Sunday, July 3, 2011

Open letter to Zeddy Lawrence editor of the Australian Jewish News


While I agree you are most conciliatory to deal with on a personal level, the paper you edit is not very Jewish at all. Does it really represent the Jewish community? Certainly not the majority. The majority is not in favour of gay marriage as a basic human right, nor is it in favour of pandering to Muslim extremists. The Jewish News's reason for existence is not to serve Jews, Judaism, or the Jewish community, but to make a profit, even at all of our's expense, especially the frum. Unfortunately, it's like having a neurotic relative, and we are stuck with your paper as a forum to reach large numbers of Australian Jews with our messages, regardless if it represents our way of life and views or not. Do not mistake our (the silent majority's) reluctant participation in your paper as support of your editorials or perspective.

Ironic you say you  feel you were maligned in this blog when you are the editor of a paper that engages in diatribes, specifically against religious Jews, on a regular basis. Remember how the AJN besmirched Rabbi Engel from Adelaide, who by the way was found not guilty of all criminal charges. Why never any front page apology for that? Because he is Orthodox?

Your projection of the death of the Australian Jewish community should cause you to take stock of the paper's direction since the only faction of Jews in Australia that is growing and has a bright future is the Orthodox. Maybe you should stop biting the hand that can and will feed you?

As far as the coverage of Lion FM is concerned, I am happy you printed my letter but, I understand there were quite a number of other letters on my side of the fence that were not published. Still, my letter does not compensate for the biased and one sided reportage of the past year. Come one Zeddy, surely you can do better than this!


Shloimy Koppel said...

Spot on!

It's great to have someone standing up for all who are proud of our Jewish Heritage!

Ilana said...

Thanks Shoshanna. You hit the nail on the head exactly. My sentiments precisely!

Belinda said...

that pretty much sums it up! Thats why I no longer read it. Havent for several years. And also why I dont bother putting announcements in for births, barmitzvahs etc. I ahve no interest in supporting a paper that claims to be Jewish but has such obviously anti jewish sentiments.

Anonymous said...

You say the majority is not in favour of gay marriage... how do you know? Certinaly the majority of the relgious community isnt but there is more than 100,000 Jews in Australia and the majority are not religous.

No one is making you read the paper. If you really think that enough people feel the same way as you then you can all stop reading it, sales will decline, advertising rates will decline because less people are reading it so they aren't worth as much money and then profits will drop.

So if the paper is just to make a profit then take action that will effect that profit.

I think you'll find the number of people that actually agree with you and care enough to do anything about it is so small that it wouldn't make a difference.

It's not the Australian Frum Jewish News - It's the Australian Jewish News.

The Repenting Jewess said...

Here is a reply from Zeddy,

Dear Shoshsanna,

As I said in my posting in the Galus website, I really don't feel these tit-for-tat online exchanges are beneficial or constructive, but as you have penned an open letter to me I feel I ought to respond.

Firstly, regarding gay rights and other such issues: it is the responsibility of a community newspaper to represent as broad a cross section of views within that community as possible, not simply what you claim are the view of "the majority". To do otherwise would be to go down the route of tyranny. On the specific issue of gay marriages, we are certainly not claiming Orthodoxy is wrong or should change its fundamental beliefs - one can't impose 20th/21st century ideologies on an ancient religion. One can only expect it to be tolerant and respectful of differing viewpoints that may be held by others - just as we expect others to be respectful of Judaism. The fact is there are gay Jews and streams within the Jewish family that are more open to gay rights, and as a newspaper we recognise that.

The Repenting Jewess said...

Part 2 from Zeddy,

Secondly, while I cannot comment on the specifics of the Engel case as I was not at the newspaper at the time, let's start by getting our facts straight. He was not found "not guilty of all criminal charges". The case was dropped, if memory serves, because there was insufficient evidence. There is a fundamental difference between the two and we don't want to mislead people. As to our coverage of the case being dropped, we reported that in a comprehensive fashion on page three of the paper and I wrote an editorial in which I called on all sides to set aside their past differences and work together for the good of the community. The closure of Massade in Adelaide this week bears testament to the need for all of us, particularly those within small communities to not get caught up in recriminations or the blame game but to rally together.

Thirdly, while again I can only speak for my term as editor, the claim that we engage in diatribes against Orthodoxy is completely without foundation. Given that my brother is senior rabbi of The Great Synagogue in Sydney, I am particularly sensitive to Orthodox sensibilities. Further, we regularly consult with the Orthodox roof bodies when we run stories and enjoy very positive and fruitful relationships with leading members of the Orthodox rabbinate. On those rare occasions (I can actually only think of one and that was in Sydney) where we have inadvertently - and I stress inadvertently – upset the Orthodox community, those who brought the matter to my attention will confirm that I apologised unreservedly and stated as such in the paper. That does not mean we will not report alleged misconduct by leaders of the Orthodox community, but no more so than we would report alleged misconduct by leaders within the Progressive or secular streams of AUstralian Jewry.

The Repenting Jewess said...

part 3 from Zeddy,

Fourthly, it is incorrect to claim we projected the death of AUstralian Jewry. We merely highlighted a very tragic trend as evidenced by the continuity report and urged the community not to let it reach that stage. Again, look at the closure of Massada College in Adelaide, look at the growing rates of intermarriage, look at the declining levels of affiliation … look also at the external threats, the BDS campaign, the public calls for shechita to be banned, the
condemnation we're beginning to hear of "genital mutilation". As a community we face external threats, but we also face internal threats and we would be foolish to bury our heads in the sand and ignore them.

