Wednesday, June 30, 2004

No Gurls Allowed

Cathy writes: Marc is a Canadian journalist and longtime member of Luke Ford's all-male, online "advisory committee." Too bad Luke can't build a cyberspace treehouse with a "NO G-U-R-L-backwards-S ALLOWED" sign out front, which considering the turn his writing has taken lately, is what I think he really wants.
Chaim Amalek writes: "The preponderance of males on Luke's online advisory board is an artifact of the circumstances of its origins. Just consider with which activities Luke first achieved fame, and ask yourself how many women would have been interested in getting down with that. No matter - we have concluded that we virtual (and, in one critical case, imaginary) friends and advisors are being phased out for the blogger friends Luke has been making in LA (through whom he occasionally gets fed). Bitter are our tears."

Talking out of Journalism School

Rodger Jacobs writes that "a fellow journalist just surmised that the media is shying away from the Flash News piece about my experience looking for a false news source "because it makes them look bad." Translation: Concocted news sources are nothing new and nothing we talk about, anyway. It's like a sick riddle: What's worse than a journalist making up sources? 1,000 other journalists turning their back and refusing to ridicule when he does so."

Jewish Journal

I drove my Timothy McVeigh-style van to the headquarters of the Jewish Journal Wednesday afternoon (3580 Wilshire Blvd). The back was filled with a special preparation of fertilizers designed for maximum bang. I scanned a few pages of The Turner Diaries, checked my watch, and leaped out on my one-man suicide mission against the Jewish Journal, the world's worst newspaper. It was do or die. Future generations will thank me. I felt like Ann Coulter vs The New York Times as I took the elevator up to meet editor Rob Eshman.

Tender is the Night With Cathy Seipp

Rodger writes: Since you're reading Jeff Meyers' bio of Fitz -- not the best of them out there, but immensely readable -- I have a reading assignment for you: "Tender Is The Night". This much-maligned but awesomely brilliant novel (in many respects better than "Gatsby") will be a revelation to you as it will provide infinite insight into your relationship with Cathy. Of course, you have to reverse the genders: Cathy is Dick Diver and you are Nicole. (Hmmmm, Cathy is Dick Diver? That sounds lewd. Don't blame me. I didn't creae the name of the character.)

Clueless then, clueless now

"Budd Schulberg reported that when Louis Mayer heard that a friend was going to interview Hitler [circa 1938], he innocently urged him "to put in a good word for the Jews." (Scott Fitzgerald, by Jeffrey Meyers, pg. 296)
A Fly on the Wall writes: Actually, many of the Hollywood moguls in the 1930s, even though they were Jewish, didn't think Hitler was much of a threat. They snipped films of scenes that might offend the Nazis before they shipped their product off to Germany, which was a bigger international market than the UK for Hollywood fare.

Louis B. Mayer also employed Mussolini's son at MGM.

This is all documented in my buddy Chuck Higham's superb book, Merchant of Dreams - Louis B. Mayer, MGM, and the Secret Hollywood (Donald Fine: 1993).

David Greenglass writes: I'll bet if someone had offered Osama bin Laden a chance to work in Hollywood, the World Trade Center Towers would still be standing. We Jews are very likeable people, once you get to know us.

