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July 15, 2016 12:53 am

The New York Times Turns Bikini-Clad Natalie Portman Into the Carnal Jew

avatar by Ira Stoll

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Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

This coming Sunday’s issue of “T,” the New York Times’ glossy style magazine, features a conversation between two Ivy League-educated Jewish professionals about the Sabbath, Jerusalem, Hebrew etymology and “the wrath of G-d.”

It’s illustrated with photographs of one of the two of them in a bathing suit. In one of the photographs, this one of the two people is lying supine on a bed.

One of the two participants in the conversation is a man, and the other is a woman.

Guess which one there are bathing suit pictures of? Guess which one is on her back in bed in the bathing suit?

Yep. Sure enough, along with a Times article headlined, “The emails of Natalie Portman and Jonathan Safran Foer,” there are 8 — eight! — photos of Natalie Portman, and zero pictures — not a single one — of Jonathan Safran Foer.

In six of the photos, Ms. Portman is wearing a bathing suit. In many of them, she is also wearing a sweater and socks.

There are no pictures of Mr. Foer in a bathing suit. No pictures of him on his back in bed in a tight bathing suit, midriff exposed.

What accounts for the discrepancy in treatment between the two participants?

When Donald Trump asked a professional model to change into a bikini, the New York Times turned it, 26 years later, into a front-page news article that described Mr. Trump’s behavior as “debasing.” The article ran under the headline: “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private.”

Likewise, the Times has recently been going to town against Fox News executive Roger Ailes, devoting two front-page news articles — and at least four more articles on the front of the business section — to a lawsuit by a former anchor, Gretchen Carlson, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation, allegations that Mr. Ailes denies. The Times gives extensive coverage to Ms. Carlson’s complaint that, among other things, she wasn’t allowed to wear pants on the air — yet the Times itself illustrates a conversation between a man and a woman with photos of the woman in — not pants — but a bikini.

One might think that, given the front-page stories about Mr. Ailes and Mr. Trump, the Times editors would be a little more careful about illustrating a conversation about the Sabbath and Hebrew etymology with a photo of the woman participant in the conversation on her back in bed wearing a two-piece bathing suit. Or that, given that the previous editor of the Times, Jill Abramson, was fired after complaining that she was paid less than a man in the same job, the newspaper might be a bit more sensitive to even the appearance of sexist treatment of a Jewish woman.

But this is the same “T” magazine that recently described one character as “a warm and decorous French Jew” (as opposed to the rest of us ordinary loud and obnoxious Jews). It is a publication, in other words, that traffics in coarse, antisemitic stereotypes. Add the classic Christian slander of the hypersexualized Jewish woman — the “carnal Jew” — to the growing list of “T” magazine’s crimes against the Jewish people. I’m looking forward to seeing the Jewish feminist organizations condemn this one.

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


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  • Elliot

    Nat Portman, as we know, is a sex slave and has been since she broke in. She’s no feminist, despite pretending to be one on several different occasions. As we know, she broke up Penn’s marriage, severed her ties with Scarlett over a man (Scarlett’s), and Kunis has stopped speaking to her as well. And we all are aware of the reason.

    But she looks good.

  • Hugo stahlie

    Ridiculous critism. Keep on scouring the media and you surely find more to cry about.

  • Yaakov

    “Ivy League-educated Jewish professionals” — phraseology that reflects an all too prevalent mindset

  • I see it as feminist fashion. Fashion and art doesn’t follow social norms.
    Also the bikini is not bikini but a top with her torso showing.
    Portman is an artist and fashion icon, this artical forgets the contex of T mag.
    However a few photos of Foer would add to the essay.

    As a Jewish artist, this conversation series feeds me with thoughtful insight
    into the creative process, artist parenting styles, and promotes pollination between the disciplines. And isn’t it wonderful to see Jews in popular culture sharing intellectual thoughts about their Jewishness? I think That takes some chutzpah to publish in this day and age. So it probably needs the fashion spread along with it!

  • Diane B.

    I agree with all comments that the NYT is definitely a left wing, anti-Semitic rag paper. However, Natalie Portman could have said “no” to debasing herself in this rag. Obviously the NYT did not have to twist her arm to pose for these photos. I lost whatever respect I had for her years ago.

  • Jack Waserman

    Portrayals of Jews as this or that do not equate with stereotypes,unless such descriptions imply typical, exaggerated/distorted, characteristics which commonly apply to Jews. In this article, Ira Stoll further expands the already-large repertoire of supposed Jewish stereotypes. As a 65 y.o. Jew, I’ve known “loud, obnoxious” Jews, but also as many quiet, solicitous Jews, as well as “warm and decorous” Jews. I don’t consider any of these as stereotypical. But the grande dame of Stoll’s misbegotten stereotypes (antisemitic yet!) is that of “the hypersexualized Jewish woman…the carnal Jew”. Is it that T’s Natalie Portman threatens the sturdy stereotype of the Jewish woman as frumpy, anything-but-sexy, a nag. Harry Golden, would plainly add his 2 cents: What, a Jewish woman can’t be pretty and sexy?

