a Frum From Birth Monsey-raised rabbi. The rabbi brought up as the most natural analogy to something in the sacred text that some people believe that blacks are less intelligent because of genetics while others believe that they are less intelligent because of the way society has treated them.

Needless to say, at least one of these Reform Jews was offended and never came back. The next week the rabbi apologized for his remark. If he had made it in an Orthodox environment, and I am sure he had, then it would've gone unnoticed.

Different Jewish groups are tolerant and intolerant of different things.

Paul Shaviv on rabbi Schiller: "Most fascinating - and beautifully written - is the article by Mayer Schiller, one of the more interesting and individual characters on the landscape, about his long relationship with YU."

From my interview with Dave Deutsch, who teaches at the same high school as rabbi Mayer Schiller:

"There's this one rabbi I know - rabbi Mayer Schiller. You'll find some of his stuff posted on The Third Way page. He reviewed a biography of Strom Thurmond where he mourns the cowardice of Strom Thurmond for giving up segregation. For the loathsomeness of his ideas, at least he can laugh at himself. We get along. I have a high threshold for things so long as the person does not always take himself seriously. Go forth and sin no more.

"The best about Rabbi Schiller is that he sets the standards for misbehavior so high, I feel like nothing I can do will get me into trouble. If I have made some comments about Israel that have got me in trouble, well, Rabbi Schiller is a fellow traveler with the Neturei Karta (anti-Israel ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect)."
..........

From the Forward on Schiller: A Chasidic Spokesman Espouses Modernity — and Race Separation
Rabbi Schiller, 49, has made common cause with and spoken before a cast of characters and organizations that would send most American Jews running to the Anti- Defamation League: American white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists, Conrad Muhammad of the Nation of Islam and right-wing European nationalists.

In a series of interviews with the Forward, Rabbi Schiller declined to discuss for the record his published views on race. Officials at Yeshiva University High School, also known as MTA, said Rabbi Schiller's silence stems from an agreement that he made with school administrators five years ago, prohibiting Rabbi Schiller from discussing racial issues with students or in any public forum.
Me writes: I believe this is yet another example of a story Gary Rosenblatt of the Jewish Week suppressed.

Pulling My Punches?
3/16/01

Several years ago, for example, when we were looking into the fact that a high school rebbe had published deeply racist views in white supremacist journals, the top administrator at the school where he teaches called to tell me that he knew about the rebbe’s views, but if we published such a story, I would be responsible for the firing of this highly talented and effective rebbe. Why me? I asked. Because, the administrator said, the resulting publicity and outcry would force him to terminate the rebbe, and it would be on my head.

In the end, we held off because we found no proof that the rebbe discussed his views with his students. But I found the phone call, and its logic, deeply disturbing.

I recently went to hear a prominent rabbi [Rabbi Mordecai Willig, 1/31/03 issue] give a talk on Torah perspectives on sexual abuse, and he was adamant in asserting that Jewish law was “unequivocal in its condemnation” of various forms of “this terrible crime.” He was insistent that victims be supported and protected, and that perpetrators be held responsible for their crimes because there is “zero tolerance in Jewish law.”

An important message from an important leader. The problem was that he was a key and controversial figure in the Rabbi Lanner story, criticized for not only defending him over the years but for being dismissive of and accusatory toward those victims brave enough to speak out.

4/1/05

Gary Rosenblatt Bogged Down By Bloggers

Mr. Jewish Journalism writes in The Jewish Week:

Though I am getting used to it, I still find it disconcerting to read about myself –– and my journalistic motivations — on Internet blogs, especially because more often than not the information isn’t accurate. Various writers, often anonymous, claim to know what investigative stories I am working on, or not working on, and why, or why not, though none of them have ever asked me.

I was started to feel bad for Gary until I remembered my experience with him. My time interviewing Gary might as well have been spent talking to a wood block. What's the point of accountability if you refuse to answer any question that causes you discomfort?

I gave Gary every opportunity to answer various damaging reports about him. Gary wouldn't. He wouldn't answer any tough questions. He begged off of every single one.

