Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Gary Rosenblatt responds to criticism from Orthodox press (Jewish Press) and from bloggers (Rabbi Yaakov Menken - Cross-Currents blog)


At 2:15 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

In Defense Of ‘Offensive’ Journalism
Gary Rosenblatt - Editor and Publisher

How does — or should — a family deal with internal conflict? One way, perhaps natural, is to ignore or deny the trouble, hoping it will simply go away. Another is to blame it on outsiders as a means of protecting one’s own. The most mature approach, though, is to acknowledge that a problem exists, and seek to resolve it through talking it out or seeking outside help.

The same goes for communal conflict, and too often we choose to deny the difficulty or blame it on others — or both — rather than find constructive ways to deal with it.

For a journalist writing about his own Jewish community for 35 years, these issues are not new. “Kill the messenger” has long been the approach of many when faced with crises that become public. But I am still surprised and disappointed at times at the inability or unwillingness of our community to recognize and grapple with inconvenient truths.

Sometimes we don’t want to face reality, especially through the pages of a Jewish newspaper that we read, in part, to make ourselves feel good about who we are and what we do as a community. But it’s only when we face problems that we can begin to deal with them.

What prompts these thoughts is the reaction from some about several difficult stories I have written in recent weeks. The most vocal criticism has come from some in the Orthodox press and from bloggers, whose writings are not accountable to journalistic standards of fact checking and editing. What they have in common is the assumption that it is not the place of Jewish journalists to publish stories that may embarrass elements of the community. But I believe it is one of our most vital responsibilities, however unpleasant, and can be a corrective, as well.

If charitable organizations that do a world of good require more transparency at the top in terms of financial dealings, better for them to police themselves from inside than wait until the situation has become so upsetting, and unaddressed, that word comes to the journalist to explore the situation. (Make no mistake: the whistleblowers approach the press only after trying unsuccessfully to have the problem handled within the organizations themselves.) And then, inevitably, when the story becomes public, there is an outcry from some quarters, not against the organization for its lack of governance and for creating an embarrassment, but against the press for exposing the problem.

Similarly, when spiritual leaders are accused of violating a sacred trust with those in their charge, is it not a misuse of the notion of chillul Hashem (desecration of God’s name) to invoke it against the press rather than the individuals whose conduct causes the community shame?

I make plenty of mistakes in judgment, which I try to correct when possible, but there is a difference between criticizing a newspaper for its style, timing and presentation of facts — all legitimate — and questioning the very nature of its work: to serve at times as a watchdog.

We expect our daily newspapers to shed light on issues that are in the shadows, to probe and explore; would we rather our Jewish newspaper simply act as cheerleader for the communal organization? If so, what credibility would either have?

In fact, we the People of the Book have a model far more compelling than the daily press. Each week in our synagogues we read from Judaism’s core text the narrative of the lives of our greatest heroes, from Abraham to Moses. And it’s worth noting that the flaws that made these biblical figures human, and real, are not censored — from Sarah’s jealousy of her maidservant, to Jacob’s favoritism of Joseph, to Moses’ anger in hitting the rock. The Torah is teaching us that the story is only credible, and instructive, if it is complete. That is a powerful lesson.

Too often in reporting on a controversy I encounter a disturbing rationale. It’s when insiders who know of a problem that surely will cause criticism and lack of trust continue to ignore or cover up wrongdoing in the mistaken belief that they are protecting the organization they love. But they are only prolonging and compounding the pain. Perhaps the knowledge that Jewish newspapers will not look the other way in the face of communal problems will spur individuals and organizations to clean up their own acts. That would be a welcome outcome.

We journalists would rather focus on more positive stories, including the countless charitable acts that come from the community. But that doesn’t mean we’re prepared to abandon our mandate to tell the whole story.

Gary Rosenblatt can be reached by e-mail at

At 3:54 PM, Blogger batdina said...

JewishWhistleBlower: I just started my own blog.

At 8:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is happening at HASC? Is there a criminal investigation?

At 8:37 PM, Blogger Avi said...

I usually don't agree with Gary on his approach to what frankly often seems like "Orthodox bashing". But I gotta say that Gary Rosenblatt has earned my respect and gratitude for standing up to these clowns. The Jewish Community owes Mr. Rosenblatt a huge Yasher Koach and I guess it's time to renew my subscription to his newspaper...Avi...

At 11:22 PM, Blogger Reb Yudel said...