Frum Sex

It's time for frum people to break the silence and talk about sex. Is anyone frustrated by the nida laws? Is anyone finding it difficult to follow every precept? Let's share our thoughts and support one another through open, non-judgmental dialog.
Talmud613 writes on Frum Sex: "This reform chick keeps talking with me. It is very funny to hear her talk about keeping holidays but not shabbos. We talk on the phone and IM. last chat I typed Orthodox Booty call. I think that is so clever! I told her that besides, I am really good in bed, and she said she is too. Last night on the phone she asked if I know anything more shocking. So I mentioned Taharat Mishpocha and she wasn't shocked but it was ironic when I pointed out needing permission to have sex."
Folks, before you complain, I want you to know that I am even more appalled by this Yahoo group than you are, and I only am posting an excerpt of it so that the authorities can better control things.
No writes: I just want to comment on how impressed I am at the ability of some of you guys/girls to roll off the 'mareh mekomos' for some of these issues. They sure didn't teach me any of this stuff during my 8 years in yeshiva. Maybe its time for a sefer! I can just see it now..."Frumsex Al HaTorah"
Professional man writes: "What do you guys think of a frum person benefitting from a porno business (e.g. website) (even as an investor), or for that matter another "adult" business such as a strip joint? Is there any legitimate business/ "its' just for parnassa" justification, or is it completely forbidden because of its inherent nature?"
Gita writes: As Machshava Levatala put it so well, it is important to educate children about sexuality just as its important to teach them safety. I dont need to be the one to add to their masturbation guilt and I dont tell them I condone it..I tell them (as a mother but also a professional involved in the field) that it happens to be a normal part of adolescent develpment.
Your comment that "working on the assumption that the lady doesn't know the chemer hainyan" is quite condenscending. This does happen to have a background in learning. In fact, I would recommend Rav Sherlo's latest book on shealot vetshuvot called "Rishut Hayachid" where he discusses these issues candidly and sensitively. He recommends practical methods to young men to help avoid obsessing about these things but also pointed out that averot have to be put into perspective. The neviim gave tocheha about shmirat shabbat, idol worship and being nice to your fellow man...not masturbation. Ironprik I totally agree with you...boys should feel free to discuss these things with their rabanim and lol on your nic comment Talmud 613...its sad that you think being frum is about condemning your grandfather to hell for not being shomer mitzvot. Maybe he was very machmir in the laws of man and man. Dont forget in America 60 years ago keeping shabbat and getting a yeshiva education couldnt be taken for granted as today.
Luke says: Could someone please translate some of these terms above? What's masturbation?

Love Lives

Ernest Hemingway wrote to his friends Gerald and Sara Murphy who lost two children: "I can't be brave about it and in all my heart I am sick for you both. Very few people ever really are alive and those that are never die, no matter if they are gone. No one you love is ever dead."
Ariel is, will be.

British gay couple offended by double bed ban

LONDON (AFP) - It was a true clash of cultures. Stephen Nock, a gay man from London, assumed it would be a matter of routine to book a double room at a remote Scottish guest house for himself and his long-term partner.

But Tom Forrest, owner of the bed-and-breakfast accommodation in the Scottish Highlands, where a sometimes stern Presbyterian spirit remains strong, had other ideas. He would be happy to rent the couple a room with twin beds at the guest house in the village of Kinlochewe, "but we will not condone your perversion" with a double bed, he wrote in an e-mail, the Times newspaper said Wednesday.

"I have had bent people coming to stay, but they have had a twin room and respect our wishes," Forrest was quoted as saying.

The power of Luke Ford

Brian"Burning Man" Doherty writes: "Luke: After your profile and link, I jumped for about 48 hours on Amazon rankings from 1.2 million to 99 thousand or so....again, a temporary blip, but a solid one. Thanks!"

Lukey Has Two Mommies

Cathy's invited me on a full moon walk Thursday night.
"Is it OK if I bring Heather [Mac Donald]?"
"You can bring whoever you like, but if you bring Heather we'll probably just talk with each other and ignore you so think carefully about that one!"
"There's nothing Heather likes more than dreamy walks under moonlight."
Chaim Amalek writes, chastising with his every keystroke:
When are you going to stop this crypto-heterosexual man pretending to be a gay man pretending to be straight and get serious about finding a mate? The other evening I channel surfed past a documentary about the girl for you. She is in her mid thirties, is still unusually attractive, and would have no problem dealing with your past if you could find it in your heart to deal with hers. (Up front Luke, neither of you is a virgin.) And she has a Jewish father, too. Perhaps you could be the one to lead her to the chupah, and fulfill both your dreams. Her name, I believe, is Traci Lords.

Shmuley Boteach to my Michael Jackson

Through my blogging on Protocols, I've made friends with several Orthodox rabbis. They are Shmuley Boteach to my Michael Jackson. Remember that quote from R. Boteach? "Michael Jackson taught me how to be a better father."

He Reaches Women Through Their Minds

I'm reading Jeffrey Meyers' biography of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald and keep running into chilling parallels with my own character.
Gypsy Laura Guthrie said about Scott: "He reaches women through their minds and yet he wants their bodies."

How Does One Address George Will?

Says a friend: EXTREMELY sensitive issue, as I believe in respectin' my betters. So I tend to hope that context will disambiguate that I am addressing him not the guy sitting next to me. When he calls, it's "Hi there!" Otherwise, GW. No can do George. What would be next: "Yo! Al"?

