Smelling ‘Treif’ at the New York Times By Richard N. Weltz

For those who don’t know the word, treif is Yiddish for “not kosher,” and these nostrils have been detecting a whiff of something distinctly un-kosher at the New York Times lately.
For the past several weeks at least, the Gray Lady has run an inordinate number of  feature and general interest articles — some quite prominently displayed — about the Jewish community in metro New York and on topics of primary interest to them.
Here we are only about three-quarters of the way through April, and already a truly unusual number of articles and blog items about Jews and Judaism have appeared, not counting hard news, passing mentions, obits, op-eds, or reportage about Israel.  We have seen lengthy discussions and explanations of such matters as a debate on whether or not women should be allowed to vote on the conduct of affairs of the Hasidic Crown Heights Community Council; details of a Passover Seder hosted in Midtown by an arm of the Lubavitch Chabad; publication and distribution of a new Haggadah edition by the folks at Maxwell House coffee; and an in-depth view of the lifestyle of residents of Kiryas Joel, NY, an ultra-orthodox community in suburban Orange County.
Also in April: a discussion regarding more Jews dining out for the Passover Seder, with a guide to suitable restaurants; the story of a rabbi who persuaded the Coca-Cola company to make their soft drink kosher; a report over growing concern in and around New York over the wave of adolescent anorexia and other eating disorders that is apparently sweeping through orthodox communities; an explanation of the Passover story and the Haggadah used to recite it; and a detailed description of cleaning a Jewish home in preparation for Passover.
Further: a newly developed way of making gin that is kosher to drink on Passover; an interview with an East Village baker about his shop’s transformation for Passover; a review of the Holocaust Museum in Skokie, IL (which opened two years ago); a charming story of elementary school kids learning to bake matzos properly at the Bukharian Jewish Community Center in Forest Hills; an explanation of the current debate over whether quinoa is or is not okay to eat on Passover; and a discussion of the Passover holiday playlist at the JoeDoe restaurant down in the East Village.
Plus: a review of a concert of Jewish music presented at the 92nd Street Y; a recounting of how Long Island kosher food stores get themselves ready for Passover; and a directory listing some of the more prominent ones. And, of course, the usual assortment of holiday recipes.
It’s not just that the Passover holiday falls in April.  The Times seems to have been running an unusually large number of non-holiday related articles on Jews and Judaism during the previous months as well.
This, one must remember, is from the paper whose former publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, was a member of the German Jewish “our crowd set” — a man who tried to keep his Judaism at long arm’s length and who was strongly anti-Zionist.  From the paper  whose successor Sulzbergers are hardly known for significant participation in Jewish philanthropy or other major organizational activity.  A paper whose Berlin headquarters in the years leading up to America’s entry into World War II proudly displayed its logo writ large across the façade of a building whose other prominent feature was a Nazi flag.  A paper at which the legendary reporter, editor, and columnist Abe Rosenthal didn’t feel comfortable using his “Jewish-sounding” first name in his bylines.

One might also consider that the Times, as noted by studies done by such organizations as CAMERA and HonestReporting, as well as frequent observations of AT contributor Leo Rennert, has long been heavily biased against Israel — also documented in the book Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper by Professor Laurel Leff —  and a paper whose shameful mis-coverage of the Holocaust was also described in the New York Observer.

So, what are we to make of this recent spate of Jew-centered copy, this kissing up to the Jewish community, particularly its orthodox members?  The answer, my friends, lies, I suspect, in circulation numbers.  I have heard and read of too many Jews canceling the Times due to its anti-Israel biases; and while my own experience is only anecdotal, the circulation people at the paper surely have a fine grasp of their subscribers’ demographics.

Could it be that the sudden solicitousness is an attempt to woo back Jewish readers?  Interestingly, I was speculating on this with my wife a few days ago while riding crosstown on the No. 57 bus.  At Lexington Avenue, a lady arose from the seat in front of us preparatory to exiting.  She — a total stranger — turned to me and said she’d resubscribe if and when the Times stopped bashing Israel.  If wooing back Jews is their goal, it isn’t working with that New York lady, for sure.

Page Printed from: at April 26, 2011 – 06:31:56 AM CDT

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