So excuse me if I shed no tears over his hurt feelings. Excuse me if I afford no respect to his latest cries. Excuse me if my most vivid experience with Gary is him constantly saying, I'd rather not answer that.

When push came to shove, Gary was not accountable. Read my profile of him and make up your own mind.

In case Gary forgets, here are some questions he refused to answer:

* Why did he muzzle his best investigative reporter (Larry Cohler) and refuse to publish for 18-months Larry'ss revelations about Malcolm Hoenlein's slush fund?

* Why does he refuse to publish Yossi Abramowitz?

* Why has Gary never apologized for the way he had Yossi treated when he came in with his JNF scoop?

Gary's lead paragraph is a lie. I am a blogger and I asked Gary numerous questions, including questions about stories he was working on. JWB has also corresponded with Gary on these matters.

Gary's primary question about blogs (and JWB in particular) is: Are they good journalism? This is a stupid question. It's like asking if a telephone is good journalism. Blogs and phones are simply ways people communicate. The most important question to ask about blogs and writing is: Is it good? Does it have merit?

Journalism is a procedure. Merit is a destination. In this case, the destination is more important than the journey.

Inspired by Gary's column, I called him at 2:45pm EST to ask him such basic questions as the ones I raise in this essay. He was out to lunch. So I left my questions on his voicemail.

Gary writes: "Over the years in this profession I’ve gotten thicker skin, but there are people whose lives are more private than mine whose reputations and character are maligned in these reports. They have no one to turn to in order to set the record straight, and that’s just not right."

Gary provides no evidence to back up his assertions. I guess Gary is so mighty, he doesn't need to bother with such details as evidence.

Gary writes: "What bothers me, though, is that in this still emerging field, there is no accountability and there are no professional standards to be met. In the rush to get a story out first, the emphasis is on timeliness rather than accuracy, with seemingly little regard –– or responsibility –– for printing rumors or theories that are untrue. So people who are mentioned and maligned by an anonymous blogger have no recourse."

Again, Gary provides no evidence and no examples to substantiate his charges. I guess this is the type of lazy writing you can get away with when you edit and publish a lazy newspaper filled with mediocre writing. The whole thing is so blah, who's going to notice that the editor and publisher is making a lot of charges without substantiating them.

To rework a Gary Rosenblatt sentence in his latest blog, I mean column: "There is something very appealing about having one’s own newspaper. It’s easy to do, in this particular column it costs you no work in having to interview people with whom you might disagree, and before you know it, you can be sitting at the office and pontificating on any and all topics for all the world to read, even if you've made no exertion to substantiate your points." Sweet.

Gary writes: "I wouldn’t seek legal or medical advice from an amateur attorney or physician who insisted on remaining nameless, yet there are countless people reading blogs on the Web by would-be journalists whose reports go unsubstantiated and unedited, and the results are often hurtful, damaging people’s characters and reputations."

Gary sounds like another tired old clapped-out journalist -- David Shaw.

Gary writes: "More upsetting are the bloggers who criticize individuals by name, make accusations against rabbis and communal leaders, but don’t have the guts to identify themselves, or bother to interview the people they write about."

Gee, that sounds just like Gary Rosenblatt. He wrote a column about Jewish Whistleblower and company, but didn't bother to interview the people he wrote about.

Gary writes: "To demand full disclosure of others without identifying one’s self seems the height of chutzpah and hypocrisy to me."

Yeah, it is just like asking a baseball writer to hit a 100mph fastball before he's allowed to write about baseball. Gary uses anonymous sourcing when it suits him. He gives voice to the agendas of people he allows to remain anonymous.

Gary writes: "Call me old-fashioned, but I still think you do your best work if your reputation is on the line every time you write."

Gary's been phoning it in for years. His reputation in journalism rests almost entirely on work he did years ago, rather than the stuff he's done in the past few years. He has a cushy job where he's subsidized by the Jewish Federation buying most of his newspapers. He can keep his cushy job as long as he keeps playing ball with the machers. Gary is a far better player of Jewish politics than he is an editor.

