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Steven I. Weiss - Uber Blogger

A very sexy woman (the Jenna Jameson of Jewish journalists) asked me with genuine confusion: Who is the true Steven I. Weiss? The long-haired wildman in this Gothamist interview or the tame yeshiva boy on Frumster?

Steven and I speak by phone Tuesday night, June 15, 2004 for two hours. It's 8:40 p.m. my time, 11:40 p.m. in New York.

Steven: "I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. My parents are Modern Orthodox. My father (Allan) was in finance and my mother (Iris) in education (Jewish and secular). They've retired to Florida. I have an older sister Jennie, married (to Reuven), and a younger sister Sharon. I grew up in Atlanta.

"My father thought I'd become an engineer. I don’t know what my mother expected me to be. We were actually having a family conversation recently, I forget about what, and somehow my parents got asked what they’d thought I’d become. My father mentioned the engineer thing. My mother said: 'I can tell you one thing I wasn’t expecting -- that my son would be a college dropout.'

"That I'd become a writer is somewhat predictable given how much reading and writing I've been doing. As long as I've been literate, people have been telling me that I should be writing more.

"I don't think of myself as a writer. It's just part of what I do as part of other work. I might write well and easily but what I'm trying to do is to get at the truth, or a message, or an interpretation. The writing is secondary."

"What was your relationship like with Orthodox Judaism as a kid?"

"I lived in suburban America. It's different from New York. There certainly wasn't a strong sense of the label Orthodox. It was more about being religious. The first time I heard the term 'Orthodox,' was when I was in second grade at a school where I and a couple of other kids were a handful of Orthodox students in a couple of hundred. The other kids told me that I was Orthodox. Then, after telling me that I was Orthodox, they’d ask me to determine whether they were Orthodox, which to me was just being religious. So, I'd ask them if they kept Shabbos. There was this quiz they would ask me to give them to see if they were Orthodox. But I had no sense of being Orthodox.

"Every once in a while, the term Modern Orthodox would come up in my house because of the move to the right thing in Atlanta. What were these black hats and kollels (institutes for fulltime Torah study by married men, as opposed to yeshivot where the men are typically not married) and chumrahs (strict interpretations of Jewish Law)?

"I didn't have any cognizance of Conservative and Reform until I was 16 or older. Until we left Atlanta and I was in Minnesota. I had some sense that those to the right of us were not us, but not of our having a unique position as ‘Orthodox’ or ‘Modern Orthodox.’"

"Have you always believed in God?"

"No."

"Where are you right now?"

"I'm not sure. I'm not sure what historically Judaism has asserted as belief in God. Not just from Marc Shapiro's books, but when I pick up the writings of Maimonidies and Talmudic scholars, even among frum scholars like James Kugel, who stands out in his level of service of belief, he's elite in the Biblical studies world, I don’t know that they all come together as a definable core of Jewish belief. I just don’t know that there is a real Jewish theological tradition. As to Kugel, I find myself disagreeing with the more liberal elements of his scholarship. What he asserts, most Orthodox Jews today would disagree with. It’s a problem, I think, with academic work on the Bible, on Judaism, that tends to assert beliefs based on certain readings when there are readings much older than those that are coherent and express different beliefs."

"How pervasive is atheism among the Orthodox Jews you've known well?"

"Almost none. Among teenagers, you'd find a fair amount who'd say they were atheists. By the time they are in college, they have either, quote-unquote, gone off the derech, or they've become super frum. You don't find a lot of tweeners.

"It might be growing.

"Modern Orthodoxy, more so in New York, is overwhelmed with defining what is Modern Orthodox and what is not. There are a lot of reasons why this is the case. Part of it has to do with New York, and part of it has to do with Modern Orthodoxy. Many New Yorkers treat people as disposable, and the Jewish community takes part in that. It’s real easy to start saying someone’s no longer Modern Orthodox, or Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, when there’s always another New York Jew to fill the ranks and replace them. But there are also theological and philosophical elements at play. I’ve seen some unpublished academic work that ties Soloveichik’s philosophy to predecessors in the German school, and I think it’s pretty correct, and that many of the conclusions drawn from that scholarship – that a community will define itself more and more by what it is not – has materialized in the Modern Orthodox community."

"Is there anything in Jewish religion that you feel passionately about and want to take up arms?"