Forthcoming Interviews

This week I will interview Rob Eshman (editor of the Jewish Journal), Eve Kessler (Forward), Gene Lichtenstein (former editor of the Jewish Journal), Benyamin Cohen (Jewsweek) and R. Avi Shafran. What do you want me to ask?
People who've refused my interview request include: Conservative rabbis Bradley Shavit Artson, Elliot Dorff, Perry Netter, Perry Rank, David Ackerman, Joel Meyers, Jay Rosenbaum. Dr. David Biale. May they soon receive the same level of cooperation from others that they extended to me.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Seeking a Father

"One rarely hears of an American writer...whose father was to be regarded as, in any way, adequate or successful. The writer in America is supplanting somebody, correcting him, making up for his errors or failures, and in the process he is creating a new world. He is the power that the father had lost." Arthur Miller

Satisfying a Man

Dennis Prager's essays on "Why young women are exposing themselves." Part Two.

Wanda writes Luke: Do you really agree with the sh-t he writes?

I just read his two essays -- to me, the message is -- "Women, don't go seeking economic power through your careers by competing with men. And don't go seeking power by dressing and being sexy."

Yeah, right, our true path to power is getting married, dressing modestly, cooking and cleaning and having babies. Let him do that and see how powerful he feels.

"When all is said and done, heading a home and being married to a good man are far more satisfying to most women than college teaching or corporate work." Give me a break.

I'm a woman, and to Shmueley Boteach and Dennis Prager I say -- stop preaching to me and tell your own sex how to dress and behave, if you're all so damn holy you can figure out how to keep it in your pants no matter what women do or wear.

Luke says: Yeah, I do, about 80% of the time...and the other 20%, I am agnostic. I am not a systemic thinker. I am a provocateur. I've always found that satisfying a man is the most important thing I can do with my life.

Yours is not a Jewish attitude. We have a responsibility for how our actions affect others.

WANDA WRITES: So where do you draw the line as to how women have to dress in order for men not to get turned on and want to screw around?

Who decided that its long skirts that's enough of a turn-off? Or covering your hair with an ugly hat or a wig? Where does it end? I'll tell you -- with these pathetic women wearing sheets over their heads like they did under the Taliban.

Though I guess if a guy has a foot fetish, even that is still a problem.

Seriously, this modesty concept is ridiculous. Is a beautiful Orthodox woman dressed modestly really going to turn you on less than a 300-pound ugly woman dressed like Britney Spears?

Luke replies: All men who carry on conversations with women treat them with considerably more sensitivity than they do fellow men. Men would tell a man who behaved with PMS symptoms to stick his PMS. Men rarely say such to women.

Thus, as men must take into account women's sensitivities, women should take into account male sensitivities to visual arousal. If we expect men to subordinate their verbal tendencies to accommodate female sensitivities, we can expect women to curtail their exhibitionistic tendencies to accommodate male sensitivities.

Where do you draw the line? Orthodox Judaism has developed a system that has worked for thousands of years in this regard and is better than any other at keeping men sexually faithful to their wives.

I've never known a man to become upset when I've forgotten his birthday.

I've never known a man to get upset if I mention he's gained a few pounds.

I've never known a man to get upset if I mention he's losing his looks.

I've rarely known a man to get upset when I mention his age. I've never known a man in his forties to get upset if I refer to him as middle-aged.

I've rarely known a man to keep me waiting more than a minute so he can do his hair.

Dozens of women have behaved differently in these respects. Ergo, men and women have different needs and sensitivities.

We live in a narcissistic age. One example of this is women wanting to wear whatever they want without regard to the affect their attire has on men. This is childish, selfish and unJewish.