Given the comparative magnitude of Gary's resources, the big story about him is that he, week in and week out, publishes a dull paper. And when you put your name on mediocrity, it doesn't make it anything more than mediocre. It's nothing more than Yesterday's News Tomorrow, which, more often than not, is precisely what The Jewish Week reads like if you keep up with the top five Jewish blogs (JWB, Miriam and Paul Shaviv, Chakira, Scott Rosenberg, Steven I. Weiss).

If Jewish Whistle Blower (JWB) develops an impressive track record of accurate reporting, then his work is still sterling even if JWB doesn't put his real name on it.

It is more important in these types of discussion that we concentrate on what is good rather than on what is "good journalism." It is less important that JWB might not live up to the protocols of journalism than to evaluate his work as a whole for its merit. Most Jewish weeklies are journalistically sound but dull timid affairs. JWB might not be journalistically sound (I'm not arguing one way or another on this), but his work is often timely and ground-breaking.

Inspired by Gary's column, I decided to ask the subject of this essay a question. I emailed Gary:

If interviewing the people you write about is so important, how come you made no attempt to interview Jewish Whistleblower? Your article indicates no attempt to interview any leading Jewish blogger and include their views. I guess they are not worthy. (Yeah, I saw DNC's article on bloggers nine months ago, it broke no new ground).

I guess Gary's rules of good journalism don't apply to Gary.

I guess he's not as open to being questioned by bloggers as he pretended. Gary did not return my email or my phone call. I guess Gary's plaintive complaint about bloggers, "none of them have ever asked me," was just a pose.

Has Gary ever given a good interview? I can't find one.

Dov Bear writes:

I think Gary is out to lunch on this one. JWB is entitled to his anonymity and to his style. The fact of the matter is that it is not JWB's job to be responsible, or nuanced, or to think about whether his posts are productive or dangerous, or cogent, or even defensible.

Gary's objections are the sort of criticisms one might make of, say, a journalist, someone whose job description includes being responsible about what he says in public. JWB, however, is not a journalist?he is an entertainer. Or maybe it's better to say that he, like all bloggers, is part of a peculiar, modern, and very popular type of news industry, one that manages to enjoy the influence of journalism without the stodgy constraints of fairness, objectivity, and responsibility that make trying to tell the truth such a drag for everyone involved.

Shimon Rosenthal writes:

Mr. Rosenblatt claims that bloggers are unfair and dishonest because they do not print their names. He implies that he and the rest of his print journalist colleagues are honest and fair because they posts their names on their articles. The argument is so flawed and filled with contradiction that it is difficult to know where to begin.

A journalist is fair and honest because they sign their names to their stories. But what about the stories they do not print? A print journalist can hold a story for his own interest. That is corrupt and unethical, no matter how many other stories he assigns his name to. Sins of omission are no lesser crimes or abuses of the journalistic ethic than sins of commission.

Mr. Rosenblatt for example will never write negatively about anything to do with the Federation system. Why? Because UJA NY sends free copies of the Jewish Week to all its members, thereby increasing Mr. Rosenblatt's circulation and his ad revenue far beyond anything he could dream of otherwise. So, when Mr. Rosenblatt, the dean of Jewish journalism, fails to write a story about the Federation system, but signs his name to another story, is he behaving ethically? Mr. Rosenblatt would not know of this, because he is an honorable man.

Indeed, Mr. Rosenblatt covered up a story about a tremendous government fine levied against him and the Jewish Week. Had Mr. Rosenblatt believed in reporting the news or his obligation to the community, if he were truly fair and honest, he would have printed a story to show the community what happens to those people who abuse financial systems. The New York Times put the Jason Blair fiasco front and center. Mr. Rosenblatt hid his scandal while claming to uncover others. But surely, Mr. Rosenblatt is an honorable man.

Mr. Rosenblatt's diatribe against bloggers is nothing more than a pathetic attempt by a third class journalist to pick a fight with a developing new medium.