"I used to feel that I was going to change the world. That I should bring about a messianic utopian age. I never cared much about the Jewish theology of messianism. It was a vocabulary for what I felt like I should be doing. I could see things coming to a head and I wanted to be part of that. I'd always assumed that the Jewish messianic age would come before my grandfather died. That didn’t happen, and I remember being kind of surprised at that reality when he died.

"The First Cause idea is a compelling philosophy. Monotheism is compelling. That God would communicate with people seems compelling."

"Do you care whether women get aliyot (called to the Torah on Shabbos mornings and festivals)?"

"I'm agnostic on a lot of these questions. Other than outright abuse, I don't care that much about what happens in Judaism. As far as friends go, I'm good. As far as the community goes, I've been kicked out of so many things, that I can take it or leave it. As far as where it goes, I'm agnostic. These things don't keep me up nights. Ritual will figure itself out.

"I don’t know that a lot of people who hate the idea of women getting aliyot won't eat at the house of people who participate in those kind of things, which is, to me, when these things start having material ramifications. When impassable schisms develop over these ritual issues, that’s when we’ve got a problem. But we don’t have that yet. What we’re seeing now is an interesting – and, I think, healty – shteeble-ization of the Jewish community, with many little minyans cropping up, and the micro-communities are still interacting, still working together."

"Let's list off the places from where you've been kicked out."

"After eight months (1996-96), I was kicked out of HTC (Hebrew Theological College) Skokie Yeshiva. The official reason was for being outside the dorm at 4:30 a.m. I had a good friend who I felt was in danger. I'd risk my life for him. I left the dorm to see that he was OK and to bring him back. In the course of that, I got held up and they kicked us all out.

“What was your reaction to being kicked out?”

"I just laughed. Whatever. I was thinking, ‘What are you going to tell my parents?’ My parents aren't going to accept that, getting kicked out for being outside of the dorm at 4:30 while trying to help my friends.

"As it turns out they lied about a lot of things to my parents, that they’d lied about a lot of things for a long time, in communications I hadn’t known about.

"A lot of the stuff I got in trouble for was protesting what was happening to other students.

"At one point, the principal called me into his office. He said, 'We don't like to spend a lot of time with individual students.' He pulls out an index card and lists off a whole bunch of supposed indiscretions. One of the big ones was absolutely insane.

"All of us out of towners in the dorms were a crew. We were lonely. So we started singing Happy Birthday at lunch to whoever was having a birthday. One day I sang it to one guy at breakfast, and no one else joined in, I guess because they were confused that I was singing at breakfast instead of lunch. The principal pulled me aside and said he didn't want to see that kind of episode from me again. I was dumbfounded. Apparently, Rabbi Yitzchok Sendor, at the rebbes’ table, was screaming out ‘Who is that meshugah?’"

"How did your parents handle your rejection?"

"I was under some form of house arrest for a month or two, and basically grounded for a year.. I had a job I was allowed to bike to. They were extremely unhappy. I wasn't allowed to communicate with anybody. It really hurt me."

“When did you get your driver’s license?”

"I got my driver's license at 18 and then it expired when I turned 21. I don't have a license.

"I was at YU (Yeshiva University) from August 1998 until June 2002 [when, shortly before he was to graduate, Weiss was expelled]. I got a letter from the academic advisor that said to not come back to YU and don't get involved with our stuff. The ostensible reason was grades."

"How did your parents react?"

"Negatively. To what I’d been doing that brought about the expulsion, not the expulsion itself. I think their attitude was more of ‘Good for them for doing it to you’. They’d been very upset about my grades. My grades were poor, but they weren't expulsion-poor. A lot of what the school was upset with me all along was what my parents were upset with me about, too. They didn't want me standing out in the crowd and doing activism against the school administration."

“When did you start blogging?”

"I started blogging in October 2002. I started Protocols in December 2003."

"How did you meet the other elders on Protocols?"

"From the editorial board of the YU Commentator (student newspaper), Yehuda Kraut, Pinchas Shapiro, and Sam Singer. I always wanted to get Jason Cyrulnik, editor-in-chief of the Commentator in Volume 65, which was '00-'01. I wanted it to be like Oxblog. Oxblog is a group of guys from Oxford who are smart and funny and got together to talk about cool issues, and that was something I wanted to have among my friends, in part to preserve the dialogue that I couldn’t participate in anymore because I was expelled and broke. My friends and I had these late-at-night discussions all the time during layout, and I thought it’d be great if we could continue them on a blog like OxBlog and show people what we were made of. Avraham Bronstein was reading when Protocols started and was sending in suggestions and links and comments, providing more content than the other Elders, so pretty quickly he came on-board, and soon after that it was essentially a two-man show.”