Fifthly, "a number of other letters" ... er no, sorry. One two weeks ago, one last week and one that arrived after the page had been laid out. The only reasons I would not publish letters is if: a) they were defamatory; b) they were based on complete falsehoods; c) they were anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist; d) they were equally disparaging about another religion or ethnicity; e) they were personally abusive; f) there wasn't enough room that week; g) they arrived after the page had been laid out; i) they were just way too long, incoherent or written so badly that even my deftness as an editor couldn't rescue them.

Sixthly, I have explained the Lion FM situation so many times, but for those who refuse to listen or who haven't heard it: on every occasion we reported a story about Lion, representatives of MJR were invited to put their side. Indeed, on more than one occasion, I personally chased up Menachem Khoen if I hadn't heard from him to ensure he didn't miss out on the opportunity to have his say. I also cautioned a number of MJR representatives that their failure to put their point of view would mean that only one side of the story would be told. Whether Menachem chose to respond to our calls for a comment, or when he did, whether he chose to actually address the issues at hand was entirely his decision, not mine. And when he did give us a comment, I always endeavoured to ensure that I could get as much of it in as space would permit - even, as was so often so sadly the case, if it made no attempt to respond to the claims being made.

Finally, I'd just like to reiterate that I see very little worth in this kind of online exchange. All too often, they just descend into vitriolic slagging matches and forums for personal abuse which serve no constructive purpose. If anyone would like to discuss issues with me, I am a phone call away or am happy to engage in a real debate in front of real people.

Kind regards,


Anonymous said...

I think that a more appropriate name for that newspaper is 'News for Jews' because very little of the content can be described as 'Jewish'.

The Repenting Jewess said...

Zeddy, doesn't journalism school teach about the economy of words.

Representation of the majority is not tyranny, on the contrary it is the definition of democracy. Shoving a minority view down our throats is the tyranny. If you wish to fool yourself into believing the majority support gay marriage go ahead, but it is just wishful thinking on your part.

It is the AJN that represents the past because it represents the assimilationist movement that holds no prospect for a hopeful future for our community, just as you reported. It is the Orthodox/traditional movements that are the future, as these are the movements that will keep us Jewish.

The specifics of the Engel case are not germane to the issue of the Jewish News besmirching him as a criminal on its front page. Was that morally correct? Can you defend making a man out as if he is guilty before a trial?

Ilana said...

Now my comment as to your second point, a person under the Westminster system of justice is INNOCENT until PROVEN GUILTY. You have just failed your bar test, Zeddy. Don’t ever do law. Reading your post I am in no doubt as to your bias. Rabbi Engel’s case was DROPPED because of INSUFFICENT EVIDENCE. What does that say to most of us? It says that he was brought to court and there was not sufficient evidence to convict him of what he was accused of doing. What strikes me as strange and twisted, is that you continue along the lines of, ’Yeah well, we know this guy is guilty before the trial and even though they could not find sufficient evidence to put the him away, he’s guilty, mark my words, he’s guilty, look at the bugger – he wears a kippa and he’s a practicing Jew, eats kosher, oh yes, guilty as and guilty does. He’s hidden the evidence, the sly bugger, in a tefillin bag or under his tallit. Yes, I am being ridiculous because your inference calls for that sort of tongue in cheek response.
Derr Zeddy, did it ever occur to you that he might be innocent of the charges?
And another thing, sometimes, people do make mistakes and their mistakes are not intentional but a result of insufficient information made available to them. What I do not like is your judgemental attitude and your desire to not present the facts as the editor of a magazine with a voice in the community and the ability to sway minds and move opinion one way or the other, but to allow the power of the tool you wield to go to your head. Do not think you are the first and you will not be the last. There are far greater players in this field and they are equally reprehensible. I also bear in mind, that if I were in your position, would I be any better? Would I not do the same? I certainly hope so for the sake of us all, and for the second point, I hope I would not abuse my power, even as an individual.
I think the closure of the Adelaide Massada College is attributable to the downright a failure of the relevant people to come together as a group and put aside their differences to work at a common goal which is the nurture, the support and administration of a Jewish Education facility in a community. What a bloody shame that few indecent individuals ably assisted by media set out on a destructive path like this and succeeded in spoiling something for a community.

Anonymous said...

The editor of the AJN is in no position to lead the community. According to best evidence, AJN does not cover its costs. It is a mini-miracle that AJN has NOT tried to lift circulation with nudes on page 3 (like British tabloids).
AJN does not represent the community because it are stuck in the past with a demographic that is not interested in Jewish content.
The current REAL Jewish community of Australia is mostly animated by by REAL Jewish values which are imported by Jewish immigrants from traditional Jewish societies : various Sefardim, Israelis, South Africans, some Americans (mainly from Brooklyn), some former Rusians... The effete old community (AJN etc) fears the vitality of the new community which it does not represent.
Just work around the problem until everyone else wakes up.

wendy said...

Ajnwatch has just reproduced your post. Following a blast for censoring Michael Danby

The Repenting Jewess said...

and here is the link:

The Repenting Jewess said...

Zeedy's definition of a broad spectrum of the Jewish community does not include Michael Danby when he defends Israel.

How can Zeddy claim his paper is not anti-frum? How can this be denied?

The Repenting Jewess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Repenting Jewess said...

No one expects the AJN to be a frum paper, but we should expect it not be an anti-frum (anti-Israel, anti-Jewish paper), which unfortunately, it is. Yossi Aron is a token columnist among a sea of anti-frum secularism. Line up one thousand frum Australians and I can almost guarantee that nine hundred ninety nine of them have the same view of the paper as far left, Israel bashing, self-hating, extremist Muslim pandering, anti-family values, and generally anti-everything frum people and the mainstream cherish.