An educated person would tell Mr. Rosenblatt that anonymously written leaflets were a tremendous part of the early newspaper business. In fact, anonymously written papers were the norm and a critical component of early political life in this country. Surely, Mr. Rosenblatt knows this, for he is an educated and honorable man. Mr. Rosenblatt is more educated and honorable than Dr. Benjamin Franklin, because Dr. Franklin took to writing anonymously. Mr. Rosenblatt is a greater thinker than Thomas Jefferson, because the third president and drafter of the Declaration of Independence, wrote anonymously.

Mr. Rosenblatt is more honest than Mr. Madison who, as it happens wrote anonymously. I am sure no one will argue that Mr. Rosenblatt would have made a far superior president than Abraham Lincoln who wrote anonymously. I have no doubt that the Federalist Papers were written by men of low moral character because they too were written anonymously. I am sure no one will argue that Mr. Rosenblatt would have made a far superior president than Abraham Lincoln who wrote anonymously. I have no doubt that the Federalist Papers were written by men of low moral character because they too were written anonymously. But don’t worry, Mr. Rosenblatt is an honorable man.

Mr. Rosenblatt also makes the false assertion that a person signing their name to something cannot be unethical, or careless with the facts. You need only read his paper to know that that is certainly nor the case. Mr. Rosenblatt cannot point to a single issue of the Jewish Week that contained no bias, agenda or false assertion.

Mr. Rosenblatt also fails to note the contradiction inherent when one puts his argument against his practice. If someone who does not sign their names to something is more apt to be careless with facts and details, then why does the Jewish Week publish stories with anonymous quotes? But don’t blame him, Mr. Rosenblatt is an honorable man.

Mr. Rosenblatt suffers from an ailment common to many self righteous people of his generation. He believes that the world began the day he was born and that all was invented under his watch. He believes he can do no wrong and that it is his job to point to the failings of those who do not follow his way, professionally, religiously, philosophically or any other ly you would like. His is a special breed of arrogance and stupidity that is reserved for those who believe they are big fish because they live in an incredibly small fishbowl.

Blogging is an evolving medium, just like newspapers were once. Ethics and standards will emerge. But to dismiss someone, their facts or their opinions for omitting their names while other people do not is wrong. But then again, Mr. Rosenblatt would not know what it is like to be wrong.

The Jewish Week paid a fine of less than a million dollars for abuse of mailing privileges. The details about the fine are public record and should be found at the New York Attorney General's office.

JWB writes to Miriam Shaviv:

Frankly, I don't care if people criticize me. I could delete every such post on my blog, yet I do not.

Some quick notes:
1) Rosenblatt never contacted me by e-mail or clarified any of his claims about me or my blog or asked me any questions. He made very clear he was referring to my blog but did not name it.

2) Rosenblattt is more than welcome to comment on my blog. If he emails me a response, I would be prepared to post it uncensored. He can even choose the title. I have been given no such courtesy.

3) I have never claimed to be "a Jewish reporting blog". I make no claim to be a journalist. Perhaps if certain court decisions find blogging to be journalism then I might.

4)>I still find it disconcerting to >read about myself –– and my >journalistic motivations

I never claimed to know Rosenblatt's motivations other than to improve the community and report factual stories. My criticism was in regard to a number of stories he either killed, chose not to pursue, kept quiet at the request of senior RCA offcials and one story where I felt he "soft-balled" the story.

I have consistently defended Rosenblatt in many posts concerning people who attacked his motivations and in particular his Lanner story, which I believe was some of the finest journalism..

5)
>Various writers, often anonymous, >claim to know what investigative >stories I am working on, or not >working on, and why, or why not, >though none of them have ever asked >me.

I have actually been in contact with Rosenblatt and people around him. In a series of emails, Rosenblatt actually did indicate to me why he would not pursue a story. I would further note that the stories I have criticized him for not pursuing (rabbi who wrote racist articles in a white supremist journal, principal with long history of child molestation etc.), I have quoted from articles and editorials written by Rosenblatt that state/allude to exactly what I claim.

6) The unfortunate situation is that when Jewish victims/survivors are looking for help in the media they are almost always directed to Rosenblatt. Although he was very kind and professional with victims of Rabbis Lanner and Weinberg, there is a lack of attention or courtesy that he has displayed in other situations where there were desperate vulnerable people who thought he would help. My concern is that if he has journalistic standards in this area of reporting that differ from the mainstream media be upfront. I have noted in the past that the standards he applies to abuse stories were applied in the general media, there would be no catholic church abuse scandal.

