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April 7, 2016 7:14 am

Major Jewish Organization Condemns New York Times Smear of the Orthodox

avatar by Ira Stoll

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New York Police Deparment vehicle. Photo: wiki commons.

New York Police Deparment vehicle. Photo: wiki commons.

After an Algemeiner article on Wednesday highlighted a New York Times dispatch that gratuitously mentioned the religion of two businessmen related to an FBI corruption investigation of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is weighing in, describing the reference as “disturbing” and “irresponsible.”

In a statement, the New York regional director of the ADL, Evan Bernstein, said:

It is disturbing that the reporters and editors at the New York Times thought it relevant to identify the religious affiliation of two businessmen, Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, whose gifts to NYPD are allegedly being investigated by the F.B.I.

Why was it necessary to refer to them as ‘Orthodox?’ The controversy surrounding the investigation has nothing to do with religion, and we believe that listing Rechnitz’s and Reichberg’s religion as part of the story was irresponsible.

The author of the Times article, William Rashbaum, referred a question about the story to the paper’s Metro editor, Wendell Jamieson. Mr. Jamieson responded with an email contending that the religion of the businessmen was relevant, but acknowledged that the article was suboptimal. Mr. Jamieson said the paper would try to do better going forward:

The Orthodox communities of Brooklyn, which you know are very politically involved, have long had a complex relationship with the NYPD and City Hall. Mayors go to great lengths to court these communities and work closely with them, partly because they have considerable influence. We’ve done tons of stories that touch on this over the years.

That said, we could have explained it better in today’s story, and will endeavor to do so in the stories that will inevitably follow.

Sometimes we do mention religion, sometimes we don’t. For example, we do mention Catholic folks when discussing the St. Patrick’s Day parade, etc.

For comparison, on the same day that the Times published the story describing the religion of Mr. Rechnitz and Reichberg, it ran a longer article about another businessman involved in a federal investigation, Andrew Caspersen. That article made no mention of Mr. Caspersen’s religion.

In the past, the Times has stated a policy according to which: “The religion of a person in the news should be mentioned only when it is pertinent and its pertinence is clear to the reader.”

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