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October 8, 2017 11:43 am

New York Times Claims Jew’s Conversion to Christianity Was ‘Widely Praised’

avatar by Ira Stoll

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The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times uses an arts section brief about an auction of the Declaration of Independence to inform its readers that the conversion of a Jew to Christianity “was widely praised.”

The short article, by Eve M. Kahn, appeared under the headline, “Newly Discovered Copy of Declaration of Independence Will Be Auctioned.” It reports that the auction house “has gathered about 75 of the families’ documents into another auction lot (estimated to sell for $25,000 to $50,000).” Among those documents, the Times reports, are “references to the family’s connections to Aaron Isaacs, a German Jewish immigrant who settled in East Hampton and was widely praised for converting to Christianity.”

The language in the Times about the conversion to Christianity will set off alarm bells among careful readers.

One warning sign is the passive voice. The Times says that Isaacs “was widely praised,” but it doesn’t report who was doing the praising. My bet is that it was Christians, not Jews, who were doing any such praising. You might think that might be a relevant fact to include, but the Times apparently does not.

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Another warning sign is the failure of the Times to include any hyperlink or citation for its claim that Isaacs’ conversion “was widely praised.” His tombstone reportedly described him as an Israelite, so maybe he never really converted at all. These events happened in the 18th century, before the Times even began publishing, so it would be helpful for the paper to disclose its sources.

Given that there are “about 75” documents being auctioned other than the Declaration of Independence, one wonders why the Times reporter and editors felt the need even to mention the ones touching on Isaacs. If the Times journalists did feel the need to mention Isaacs, why did they need to mention his supposed conversion to Christianity? If they did feel the need to mention the supposed conversion, why did they feel the need to include the claim that it “was widely praised”? It almost reads as if the Times itself is cheering on the idea of such a conversion.

The whole thing strikes a sour note for at least this particular Jewish Times reader. It is possible that it might resonate more positively for other Times readers or perhaps even for members of the newspaper’s management whose families were once Jewish but who are now Christian or observe no religion at all.

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

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