7) This is part of my ongoing criticism of the Jewish community institutions that still provide nowhere for victims or sexual abuse/exploitation to go and no resources.

I did privately criticize Rosenblatt in a private email (which was a response to an unsolicited email from him, which involved an email I had sent to his mentor which was of course forwarded without my consent to Rosenblatt, everyone ultimatley gets forwarded to Rosenblatt as so many reporters don't want to touch these sort of stories) several years ago on this exact matter. I had been in contact with Rosenblatt on a similar subject months earlier and realized he had no interest pursuing the story as he has his unique standards for such stories which as I told him at the time served no purpose other than to protect people with documented histories of sexually abusing particularly young children.

Jewish law does not permit me to put my life and my family's lives in danger when it is unnecessary. In this situation, I believe I can do a lot more good behind the scenes through my blog.

Miriam [Shaviv], when you choose to do hard hitting stories about corruption from the community you came from, I will take your evaluation more seriously (ie: the defunct Toronto Jewish Boys' choir, look into it).

I don't claim to be a journalist. Rosenblatt does. If he has criticism of me, why didn't he try to contact me? He looked at my profile, where an email address is featured. And yet he accuses me of not "...bother[ing] to interview the people they write about".

I most certaily did address my criticism of his journalistic standards (in relation to sexual abuse stories) to him directly. He on the other hand has not done what he preaches.

I confirm he sent me no email in relation to my blog.

Paul [Shaviv], when you start addressing people in your own community and profession that have histories in this area, I will no longer be necessary. I don't see you posting about the defunct Toronto Jewish Boys' choir or naming names.

Of course if you do so, you will be hauled to beis dins, have your name plastered in flyers, your parnasah destroyed, you will be put in cherem and your grandchildren's shiduch opportunities impacted.

Paul, Miriam, put your own house in order. You want a real news story? Track down what happened with this choir. Put together how many of your great community leaders keep this shameful episode secret and protected the predator involved at the expense of victims and how many young men associated with Pirchei are no longer alive (suicides, drug related deaths, etc.) paying the price for your community's secret shame and silence.

Paul Shaviv responds to JWB:

1. JWB: Acountability and transparency are 2-way streets, and they apply to you as much as anyone else. I would, again, feel reassured if you at least acknowledged that in the London case, a number of your facts were WRONG.

2. You are questioning my own actions and responsibilities. As I wrote at an early stage, I have dealt with a number of cases of professional misconduct over the years. I just don't publish the details.

3. I have no knowledge whatever of the Toronto case youa re talking about.

4. Your last (6:26) posting talks about the effect / reaction on people who publish names etc, and the awful consequences that they risk. But isn't that exactly what you have done to the teacher in London?

JWB responds:

You probably don't know of other situations in Toronto: 1. A gang rape at a local Yeshiva not reported by the headmaster to the authorities. 2. A Yeshiva where several teachers were quietly told to leave town rather than reporting them to the police. 3. A married board member of a Jewish student organization that has a known history of making unwanted passes at young men.

Sultan_Knish writes:

...Rosenblatt is the last to talk about accountability while working for a newspaper that serves as the organ of the corrupt UJA or whatever alphabet soup the federations go by these days. The Jewish Week only does investigations when it comes to smearing orthodox jews not when it comes to accountability at home. If a UJA official began abusing half the population of Cleverland it would never be seen in The Jewish Week.

Secondly there's a tradition of reporters working anonymously and undercover. Many of the news stories you see in your newspaper go unsigned as well. Unlike Roseblatt, JW isn't funded by money intended to go to charity and you don't have to read him or agree with him. He's one voice. He does not claim to represent anyone but himself. And a lot of the 'accusations' he's accused of wildly making are in fact news stories from mainstream media outlets produced by reporters with names attached to them.

