I call Washington Jewish Week journalist Eric Fingerhut Monday, August 16, 2004.
"I went to Duke University, majoring in Public Policy Studies, and graduating in 1992. After college, I worked on a political campaign [U.S. House race for a pro-Israel Democrat in Long Island], temped for a while, then ended up at Washington Jewish Week in 1996. Eric Rozenman was the editor until mid '1997. The publisher was Jonathan Kapiloff.
"How do I put this delicately? Jonathan wanted to do the right thing but didn't always know how. After Eric, Jonathan brought in Jonathan Stern as editor.
"Kapiloff decided he didn't like Stern. He forced a weird, complicated situation. Stern had run a headline on an interview with the Israeli ambassador: 'Ambassador Says Conservative, Reform Jews To Blame For Israeli Denominational Problems.' It maybe was a bit sensationalistic but the writer of the story didn't object.
"A few weeks later, a letter from the embassy came expressing their dissatisfaction with the headline. Kapiloff was going to make Stern apologize in the paper for the headline. Kapiloff had told people on the staff that he was trying to engineer this so that Jonathan Stern would resign. Stern refused to run the apology. Kapiloff decided that was Stern's resignation. I don't remember if we ever ran any apology.
"Al Erlick, who had been the editor at the Jewish Exponent and retired, became our interim part-time editor. In April 1999, Kapiloff sold the paper. Soon after, Debra Rubin came on as editor."
"Is working at the Washington Jewish Week a sexy job when you go to Jewish singles events?"
"My biggest fans seem to be 55 year-old men, not 30-year old women. I don't get that many people at singles events who recognize my name."
"Do you write about your love life in the paper?"
"Once I did. When speed dating started. I did a first-person account of my experience."
"Who's the sexiest person you've interviewed?"
"Natalie Portman. It was a nice little story about how she feels about Israel."
"Did you ask her out?"
"No, that would be inappropriate."
Yeah, but it might've been a helluva lot of fun.
"Have you ever asked out someone you've interviewed?"
"Not that I can recall. Have you?"
I posted on Protocols that I wanted to take to dinner Alana Newhouse, Teresa Strasser, and Chayyei Sarah.
"Not normally. Not during the interview. More often when she asks, can you take out that section? How badly do you want me to take that out? The power of the press. Almost all the women Walter Ruby has been with have been women he's interviewed."
"Really? Maybe I need to rethink that. I guess it is ok if you're not doing it during the interview. As long as you have written the story."
"I think it could give you a deeper appreciation of your subject."
"Depends on what kind of deadline you have."
"Do you get to interview a lot of young hot women?"
"An interesting question."
"I don't believe I've posed it yet in this book. We're breaking new ground."
"That section of the Jewish community, 20-40, is one of the least connected."
More reason why you should date and connect it.
"The answer would probably be no. I don't interview a lot of hot young Jewish women. I don't interview a lot of young women in general."
"That's a shame. I've got to talk to Debra about this.
"Do you get up on Capitol Hill that much?"
"Not much. We're more of a community paper."
"Has anyone ever offered you bribes of drugs, money or hookers?"
"No. Jason Blair said that PR people would sleep with him to get a story. No. I've never had any of that."
"Has someone at your newspaper called you a kike?"
"No, I haven't experienced that."
"What did you think of Portnoy's Complaint?"
"I thought it was entertaining though it got out of control at the end."
"Was that what it was like for you to grow up as a Jewish teenager?"
"Not really, and I certainly never used that night's dinner for other purposes."
"What's been your religious affiliation?"
"I was raised Conservative. I now go to synagogue on the High Holidays. Last year for a while, I was going on Saturday mornings some. I stopped doing that. I'm not sure why."
"Evan Gahr told me the same thing and that he stopped because the women stopped coming."
"That wasn't... Maybe I'll pick it up again."
"Do you keep kosher?"
"No. But I don't eat shellfish or pork."
"Have you made a lot of enemies during your time at Washington Jewish Week?"
"I don't think so. I hope not.
"On the rabbi's discretionary fund stories, one of his supporters calls up and tells me that [New York Times Foreign Affairs columnist] Tom Friedman didn't think much of my stories. She said to call him. I said ok. She said, I'll take your number down and have him call you. Nothing happened. A couple of weeks later, she called my boss and said the same thing. She never heard from him either."
"How did the Monica Lewinsky get past you? What were you doing?"
"I was only an editorial assistant when that broke. I wasn't a full reporter."
"How many goyim have to die [in D.C.] before the story will make it into the Washington Jewish Week?"
"We had a couple of stories on Jewish community involvement in Sudan."
"What about in Washington D.C? All the murder that goes on in DC Does that ever get treated as a Jewish issue, even though it is only goyim who are getting killed?"
"It hasn't been treated as a Jewish issue. I'm not sure where we would come into it because we do limit ourselves to covering ourselves. We haven't covered general crime in DC"
"There was a Southern Reform rabbi who said in the 1950s that he wouldn't risk one hair on the head of a congregant for the lives of all the shvartzes in the state."
"How am I supposed to respond to that?
"My idea on the McGreevy story was that we should call up our local Federation and community relations council leaders and ask if any of the politicians that they had brought to Israel had met lovers there."
"Why don't you do a story like that?"
"I doubt you'd get any answer."
"But you'd get a gasp.
"Have you ever tried to employ Stuttering John's techniques?"
"Ask bizarre questions of Federation leaders?"
"No, I've never tried that."
"You've never asked them how they feel about being photographed while they are on their period?"
I crack myself up and giggle maniacally into the void of a silent phone line.
"You are going to post this on the Web. What am I going to say?"
"I should be more Meet the Press like.
"Monica Lewinsky. Chandra Levy. Golan Cipel. Is there something wrong with the way we're teaching the Purim story?"
This time I crack Eric up. It takes him about ten seconds to recover. "It seems that just like Jews are disproportionately represented in politics and the media, they are disproportionately represented in political sex scandals."
"Is there anything that your Jewish values and practices do not permit you to do that would be permitted to a secular non-Jewish journalist?"
"I don't think so."