Most of life is froth and bubbles
But two things stand like stone
Kindness in another's troubles
And courage in your own


I'm always absurdly grateful when people are kind to me and absurdly touchy when they are not. About 80% of those I've approached to do an interview for my new book on journalism have cooperated, including many prestigious people, but those 20% who refuse, I am going to list at the beginning of my book with the curse - May they soon reap the same cooperation that they extended to me.
Is this so wrong?
Cathy Seipp writes: "I can't say if it's wrong or not, because so much of what you do is so beyond wrong it's ridiculous to waste time considering exactly how wrong it is."
Yaakov writes: "Yes, it is petty and wrong and worse, it is stupid. Everyone you meet and deal with now, you will meet and eal with later. If you act like a gentleman people will act in kind. You might need their cooperation at a later date. So just thank them, tell them you understand perfectly and express the hope that sometime in the future you might find a project that will appeal to them. Why make an enemy? It benefits no one."
Abe writes: "Say it in the positive - 'I hope they get better cooperation from others than they gave me" it means the same thing, and we both will know that you don't really mean it - but no one else will know for sure."
Yehupitzer writes: "As far as "curses" go, I thought it was mild, and cute. A nice middah k'neged middah."
Author Luke Admires: "There are two issues here. First, my general feeling is that when people cooperate journalists should be pleasantly surprised, and that we too quickly assume we are owed cooperation when we are not. Secondly, if you want to show the reader that you did the work--or tried to do the work and were thwarted--I think there are many ways to list who turned down interview requests without actually dissing or cursing them. I think Jewish Law gives you the right to always question, but does not guarantee you that anyone must answer."
Heather Mac Donald writes: I don't know Jewish customs. If it's OK to assume the Old Testament mantle of divine castigation, why not?

The Best in Jewish Learning

Joe writes: "Luke, Thank you for sharing your life with the world. I have read the majority of your website and have learned much through your experiences. I work in Hawaii as a marine biologist and spent as much as 300 days per year at sea. In my free time I have learned biblical Hebrew and have taken an interest in Judaism. I enjoy listening to Prager, Aish audio (48 ways, Rabbi Spiro, Rabbi Kahn). Luke if you found yourself stranded on an island what books, audio tapes, dvds would you like to have with you (Artscroll Chumash, Artscroll siddur, Rabbi Noah Weinberg etc). In other words I'm asking you what you think the best of the best is in Jewish learning."
Luke says: I think Prager is best, along with the Lapin brothers, Beryl Wein and, Mordecai Finley and the books of Louis Jacobs and Eliezer Berkovits.

Today I Lost

An addition to my life in the past few months has been my daily games of basketball with the kids next door (aged 4, 7, 10). I win every game. We play to 21. Sometimes the 10 year old gets to 20 and then I guard him like a blanket and block all his shots. I dribble inside and repeatedly bank in shots, grab the ball, and bank in another until I win.
I tell the kids not to push me in the back or mess with my ankles. Those parts of me are particularly vulnerable to injury.
Today the kid hit three three-pointers in a row and beat me 21-12.
My jump shot is not like it was.
I've never truly played consistently for any team. I'm only 6' tall but I have long arms. I could match up with my best high school friend Shannon Anderson (who was a star on the school team), who stood 6'3". But when our arms extended to the sky, our fingertips were even.
I could competitively play pick-up games with members of my 1600-student body high school basketball team. I could play them even one-on-one and sometimes even win.
Today, my jump shot is not what it was. My lift is weaker than ever, getting worse by the year. My aim is not strong and my arms are not solid and I get winded after ten minutes. I used to be firm and tall and hard.

In the world to come...

Mystery writes: Is there a reward for readers who read this entire blog? Perhaps in another world? I will not be in the running, however.
Velvel writes to Protocols: Does anyone remember when this was an Orthodox blog? Is anyone else still reading this who was here pre-Luke?
Gresham writes: I've been through all this before. When I was a kid, I lived in a really nice middle class neighborhood. Then the shvartzes began to arrive, and before you knew it, all the Jews who could afford to leave, left. My family was one of the very few left on the block. All because of blockbusting, and the tendency of violence-averse Jews to flee at the first sign of trouble. And that's what you orthodox jews have done here - shvartze Luke shows up, and you run like a bunch of sissy yeshiva boys.

Nowhere in Africa (2001)

What a great film.
Chaim Amalek writes: "I'm watching TRAINSPOTTING (1996). Far more relevant to our lives.
"Why no money no honey? What are you going to do to get money? WHY AREN'T YOU RICH?"
JMT writes: "Luke is working on becoming the first author in the history of the printed word to have his manuscript rejected by a vanity press."

It Pains Me...