“Tell me about Iatribe.”

"I was already going with Iatribe, where I focused more on politics and media issues, and I had a decent thing going. I got linked by Mickey Kaus, and some other prominent bloggers. I have no idea what the hits I was getting were, as I hadn’t yet set up a counter. I was still getting used to the technical aspects of blogging…I don’t think I put the Sitemeter up on Protocols until June of 2003.

"I wanted Protocols to be us taking on the world. The name Protocols was a joke but it was also meant to mean something. Soon enough we started focusing on Jewish stuff. [Rabbinical student] Avraham Bronstein and I did most of the posting with occasional help from Singer and Pinchas and almost never from Kraut. But we were still this island in the blogging world, not really interacting with anyone. I remember when we first started interacting with other J-blogs. We got into this raging vitriolic argument with Jewschool. It was the coolest thing in the world. It was like Robinson Crusoe discovering the footprint on the beach. Everything changed after that."

“Why did Avraham leave?”

“A combination of events brought that about. I’d helped report on a book that had come out of Lakewood that was being called racist, that talked about the relative status of Jews and non-Jews, and then I got calls from people about an article in the YU’s rabbinical journal, Beis Yitzchok, about the Noahide Laws and the prohibition against murder and how there may be a difference between Jews and non-Jews. I couldn’t get into YU to buy the journal, and I was busy with other stuff, so I put up a post saying something like ‘Word has it that there’s a controversial article in new Beis Yitzchok about the Sixth Commandment and how it applies to non-Jews.’ Which is kind of ironic, in retrospect, because people later claimed that I was creating controversy, when my initial post was about as innocuous as they come. Anyway, I knew that that was the easiest way to get the information."

Charedi Rabbis Rush To Disavow Anti-Gentile Book by Allan Nadler (Initial article)

A leading ultra-Orthodox organization has launched a campaign to shift attention from a controversial book on Jewish superiority, choosing instead to attack the Forward's reporting on it. [Second article]

Agudath Israel of America has refused to condemn the book by Rabbi Saadya Grama, published in Hebrew under the title 'Romemut Yisrael Ufarashat Hagalut,' which can be translated in several ways, including "The Grandeur [or Superiority] of Israel and the Question of Exile."

Related article

[The Forward kept Allan Nadler's byline on the initial article when he did almost none of the reporting and absolutely none of the writing].

"Chakira [Josh Harrison] posted the relevant portion and translated it. That led to the longest comments thread we'd had. Chakira got a lot of heat for translating it, but it’s not like he could’ve posted it in the comments in Hebrew. All of a sudden, a lot of people in the [YU] rabbinical school, started paying attention [to Protocols]. People in the kollel were sitting there with printouts of the comments from Protocols. Some of the comments became very embarrassing for Avraham Bronstein [a YU rabbinical student]. And I understand how that could be the case for him, but it’s not like I hadn’t been through worse. I think if it had happened at a different time, he would’ve reacted differently.

“There were various people leaning on him who really changed him as a person and a blogger. I’m not going to get into the specifics, but suffice it to say that some people gained some new-found influence on him as a person. He asked if we could moderate the comments. I said no way.

“I had a long talk with a rabbi, Ezra Schwartz, one of the rabbis in the big kollel at YU, and we were talking about this situation. And he was saying that it’s good to discuss these issues, but that they have a proper venue, and blogging wasn’t it. That the Orthodox Forum was where these things should be sorted out.

"My response to that was and is that when something happens and you are called by the world or by the community to take part, you don't get to choose the forum. If thousands of readers are saying, this is the issue, it's easy to say that you are going to lock yourself up in the Orthodox Forum, or in the beis medrash, and say that ‘blogging is not my medium.’ But you're failing those people, as a communal leader. It's not OK to say no comment on an issue when tens of thousands of Jewish readers care about it, and it’s not OK to say that blogs are not a proper forum when that’s where the Jews are asking questions. Even if the older rabbis don't plug into it because they are completely computer illiterate, a fair number of the middle-aged and younger rabbis already are, and that’s a good thing and that’s what they should do. And if you have an issue with the discussion in the comments there, that’s your problem, because this is your community. And you are part of the problem of why the comments are what they are.

"Protocols was about the only completely unmoderated forum for discussion of Jewish issues, and there’s a lot of value in that. If you don’t like the discussion there, you can fix it. People tend to know when they can’t hold up their end of the argument against an expert, when they are at a conversational disadvantage. If you set yourself to raising the level of discussion, those people will self-censor, in deference to you.

