I talk by phone with Israeli-born journalist Yori Yanover July 8, 2004.
"The American Jewish press is bizarre," says Yori. "It reflects a bizarre community. It's a carnival."
"True. And nobody has written a book about Jewish journalism," I say.
"Not true. There have been many books about Jewish journalism."
"Not about American Jewish journalism," I say.
"Absolutely. Oh, come on. There's a ton of them. My goodness. Amazon alone. There was a book about I.F. Stone, Art Buchwald. But maybe the survey isn't there. The problem with surveys is that they can be boring, but I see from your approach that you are not into writing boring."
We got to Amazon.com and find a bunch of books on abstruse areas of Jewish journalism, such as in the Ottoman Empire and the Third Reich. But no surveys of American Jewish journalism.
"What are the compelling reads in American Jewish journalism?" I ask.
"The Forward, on a weekly basis, manages to tell me something I didn't know at least once or twice."
"Is there any other American Jewish paper that tells you things you don't know on a regular basis?" I ask.
"There are things I don't know that I don't necessarily want to know. Some of them are a farce. Some of them are reprints from the JTA. My old slogan for the JTA was, 'Yesterday's news for tomorrow.' What are people looking for in their second newspaper? A sense of belonging. I don't think a muckraking Jewish newspaper would make it. The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times are muckraking Jewish newspapers.
"I started writing when I was 17 in 1971 in Tel Aviv (for a paper put out by Shalom Cohen, on the left edge of the Zionist camp). They still owe me money. They paid mostly in hash.
"In the Army, I was a standup comic. I wrote for a monthly paper of the IDF, Bamachaneh Nachal [on the political Left]. Settlements in Gaza and the West Bank started out as a combination military and farming outpost of the Nachal Infantry Corps. By the time the Army is ready to move out, you bring in civilians and start out a nice belt of Jewish settlements. The architect of that was Arik Sharon.
"I lasted about two years at NYU Film and Television School. I produced shows for Pacifica's WBAI in New York. I became frum (Orthodox) in 1983. It happened through writing. I was hired as a dialogue writer on the fourth rewrite of a never-produced Israeli-co-production in Toronto. The producer was frum. It was supposed to be named Esther and was about Mossad and Biblical prophecies.
"I tried to do frum radio in New York City. I worked with Dov Shurin. He was the only guy in Jewish radio who made money. He bartered with everybody up and down the block and fed his family and paid his rent and put money aside for aliyah. He was a colorful and sweet man. He had a show Matzai Shabbos that was 50% commercials and 50% editorial content. He helped me do my show. We lost all the money people invested in my show.
"I became the first DJ of Arutz-Sheva on the high seas (radio station operated off a ship off the Israel coast) in 1988. They needed someone who was frum, knew radio, and didn't mind being on the high seas. My wife (since 1976) gave me permission.
"Yedioth stole me from my local paper in 1993. I had that local star quality. I felt like a football star sought after by a rival team. They had a corporate strategy of going for the jugular of a competing newspaper. Drive them out. Then drop all the stars and local salaries you picked up.
"Everything was changing about Jewish journalism in 1995 with the Oslo Accords and the Yitzhak Rabin murder and the election of Benyamin Netanyahu in 1996. I just published an article about this, the power of the misquote. Your bosses rarely bother to read what you wrote. They prefer to hear from people who complain about what you wrote. I wrote a lengthy six-part article about Rabin after the assassination.
"When the news came in to my own shul [in New York] that he'd been assassinated..."
"And people were rejoicing," I say. "I remember that at Aish Ha Torah."
"Yeah. I took out a sefer tehillim (Psalms) and started saying tehillim quietly. My final part of the article was an assessment of his political career and the failures of Oslo.
"I waited on the article until after the 30th day of his death. I did not know that they were going to commemorate his death on the 40th day in Madison Square Garden. His widow Leah was here and somebody made sure that she saw the article. All she saw was the critique at the end. I had said his political career was not remarkable and reflected the policies of his masters. If his master was Ben Gurion, he did that. If his master was Begin, he did that. If his master was Shimon Peres, he did that. I said Rabin deserved to be forgotten but because of this idiot Yigal Amir he will be commemorated forever.
"Leah Rabin went directly to the owner of the paper and told him that somebody in his New York supplement wrote that it was a good thing that Rabin was murdered. I was suspended. The next time there was a complaint about my column (that I was a Holocaust denier, which is strange because all my family was burnt in Auschwitz), they fired me.
"By that time, I was an editor for the Jewish Communication Network, the first online Jewish magazine. It was an amazing adventure from 1994-98 (funded by Niv Bleich and Adi Ben Jacob). They devised a Jewish AOL. An intra-net rather than the Internet. There was no real business plan behind JCN (which was in English) other than to attract users. When the intranet idea failed, JCN was headed for failure.
"I was hired away by the Lubavitch News Service (which became Chabad.org). In 1994, I published a book in Hebrew on Chabad with Nadive Ish-Shalom - Dancing and Crying. It was about the last two years of the Lubavitcher rebbe and his community as he was dying. I hear from Lubavitch experts that they use the book as a resource.
"The book does not turn to an outside source. It's all about what the Lubavitchers have to say about themselves and the incredible political wars that were going on, down to real fist fights between the Messianists and the anti-Messianists. Even though I am not a part of the Lubavitch movement, I see them as incredibly positive.
"With the bust of the Internet, they let go of a lot of outside help. I was expensive outside help. I worked there from 1998-2001.
"Yanover [online publishing] Consulting was a nice source of income for me. By 2001, I was a wealthy man. Then came the bust and most of my clients disappeared. We are now getting used to a humbler life.
"USAJewish.com was for three years an extensive daily review of everything about Jews and Israel. I keep hearing from Jewish reporters that I should start it again. All you had to do was go there to get your stories.
Ariga recommends: "USAJEWISH.COM: The Internet's daily Jewish tabloid. Yori Yanover is the Matt Drudge of Jewish Internet -- except he's not a Republican, even though he's Orthodox, but much more universal than most of the Orthodox nationalists in Israel. He's a genuine pioneer of the Jewish Internet as one of the founders of the late great www.jcn18.com. USAJewish.com is much more than a blog -- he covers the wires and the Jewish press, and finds Jewish angles with wit and knowledge in the kinds of news stories that may not be showing the finger of God, but definitely make clear the Jews have their own history on the planet. His commentary is in the headlines he chooses for the stories he culls -- and it's funny and sad and thought-provoking..."
"I don't think I was as partisan as Drudge," says Yori. "I've managed to retain my friendships with most of the people on the Right and all the people on the Left. The one person I don't get along with is [Orthodox Rabbi] Binyamin L. Jolkovsky [of JewishWorldReview.com]. I hired him for a few articles on JCN. We had a major falling out over [Joseph] Lieberman. I thought he was vicious in his attacks on Lieberman. He thought my reaction was out of line. I asked his forgiveness. You'll have to ask him. At this point, it's a relief not to be in the world of Jewish journalism. Some of those things are not as painful as they used to be.
"I went through serious psychic pain during Florida in December 2000. What can I say except we told you so."