So the Jewish Week has been under heat by bloggers for publishing too much? Which makes you, Luke and Steve, I suppose, chopped liver.

At 2:23 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>Is there a criminal proceeding for the HASC allegations?
>What is happening there?

"Some insiders expressed dismay over why the board members, apparently aware of their fiduciary responsibility to a charitable organization, did not go to the authorities after Bernard Kahn’s financial dealings were made known to them. One board member resigned at the time."

It's not clear to me if that has changed. I would note that ALL board members are already in serious breach of their fiduciary obligations and there may be significant consequences to them as well.

Folks, this is serious stuff here. This money belonged to special needs children and their families who desperately need that money NOT those who control the organization.

These "entitlement" arguments are obscene. These are charities NOT the Kahn family slush fund or the Kahn family employment agency.

The Jewish community needs to adopt a framework for dealing with these types of situations. Part of that framework needs to be following both fiduciary and ethical obligations to the charity. That includes reporting such fraud to the proper authorities immediately.

This is another example of rabbonim and balai batim conducting their own "Mickey Mouse" hearings and internal investigations. The police have trained, professional fraud investigators that would have effectively dealt with the situation.

The losers here: special need children who likely will never see much of this stolen money.

At 2:38 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>So the Jewish Week has been under heat by bloggers
>for publishing too much? Which makes you, Luke and
>Steve, I suppose, chopped liver.

Chopper liver is fine with me as long as there are onions.

"publishing too much". Yeah, you can't have that from a news organization.

I think Rosenblatt's critics aren't big fans of me and Luke and definately not fans of SIW's former Protocols blog.

The problem is that the Rabbonim and community leaders that these silly people have been expecting to deal with such thing quietly have been consistenly making things worse through such an approach.

The problem is things only improve when you have accountability and transparency. Corruption thrives when there is no accountability and transparency. Corruption and these silly people fear the light of day.

But as I've pointed out so many times in the past:
The Mishnah, Avot 4:4, reminds us that sequestering a hillul Hashem will always be unsuccessful: "Whoever desecrates the name of Heaven in private will ultimately be punished in public, whether the desecration was committed unintentionally or intentionally." Hence, a conspiracy to conceal information about abuse will ultimately be made public, creating an even greater hillul Hashem. The greater severity of the hillul Hashem in concealing the information can be further supported by the Talmud, Yoma 86b, which maintains that "one should expose hypocrites to prevent the desecration of the Name. (See also Hilkhot De'ot 6-8) Rashi explains that the reason for this disclosure is that people, thinking that this person is righteous, may learn from his behavior. Rambam is of the opinion that after unsuccessful attempts to correct the matter privately, public remonstration and broadcasting of the outrage is required. There is no concern about the hillul Hashem of exposing the offense.
(excerpt - RCA Roundtable, Nissan 5752)

At 8:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be nice if Rabbinical leaders across the branches of Judaism would approach sexual misconduct of their colleagues in a manner that the Dalai Lama does?

5. Particular concern was expressed about unethical conduct among teachers.
In recent years both Asian and Western teachers have been involved in
scandals concerning sexual misconduct with their students, abuse of alcohol
and drugs, misappropriation of funds, and misuse of power. This has resulted
in widespread damage both to the Buddhist community and to individual involved.
Each student must be encouraged to take responsible measures to confront
teachers with unethical aspects of their conduct. If the teacher shows no
sign of reform, students should not hesitate to publicize any unethical
behavior of which there is irrefutable evidence. This should be done irrespective
of other beneficial aspects of his or her work and of one's spiritual commitment
to that teacher. It should also be made clear in any publicity that such conduct
is not in conformity with Buddhist teachings. No matter what level of spiritual
attainment a teacher has, or claims to have, reached, no person can stand above
the norm of ethical conduct. In order for the Buddhadharma not to be brought
into disrepute and to avoid harm to students and teachers, it is necessary that
all teachers at least live by the five lay percepts. In cases where ethical
standards have been infringed, compassion and care should be shown
towards both teacher and student.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Judaism also demands ethical conduct by its leadership. Our problem is that there are not enough Pinchas's today, to deal with our Zimri's.

Apparently, in the minds of some shmirat halashon today ends at Lashon Harah. If that were true people could simply remain their entire lives silent (and some do). People forget that there is also an obligation at times to speak out and even at times to act.

At 9:55 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Some additional blogger links on this:

1) Chayyei Sarah - preamble to her take on this (coming soon)

2) The Town Crier continues his criticism of Rosenblatt from last week:


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