Those Amazing Anonymous Journalist Bloggers

Sultan_Knish writes:

Plenty of compulsive liars, for example Bill and Hillary Clinton, go by their own names. It does not interfere in any way with their chosen career of compulsive lying. People are judged by their track records and that indeed is the only way anyone can be judged, whether they give their name or not.

That my grocer has a name does not matter to me nearly so much as that I know from past experience the quality of his wares. With journalists too, it does not matter what they call themselves so long as there is a consistent name and identity along with a track record.

His critics cite accountability but what does accountability for a freelance blogger who is not doing this for commercial reasons? He has a consistent identity and that identity and his reputation is accountable. No further professional accountability is possible since his reputation is his profession. Personal accountability however is but that is not a credible argument that someone is not a legitimate reporter unless they expose themselves to personal harrassment.

Journalists who operate in the Orthodox community and live within it, particularly excluding the Modern Orthodox Community, face an environment where investigative journalism is tarred as mosering or lashon hara and where social reputation for a family is everything and where everyone knows instances of corruption but no one speaks out because leaders and Rabbanim may not be questioned.

The blog is the future of Orthodox Jewish journalism. It is anonymous and it synthesizes sources and information and throws in gossip and rumor into the mix too. It opens up sources of information that were closed because no one has a face.

Sultan_Knish writes: "But what is the difference between a professional journalist and an amateur blogger? Yes there's the office and the fat UJA funds derived salary and getting invited to dinners in your own honor."

5/13/05

I email Phil Jacobs, Editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times:

Early this year, you saw the tape of Vicki Polin's controversial May 1, 1989 appearance on the Oprah Show as "Rachel." Why did you not write about that? What was not newsworthy about that?

According to a source who's spoken to Phil Jacobs about this, Phil says he has been inundated with stories and the other responsiblitiesof being the editor of a paper. He just hasn't had time to do the research involved in doing this story. He knows that Vicki wouldn't talk to another reporter at his paper. He put Vicki on his list of articles to write, and hasn't gotten to it yet.

Maybe Phil should pay me to do the research and write this story for his august publication?

I email Gary Rosenblatt at The Jewish Week:

How long have you known that Vicki Polin was the "Rachel" in the infamous May 1, 1989 Oprah show? Why haven't you written about it?

Gary has known that Vicki was the infamous "Rachel" for at least five months, and possibly for years. There was no mention of this in his paper's 3/26/04 profile of Vicki.

Gary Rosenblatt Reports On Gafni In The Jewish Week

He writes:

...“We feel we were deceived,” Jacob Ner-David, a co-founder of Bayit Chadash, told The Jewish Week, which first reported on allegations against the rabbi in September 2004.

“He should not be called a rav [rabbi], his was not the behavior of a rav and he should not be in a teaching or counseling position,” said Ner-David, who noted that the incident “is my worst nightmare come to life.” He added that Rabbi Gafni is “a sick man, and has harmed so many.”

...[Gafni] was ordained by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder of Lincoln Square Synagogue here and now chief rabbi of Efrat, in the West Bank. Rabbi Riskin revoked his ordination in 1994 after his former student, in a lengthy interview in Haaretz, called for restoring a balance between the erotic and the spiritual in Judaism.

...This week, Rabbi Berman said he is “deeply regretful” of his prior support for Rabbi Gafni, and worried that his past defense may have prolonged the rabbi’s “predatory behavior against women.”

“I was clearly wrong in stating that Rabbi Gafni’s continued role as a teacher within the Jewish community constitutes no risk to Jewish women,” he wrote in a statement.

Rabbi Berman said he had felt the earlier accusations “were not justifiable foundations for public disgrace and exclusion,” and noted that he will “continue to struggle with the ideal line between presumption of innocence and protection of potential innocent victims.”

He told The Jewish Week the Gafni case underscores the ongoing need for a mechanism to investigate allegations against rabbis “in a way that the community has confidence in, so that when it’s over, it’s over.”

He said that rabbis are “not capable of enough objectivity to handle such matters themselves,” and called for a collaborative effort of rabbis, lay leaders and professionals in the health care field who deal with abuse.