"What were the greatest obstacles to doing good journalism on Jewish topics?" I ask.
"Money. Nobody is interested in expensive investigative journalism. Whenever you see attempts to do good well-researched articles, you see organizations [sponsoring such] going into bankruptcy.
"The Forward launches occasional interesting and hard-hitting articles. Don't press me to cite one. Moment and Jerusalem Report occasionally come up with that quality article. It may not be investigative journalism, but it is a fine well-researched article. In general, people don't get paid enough to write [investigative] articles."
"What do you think of The Jewish Week?" I ask.
"It's still in an identity crisis. I'm never comfortable reading it. I read my friends. New York newspapers write about Israel all the time. Is it because it is the most important thing or is it because it is the most convenient thing?
"Today I do a local publication [GrandStreetNews.com and also in print]. It is all about the needs and interests of people here on the lower East Side. It's written with a touch of sweetness. I see my readers every day. I feel that I am serving the needs of a real community. We're in color. We're in the black. We make money. Everybody is happy with us. I don't have to deal with the Malcolm Hoenleins and all that mishegos."
"What did you love and what did you hate about your time writing on Jewish topics?"
"I hated that many of the disagreements between communities and religious movements inside Judaism was based on ignorance, self-centeredness and not on real debate. The effect of the relationship of America and Israel and the vote is frightening to me. It's almost as if the debate has been hijacked by the cheapest kind of propaganda. I consider all of us, with the exclusion of Jews for Jesus, as rabbinical Jews. Even the most extreme Reform won't tell you pig is kosher.
"I love that we're a family. I see that reflected in Jewish journalism. It can be schmaltzy and amateurish, but it is needed like oxygen. I can come to your house and I can see in your eyes that we are brothers."
"Any good stories?" I ask.
"We had this newspaper we made up. It was adjacent to JCN18.com. It had its own fake Web site. It was called the Petah Tikvah Times Herald. The most impossible name combination. In 1998, we had an article making fun of the Bible Codes. We wrote an expose of a code discovered in the Ten Commandments regarding the death of Princess Diana. Anybody who understands anything understands this is fake. 'If you count every fifth word, it says, princess will be killed with rich Arab prince.'
"We have it online. I get a phone Friday morning from Larry Yudelson, who used to be my coeditor. He says, 'open The Jewish Week.' It was the summer. The Jewish Week editor stole the piece and he didn't even attribute it. They just stole it and published it as their own news story. Not as a humor story.
[The Jewish Week published a correction.]
"During Chanukkah while I was at Arutz-Sheva, it was motzei Shabbat. I was on the boat with my wife and my teenage sister. An Israeli Navy speedboat came up to the boat. They wanted to light Chanukkah candles. We went down to the public quarters and opened the portholes and told them that first they had to do Havdallah (ceremony marking the end of the Sabbath). Then we lit Chanukkah candles. They sang Ma'oh tzur with us. There wasn't a dry eye. Everything good about this nation was right there."
L writes on Protocols: "Why didn't you ask him about being booted from the Forward after writing a questionable story attacking Rabbi Dr. David Berger without revealing his (Yanover's) Lubavitch ties?" [Responses.]
Yori Yanover replies:
I was never a staff writer for the Forward. I happened to be in Israel while the Bar Ilan conference was on and pitched the story to ALL the Jewish newspapers, including Marc Klein's SF Jewish Bulletin and to the Jewish Week. The Forward published a disclaimer by David Berger, the story's subject, the following week.
As to my Lubavitch ties, at the time the piece was written, I was no longer working for LNS. But I certainly attended many events as LNS employee, including sitting at the LNS table at the JTA anniversary which JJ Goldberg attended (we went down to the subway together afterwords). But my ties with Lubavitch were a well-known fact which I never tried to conceal.
L. critiques on Protocols:
Yanover responds: "I was never a staff writer for the Forward" - but you were a contributor until you made that attack on Dr. Berger - and then you seem to have abruptly disappeared from their pages after you were exposed for your Lubavitch sympathies and clear conflict in writing that piece. Was it just a coincidence that you suddenly disappeared from their pages then?
"I happened to be in Israel while the Bar Ilan conference was on and pitched the story to ALL the Jewish newspapers, including Marc Klein's SF Jewish Bulletin and to the Jewish Week." Wonder why no one else took it?
"The Forward published a disclaimer by David Berger, the story's subject, the following week." There you go again. The victim of an attack like your's, a false, or perhaps charitably, a profoundly distorted account, published a 'disclaimer'? What are you talking about? Yanover should have been the one to publish any disclaimers (which he didn't). What kind of legitimate journalist tries to stealthily do a hatchet job on a great scholar like Dr. Berger, after having previously compared the book in question to the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion,' showing his clear and extreme bias against him and his book?
Yanover concludes "But my ties with Lubavitch were a well-known fact which I never tried to conceal." Do you mean to tell me that many thousands of readers of the Forward knew of your Lubavitch ties and sympathy when they read your hatchet job on Dr. Berger? Perhaps some staff members had some inkling of such ties (but perhaps not their depth and extent), but there was no disclosure of them with your 'article,' leading people to believe it was a legitimate piece of reporting instead of the hatchet job it was. For shame!
Yori Yanover responds:
Hi, This is Yori Yanover. Did I get any messages?
But seriously, folks, having been out of the Jewish journalism racket for several years now has been such a relief. Still, I came to this page because a friend at LNS warned me there was some bad stuff about me here, and I'm glad to say they were wrong. You guys are tame and well behaved compared to what goes on in some forums I could take you to.
Finally: In my whole professional life I've written only one piece for the Forward. There was an additional profile article published on the first month of JJ's arrival at the helm. Other than that I've liked the paper very much but have had no other relationship with it. If that's called being booted, then you guys haven't seen what a boot looks like. I have been booted from Yedioth, that's for sure, after my piece on Rabin and on Rabbi Friedman from the Rambam Yeshiva. That was a million years ago, circa 1995 CE.
What else? I'm not sure anybody still gives a rat's underside for the Krinsky Vs. non-Krinsky wars of the early 1990's. It was refreshing to see a reference to it. The mention reminded me of the writings of some Americans who fought alongside the Spanish government in 1936 -- so far and remote for most humans, and yet so vivid for them.
On the Bush Nazi thing, Ford emailed me about it and I responded with a complete answer, namely that his gramps was in close ties with German industrialists in the late 30's, which drove his dad to prove himself as a Navy combat pilot. I don't think I would call GW a Nazi in serious conversation, but in the heat of a forum discussion -- absolutely, puke notwithstanding.
On David Berger -- I heard from some folks in academia (as all vicious put-downs begin) that he has been criticized in his own field, medieval history, if I remember correctly, that Berger reads documents strictly on their face, and is unable to recognize hidden messages and occasions when authors meant exactly the opposite of what they say. His reading of messianic Lubavitch literature certainly shows this gap in comprehension.
Finally -- it's amazing how many of you right-wing neo-con Bushie Litvaks are too chickenshit to enter your real name and email. Don't you know anonymous puke is like no puke at all?