“There’s some parallel here to what happened when you first joined Protocols, when you posted some stuff that was absolute crap, I think your posting gets better when there are other people involved -- Rivka, Andy, Radosh, Kraut. When they post, it makes you more conscious of your posting.

“I told Avraham that it was important to have an unmoderated, uncensored forum for discussion. The comments that turned off Avraham and the people who pressured him were easily responded to. If it hadn’t been for those people, I think he would have. I think he let those people change him, and it changed what he felt was important. And so when he made that decision to leave, he was making that as a different person. But that’s what he was ostensibly responding to."

“How did his leaving affect Protocols?”

"The Protocols readership continued to grow after he left. I think it was a loss for readers. I don't think he kept up what he was doing when he switched. He lost. Some parts of him, when he gave in to that pressure, turned off."

"There's a stultifying conformity to Orthodox life in general which is the opposite of blogging."

"There is and there isn't. A lot of the issues have to do with New York [where everybody can run into each other].

"There was a shift in Protocols from primarily me to primarily you. In some ways, the response was justified. There are a lot of better things to focus on than what is going on with Luke Ford to what is Luke Ford observing in the Jewish community. If you stopped writing in the first person, I think you'd find some good stuff. I thought the response [to Luke] was disgusting. I can see the IP addresses. I can see who those people were who were leaving those [disgusting] messages.

[question]

"My writing and thoughts are an open book. My work is uncommon. I do good work. I work hard. I'm very serious about my work, whatever work I choose to do. People who tried to do what I was doing failed."

"Could you marry a black Jew?"

"Sure."

"How is Fiddish going to be different from your work on Protocols?"

"At the Forward [freelance starting September 2003, fulltime since April 15, 2004], I'm focusing on more things that are not in my immediate purview (Orthodoxy). As far as tone and quantity, I think I've gotten it back up. I do want to do a number of jokes about Stern women doing a number of services for us at the Forward. Fiddish will be of a higher quality because I have more resources at my disposal."

"Do you find that women want to sleep with people who write for the Forward?"

"I don't know. I haven't met that many women, since I've been working for the Forward, who are propositioning types."

"Keep me posted." "The first time I get a proposition from handing out my card, I'll let you know."

"Tell me about your visit to Beth Jacob in Beverly Hills."

"I was there for a wedding. We had our own minyan Friday night. I was with a guy who's doing a PhD in Zionist intellectual history. He said to me, dude, the stained glass has pictures of the Holocaust. I look over there and there are pictures of Jews in Auschwitz with barbed wire. Holy crap.

"The next day, I realized that there were people below them with rifles who were Gestapo. They’ve got this crazy storyline going on. They have ancient Judaism [in stained glass], then the Holocaust, then the third panel is a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, and the fourth panel is Israel's 50th anniversary. The mechitza, which is half wood and half stained glass, has more Holocaust images. It was freaky enough with the stained glass. I couldn't imagine if I was sitting right next to one of those panels and looked up to see Gestapo."

"Did it help you davening?"

"No, but I was catching up on my reading anyway, The Rebbe's Army by Sue Fishkoff."

"How do you find three hours of davening on a typical Shabbos morning? Does that warm your soul or cool it?"

"Davening doesn't warm my soul. Very little about Jewish ritual warms my heart."

"Would you break the Sabbath to save the life of a non-Jew?"

"Yes."

"How did you like Rabbi Weil's attack on Reform and Conservative in the sermon you heard at Beth Jacob?"

"My first thought was, how many Conservative and Reform in the wedding party were there. I was just surprised. I've never heard that before. I've never heard from the pulpit a rabbi make such a statement about other strains of Judaism.

"His point was that Judaism was predicated upon the exclusiveness of the prophecies of Moses. That the liberal strains of Judaism never understood this."

"Did his bobbing head help or distract from your concentration on his words?"

"His tendency to move about on the pulpit was certainly distracting."

"Do you think that the Jewish soul is different from the non-Jewish soul?"

"I don't really think much about the soul."

"What other things surprised you during your recent visit to Los Angeles?"

"A friend was driving me around and there's a several block area [on Pico and Robertson Blvds] where there is a Chabad-something on every block. The Holocaust aesthetic of Jewish Los Angeles. Your van and hovel were surprising. You reminded me of an old friend and that helped me to understand you more. I was surprised by Cathy Seipp's ragtag group of friends. Luke Thompson has an interesting look to him."

