Wednesday, July 17th | 14 Tammuz 5779

June 20, 2017 4:07 pm

New York Times Column Overlooks Jewish Aid to Syrian Refugees

avatar by Ira Stoll


Syrian refugees on the Greek-Macedonian border in August 2015. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“Why Don’t You Donate for Syrian Refugees? Blame Bad Marketing,” is the headline over a New York Times column by Charles Duhigg.

It reports, “It is statistically unlikely, however, that you’ll write a check to help Syrian refugees. Though the Syrian crisis is a huge and heartbreaking story, it has translated into relatively little charitable giving.”

In my particular case, “Why Don’t You Donate for Syrian Refugees?” is a headline built around a false premise. I did in fact donate (by credit card, not check) to the Refugee Crisis Fund of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston, and I have an email receipt to prove it.

Nor is CJP the only Jewish organization whose efforts to help Syrian refugees Mr. Duhigg ignores. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society has resettled more than 1,200 Syrian refugees in the United States, using both government money and money it raises. The UJA-Federation of New York gave a $25,000 grant to HIAS’s Syrian Refugee Welcoming Project.

The Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief raised $2 million for Syrian refugees. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism passed a formal resolution urging its congregations to raise money for the Jewish Coalition for Syrian Refugees.

Is Mr. Duhigg’s ignoring, dismissing, or disparaging these efforts just the latest example of anti-Jewish bias by the New York Times?

Well, perhaps not so fast.

Mr. Duhigg’s column, after all, also ignored the New York Times’ own in-house charity, the Neediest Cases Fund, which raised $6,177,635 in its 2016-2017 seasonal campaign. As the Times itself reported elsewhere:

This year the International Rescue Committee, a worldwide aid group based in New York that helps refugees and vulnerable populations, joined the campaign. For the first time in Neediest Cases history, stories were told about people in distress outside the New York City area. Those stories highlighted the plights of refugees trying to flee conflict.

Times columnist Nicholas Kristof had kicked off the campaign with an article reporting, “I’m delighted that after 105 years, at a time when refugees are a target of vitriol and scapegoating, the Neediest Cases Fund is embracing their cause and backing the International Rescue Committee.”

Sometimes what looks like biased journalism may just be plain old bad journalism, applied pretty much equally to all charities, Jewish or not. Maybe Mr. Duhigg’s marketing advice could help raise even more money for Syrian refugees. If so, he may want to consider addressing himself directly to his colleagues in charge of the Times‘ Neediest Cases Fund, rather than making inaccurate blanket statements about readers failing to donate.

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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