Of Rabbis and Alibis

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8 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    One should never confuse JTA or any of the secular Jewish weeklies, regardless of whether their editor is personally Orthodox, with any of the Orthodox oriented weeklies. The secular papers invariably avoid anything praiseworthy in the Orthodox world and focus on only the worst news in our communities as worth reporting. One must remember that just as in the secular world used to sell newspapers, so too-Ortho bashing of many kinds sells newspapers and magazines that are nominally Jewish in tone and orientation.

  2. Garnel Ironheart says:

    On one hand, the JTA has a certain point. There are some accepted styles in terms of news reporting. For example, one local paper where I live refers to people in the article with a Mr. or Ms. or appropriate title whenever their name comes up. Another paper doesn’t use them at all.
    Similarly, the standards considered normal in secular standard publication are quite different from those in religious ones. An observant writer, writing for a religious crowd, would never refer to the Chazon Ish, zt”l as Rabbi Abraham Isaiah Karelitz or just “Karelitz” but that’s because the religious crowd would find that incredibly disrespectful. A non-religious person reading such an article, however, would be mostly confused as to why a leading sage was not referred to by name but rather by the name of his book.
    One must also consider who the person is writing for. I think it’s fair to say most JTA writers are secular and are writing for the secular crowd. That leads them to the style they use.
    Finally, one must always distinguish between opinion pieces and news pieces. Fawning editorials and op-eds are fair game, but I agree that unnecessary swipes against the Satmars, whose members oppose the State of Israel because they believe Jews should not have political sovereignty until the Messiah comes (heh, heh), should be avoided. That would be withinthe job description of editor.
    The ultimate solution to this problem would be for the JTA to hire a number of religious writers to cover all aspects of news in the Jewish world just as the current secular crew does. Then we might see a more balanced perspective.

  3. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Do most JTA readers even know who the Satmars are? If not, then a paragraph at the end of a Satmar story explaining who they are and what are the main ways in which they differ from other Chasidim is appropriate as context.

    As for honorifics, a year ago to the day I read here about then president Katzav refusing to call a Reform Rabbi Rav. How is that different from JTA refusing to call somebody Rabbi?

    Please don’t tell me that the reason is that Eric Yoffe truly isn’t a real Rabbi, but the Chozeh of Lublin zt”l was. To the Heterodox Jews who run JTA it would sound like: “we’re right, you’re wrong, so you need to show respect to our leaders and we don’t need to show respect to yours”. Not the same as telling your enemy to leave the feast, but on the same continuum.

    BTW, for the record, I believe the JTA was wrong. “Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Horowitz” is verbose, and it would be tiresome to repeat it over the text. However, they should have used “Rabbi Horowitz”, or called an Orthodox Rabbi to ask if there’s a title that’s commonly used for him.

  4. Harry Maryles says:

    I agree with your attitude with respect to how the Jewish media should to refer to rabbis of any denomination with their appropriate titles. And that makes it all the more troubling that you did not have the very same criticism of your own colleauge, Rabbi Jonathan (excuse the English) Rosenblum. I wrote a blog piece about precisely this issue.

    I just want to reiterate here what I wrote on my blog. I am a fan of Rabbi Rosenblum and agree with him the vast majority of the time. But it really bothered me that he treated a Talmid Chacham and Rebbe to hundreds if not thousands of people as just ‘Rakeffet’. Does Rabbi Rakeffet not deseve the same courtesy from Rabbi Rosenblum as you seek for Orthodox Rabbis from the JTA?

  5. Bob Miller says:


    In blogs I see committed Orthodox Jews frequently using abbreviations for the names of well-known rabbis. This is no different from the use of names like “Rashi” and “Rambam”. Would you be satisfied if, after the first full reference, an article about a rabbi began using such an abbreviation?

  6. Mark says:

    “But it really bothered me that he treated a Talmid Chacham and Rebbe to hundreds if not thousands of people as just ‘Rakeffet’.”

    If you haven’t yet read RJR’s explanation I think it’s high time you did because you’re making a fuss over a non-issue.

  7. rejewvenator says:

    We’re hunting for issues now? Most major news organizations will commonly leave off the title of the President, referring to him as Bush, once they’re in the body of a story. This is a pot-shot at the JTA.

  8. cvmay says:

    Eytan, glad you took the pen to hand and wrote to the JTA concerning this issue of correct titles for prominent individuals. For too many years, Torah Jews have sat on the sidelines and passively criticized events while activism was never considered. Let us remember our greatest rabbis of the 20th century who banded & marched together on erev erev Yom Kippur to the White House, stop complaining silently but rather confidently protest through telephone calls (for JP-whitehouse), letter writing, petitions, tefillah rallies, and in people groups.

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