Here’s Our Chance

Note: Fellow C-C contributor Toby Katz e-mailed me to say she enjoyed my last post, but that some of its important points appear too far down for some Internet-age readers accustomed to skimming pieces and moving on. I hasten to follow both her advice and the example of her own last post, albeit without the sparkling wit thereof (having been to the Katz home last week for a wonderful pasta dinner and delightful conversation, I can attest that her family’s hospitality is as top-notch as her commentary).

The New York Times opened an editorial this past week on campaign finance this way:

Congress is still haunted by the black hat and easy-money grin of Jack Abramoff, the über-lobbyist who is in jail now but reportedly talking freely to investigators.

Black hat“?! Am I the only one who finds this reference to the headgear of the most infamous Orthodox Jew in Washington jarring at the least, if not a tad sinister? Hey, I readily confess I have no love lost, and more, vis a vis the Times, only the tip of which dismay have I documented on this site. But then again, anyone familiar with the checkered record of the Times‘ on Jewish matters, religious Jewish ones included (those unfamiliar can begin with Laurel Leff’s Buried by the Times on the Holocaust era and proceed from there), ought not fault me overly for that, and might even understand why I hesitate to give the editors the benefit of the doubt on this strange turn of phrase. The only question, to my mind, is at what level of consciousness did someone on the Times editorial board decide to insert those words.

But wait, fellow Times-loathers — we just might have a fleeting opportunity to do something about The Problem. This just in: Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel Investments has just purchased, at a price of 525 million dollars, the Times‘ present home near Times Square. True, the newspaper will be relocating as of July 1 to another building on Eighth Avenue, but until then . . . perhaps we could enlist chareidi sympathizer Leviev to cause some mischief, perhaps even facilitate an accidental shutdown of Times operations. . . The possibilities are endless.

Then again, maybe the smart thing would be to clam up for now and instead save my machinations for the next meeting of the Elders of Anti-Zion, our little cabal of chareidi aspiring world dominators, whose next protocol-drafting meeting is . . . let’s see, looks like its happening near the coffee bar in Shomrei Shabbos next Thursday evening at 7 PM, ending just in time to catch Rabbi Frand’s shiur on video. (He‘s in on this too?!)

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14 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    No need for cloak-and-dagger. Altruistic men in black can buy the rapidly sinking New York Times Company itself and make something of it.

  2. joel rich says:

    While I have no great love for the NYT, the term black hat is in wikipedia with the following definition “A black-hat is a term in computing for someone who compromises the security of a system without permission from an authorized party, usually with the intent of accessing computers connected to the network. ”

    In the general cowboy genre the white hat was the good guy, the black hat the bad guy.


  3. S. says:

    If you recall, when the Abramoff scandal broke there were two reactions to the black hat: Orthodox Jews were discussing his black hat in terms of black hats that many frum men wear–and the rest of the country and media who was discussing it in terms of its gangster appearance and how foolish he was for allowing himself to appear that way.

    I am 99% sure that it is the latter sense that the Times means. Believe it or not, we are not as visible as we may think. Abramoff didn’t have a beard and doesn’t even wear a yarmulke publically. Most people did not think “yeshivish.” In fact, at the time Sam Heilman told newspapers that Abramoff was dressing in a sort of “Lakewood” uniform–which was ridiculous ( see ) but apart from Jews–but that is simply not how the story was treated.

  4. Eytan Kobre says:

    S.: Clyde Haberman wrote this in the Times itself: “Mr Abramoff is said to love the “Godfather” films. He is also an Orthodox Jew. There has been some debate over whether he wore the black hat to signal his religiosity in a sympathy ploy or, rather, to get in touch with his inner Luca Brasi. Either way, the fedora itself became an issue.” Times columnist David Brooks described the hat as a “pseudo-Hasidic homburg.” So, obviously, folks at the Times were/are aware of the implications. But, again, I was not claiming that those words were employed in conscious evocation of the Orthodox angle.

  5. elchonon freedman says:

    I appreciate how squemish you are about the nyt refrence to the said black hat.But do your self a favor,Google ABRAMOFF BLACK HAT and see how many thousands of refrences you find. get real! unfortunatly this stain on our record has become part of the cultural mainstream.

  6. Toby Katz says:

    I think the NYT was trying to emphasize the sinister gangster look rather than the Orthodox look. But far be it from me to defend the Times. There is hardly a day that goes by without some insidious or condescending anti-Semitism or anti-religious editorializing hidden in its “news” columns.

    Thank you, Eytan, for your kind words — the pleasure was mutual, the conversation indeed wide-ranging and most stimulating, and my brother-in-law said to me afterwards, “You always have the most unusual people at your table — since you got involved with the internet!”:-)

  7. SM says:

    Amazing that you consider that man an orthodox Jew.

    Saying that the entire Torah may not have been dictated by God makes you non-orthodox. Lying, corruption, theft and blackmail let you stay within the fold providing you think the right things?

  8. Toby Katz says:

    SM — Abramoff was roundly condemned by all Orthodox Jews.

  9. SM says:

    I agree – but it’s not my point at all. He was condemned but he is still said to be Orthodox. In which case, orthodoxy is really orthopraxis (the practice of the relevant ritual) rather than belief. If orthodoxy genuinely rested on belief, Abramoff could not be categorised as Orthodox because he is not mitzvah observant.

    I was simply drawing attention to the hypocrisy that allows such a person to be described as orthodox (see the actual words in the post), and the condemnation when we talk about people who do not believe what they are supposed to believe. Such people are described as reform (if they’re lucky), kofrim, anti-religious, people who hate fellow Jews. Yet they may well never have stolen, or cheated, or lied, or attempted to influence anyone using improper means.

  10. Ori Pomerantz says:

    SM: Abramoff could not be categorised as Orthodox because he is not mitzvah observant.

    Ori: At the risk of offending the Orthodox on this blog, I suspect that very few Orthodox Jews follow 100% of the Mitzvot perfectly 100% of the time. If they were pefectly righteous, they wouldn’t need Yom Kippur.

    Obviously, some sins make a person non-Orthodox and others do not. May I ask one of the Orthodox reading this to clarify the distinction?

  11. Bob Miller says:

    People normally consider someone who affiliates with a group and dresses like members of the group to belong to the group, regardless of his public or private behavior.

    No one in America can be forced to turn in his black hat for conduct seriously unbecoming to a religious Jew. And rarely (maybe too rarely) is such a person drummed out of the community.

    I did notice that Abramoff wore a baseball cap to a later court appearance, so he must have recognized at some point that he was reflecting poorly on Orthodox Jews.

  12. S. says:

    >If orthodoxy genuinely rested on belief, Abramoff could not be categorised as Orthodox because he is not mitzvah observant.

    The seifa doesn’t follow the reisha.

  13. Shlomo says:

    My impression at the time was that Abramoff was basically modern orthodox, and would have worn a kippah, but didn’t want to be seen as outwardly orthodox while being prosecuted. So he chose to cover his head with a formal hat, which theoretically is not just an orthodox garment. Due to this honest mistake on his part, everyone thought that he was charedi. Later on, he apparently realized the false impression he was making and switched to a baseball cap.

  14. Charles B. Hall says:

    I can’t believe that you would suggest “disrupting” the operations of a major newspaper. What is this, rule by mob? If you don’t like the *Times* you are perfectly free to start your own competing newspaper — or attempt to buy one of its competitors and remake it in your own image. This is a free country.

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