“Was it difficult talking to secular people?”

"It wasn't difficult talking to secular people. It was difficult talking about religion to secular people, but it’s nothing I haven’t done before. You’ve got this sense of me as a very ghettoized Jew."

"Have you ever dated a black girl?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"I haven't really dated much."

"Do you think girls are icky?"

"No. Though, I've known icky girls."

"Would you prefer to marry a male or female?"

"I'd prefer to marry a female. I don't dig the whole anal sex thing. I'm big into the integrity of my stool. I'm not a homosexual."

"Do you think you could get used to it?"

"If it was just me and another guy on a deserted island for the rest of our lives, yeah. I'm sure I could get used to it. I don't know. Maybe I wouldn't want to. What if he was ugly? What if he was you? What if he was some lecherous older man?"

"What if he was a young hairless asian boy?"

"I definitely would not lay hands."

"You say you get angry about abuse. At what age can one consent?"

"Abuse isn't just an age issue. There's a power issue. It's a problem when a teacher hooks up with a student at college. I think it's an abuse of power. If it is that important to be with that person, wait a year.

"When I was 13 [1994], I found some erotic writing on the BBS system of the day. I got in trouble helping a friend email them to the entire [Jewish day] school [in Atlanta]. I was just thinking about this, prompted by some of your sick comments. It occurred to me that I had been reading kiddy porn written by adults for adults. For me at the time, I was reading about 14 year old girls. Wow. At my age, that was great. I didn't want to read stories about disgusting old women who were in their 20s. There's an element of consent for teens amongst themselves. But if it is a 16 year old and a 28 year old teacher or communal leader, that is definitely a problem."

"When you were 15, had your 28 year old attractive female teacher wanted to get it on, do you think that would've been wrong?"

"This has come up in Nicole Kidman's new movie. She's taking a bath with a ten year old kid who has a crush on her. If you had asked me at ten years old if I wanted to take a bath with Nicole Kidman, I would've said, where do I sign up? At the same time, there's just as much chance for later regret and feeling the inequity once the residue of the moment wears off.

"I remember when I thought sex was a bad thing [about 15 yo] and I was asked would I get it on with Cindy Crawford, I said no. My friend got so angry at me because he thought I was lying. But I think there's a lot of room there to feel wronged by some older woman.

"If I were looking back at my childhood, make sure you get the details here right, and at 15, I'd made out with a 15 year old, or I'd made out with a 32-year old, I get the feeling that at this point in life, I'd rather have made out with a 15 year old."

"Now I'd rather make out with a 15 year old too. Is that wrong?"

"When you were 15?"

"No. I'm 38."

"You're a dirty old man."

"I would never ever do it. I just joke about it.

"What do your parents think about your life right now?"

"They're happy I've got a fulltime job. They don't care what it is, necessarily. There’s some pride in the articles and whatnot, but really, the fact that I’ve got a fulltime job is a big thing for them."

"Do your parents read your blog?"

"Occasionally my father would read Protocols."

"How does he like it since I've taken over?"

"I don't think he's checked it. I don't think he's checked out Fiddish."

"Have you experienced anti-semitism?”

"I've never been called a slur."

"Like a kike."

"No. But I’ve experienced bias, or prejudice, or people telling me they know I wear a yarmulke to cover my horns."

"If you died today, would God be happy with you?"

"I wouldn't be happy with me. I'm not where I should be in life."

"Do you think about what will happen to you in the afterlife?"

"I don't think about the afterlife much."

"Do you worry about when the Messiah will come?"

"No."

"Which political party do you identify with?"

"I don't know. I've been registered as a Democrat for a few years. When I first registered, I was to the left of the party and making a concession. Now, I haven’t changed, but the political ground has shifted and left and right is very confused."

"What are the principle obstacles you face in doing good Jewish journalism?"

"The bad Jewish journalism out there."

"Who's particularly horrible out there? The Jewish Week?"

"It's easy to bash The Jewish Week. The only thing they do that is actively bad is when they get basic elements of Judaism wrong.

"The main problem with Jewish journalism is one organization [the Jewish Federations who fund most Jewish newspapers] runs almost the entire show. Almost an entire ethnic media is subservient to one organization. They don't even go looking there for stories. They want to have friendships with these people. A lot of these Jews in journalism want to be friends with their sources and their sources’ friends and with their communities when they go home. The way they go about it creates bad journalism.

