Sunday, August 14th | 17 Av 5782

January 19, 2020 6:52 am

UK Newspaper Distorts Positive New York Times Story on Jews

avatar by Emanuel Miller


The New York Times logo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times’ reporting on Israel and Jewish affairs is regularly critiqued by us and many others, but in this case, a story, penned by Isabel Kershner about Jewish women learning the Talmud, is positive and well-balanced.

Which may be exactly why British newspaper The Independent, which subsequently republished the article, felt the need to change the headline to something more … downbeat.

Compare the original New York Times headline, below…

…with the revised headline when the article was republished by The Independent:

Not only is the new headline significantly more negative, but the claim that the Talmud is a “forbidden text” is clearly at odds with the content of Kershner’s article. In it, she writes, “While Talmud study by women was not forbidden by rabbis, it was generally frowned upon, and still is in parts of the strictly Orthodox world.”

As Kershner explains, the Talmud is in no way a forbidden text. (Well, not unless one considers the fact that Jews were repeatedly banned  from learning and publishing their sacred texts in various places over history, continuing until as late as 20th century Soviet Russia.)

In reality, Jewish women were never formally prevented from reading the Talmud, but instead were encouraged to abide by limiting social norms.

Similarly, the claim that these women “defy rabbis” is to overlook or expose gross ignorance of the growing trend of rabbis encouraging Jewish women to familiarize themselves with ancient Jewish texts — as Orthodox rabbi and HonestReporting staff member Dov Lipman wrote on Twitter.

The original New York Times headline was positive and accurately reflected the story. Why did The Independent feel the need to change it? And why to its version? The headline reflects willful negativity and ignorance.

As if to add insult to injury, The Independent’s editors also seem incapable of spelling “Talmud” correctly.

Despite republishing the article, meaning only minor work was required in posting the story online, The Independent managed to mangle not only the headline, but also the photo captions. Three of the photos accompanying The Independent’s article were sourced from the Associated Press, and the AP website describes them as taken at an “event celebrating the completion of the 7 1/2-year cycle of daily study of the Talmud.”

Yet The Independent then revised the AP caption, and managed to misspell Talmud on each one, such as in this example below:

Update (19 January 2020): The Independent has accepted HonestReporting’s complaint and replaced its headline with one similar to the original New York Times headline: “Jewish women’s participation in Talmud study signals change in a strictly Orthodox world.” It has also also revised the captions to ensure that “Talmud” is spelled correctly.

Emanuel Miller is a writer for HonestReporting. A version of this article was originally published by HonestReporting.

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