The Plot Against America
As a Philip Roth fan, let me assure you this book doesn't rank among his best five (Goodbye Columbus, Portnoy's Complaint, The Professor of Desire, American Pastorale, I Married A Communist). Plot is neither compelling nor important and is the most overrated book of 2004.
The only way I can account for its general acclaim is that it must feed into many leftists' fear of a right-wing takeover of America. Its Jewish acclaim must lie with the desire of Jewish literrati to assert that Roth is a Jewish writer. This is his most Jewish book, but its focus is on secular Jews, the type most likely to assimilate within a generation or two. Whether they die by Hitler, Lindbergh or intermarriage, they are just as dead to the Jewish project of spreading ethical monotheism.
Yori Yanover writes:
Roth's plot is a stinker, and if anything, he lacks the heart to pursue his nightmare scenario to the bitter end and bails out in time for the historically-prescribed V-day. But if you turn to Roth for plot strength you're wasting your time. Roth is valuable most emphatically for his depiction of authentic sensations. And his depiction of the life of the small child Philip Roth in 1940's Hoboken is breathtakingly truthful. His ability to recall the ambivalence of American Jews in pre-WW2 America is cleansing in its power and lack of sentimentality. Compare his merciless descriptions to his Jewish contemporaries (Neil Simon comes to mind) and discover a rare depth of insight and recollection.
I hate grouping books and picking the best of this or that, so I won't argue much with your list of favorite Roth books. In my view only Portnoy was making a similar effort at authenticity, and The Plot beats it hands down for its sheer absence of nostalgia.
Incidentally, to say that PAA is about "secular Jews" is to introduce late 20th Century terminology to a discussion of mid-century culture. Indeed, all the Jews in the novel, including the pompous Reform rabbi who makes it big in the Lindbergh administration, are thoroughly and unabashedly Jewish. The central dilemma faced by Roth Senior is the choice of being uprooted from his Jewish neighborhood Vs. his ability to earn a living. Twice he faces this choice, the second time more dramatically than the first, and both times he makes the ethnocentric choice. The synagogue is still very much part of the neighborhood landscape, as is the struggle over kosher and non-kosher food. Goyim are still a foreign entity to be feared and loathed, despite everyone's sense of American patriotism.
As a religious reader, I was filled with a sense of compassion and empathy for the characters, and came away with a deeper sense of understanding of what it was like to be a Jew not in a speculative-history America, but in the real one, a scant half-century ago.
We're All Victims on this Bus
Over the past nine months, I've had far more success talking to women who say they've been victimized by rabbis (and advocates for these women), than I have from their critics (and the supporters of rabbis accused of sexual abuse).
I'm not arguing that all sides to an argument are equally valid. Rather, I'm acknowledging a lack of balance in my writing. That's why I'm particularly glad to get the following from journalist Yori Yanover, who has a different perspective on these matters than most of the people I've been talking to.
Yori Yanover (the webmaster of Worch's www.rebhershy.com) writes 2/13/05:
The string of accusations by grown women against various rabbis, that said rabbis have used their position to manipulate them into having sex with them, marks a sad trend in the politics of sexuality, as well as the politics of Jewish egalitarianism.
There should be legitimate cases in which women may turn to the law against abusive men of authority. Employers are not permitted to demand sexual favors, or even to use sexual language, under penalty of law. And minors are not even permitted the right to concede to sexual advances. Statutory rape is rape is rape.
But when a grown woman depicts a rabbi's religious position as an argument to absolve her of responsibility for having adulterous sex, it infantilizes her, and sets back the cause of women's egalitarian role in religious society. If women are so helpless that an authoritative gaze from a clergyman, or even concerted pressure, even nasty, abusive pressure, can cause them to succumb and have sex with him, we must conclude that it's too soon to permit women to have regular intercourse (no pun intended) in an open and unrestrictive fashion. We must shoo all our women into the house and bind them in chastity belts, because they're childlike and unable to withstand temptation.
A society of victims, unable to accept responsibility for their messes, is an infantilized society, one incapable of fending for itself spiritually and otherwise. We mustn't give in to the temptation of blaming our troubles on others. It is something only children do. Indeed, children and feeble minded people are entitled to be treated as potential victims. Grownups must account for their failures, even in the bedroom.
Jane (who had a relationship with rabbi Worch) replies (and I've edited down her letter for various temporary reasons):
Yanover's letter sounds all well and good. However, there is still no accounting for those who are in rabbinical positions primarily for the ego-gratification of power-over-others, using their mentoring and supposed 'spiritual' authority as tools of seduction. Has he no concern about those who pervert and abuse Judaism in this manner?
Yanover wants to talk about the so-called 'infantalizing' of women, that's a crock. The minute all the women who've been abused by these cretins...speak up is the minute they stop being infantalized. For more on being infantalized, in fact, he should ask...about... 'Age-Play'.
Of course Yanovers' going to have a "different perspective" on "these issues", when one of his main goals is to get you to remove your Profile page on his friend!
Here's a suggestion for digging a bit deeper as a journalist. When those supporters tell you things like "he's the only rabbi who really understood them", or "the relationship was healing" or "therapeutic" ---dig deeper.
Ask exactly what they mean, why, etc. If you dig deep enough, you'll eventually end up getting similar stories that we who came forward to complain have told--except with a different spin, of course, if they are still currently involved.
Those of us who've come out on the other side, when we hear things like that, the alarm bells go off. It's what we, too, once thought and felt. But manipulation can be a fine art, and in the hands of certain narcissistic craftsmen, even the best of people can be duped for long periods of time.
But do try to get more of his supporters to speak up. And be sure to question/ask them all about the BDSM Kabbala (yes it exists, two women I know have it although I've never seen it), ask them how their experiences of "timed orgasms" from his "voice-control" fits in with his teachings on Judaism, 'k?
Yori Yanover responds:
It's disturbing to argue with an anonymous person, "Jane," while I'm presenting a full name, and my address and phone number are in the White Pages. Why would she fear exposure by having her identity revealed to me? What is the implication about who I am, that this Jane fears criticizing my letter using her full name? What is the implication regarding the veracity and acceptability of her own views when she's not there for an open discussion, but prefers to hide behind a pseudonym? What is the implication when this blog gives equal credence to both views, when one comes from a real man and the other from what could very well be a fictional woman?
"Jane" suggests that it's a bad thing that rabbis "pervert and abuse Judaism" by "using their mentoring and supposed 'spiritual' authority as tools of seduction." I couldn't agree more. But why does that absolve all who sleep with them of personal responsibility? Or, as generations of mothers used to say, "If he told you to jump off the Empire State Building you'd also do it?" Give me a break, barring physical or other violent enforcement, people, men and women, tend to sleep with those they want to sleep with. You slept with your louse of a rabbi it's your fault, unless you are a child or a moron (legally).
"The minute all the women who've been abused by these cretins...speak up is the minute they stop being infantilized," says "Jane." Actually, no, that's when they realize how badly they've messed up and are looking for a way to salvage the life they've ruined by pinning the blame on the guy they just did it with. It's the post-coital cry of Rape, and it don't wash.