5/21/06

'I’m there for everybody' — Dr. Aviva Weisbord

Baltimore Jewish Times Editor Phil Jacobs writes in the May 19, 2006 issue:

Dr. Aviva Weisbord has been there for everybody for almost 25 years, working with her patients in her psychology practice.

The truth is, Dr. Weisbord, the wife of Ner Israel Rabbinical College’s Rabbi Beryl Weisbord and daughter of the late rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Yaakov S. Weinberg, and community pillar Rebbetzin Hannah Weinberg, has never not been there for this community.

But now that status is going to take a huge, perhaps more public, change.

As of June 1, Dr. Weisbord, who is known for her warm, friendly smile, will start as the new head of the Jewish Big Brother and Big Sister League (JBBL) and its Jewish Addiction Services program. JBBL is a constituent agency of the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

Aviva Weisbord is a member of the human race. She's not an angel. It's impossible for her to have been there for everybody over 25 years. A single overstatement, wherever or however it occurs, has the power to destroy the credibility of a story in the mind of a reader (E.B. White).

Phil, if you feel you are possessed of the truth, simply state it, do not give it advance billing (E.B. White). "The truth is..."

One thing that Phil Jacobs does not mention is that Aviva Weisbord is the sister of accused sexual predator Rabbi Matis Weinberg.

I'm not arguing that this should disqualify Dr. Weisbord from anything but it is certainly relevant to a story on her.

The pioneer for reporting on rabbinic sex abuse, Gary Rosenblatt, writes in The Jewish Week May 9, 2003:

Dr. Aviva Weisbord, a psychologist in Baltimore and sister of Rabbi Weinberg, said she and other members of her family are working toward establishing a two-tiered mechanism to deal with sexual abuse in the Orthodox community. Allegations would be addressed to a group of distinguished rabbis, she said, who then would appoint trained professionals to investigate and make recommendations, which the rabbinic body would then act on.

As a form of “checks and balances,” Weisbord said, “ it would be understood that if people were not satisfied with the results, they could go to the civil courts or the press.”

Weisbord acknowledged that there was “ingrained resistance” from some of the rabbis who have been approached. “They recognize the need but have been reluctant to sign on,” she noted. “It will have to be done one by one.”

Phil Jacobs is the facilitator of a support group for men who were sexually abused. It meets at Sidran Institute, founded by former Awareness Center board member Esther Giller, a successful writer for grants.

I believe that the first meeting for a Ner Israel-supported set of such support groups was at Hannah Weinberg's house, Aviva's mother.

These support groups are part of a reaction to the Samuel Juravel case, which the Baltimore Orthodox community leadership covered up years ago (when there were numerous accusations about Juravel's predatory behavior with boys).

Phil Jacobs, along with Gary Rosenblatt, were given the story of Vicki Polin’s 1989 appearance on Oprah before anybody but never published anything on it. About six months after Phil and Gary had the story, I was given it by Yori Yanover and, after ascertaining the transcript's accuracy, immediately published it.

Rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau has a daughter who (along with others) accuses Eisgrau of sexual abuse:

My father said that he wanted to help me and would take me to see a psychologist if I came home with him. He took me to his friend, Dr. Aviva Weisbord, who agreed to see me as a favor to him. (Apparently he had helped her with one of her children who had been having issues.)

Dr. Weisbord should never have taken me on as a client due to her obvious conflict of interest. She allowed me to come to her house during the course of therapy and sleep over. She violated confidentiality by meeting with my parents against my wishes. She violated confidentiality by telling people that I had been a client of hers and that in her "professional" opinion my father had not abused me.

During the course of my treatment with Dr. Weisbord she and I both realized that I had been sexually abused. She kept asking me about my uncle, Goldberger, whom I had contact with as a young child. I did not remember any specific instances of him abusing me. I did not tell her about my father. She was very willing to believe that my uncle, a convicted sex offender, abused me. But I knew she would not believe me about my father. She made it clear that she trusted and respected him. At some point she realized that I was hiding something. She told me that there were serious boundary issues in my family. That there were things that I wasn't sharing with her, and that she did not want to hear. She told me that she was ending our relationship and sending me to someone else.

