New York Times Jared-Ivanka-Jews Story Broke Paper’s Own Rabbi Rule
A New York Times news article under the headline “Are Jared and Ivanka Good For the Jews?” is generating a storm of reaction on social media, both to the article itself and to the views contained within it. Here are some additional points about the Times article that you may not be aware of:
- It violates the Times style guide by referring to rabbis on second reference as “Mr.” rather than as “Rabbi.” The Times article refers to Rabbi Haskel Lookstein on second reference as “Mr. Lookstein” and to Rabbi Ethan Tucker on second reference as “Mr. Tucker.” But the entry in my hardcover Times stylebook says: “Rabbi Merrill J. Beranek; Rabbi Baranek; the rabbi. (Do not use Mr., Ms., Mrs., or Miss.)”
- It’s being attacked for sexism. Of 11 Jews interviewed and quoted in the Times article — Jonathan Sarna, Eric Reimer, Leah Pisar, Ronn Torossian, Ethan Tucker, Haskel Lookstein, Matthew Brooks, Ari Fleischer, Haim Saban, Andy Bachman, and Morton Klein — exactly one, Leah Pisar, is a woman. The editor of the Forward, Jane Eisner, tweeted, “Somehow @AmyChozick and @hannah_seligson did not quote ONE American woman in a long story about American Jews. Outrageous that this erasure still happens at the @nytimes We have something to say, too.” It’s a sensitive point these days, because the cover article of the Sunday Times book section is a review that covers five books about American Jewish identity, all by male writers. That has already prompted complaints. One of the Times reporters replied to the gender criticism of the Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump article by saying, on Twitter, “Would’ve loved to have more women in the piece. Your criticism is noted. Thanks.”
- The Times seeks to answer the “good for the Jews” question by interviewing a collection of Jews based in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Washington, and the suburbs of Boston, but not a single Jew who lives in Israel. That’s odd, since more Jews live in Israel than in America or any other country. Maybe the Times headline should have been “Are Jared and Ivanka Good For the non-Israeli Jews?”
- One of the Times reporters responsible for the article, Amy Chozick, wrote a book in which she describes herself as “a fifth-generation Texas Jew” who received a silver cross from a friend as a bat mitzvah gift and was known in middle school as “the Jew.” She also describes herself and another Times reporter, Michael Schmidt, as looking like “old friends from Jewish summer camp.” She also describes herself as emailing with the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, “about dieting, workouts, and dealing with our unruly Jewfros.”
This particular Times article is a weird one for me to write about because I know almost all the players myself. I went to college with Leah Pisar and Ethan Tucker. I used to live in Bachman’s Brooklyn neighborhood. I’ve covered Klein and Brooks for nearly 25 years. To me it seems pretty obvious that Jews would be, as the Times puts it, “divided,” over Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, because America has political divisions, and because American Jews tend to be pretty thoroughly American.
Some readers thought it was unfair of the Times to single out Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump for special scrutiny. Ken Kurson, who worked with Kushner at the New York Observer, wrote on Facebook, “This is disgusting. It is also probably unprecedented. I challenge the New York Times to produce another example where high profile members of any other religion in any other administration were analyzed for how their behavior reflected on that religion. Creating a different standard for Jews is the definition of anti-Semitism.” A Breitbart article by Joel Pollak said the Times “Jew-Shames Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump.”
Believe me, I’m the last one to defend the New York Times. If the Times does have a defense on this one, though, it’s that Christian members of the Trump administration, at least, have been subjected to similar, if perhaps not identical, scrutiny. See, for example, the Frank Bruni column on “Mike Pence, Holy Terror.”
Amy Chozick’s book even concludes with a theory about Hillary Clinton wearing the color purple for her concession speech because “in Methodism, purple is worn during Advent and Lent, a symbol of penitence. We were watching Saint Hillary.” Or consider how the Times treated President Obama’s relations with the black community, as, for example, in this article by Michael Eric Dyson or this one by Cornel West: “The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling [Martin Luther] King’s prophetic legacy. Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.”
If the measure of success of Times journalism is “got you to click” — even if it was a “hate click” — then by that standard, the article seems to have been a success. At this writing, it was a solid no. 6 on the Times list of most emailed stories.
Ira Stoll is a former managing editor of The Forward and former North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of his media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.