And what am I to make of the assertion that "Of course Yanover's going to have a 'different perspective' on 'these issues,' when one of his main goals is to get you to remove your Profile page on his friend!"? Is this a grownup kind of discourse? Is this a rebuttal to anything I wrote, or an attempt to smear me by talking about my supposed intentions rather than my expressed opinion? This "Jane" could just as easily have written, "Of course Yanover has this perspective, because he's overweight, owes money at the grocery store and moonlights as a bouncer at Studio 54," with identical relevance to the discussion at hand.
The only credible proposal "Jane" puts forth is that charismatic manipulation is tantamount to an assault, which would absolve the victim of responsibility for adultery. But what she fails to provide is a single book of laws, Jewish, secular, Muslim, anything, which backs this assertion. She's plain wrong, and her exclamation that those manipulative, charismatic rabbis are perverting Judaism, pales before the kind of damage she and the victim movement is doing to the Jewish idea of responsibility, which is essential to the very Jewish idea of T'shuva. This is why on Yom Kippur we clap on our own chests and not on the chest of the charismatic rabbi standing next to us.
There's no free lunch, "Jane," no matter how many times you scream that it's the rabbi who made you eat.
Yori, I know that Jane is not a fictional woman. I've been talking to her for months. She had a relationship with rabbi J. H. Worch that went wrong.
That this blog presents many viewspoints, including your's and Jane's does not mean that each viewpoint has equal credence. After I provide the context I can, I usually leave judgments about credibility to the reader. I suspect that the "survivor" camp will give Jane full credibility and you zero, while others will give you full credibility and her zero.
Yori writes on USAJewish.com:
My colleague Luke Ford included my note to him regarding personal responsibility Vs. the Victim Movement in modern Jewish life (and American life in general). There was a challenge to my note and Luke was nice enough to publish my retort with a few words of his own. Case closed. You'd think. The Victim Movement has no patience for the likes of me. after I was booted from the Awareness Center's mailing list (which I stayed on like everyone else, to find out when my own nefarious sex crimes are finally exposed), my name is mud on the new Jewish Whistleblower website, a new phenomenon in Net history: a blog so outside the scope of personal responsibility, even the person running it (and slinging fresh heaps of excrement, monkey fashion, at a plethora of public figures) hides behind a veil of anonymity. As it turns out, one cannot object to the Victim Movement unless one is either a predator of helpless women, or enjoys watching others doing the predator thing. It's amazing what you can do these days with a penis...
TO LUKE FORD WITH SOMEWHAT APPREHENSIVE AFFECTION
Yori Yanover posts on USAJewish.com:
Who is holy and who’s a vermin…
Our colleague Luke Ford has a problem: He is entirely unable to read the very texts he copies and pastes on his own website. This may have to do with the fact that some of those C&P’s are miles long (it’s a common trait with all victim-movement apparatchiks, copying and pasting so much crap, your eyes start tearing and you give up).
On occasion Ford—whose chief endearing quality is a happy-go-lucky attitude, often at a dissonance with the life-wrecking he engages in—offers incredibly valuable indictments of his own schmutzertroika (the three-pronged pitchfork comprised of Vicki Polin, JWB and Luke), possibly without reading them himself.
For his benefit, and for the benefit of countless tired readers who just want to know who did what to whom—and move on to their favorite flash cartoon website—we present this comic-book version of an exchange between Rabbi Saul J. Berman and Vicki Polin. All citations are from the LF website, utilizing Vicki Polin's response to the rabbis, dated June 16, 2004. Since Vicki, no slouch copier and paster herself, meticulously c&p's each item she responds to, we'll rely on her for the text for our visually enhanced presentation. Orchestra, s'il vous plait...
Yori Yanover's Furious With My Shoddy Journalism
Yori writes on USAJewish.com:
Luke’s notion of what’s fair and balanced is faulty, even bizarre. Most of all because he really believes that when he copies and pastes an email he received in the middle of the night he is “reporting,” even “fair and balanced” reporting.
No, Luke, this is not reporting at all. It isn’t even close to any common notion of reporting. It may be web graffiti, it may, at times, be the electronic equivalence of smearing feces on a wall, but it isn’t reporting.
The job of the reporter is to serve as the eyes and ears of his readers. He must examine the issue with which he is dealing, assess to the best of his ability the veracity of the charges on one side, the response from the other side, perhaps speak to insiders and experts, in an attempt to conjure a reasonably satisfactory picture of events.
But you never do that, either because you can’t, or because you don’t want to. I’m yet to read any actual report written by you, one with context, supporting views, analysis. All you do is copy and paste, first come first served, often without rhyme and reason, often pouring stunningly lengthy and virtually unreadable screenfuls of text.
But you, Luke, are employing this chronically lazy attitude towards the written word in regard to real human beings. Such as my friend, Hershy, who woke up one morning to discover that his whole neighborhood knows things about him even he didn’t know. You pounded at him from an ambush, in the middle of the night, without even dreaming of getting as much as a fact-checking response from him, never mind giving him ample time to respond before you slashed his throat like a terrorist.
I’m furious at you, Luke, most of all for your intellectual laziness, moral laziness and frightening lack of introspection. You really believe what you’ve been doing is good reporting, and you don’t understand that the reason folks are frequenting your site is to see fresh blood being spilled.
It’s tragic when a butcher fancies himself a writer.
My Email Discussion With Yori Yanover Of USAJewish.com
I email Yori 5/9/05: "Do you think we should do an on-the-record discussion/debate of this stuff FOR PUBLICATION via the phone?"
Yori replies 5/10/05: "I was thinking MS messenger."
Luke: "Yeah, but do you think I looked good in my tighty whiteys?
"Yori, turnabout is fair play. I need a pic of you in your undies for my site."
Turnabout is WHAT? Oh, megosh, he used the F word!
My X-large skivvies are not for public consumption. But I do admire you're willingness to be vulnerable and exposed. I thought I sniffed a trace of vodka in the HTML code when you posted those images...
Luke: "JewishWhistleblower2. Is this yours?"
Saw a Tivoe'd "The Long Goodbye" with Elliot Gould as Marlow (Bob Altman, 1973) --- very LA of the Rockford Files era. Thought about you. It must be very difficult to own a brain in a town like Los Angeles. No insult intended. It's just that the very notion of LA sweeps an anti-intellectual fog across the thinking thingie.
Anyway, the Gould character is so freaking passive, absorbing blows by the cops, the thugs, the other thugs. Then, in the end, he just takes out a gun we never knew he owned and shoots the culprit. Then he's back to his passive stance, whistling carefree. Only in LA.
In New York we agonize, we hyper-analyze, we want clarity.
...[W]e can cross-messenger. The topic should be: "Why did you try to kill my best friend?" Something lighthearted and humorous like that...
I'm a lot like that Gould character you describe. I'm passive in most everything.
"Why did you try to kill my best friend?" Sounds like an appropriate topic.
I'm not going to be able to get into a lot of details about women who've brought accusations but it is certainly a fair topic for discussion. Yes, it is unfair that they can bring anonymous accusations and not be held accountable for anything false they allege (but if I ever found one was lying to me, I'd out her as a liar).
