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August 15, 2016 1:39 pm

The New York Times Takes Aim at ‘Dorky Yeshiva Boys’

avatar by Ira Stoll

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The poster for "War Dogs." Photo: Wiki.

The poster for “War Dogs.” Photo: Wiki.

Is there any group of people who the New York Times feels comfortable insulting as openly and easily as Orthodox Jews?

Perhaps cigarette smokers, or supporters of Donald Trump for president. But beyond that, it’s hard to imagine.

The question is raised once again by an article and a pull-out display quote in Sunday’s Times arts section. “They were dorky yeshiva boys, but they dreamed of being players,” the quotation says.

Leave it to the New York Times. In an article about a Canadian-born “son of Chinese immigrants” who is making a movie about the war in Iraq, the newspaper somehow manages to get in a sideswipe at “yeshiva boys.”

The individuals in question don’t get a chance in the Times article to defend themselves from the accusation that they were “dorky.”

Here’s the full passage:

For “War Dogs,” Mr. Chin made research trips to Miami to hang out with David Packouz, one of the arms dealers portrayed in the movie (the other, Efraim Diveroli, was awaiting sentencing on a conspiracy conviction related to arms dealing), and to see their old stamping grounds. Once he talked to Mr. Packouz, he began to understand what drove them both to ditch their staid lives to sell weapons to the United States military. “They could see the huge mansions of the drug lords, the beautiful models on the beach,” Mr. Chin said. “They were dorky yeshiva boys, but they dreamed of being players.”

The Times doesn’t seem to consider the reverse possibility that any models on the beach or drug lords in mansions would dream of devoting their time instead to studying Talmud.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “dorky” as “foolishly stupid.” An 1988 William Safire “On Language” column in the New York Times magazine described it as “meaning ‘klutzy’ — clumsy — or in a second sense, ‘acting like a nerd.’”

It’s not entirely clear which of the three senses — stupid, clumsy or nerdy — the Times or Mr. Chin means by using this word in its place. What is clear is that it isn’t a compliment. The Times, or Mr. Chin, could have called them scholarly yeshiva boys. It could have omitted the reference to their Jewish education; after all, non-Jews, or Jews who attend secular schools, can also be dorks. Instead, the Times traffics in offensive stereotypes. Imagine if the Times had used a stereotypical adjective about women or African-Americans. There’d be outraged protests. When it comes to Orthodox Jews, however, it’s almost expected.

At least the newspaper didn’t call these Orthodox Jews smelly, the way it did in an editorial the other day. That’s the low expectations bar set by Times treatment of Orthodox Jews; when the newpaper writes “dorky,” one can at least be thankful it didn’t say “stinky.”

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

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  • Eli Adler

    Did somebody imply that All yeshiva students were “dorky” , or was that your interpretation?

  • Steve Berman

    An extremely lame article that does nothing more then cry wolf. Seriously, I do not understand this article.
    Mr. Stoll please answer these questions
    1)The times didn’t refer to yeshiva students as “dorky”. The director of the movie did? Should the times have changed his words to shield our feelings?
    2) He made these comments after interviewing Mr Packouz, is it not logical to assume that Mr. Packouz uttered these words and he is just being quoted? (after all Packouz left the fold so clearly he doesn’t hold yeshiva students in huge esteem)
    3) what on earth is this paragraph supposed to mean?
    The Times doesn’t seem to consider the reverse possibility that any models on the beach or drug lords in mansions would dream of devoting their time instead to studying Talmud.
    Is it logical to think that models on the beach have an interest in learning torah?!?!

    If you going to take the times to task do it for something thats logical, don’t invent things. Don’t misread and put words in their mouth. I’m no fan of the times but neither am I a fan of over sensitivity.

  • ASKS

    Interesting that Mr Chin calls others dorky, especially with his buck teeth, receding hairline and glasses that are too big for his face.

    • Mr Chin should be aware that some Chinese universities are studying the Talmud as they realized the immense treasure of wisdom that one can uncover within. Would he also call those universities dorky?

  • ita

    NERD, etc.
    What used to ne an insult now in a technology driven world
    is considered a desireable trait.
    Just think of all the elite group if individuals who it includes.
    By any measure.
    Albert Einstein
    Thomas Edison
    Neil Armstrong
    Along with practically every eagle Boy Scout
    (Google it you will see)
    Ruth Gindsberg
    Along with every scientist turned astronaut
    Along with the inventor of the Computer spread sheet
    Along with the founders of Apple Computer
    Along with Mr. Nobel and 100% of the past winners of the Peace Prize in Medicine and Science
    Along with the founders and funders of the New York Times and 90% of its past great reporters.
    Look the author him self.

    Sticks and Stones etc.

  • Al Talena

    Wonder why the NY Slime has never made a disparaging remark about blacks or Latinos. The NY Slime never misses an opportunity to malign Jews. Yet Jews continue to buy the rag. Too many Jews have no self-honor.

    • boy514

      @Al Talena: Respect! Great pseudonym!

  • rita starishevsky

    When the members of the NYT need to see the best doctors, scientists, educators, musicians they will come to us-many of whom are proud orthodox men and woman’

    My question to my Jewish sisters and brothers is-why do any of us buy this newspaper which is very slanted against Israel (is this an understatement) and now is giving us Jewish men and woman some of whom are orthodox “disrespect. I know we can find another newspaper to read and it does not have to be anti-us

  • rita starishevsky

    When the “good people” of the New York Times need to see the best dotors, scientists, musicians, composers they will come to us to our bright ,super talented hardworking young men and woman many of them Orthodox Jews.

    My question to my Jewish sisters and brothers-why are you buying and reading The New York Times? To say its slanted against Israel is an understatement- It seems to treat us ” a bit disrespectful” Why would we support this nonsense?

  • Mike

    Of all the horrible terms that people call Jews, “dorky” is not that bad. In fact many high school students are proud of being called “nerd” because it usually means they are smart. I found your June 2nd article about Jewish women being criticized for wanting to swim without men to be much more disturbing.

  • The Times is correctly spelled Der Sturmer.

  • Rita Crespi

    there was a time, when I was growing up, that the NY Times was a newspaper to be respected. Coming from New York, there was the Daily News, the New York Post, the Daily Mirror and the Journal. However, none commanded the respect that the NY Times did! I don’t know when things changed, whether it was competing with TV or the Internet, but the Times now garners the same respect as the Enquirer.
    HOW DARE YOU REFER TO THESE YOUNG MEN as dorky? If you had referred t the black community as crime ridden or the Italian neighborhood as Mafia Guidos? There’s a whole bunch of different neighborhoods in NY and that’s what made it great! We don’t need Trump to make anything great, we already are! Those boys you made fun of will NOT wind up on Rikers Island or Dannemora. They spend their days studying and being respectful to their parents.
    You, my friends, are only producing bird cage coverage!

  • Jay Lavine

    Jewish belief includes loving the Lord (v’ahavta) and knowing that the Lord loves us (ahava rabba ahavtanu), so being a Jew means having enough self-esteem not to care what others think of our appearance and way of life.

  • Yonatan

    These kids are NOT Orthodox Jews. Nor were they at the time of their ‘arms dealing’ escapades – they were druggies who were expelled first from yeshiva then from Hebrew day school. Now they became war lords and have caused a huge Chilul Hashem.

    B’h such nachas for the parents ! …