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June 15, 2016 7:01 am

The New York Times Discovers a ‘Decorous’ Jew

avatar by Ira Stoll

Email a copy of "The New York Times Discovers a ‘Decorous’ Jew" to a friend
Bjorn Amelan left, with his brother and mother. Photo: Facebook.

Bjorn Amelan left, with his brother, mother and cousin. Photo: Facebook.

Sometimes the anti-Jewish bias in the New York Times shows up in the strangest places. The latest example was in T Magazine, the newspaper’s ad-filled moneymaker of a glossy Sunday style magazine. It featured a profile of a 64-year-old black, gay dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones, whose “husband and companion in all things, the artist Bjorn Amelan,” is described as “a warm and decorous French Jew.” Mr. Amelan is accompanied by “his 95-year-old mother, Dora, a Holocaust survivor.”

What is up with the Times describing anyone as a “decorous” Jew? Are readers supposed to be surprised that Mr. Amelan isn’t loud, pushy or obnoxious? Are Jews assumed to be not decorous unless they are specifically described as such? Describing a Jew as “decorous” is like describing a black person as “articulate” — it’s the kind of compliment that tells more about the unfortunate stereotypes held by the writer than it does about the person being described.

The article gets even worse. The author writes of Mr. Jones: “His company had just performed an early version of the first part of ‘Analogy,’ called ‘Dora: Tramontane,’ which draws on his mother-in-law’s personal history, that of a Jewish girl in a Jewish family that, like so many families of the era and the region, was, during the war, vandalized by fate.”

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That’s just nonsense. The Jewish families of Europe during World War II weren’t “vandalized by fate.” They were vandalized by the Nazis and their collaborators. Assigning the guilt or responsibility to “fate” is a kind of sleight of hand, a rhetorical formulation that the Times uses to absolve the human individuals involved of their guilt, moral responsibility and free will.

It’s all the sort of thing that might cause me to hurl the magazine across the room in a fit of disgust if I weren’t such a decorous Jew myself. Here’s the thing: the vandalization of the Jews hasn’t stopped. And it’s not “fate” that is responsible these days, no more than it was in the last century, but the individual writers and editors at the Times who produce this nasty stuff.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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  • Melody

    Ira, I am a friend of your parents’.

    As a person born in Brooklyn, I grew up with the NY Times, at least the Sunday edition. As an adult living in MA, I have a subscription to the Times, partially out of nostalgia for my hometown & its leading newspaper, & partially for the mostly well-written content.

    But it is infuriating the way Times writers (and editors) publish articles – having nothing to do with religion per se – and note the religion of people in the article only when those people are Jewish.

    They always manage to slip something in, like “she’s the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Poland” or “he got his skills from his Russian Jewish grandfather” – but never “she’s the daughter of Protestant immigrants from England” – no, it’s just “she’s the daughter of immigrants from England”.

    I’ve written to Times writers/columnists to protest a couple of times, but they refuse to acknowledge the problem. Either they’re blind to the bias or they are simply evil.

  • Harry Klaristenfeld

    It is hardly surprising that the NY Times chooses to describe the Jewish experience during World War II as “vandalized by fate” since this is a convenient, self-serving way of ignoring the Times’ complicity in the Holocaust as documented in “Buried by the Times” and “While Six Million Died”.

  • ZG

    The NYT is a bigoted, racist antisemitic rug.

  • I share your disgust!

  • ART

    And what religion is Mr. Jones?

  • Robby

    The NY Times is an anti-Semitic rag. I do read it, but i never pay for it. I read it in a grocery store that allows me to read it for free…or sometmes in the local library.

  • Lia

    Thank you again, all day and every day, Mr Stoll. Should the NYT ever turn into a responsible & trustworthy paper, it will largely be thanks to you and others like you.

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