But then will you also feel obligated to trace down all of Jewish Chicago to inform every last acquaintance of Hershy's that you did him wrong? False accusations on p. 1 and retractions on p. 22 under the classifieds satisfy only lawyers and ratify nothing.
Let me ask you something else:
Do you honestly believe that Hershy Worch can bring a woman to her knees with his piercing eyes? Did you really believe that when you got the first email?
This may be a NY-LA gap that won't be bridged. Over here we tend to separate fantasy from reality. We also hold that women above age 21 who get laid without coercion are entitled to an orgasm, perhaps, time permitting, but not much more than that.
#1: Regarding the allegations of sexual impropriety directed at rabbi Worch while he was in a position of religious leadership, I believe the note from that group of people in Melbourne, which I published in his profile, is accurate and that the behavior described was not limited to Australia.
#2 The majority of what I published about Worch, and what upsets many people (fantasies about murdering a shaygetz, etc), was my accurate quoting of Worch's writing published on the Internet.
A question back at you: What percentage of the blame for what Hershy has gone through since I published, as a result of what I published, do you give me and my sources and what percentage of the blame to apportion to Worch for his foolish choices? If the Worch situation was reversed, I'd like to think that I'd take 100% of the responsibility.
Here are some of the questions I had for you:
* Ask Yori how he would report allegations of sexual abuse (say, the allegations against Rabbi Worch).
* How does he know what I know before I publish documents, etc?
* How do you know how much work I did on rabbi Gordis before I published? How do you know that you know more than me about rabbi Gordis or any other case I tackle?
* Did you ever make anonymous comments in threads about sexual abuse? If so, what were they and what names did he use?
* Do you believe that you know more about Vicki Polin and the workings of The Awareness Center than I do?
You're reversing the chronology, Luke.
The letter you published from someone in Australia came several months after your ambush of Hershy. You were not trying to save the Jews of Australia from the clutches of this Svengali rabbi, because your google quest hadn't led you there yet. Please be real with me.
No, Luke, when you opted to hit him without provocation Hershy had been without a congregation some two years, divorced and unemployed, barely making the rent. This was the situation you "reversed."
None of us are without sin, like the tall guy with the water-walking gig once said. Are you going to go door by door now, email by email, exposing all the adulterers, all the glue sniffers, all the peeping Toms? What function will that serve?
The only justification for exposing a person like this -- after due journalistic process -- would be if, indeed, he holds official office, or somehow using taxpayer money. Hershy didn't even collect SSI or unemployment, being a British subject. What public interests were you protecting?
Oh, were you to answer that, you'd make me a very happy man... Less, grumpy, at least.
I was aware of the allegations in the letter and its solid sourcing before I published anything on Hershy. Just because I don't or can't go with everything I have at once doesn't mean I don't have it. It just means I can't/won't publish it at that time.
Rabbi Worch was still actively representing himself as a rabbi at the time I published.
The public interest is that people make better decisions when they are better informed. How would you have handled a story like Worch (using the assumption that the subject is not your friend)? Here you had a guy publicly identified as an Orthodox rabbi making a whole bunch of provocative postings on the Web (including about murder and dismemberment) and with a long history of troubled relationships in his work (got moved on from almost every job he ever had) and troubled sexual relationships that developed from his work as a religious leader/teacher.
I've never said Worch is a bad guy. That's not my role. I'd probably enjoy talking to him and I bet we have a lot in common. All this, however, is irrelevant when it comes time for me to publish about a person.
"Hershy had been without a congregation some two years, divorced and unemployed, barely making the rent."
That's irrelevant to whether I am going to write about someone. I don't not write about someone because they are divorced, unemployed and broke when they fulfill the other criteria that Worch fulfilled (his troubled history as a religious leader, his publicly identifying as an Orthodox rabbi while making news-worthy postings about murder and torture).
"Are you going to go door by door now, email by email, exposing all the adulterers, all the glue sniffers, all the peeping Toms?"
Absolutely not. My interest for my next book is in Orthodox rabbis. If they were doing the behavior above interconnected with their work, and having affairs that sprang from their position of religous leadership and the access to the vulnerable that that gave, then yes, I would be writing about it.
A rabbi who has an affair with someone he's not counseling and is not in a position of leadership/power over would be far less newsworthy.
What justification was there for exposing Worch? He's a great story and you know it -- a publicly identifying Orthodox rabbi who was publicly teaching Torah (and still doing Shabbatons etc) and interconnecting it with a BDSM-angle and who left behind him a long string of troubles at many of the places he's worked... What's not to love about such a story?
Just as women I date or people considering employing me would be better off Googleing me than not.
If I were a person who was learning from rabbi Worch's teachings, I'd want to have read my profile of him. Or if I were someone considering dating or befriending him or employing him, I'd prefer to know. I am not arguing that anyone then should not befriend or employ the guy. That's not my role. My role is to report. I realize that my methods of reporting are not your methods, nor conventional journalistic methods, but I am unaware of any factual mistakes in my reporting on Worch.
Rabbi Worch had published several books on Judaism, identifying as an Orthodox rabbi, and he taught Judaism, at times, with a BDSM angle (the internet archives prove it). That's inherently newsworthy and compelling. If that's not a great story, then I don't know what is.
>>Ask Yori how he would report allegations of sexual abuse (say, the allegations against Rabbi Worch).
There are several levels of reporting. The most crucial one is to the legal authorities, be it rape, harassment, etc. The system today is hyper-prepared to take on sexual crusades, after the priests etc. Why, only a couple of months ago a priest in Boston who had already paid 1/2 a million to his victim, was charged criminally by the same victim, and all of it based on recovered memories alone. So that system is very much available.
In the Jewish communtiy, like any minority community, there are systems in place which inhibit prosecution. The agunot cases, the Baruch Lanner case, have shown a problem in defending the rights of the weak and the abused. In those cases the job of the reporter is tougher, but his obligations to the truth are clear. Thed story must include an opportunity for the accused to refute the accusations against them.
In all those issues there should be a separation between cases involving minors or the infirm, and those involving adults.
>>How does he know what I know before I publish documents, etc?
I don't know anything I don't read in your articles. And everything you publish is seriously lacking in both context and depth. If all you can do is add to the he said she said without a chance in hell for an unbiased reader to understand what the heck is going on, then you failed as a journalist. I recall having to respond once on your site to an annonymous "Jane." In the end you failed to make the distinction between myself, a real person with his name and record on the line, and an anonymous accuser. You celebrated this situation, in fact, saying that either camp was going to go with its biases anyway. Well, that's not your job, to fan the flames of biases. Your job is to add to the debate a note of better understanding.
And it doesn't relieve any problem when you declare that you've examined some source to the best of your understanding, because, frankly, that understanding thing is not your strongest suit. I know because you interviewed me and I saw how much you were able to misunderstand.
>>How do you know how much work I did on rabbi Gordis before I published? How do you know that you know more than me about rabbi Gordis or any other case I tackle?
I do not know more than you know, but I certainly kknow more than you published. No legitimate publication would go with that raw stuff. It's useless.
