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June 19, 2016 2:55 am

In Attack on Jewish Neighborhood Watch Group, the New York Times Can’t Bother to Distinguish Between Commandment and Blessing

avatar by Ira Stoll

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Shomrim volunteers. Photo: Facebook.

Shomrim volunteers. Photo: Facebook.

Of all the stories in New York City, the one the New York Times chooses to tackle with a 2,800-word, in-depth investigation this weekend involves the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood patrol and rescue group, Shomrim.

As is becoming an unfortunate habit with New York Times attacks on Jews, this one is released on a day when observant Jews are limited in their ability to respond. If the Times op-ed published on Shavuot attacking Governor Coumo’s pro-Israel action against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was the opinion journalism version of the Yom Kippur War, this news article, scheduled for print publication on Shabbat, is the Times metro section’s variation on the same theme.

And that is just the beginning of the problems with it. For one thing, the Times article is a nearly word-for-word recap of a story that appeared a month ago in the Daily Beast. Same names, same anecdotes, same facts, even the same photograph. It does include a few additional interviews and some re-ordering of the content. When I asked the Times reporter, Alan Feuer, whether he felt he should have credited the Daily Beast’s article, he responded by recommending that I contact the author of that article. “Thanks for your concern,” he said on Twitter, apparently dismissively. (Later, Mr. Feuer clarified that he had tried to get the Times to hire the Daily Beast writer as a freelance contributor, but that it “didn’t pan out.” He said he had spoken to her and “apologized in advance that my piece would cover some of the same ground as hers.” He said he had begun working on his piece before he read the Daily Beast article.)

The Times article carries this passage:

Mr. Daskal, the safety patrol leader in Borough Park, said the shomrim got nothing from their bonds with the police. “Maybe a mitzvah” — a blessing — he said, “or a feeling that our community is safe.”

This has the makings of a classic future Times correction. It might read: “Commandment is the English translation of mitzvah; bracha is the Hebrew for blessing. A Times article published on Shabbat incorrectly confused the two.”

It’s further proof of the basic Hebrew and Jewish illiteracy at the Times. They don’t know a bracha from a mitzvah over there. Maybe you would say a bracha before doing a mitzvah, or maybe, I suppose, you could earn a zechut by doing a mitzvah. But translating mitzvah, flat-out, as “blessing” is just blatantly wrong. It’s as incorrect as the recent New York Times article headlined, “For Juicy Beef for Your Seder Table, Look Beyond Brisket,” that generated the classic Times correction, suitable for framing in any kosher kitchen: “An earlier version of this article incorrectly implied that beef tenderloin is kosher and appropriate for Passover. It is not kosher, but other cuts of beef that are kosher may be used in the recipe in its place.” It’s as inaccurate as another story requiring another recent Times correction, the one in which the newspaper miscounted the number of pages in the Talmud.

Mr. Feuer defended the mitzvah-blessing translation, replying to my question about it by writing, “Come on, it’s both. When Daskal says it’s a mitzvah what he’s doing, he doesn’t mean commandment. He means it in the sense of What a mitzvah you did by helping that old lady across the street.”

The biggest problem with the Times article, though, is that it manages to go on for 2,800 words about Jewish security patrols in Brooklyn without any mention of the Crown Heights riot of 1991, in which the official — paid — New York Police Department initially failed to defend the Jewish community from deadly, violent attacks. Mr. Feuer explained that a reference to the Crown Heights riot was included in his initial draft of the article, but was cut in the editing; then, he said, “I don’t think I’ll entertain questions about the editing process.”

If the editing I got were as bad as Mr. Feuer’s at the New York Times, I wouldn’t want to answer questions about it, either.

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

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • stevenl

    NYT, the flagship of Mass media antisemitism.

  • Judy Robinson

    Maybe you should just speak English.

  • robert davis

    Totally CORRUPT journalists and editor of the nyt rag take on Israel and jews for the sake of their personnal interests by way of corruption. I hardly understand why Mr. Adelson the owner of nyt did not kick OUT all of those journalists and their jewish editor in particular for their lies and anti Israel pr. Maybe they get subventions from Obama for their anti Israel pr. TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT.

  • Franklin Delano Paskutnik

    Can the New York Times sink any lower than this article? Yes,I think it can.Walter Lippmann ,the anti-semitic,anti-Zionist Jewish columnist of yore must be smiling broadly from his perch in heaven (or is it hell)that the Times has so brilliantly followed in his footsteps.The reason ,I think,of the Times’ anti-Jewish and anti-Israel stance is that it must live down the perception that it is a “Jewish” newspaper.This attitude of “living down your Judaism” is something many Far Left and liberal Jewish journalists,politicians and academics have.Because the Jews are a minority population group everywhere (except Israel of course),many feel that they can ingratiate themselves with the majority group by downplaying or rejecting their religion,origin,history and culture.Sadly,this policy has never worked and is going to boomerang as it always has.One cannot force anti-semites or anyone else to like Jews – not even conversion to the majority religion could do that!

  • The main problem with the NY Times article is its concealment of the fact that a peaceful Jewish community is surrounded by one which is violent, crime-ridden and hostile and which would victimize the Jews if they rely only upon the police for protection. That the Jews have organized in their own defense as an auxiliary to the police is courageous and praiseworthy, however distasteful to the ashamed and intimidated Jewish NY Times reporters who seek the approval of gentiles by criticizing their own.

  • Actually, the NY Times correction is even worse than the author states.

    The Shomrim volunteer, in saying “Mitzvah” quite obviously did not mean the literal translation of Mitzvah (commandment), but meant instead the colloquial translation of Mitzvah, which is “Good Deed.”

    By failing to translate the usage accurately as “Good Deed,” the NY Times deprives the Shomrim volunteer of the Good Citizen credit he deserves for his Good Intentions.

    Another day, another anti-Jewish micro-aggression, by the NY Times.

  • Elna Bernard(


  • dan ehrlich

    If the story was plagiarized you should have contacted the editor…a serious charge.

    As for the translations of a couple of words, too petty to worry about…it is what the story said that counts.

  • corey

    Anti Semitic articles written by self a hating Jews are to the NY Times what hamburgers and fries are to Mcdonald’s.

    They fit perfect together.

  • ART

    If the Hasidim can be pushed out of Williamsburg, Boro Park the developers will move in and the NYT real estate section will get thousands of ads and the NYT can have one more area to attack Jews, a penchant of theirs since the grey lady was young

  • Bernard

    I think the author of this article is making a mountain out of a molehill. Mitzvah IS SOMETIMES used in the sense of blessing. Also, sometimes in the sense of “good deed”. Personally, I think to translate it as “commandment” is incorrect.

    Commandments are things that MUST be done. This definition is much too strong for the 613 mitzvot.

  • Pearl

    Sad to say that the ny times has become a rag sheet good only for wrapping up spoiled fish.

  • shmiel

    The whole attack piece is not even their own. It is more or less a copied piece from Hella Winston of about one month ago.

    This NYT reporter didn’t even have the moral decency to mention that. See for yourself.

    It is highly suspecting that by purpose he hide his source. Since it would damage the validity of the so called abuse of power.