  • Please do not publish the rubbish the invades the journalists of the NYT. The NYT is an evil that the world will be better off without. Do not buy this hate filled newspaper as it is designed to subvert and not build unity. NYT we are all ashamed of what you have become. I am not talking of ‘freedom of speech’, I am talking of “Freedom of Decency”. NYT if you don’t have anything decent to say then please keep you mouth shut as all it does is spew more hatred.

  • Jonathan Mishkin

    Yet another hit piece from the pen of Ira Stoll. This time, Mr. Stoll betrays his biases through his omissions.

    1. T, the NYT style magazine, is just that, a style magazine. The editorial is nice, but it’s not the point. The magazine exists to show nice pictures and sell clothes and other high end merchandise. I would bet that the print edition will land on my door on Sunday full of nice glossy ads, which will well outnumber the editorial pages. In this context, the Portman article will fit well.

    2. Mr. Stoll fails to note that the caption to the pictures of Ms. Portman detail the specifics of what she is wearing; the designer, the price and how to buy. Ms Portman is a model, albeit a remarkably literate one. But a model nevertheless. That’s what models do; they model.

    3. Mr. Stoll also fails to note that Jonathan Safran Foer, the counterparty, is the author of the piece. He is not a model; the “T” magazine is probably not the place to start. Thank god.

    4. The analogy to Gretchen Carlson is also unfair and irrelevant. At Fox, Ms. Carlson was a news personality, not a model.

    5. BTW, the reason that the NYT appears to give the story so much attention might be because the owner of Fox, one Mr. Rupert Murdoch, is a bit of a competitor. The outlets that might be expected to give such a lawsuit attention, the Wall Street Journal and the esteemed New York Post, are owned by said Murdoch.

    6. The reference at the end of the article to the dancer Bill T. Jones and his husband is also, not surprisingly, out of context.

    a. The original article dwells on Mr. Jones’ mother in law, a Holocaust survivor, and how she inspired some of his choreography.
    b. Dancers dance. For them, movement, appearance and grace, also referenced as “decorous,” are integral parts of the dance. I suspect that the reference to a “decorous Jew” was much more about the appearance and poise of Mr. Jones’ husband.

    7. I read the Foer/Portman article. The problem wasn’t in any anti-Semitism or sexism, subtle or otherwise. It was just a little (a lot) self-indulgent. That is sometimes a bigger problem.

  • Leonard Feinman

    Consider this; The New York Times rarely has a positive slant on anything Jewish. I am glad that they did an article about her because that is a positive thing. Her male counterpart is not what makes the story, shown or not. She is the attraction.

    Are we “sexualizing” a movie star? No, I don’t think so. We do know she is attractive, though, as was Hedy Lamar, and she was also a genius. I find many Jewish women attractive, not because they are Jewish, but just because they are. I hope this is nothing any of them will ever have to apologize for being. Having beauty and brains sounds good to me.

  • Jeff Blankfort

    C’mon, Ira, don’t tell us you’d rather not see photos of Natalie Portman in a bathing suit.

  • Ira Stoll’s thoughts are always worthy of consideration. I think, however, that in this instance he is a bit wide of the mark.

    I haven’t seen the nyt story but, on the facts presented, it seems doubtful that the nyt had in mind “the carnal Jew.” I might be wrong and one cannot underestimate the dishonesty and moral corruptions (including a relentless bias against Israel and, increasingly, the organized Jewish community) of the nyt but I don’t think that Ira is right about this.

  • Myron Slater

    The New York Times has been Antisemitic for many years, and the Jews that own the paper, are anti Israel. This is a newspaper that once was respected around the world! It now is only good to wrap the garbage!

  • david

    Portman is a beautiful woman. She’s also highly intelligent. In her case, I can multi-task — I can look at her in her bikini while considering the merits of her comments.

    Foer? Who cares?

  • j socher

    Seriously – you think that if Natalie Portman was pretty shiksa they wouldn’t publish scantily clad pictures of her?

  • Arshad Sherif, M.A., M.Ed.

    Are you kidding, Ira? You are totally misguided about NYT. But before I write any more, is this a moderated blog or are we free to express what is truly on our minds?

  • The NYT exists to make profit by selling ad space.

    That’s it.

    The rest is noise.
    The numbers who will buy because of pix like that VASTLY outnumbers the numbers who will get offended and not buy (for a while)

    This is earth.

    • not quite. the editorial decisions of the nyt are not made by people who are oblivious to commercial considerations but those considerations are not decisive, at least, not in the way that epaminondas has in mind. (the impact of commercial considerations figure more consequentially in calculations of how stories will be received by the core readership.) far more important to the owners of the nyt is what they conceive of as their mission, the advancement of certain causes and ideological commitments, and their reputation with the core readership.

      one more point: the editors of the nyt are appallingly self-indulgent, imperiously and irresponsibly allowing themselves outrageous self-contradictions. these are not people that one can take seriously when it comes to candor, integrity, accountability. it would be better if the nyt disappeared or were relegated to some digital wilderness.

  • Kris Kristian

    What is the NYT being paid by the Islamic states to lie about Jews and Israel?
    The NYT is Jewish owned. What a joke,

    Hopefully, they will have a huge fire and the entire building and all their records etc will burn to the ground just like the Muslims attacted the WTC

    The NYT should be closed down.