>>Did you ever make anonymous comments in threads about sexual abuse? If so, what were they and what names did he use?
Very early on I realized, on the Protocols site, that conducting debates with anonymous posters was useless. The fact that the notorious "ME" was focusing so much on my identity at the time, and the fact that I have about 10 years of online publishing under my belt, made me a tempting target and a useful name for use by countless posters. To this day I'm being accused of stuff, like I found out about the anti-Blau site from an email asking me if I designed it. This morning you asked me if I did the JBW2 site. What's the point in my doing this?
Never mind that I think anonymous posting is cowardly and that all my professional life I've been out there, putting my name on some seriously combative articles, including the ones that got me fired from Yedioth. Never mind that when "ME" was posting all my business relations online with total disregard to any semblence of civility, the postings only increased (trust me, I was watching in horror). And back then you, as moderator, did nothing to discourage it.
What if one of my clients were to google me and come up with those really abusive, horrible postings by "ME"? Did you think about that? And the repulsive notes about how my wife and child would be sexually abused by this or that "predator" -- did you really believe it made for a good sicussion, befitting civilized Jews?
But what about you, Luke, have you posted anonymously? Were you the author of some those vile messages?
>>Do you believe that you know more about Vicki Polin and the workings of The Awareness Center than I do?
Luke, I read your interview with her and it is not even softball, its nerf. Come on, the woman is accused of going on Oprah as "Rachel" and saying she's from a Jewish Satanic cult. The woman is full of so much hurt. And tops: the woman was seeking spiritual support from the very men she then attacked so viciously and without any shred of fair play. The woman was accused of stealing from friends and colleagues. If you knew all that, you never let on.
So, in the final account, it's quite possible I know much which you either don't know or don't want to know about The Awareness Center.
I've never posted anonymously on Protocols or anywhere (I have used well-known handles in postings on stuff outside of Jewish topics).
I had no moderation powers on the comments section of Protocols. If I would've had that power, they would've been considerably restricted.
I would say that I took far more abuse on those comments section than anybody, including you and Worch.
You didn't say yes or no whether you posted anonymously on Protocols. I believe you posted considerably under the name "Yori" but without your last name. At least someone did who sounded like you.
You wrote on USAJewish.com: "Even as we speak, you’ve been complaining that established newspapers are refusing to run with some complaints from a student about her Conservative rabbi teacher."
I made no such complaints. It's like saying I complained that Hershy Worch posted fantasies about murdering someone. I didn't complain. I posted his fantasy.
I would say that most of the nasty postings on Protocols related to the Worch case from supporters of Worch.
"I realize that my methods of reporting are not your methods, nor conventional journalistic methods, but I am unaware of any factual mistakes in my reporting on Worch."
Let's examine the record of your publishing regarding Hershy.
1. "Some women who've known R. Worch intimately allege that he uses kabbalah, hypno-eroticism and other manipulation techniques to have sex with women and to take their money."
This sentence is in English, but conveys no real information. How does one use the ancient tradition of the Zohar and Sefer Yetzira to have sex with women? Why doesn't anyone tell me about those things? I'll bet we could get the Mir yeshiva to convert to hasidism overnight if we told them they could get laid through Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. This is obvious gobeldegook which you cite verbatim and move on to the rest of the story. Can you explain to an uninitiated such as myself how this is done?
Then you cite that he takes money from women via his hypnotic powers. This is already serious defamation. Do you think that for the sake of INFORMATION, forget fairness, you should have given the guy a call the night before, asking, "Rabbi, how do you get laid through the kabbalah, and how much money did you rob off of your quivering victims?"
The fact that you move on like that, with no reference to what your actually mean in any perceptible reality, simply takes your material out of the realm of reporting straight into slander.
This, I suspect, in the end, is why Steve booted you, gently but firmly, off the Protocols site.
The overwhelming majority of what I published about Worch were in context quotations of his own writings. I did not pour anyone's allegations about Worch unchecked on to the Web. I had multiple sources and I was confident that their stories were inherently coherent and matched other sources of information on the subject.
I believe that what I wrote (including the portion you quoted) about rabbi Worch is easily understandable to an average person. I reported multiple allegations from first-hand sources that he used his religious teachings, including his knowledge of Jewish mysticism and hypnosis, to get things from women such as money and sex and that in retrospect, some of these women believe they were coerced and manipulated by rabbi Worch.
I disagree. When I got the email from my friend to take a look at the Protocols site, I was shocked by the opening paragraphs. You've been updating Hershy's profile on your site, and so the original is completely gone. But it was about the erotic hypnotism and using the kabbalah to do women. It was the kind of thing people jump out of windows when they read it.
It's easily understandable as slander. In this context, had you not done this to a poor, unemployed rabbi, if you had done this to a Tendler, you'd be looking at a libel suit that would have brought you back to writing in note pads. Hershy had no resources, he couldn't punish you for being so calloused with his life, so you got away with it.
The fact that you now substituted "mysticism" for "kabbalah" in your sentence still doesn't explain how someone can have sex with women against their will using that holy crap. And any serious practitioner of hypnotism also knows that no one gets hypnotized against their will.
But your carefree use of these words as if they actually represent a factual content was injurious to a man who never in his life had sex with another human being against her will. That was ashameful thing to do.
You intimated a sense of empathy for Hershy Worch, saying you're probably very similar. Can you elaborate on what gives you that notion?
I know you logged on to his live journal site and asked for his emotional support, complaining that your book wasn't cutting it.
I know after the initial few postings about Hershy you tried to call him and seek him out in other ways. Are you angry at him for rejecting you?
Are you aware of Vicki Polin's extensive correspondence with hershy as her spiritual adviser? Do you know about her contacts with other "new age" rabbis she later tried to hurt?
1. His coming from England and my coming from Australia. We're both rebels. We're both interested in the erotic and the religious. I think we both can be eloquent and that we both have tendencies towards womanizing. I think we've both met women in religious contexts and developed relationships with them.
2. These were clearly humorous postings.
3. That's hilarious. No. I asked Worch for his side of things. He chose not to give it to me. Fine.
4. I am unaware of these things.
Let's say Elijah came down and showed you in no uncertain ways that Hershy is blameless of these charges. How would you remedy his injury in a way that is meaningful to him?
When Vicki releases on TAC posts that Hedrshy ran away to Turkey to flee a custody hearing, and the story has no veracity whatsoever, yet you publish it without any comment -- how would you then fix it for him, so the world knows he's not a deadbeat father, that, in fact, he is a loyal and devoted father.
I suspect that even if you spent the better part of your life trying to remedy the damage, you'd still miss a few people who only heard of the accusations and not the fact that they're baseless.
Are you not responsible in the least for the consequences of your actions?
If Elijah did that, there would be no way for me to fully remedy the damage. I'd do everything that Hershy asked me to to try to repair.
The court records on his custody hearings etc are public record which I checked before posting about them.
I am completely responsible for the accuracy of my postings.
My original posting on Worch is complete and unchanged in the Protocols archives (from the first post onwards).
What happened privately between Worch and the women who alleged he abused them is not completely knowable. All I can do is rate the coherence and truthfullness of the accusers and compare what they say with other sources of information about Worch.