"Comps are a problem with a lot of Jewish journalists. Major Jewish journalists get major major comps. Free cruises. Free trips and hotel accommodation.

"I know of a journalist who approached a major Jewish organization for a comp. They said no way. He then went on to write a story bashing that organization without mentioning the comp.

"I got comped for a $161 OU (Orthodox Union) dinner. I think that's more of a Forward issue than my issue. The story that came out of it was not necessarily the story the OU were after, and it hasn’t run, anyway. But I personally don’t feel any obligation relating to that dinner. I feel that the story could and should run – it’s an evergreen story and an interesting one – but it’s the Forward’s issue as far as ethics go.

"The weeklies receive almost all the money and all the attention of the older generation while actively failing to capture the younger generation. One of the few things that allow these papers to maintain any relevance is Shabbos, when many people will sit down with the paper, but that will only last as long as people are willing to read week-and-a-half old JTA stories, in print, as their primary Jewish news consumption."

"Are Jewish organizations trying to bribe Jewish reporters with drugs and hookers?"

"I haven't even heard a rumor."

"That's a shame."

"I don't think that goes on in most regions outside of LA."

"Sex?"

"Yeah."

"How many homosexuals did you meet YU?"

"I met a couple dozen at one shot."

" In that infamous YU bathhouse?"

"When [gay Orthodox rabbi] Steve Greenberg gave a speech in an apartment off campus. Homosexuals at YU are in the dozens. The maximum number of people who have come out from my time there would be in the twenties or thirties. Most of the homosexuals [at YU] are very closeted. Those who aren't, only come out to close friends. A lot of people came out to me, as well, even when I wasn’t their close friend."

"Do you think that many of the rabbeim at YU are closeted homosexuals?"

"Most of them are married with kids. They don't talk about sex a lot, or homosexual sex."

"How do you feel about abandoning the blog (Protocols) you worked hard to build?"

"It was a big problem. Protocols is going in a different direction. I hope it won't go in an extremely different direction. If you're the main content provider, and you do good journalism, that would satisfy. Some of the readers have noticed you're trying to do that. Some of the readers have left."

"Do you feel a sense of loyalty to your readers for getting you noticed by the Forward?”

“I definitely feel a sense of loyalty and respect for the readers of Protocols for finding Jewish blogs and sticking with them, and for helping me. But it should be said that this wasn’t entirely their doing. I was a well-known commodity in the media world for someone of my age and position. I already had a pretty damn good internship. I already had damn good media contacts. My boss at the Forward, Ami Eden, I'd already spoken with him well before I started Protocols. There was an awareness of who I was among some Jewish journalists, and even moreso among political journalists in the city before I left YU. I’d already done good work. Also, my reporting speaks for itself, without the blogging. I do good work. The Forward was thinking about hiring me and not letting me blog, which shows you where they put a relative emphasis on my skills.”

"What are your favorite Jewish books of the past year?"

"I've read fewer books in the past year and been doing more reading online. I don’t know what my favorites would be. Obviously, for sheer detail, Marc Shapiro’s books are exciting reads."

“What can blogging do to change Jewish journalism?”

"You can reach your sources in Jewish journalism, and get close. You can go talk to these rabbis and communal leaders. There's rarely sophisticated PR and that can you usually be gotten around. It becomes a problem when the Jewish journalist becomes one of the guys and not one of the people trying to get the truth. That’s why bloggers can take over. There’s no huge gap like there is in reporting on federal politics or other issues where the sources are so far away. If you’re a blogger and you’ve got a question, pick up the phone and call a Jewish source. They’re there, and they’ll likely talk to you."

7/16/04

Steven I. Weiss was fired from the Forward. "His copy was a mess," says a Forward source.

7/19/04

I interview Forward editor J.J. Goldberg.

"Why did you fire Steven Weiss?"

"Because he did not have journalistic skills. His reportage and story construction were not mature. He needs more growth than we have the resources to give him right now. It was really really painful because he is going to be a great journalist. We have a budget crisis. Where the market is right now means that the interest we get off of our nest egg is not covering our deficit. I can't eat up our endowment or we will be out of business in ten years. I don't have enough editors to make everybody's writing up to snuff. I need writers who can walk in ready. He's really smart. He's really gifted. He's really got a vision. I wish it were two years ago or two years from now and I just had the back-up staff so that somebody could sit and spend the time they needed to work with him."

7/23/04

Great byline typo in the latest Forward: "By BY Ami Eden and Steven I. Weiss"