Even though Jewish Week Editor Gary Rosenblatt broke the Rabbi Mordecai Gafni story, he chose to concentrate on charges against Gafni from about 20 years ago, rather on the abundant evidence that Gafni still acted like a creep (which I quickly published on my site after Gary's article broke open the dam of evidence against Gafni).

When Rosenblatt, who got first crack at those who said Gafni sexually abused them approximately 20 years ago, recently tried to talk to these women again, but they wanted nothing to do with Gary, saying he'd burned them the first time round.

What was and is important about Gafni is not primarily how Gafni acted 20 years ago, but his unchanged pattern of bad behavior (not just sexual bad behavior) that's continued to the present and was enabled over the past 20 months by such rabbis as Joseph Telushkin and Saul Berman as well as the Stephen S. Wise temple leadership.

Through his first column on Gafni, Rosenblatt, due to his earned prestige in much of Jewish life (he's a scholar in residence at various synagogues and is widely called "Mr. Jewish Journalism"), prompted people of good will to take the attitude of letting bygones be bygones with Gafni.

6/9/06

Gary Rosenblatt, Mordecai Gafni And Merit Uber Alles

In the fall of 2004, The Jewish Week Editor Gary Rosenblatt (the most praised man in Jewish journalism who had the Gafni story served to him on a platter yet blew it), the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles and I wrote about Rabbi Mordecai Gafni.

Rosenblatt and the Journal portrayed Gafni as a powerful religious leader who'd committed sexual indiscretions two decades ago.

I portrayed Gafni as a creep and a charlatan. I wrote that he was dangerous whether or not he was screwing people under his religious leadership.

In retrospect, it turns out that I got it right and the Journal and Rosenblatt got it wrong (even though we all largely had our facts in line).

Did I get it right because I had better sources than my competitors? No. I got it right because I have different values than they do. Their primary concern is journalistic protocol (and perhaps community politics and advertising). My primary concern was merit (where you weigh competing values and decide which are most important in this case).

(As for the Forward, they haven't even been in the game reporting on sexual predators with the exception of their breaking the Mordecai Tendler story. Along with the Jewish Journal, they had the Aron Tendler story served to them on a platter in the fall of 2004 yet published nothing.)

When I started reporting on Gafni and other predators, Rosenblatt told a lot of people that my reporting could not be trusted.

So even though I was right on Gafni, Aron Tendler and company, does Rosenblatt apologize for not only blowing the story, but denouncing the one person who got it right? No.

He writes this June 9, 2006 column:

I was not surprised when I learned a few weeks ago of the public downfall of Mordechai Gafni...

...But for a journalist probing these accusations and knowing that the resulting expose could destroy the subject's career, professional standards require offering up real people and real names to make those charges. That is why I spent three years on the Gafni trail, interviewing dozens of people about the allegations of sexual misbehavior, before publishing anything. And at that point, in September 2004, I wrote an opinion column rather than a news story because I still did not have anyone with first-hand experience of abuse speaking on the record.

...My role is journalist, not judge. But in hindsight, I think I should have written at the time that I found the women far more credible than Gafni.

The most important thing in writing about Gafni or anybody or any subject is to produce something of merit. That trumps following journalistic protocol. What's most important is to be right about what's most important.

What's most important about the Aron Tendler story is not that he was a sexual predator, but that the Jewish community (particularly the Los Angeles Orthodox rabbinate) allowed him to move from job to job while he was rubbing up against the vulnerable under him.

For instance, Rabbi Avraham Union (who runs the Rabbinical Council of California) knew about the Aron Tendler story for at least as long as he's run the RCC (more than a decade?) yet he did nothing until he had no choice. That Union lacks the courage of his convictions can be deduced from Rob Eshman's February 14, 1997 report on the Kabbalah Centre where Union says he backed off sending a letter denouncing the cult when he got a threat on his doorstep.

It's time to compile a list of all the people who protected Gafni and Tendler and company when they had reason to believe they were sexual predators. For instance, David Suissa of Olam was a big Gafni supporter. Rabbi David Wolpe had Gafni speak at Temple Sinai.