Frankly, I don't think you did. Show me where it says that Hershy failed to appear for the March 15 hearing. Show me the custody dispute.
Luke, this one smells...
You remind me of Prof. David Berger, whose reputation is that he never met a historic text he didn't take at face level.
Give me an example of this rating process. How do you do it? Where, for instance, did you get that he is using kabbalah to get into women's pants and get them to pay for it. If you can establish how you verified that, I'll be stunned.
I posted that link.
Rating credibility: Spend hours talking/emailing with a person, see if their stories inherently cohere or contradict. See if they ever mislead you. Contact others to check on the person's credibility. Check to see if what they allege that is verifiable can be verified.
The Australia letter showed how a group of people allege that Worch used his position as a religious teacher (and much of it was about kabbalah, a specialty of Worch's) to sexually pursue women.
His writings (internet and in print) are focused on jewish mysticism, desire, sexuality, BDSM. These are the things that occupy him and some of the women he's had relations with.
Can you read? [link]
"Case Type: PETITION FOR DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE"
All this is is a Lexus search result which details court sessions for Mr. and Mrs. Worch.
Where did you get the custody from? Where did you get the failure to appear 3/15/05? Where did you get any support for the innanne stuff Vicki sent you about Rabbi Hershy Worch who "fled the US for Turkey rather than show up at custody hearings"?
This is total hogwash and you know it. This is not a document, it's the cover of a folder for crying out loud. No one gave you documents, and you never read any.
What about fact checking and cross-referencing? What about contacting the accused? Why isn't this on your list?
You see, what emerges is the image of a lonesome, rather submissive fellow, sitting in his little room, making blind allegations based on his gut feelings.
When you say that you "Check to see if what they allege that is verifiable can be verified" - does that mean that after [name deleted] said she co-published some crap with Hershy you went and saw there was crap there so she must have been truthful?
Did you find out if [name deleted] is gainfully employed? What is her mental health history?
Did you ask yourself how much of that murder fantasy was actually her own?
Probably not. I'll tell you why I think so: Because you never asked the other guy.
So the process of verification is you get an email, you look at it for a few hours, and if your computer didn't crash you post it.
Did the same group of people tell you about the other aspect of his job as Hillel Rabbi in Melbourne? His David and Goliath fight to the death against [name deleted]? Did they tell you how his Hillel students took up his cause when [name deleted] had sworn to destroy him (they had a public dispute: [name deleted] said a good Arab was a Dead Arab, Hershy said maybe some living Arabs could live too -- don't ask).
Hershy's stay in Australia was marred by [name deleted]'s relentless attacks. Hershy's children were kicked out of kindergarten because of [name deleted]'s pressure. Life was a living hell in a Jewish town... [name deleted]. And then there was this bright thing, the creation of the yeshiva where youngsters came to pray and study with this very gifted and, yes, also flawed man. And it came with a fabulous new book, a translation of the Esh Kodesh, which I don't think you know enough to appreciate, but several congregations here and abroad are suckling on for spiritual sustenance.
What you need to understand is that wherever you have brave religious men who are willing to push the social envelope, there are bound to be accusers. Why, even the Lubavitcher Rebbe was accused of having extra marital affairs. As a reporter on Gafni, Avi Weiss, Shlomo Carlbach, it is your duty to report about the existence of allegations. But by doing it out of context, regarding a relative unknown who is powerless to respond -- you do no one any service, other than satisfy the need for revenge of a few overweight women who secretly lust for this strange little man.
As I'm writing I can picture you yawning, turning off your capacity to understand, empathize, perceive the greater context. You're simply not interested.
I yawned at your attacks on me. I don't yawn at the story of Worch. And no, I was not aware of his fight with [Deleted Name]. Rabbi Worch had every opportunity to talk to me about this and other matters. I made several invitations to him to do an interview. He did not respond.
He didn't have any opportunity at all before you ruined his reputation and made his private life public with malice.
There are so many layers to this story, and so many socially crucial points. Why are so many of the attacked rabbis on the left end of the Orthodox spectrum? Who stands to gain from the ruined reputation of rabbis who support women's equality within Orthodoxy?
That's why journalists who don't cover nuclear wars take their time in building up a story. And social service organizations even more so.
You never answered about Vicki on Oprah, a well-documented allegation.
"The court records on his custody hearings etc are public record which I checked before posting about them."
I was wrong when I said that. I retract that.
To the best of my knowledge, I have not seen any documentation in public records about Hershy Worch's custody issues. I only recall the link to his divorce which I posted months ago in his profile.
My information about his lack of paying child support comes to me from women who have been involved with Worch and recall him almost being taken off to jail for not paying child support (this is within the past three years).
You write: "Frankly, I don't think you did. Show me where it says that Hershy failed to appear for the March 15  hearing. Show me the custody dispute. Luke, this one smells..."
You are right. I have no documentation to support this. I took the report of JWB at his word on the March 15  hearing. I did no independent verification of this report aside from talking to two sources (one of who was intimately involved with Worch within the past three years) near the Worch case.
You write: "Where did you get the custody from? Where did you get the failure to appear 3/15/05? Where did you get any support for the innanne stuff Vicki sent you about Rabbi Hershy Worch who "fled the US for Turkey rather than show up at custody hearings"?"
I republished that information from JWB without any other verification aside from the two sources I mentioned in my previous email.
I asked Worch for an interview. He refused.
I verified that there was more than just one person making these allegations before I published. I did not get into the employment history of the women complaining. I did enough communication with them to verify that they were not lying.
Thank you for the retraction.
I believe we can now establish that the way in which you verify stories is entirely impressionistic, relying on vague memories of rumors dispensed by sources completely hostile to the person about whom you're reporting.
I'm sorry, what is it you said your profession was?
The fact that an ex-wife out for revenge can call on the police to knock on her ex-husband's door with false accusations is not the same as "almost being taken off to jail." Hershy and Deborah share in equal custody rights. When Hershy was late returning from a trip with their children one summer, Deborah called on the cops, complaining that Hershy didn't tell her he would be late and didn't call from their trip. In effect, she misrepresented to the police that her ex-husband had kidnapped the children. This is why the police showed up. And when Hershy showed the cops the divorce papers they said, Sorry, and went away, in fact contemplating taking Mrs. Worch in downtown for a show and tell of their own.
You didn't know that because you don't inquire, you don't investigate, you just copy and paste verbatim.
You still haven't told me why in your interview with Vicki Polin you didn't mention all the many allegations against her, including theft and appearing as the member of a Jewish satanic cult on Oprah.
I believe that Vicki appeared on Oprah in 1989 as alleged and that she said things that as of now I don't believe are substantiated. I believe that her allegations were so heinous about her experience with part of the Jewish community that the ADL persuaded the Oprah show not to make the show available and I have been unable to track down a copy of the show nor a transcript. I have been aware of this for about six months. Vicki was not ready to talk about this at the time I did the interview with her and to this day I don't believe she is ready to give an interview (to me anyway) about her appearance on Oprah. I am of course greatly interested in getting her to do an interview about her time on Oprah and getting a transcript of the show and a videotape copy of the show.
You write: "There are so many layers to this story, and so many socially crucial points. Why are so many of the attacked rabbis on the left end of the Orthodox spectrum? Who stands to gain from the ruined reputation of rabbis who support women's equality within Orthodoxy?"
These are questions that need to be explored. I have not done so because I don't have those answers as yet.
For $3 you could search the NYT for this:
"Satanic Worship" - Oprah Winfrey Show, 2/88
Winfrey guest accuses Jews of ritual child sacrifices
6 May 1989, New York Times
Section: Front Page: 16A
By: New York Times
Hundreds of television viewers and the leaders of several Jewish and civil-liberties organizations protested allegations on Oprah Winfrey's talk show this week that Jews ritually kill children.
During the Monday broadcast, Winfrey introduced a guest -- who used the pseudonym "Rachel" -- as someone who was undergoing psychiatric treatment for multiple personality disorder.
The woman told Winfrey she had witnessed the ritual sacrifice of Jewish children and had been a victim of ritualistic abuse.
She said: "There's other Jewish families across the country; it's not just my family."
The show focused on the cult killings of 15 people whose bodies were found in March near Matamoros, Mexico.
The woman's comments provoked hundreds of angry phone calls and letters to Jewish and civil liberties groups, spokesmen for the groups said Friday. They said viewers contended Winfrey did not challenge the woman's statements.
"We have grave concern about both the lack of judgment and the insensitive manipulation of this woman, who is clearly mentally ill, in a manner which can only inflame the basest prejudices of ignorant people," said Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington.
Jeffrey Jacobs, the chief operating officer of Winfrey's production company, said Winfrey and her producers would meet with representatives of the Jewish and civil liberties group next week in Chicago, where the show is taped. Jacobs said the sole purpose of the program was to call attention to what happened in Mexico.
"Oprah pointed out this is one particular person talking about her particular situation," he said, "and she was identified at the top of the show as being mentally disturbed." "We are aware that the show has struck a nerve," Jacobs said. "Under no circumstances do we believe there was any attempt to tie what this woman said she witnessed to the Jewish religion."
A spokeswoman for the program, Christine Tardio, said Friday the producers were satisfied with the truth of the guest's claim she had been a victim of abuse.
Early in the interview Winfrey said, "This is the first time I heard of any Jewish people sacrificing babies, but, anyway -- so you witnessed the sacrifice?"
The woman responded: "Right. When I was very young, I was forced to participate in that, and which I had to sacrifice an infant."
During the interview, Winfrey said, "I want to make it very clear that this is one Jewish person, so don't go around now, saying to people, you know, 'Those Jewish people, they're worshipping. . . .'
Luke: I believe I've had a copy of this article for about six months.
So you just let it slide?
I'm stunned. It's like you haven't written the 20 or so emails to me about how you have an obligation to publish.
It's like I'm speaking to a new man, with concerns and considerations for the feelings of his subject.
It's like... It's like you sold out, Luke, because you don't play fair, and you don't love the truth enough to turn off your sources.
Gosh, you should have told me before you wuz making exceptions...
My retraction was specific and I don't agree with your overall characterization of my methods.
I didn't let it slide. There are many stories I can't publish now because people won't let me publish their remarks yet (I had agreed to not publish until they gave me permission) and for other reasons.
You are not at all stunned. You've said for about six months what a horrible journalist I am.
I have written nothing to you about having an obligation to publish.
Not so fast, Cowboy Bob.
We may want to examine the documents presented by [name deleted] which she stated were written by Hershy.
Did you have a chance to compare them to the wealth of other documents published by Hershy?
Would you say that the murder theme is typical or a-typical?
If you think it is typical, please provide another source which you've culled from the web at large or printed material, where Hershy independently describes a murder fantasy.
I believe that what you will discover that this specific thing, the connection of sexual desire and murder is highly unique to [name deleted]'s material. In fact, I know that it was entirely [name deleted]'s work, with Hershy's participation as marginal as can be imagined considering the two were lovers at the time.
But, please, I urge you to find even one other place, not [name deleted]-related, where Hershy describes a longing to sexualized murder.
"I didn't let it slide. There are many stories I can't publish now because people won't let me publish their remarks yet (I had agreed to not publish until they gave me permission) and for other reasons."
I understand, I have clients like that too. But then we don't call it an interview, we call it a PR job, a purchased ad, a brochure. Definitely not an interview.
And when that interview comes out dead center at the time of the greatest heat surrounding the Awareness Center, with the first few Board members jumping into the side boats, that's not just a brochure, it's a complete CPR job.
Face it, Luke, you tried to help a friend in trouble. She still got herself deeper in the goo, but your job on her was more cunnilingus than cesarean, to use terminology from your former life.
To be continued.....
I found this dismemberment fantasy Rabbi J. Hershy Worch posted February 2, 2001, long before Worch began a relationship with [name deleted]:
Date: Fri. Feb 2, 2001 7:18 a.m.
Subject: Epiphanic question time
I'm sitting here in my hotel room in Dryhump, Kentucky, the day is ove, Let's say I'm a Mashglach for the Star-K or something like that, It's "Yes, Rabbi" this, and "No, Rabbi" that all day long.
His name is Brian, a reddish blonde Shaygetz of the most impossibly alluring sort. Do you know what kind of world it is out there in the interior of America? Do you know how invisible the Jewish World has become since I got into my car at the beginning of the week and drove west by south?
Here I am asked, whyt are the Israelis and Palestinians fighting each other for God's sake, they're all Jews over there aren't they? I tell him, No, Israelis and Palestinians are not the same, one is Jew the other Arab. But I can see he remains perplexed. Small difference, he mutters. I know for certain that there is not one person in a hundred in this factory who can find Israel on a map of the world.
But back to Brian. He is dressed in starched whites like all workers in this super-sterile environment. Food-grade sterile. My kinda whites, almost transparent, almost fluorescent, I can see the individual vertabrae rippling through his jacket back, almost read the label on his underpants. "Hi Brian," I say. "Oh Rabbi you remembered my name." He smiles and I can smell the feel of the stubble on his cheeks, red and gold.
I want to lock him into one of the two hundred huge stainless steel hoppers which feed whatever it is that gets manufactured here in this plant. I want to hear him beg me to let him out, I want control. I'm thinking to myself, I might cause an international incident if I were to do any one of the mulitiplicity of violent and kinkily sexual scenarios I have in mind even moderate justice in this sleepy hillbilly town.
I did not take my plastic Star-K numbered sealing tags and bind his wrists to the pipes in the boiler room so that I might rape his mouth. I did not clamp his nipples with the small electrical clips or the ring widgets or the abrasive tape or the rubber compound coating sealant or the other accoutrements of torture available to Rabbis in strange places. I kashered the inlet nozzles and stuck my seals on bags of feedstuffs for export to Israel. No dismembered 22 year old shaygetz with a smile on his face and strange metal objects in his rectum found his way into my sealed cartons. No food grade quality control Paqid in the Holy Land need fear encountering my gory leftovers next week in Holon or Metullah.