Chaim Amalek writes: It pains me to say this, but ever since you switched to the new format, I've been having second thoughts about it. Simply put, you look like every other blogger out there, and there are a hell of a lot of other bloggers out there. What makes yours one of the handful out of the four million or so that is worth reading? You keep going to the same topics, over and over again - Judaism, crypto----- from your past, women from your past. (Speaking of which, how goes
that front? Do you have any real prospects lined up?) You need to "freshen up" your look, your brand, strike out into new directions and get more mainstream media attention. Jewish journalism may well be a good topic for your next book, but the market for that has got to
be vanishingly small. (Now, "The Journalism of the Jews" would be lots more electric, but you are too invested in things out there to attempt this.)

I know that there are established people out there who blog on the side, but do any people who come at this as unknowns actually make it as something that pays decent money? (Drudge doesn't count, as he isn't a blogger.)

Bottom line is you need to add to your shtick somehow.

Shaygetz Takes Over Protocols

Der Nister writes: "Luke: Take her bait. Explain to once loyal readers of this bog why you think you have the right to take Protocols over in this way, and in what ways it was not rude for you to have exploited a one-week guest-blogger's gig into a seemingly fulltime hostile takeover of an entire community of readers."
Luke answers: "Because I can. Might makes right, as Rabbi Nietzsche, zt'll wrote. I can do the work of six Jews.
"I am the Good Shepherd and my flock follow me everywhere, even to the end of the earth. Lo, I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am, you may be also. In my father's house, there are many mansions, and I am preparing one for you.
"You hypocrites, you brood of vipers. You've been teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Not that which goes into the mouth defileth the man, but what comes out.
"Oh ye of little faith. I will destroy this temple of Protocols and rebuild it in three days. Do you want to crucify me for blasphemy? I will rise again.

Go ahead, drive the nails in my hands
Laugh at me where you stand.
Go ahead and say it isn't me,
The day will come when you will see.

'Cause I'll rise again.
There's no power on earth can tie me down.
Yes, I'll rise again.
Death can't keep me in the ground.

Go ahead and mock my name,
My love for you is still the same.
Go ahead and bury me,
But very soon I will be free.

Go ahead and say I'm dead and gone,
You will see that you were wrong.
Go ahead, try to hide the son,
But all will see that I'm the one.

Because I'll come again.
There's no power on earth can keep me back.
Yes, I'll come again.
Come to take my people back.

Leni writes Luke: "Your presence here is a victory, a triumph of the will that no amount of rabbincal study can defeat."

Berenbaum, Will, Roth

Dr. Michael Berenbaum writes George Will about the John Roth/Holocaust Memorial affair.

Moshe Handler editor of the Jewish Interest

Me writes: You should interview Moshe Handler editor of the Jewish Interest publication (Queens, NY - I don't know what the status of it is, but I think it's gone).

He was a decade ahead of the journalists and other Jewish press publications. He very early on had a website and posted substantial material from the publication.

I think he was the first journalist in the Jewish press world to post extras on his website including research material.

Unfortunately, his website was taken down 2 years ago.

I believe he published the best story/series involving internal corruption in the Jewish corruption relating to the desecration of 11,000 (mainly children's) graves (and the attempt to further desecrate them) in the Mokom Shalom cemetery in Queens, NY.

The fact that no one has every followed this story up, these graves remain without headstones or markers and the people responsible maintain positions of power and authority is a testament to how truly bad the Jewish press is and how completely unaccountable our leaders and institutions have become.

I would note two interesting points:
1) Moshe Handler had some of the best titles for stories in the history of the press (real groaners).
2) That one source for his grave story was actually murdered a few days after he talked to Mr. Handler. Now, that's reporting when someone feels they have to kill your source!

On his website, Mr. Handler put satellite photos of the cemetary decades apart and had substantial research posted including # of graves from records, photos of smashed headstones and original tshuvot with translations (and way more).

Who's Lying Now?
Copyright © Moshe A. Handler
As we were about to go to press with this issue of the Jewish Interest Magazine, we were flooded with phone calls telling us that both David Jacobson and the Vaad Harabonim of Queens had placed ads in the Jewish Press. Jacobson's ad suggests that this magazine published lies about him. The Vaad's ad took a somewhat more subdued approach. Since I am the one who wrote all the cemetery articles I feel that it is important to expose the open lies both these ads try to palm off on the Frum public.

Jacobson's ad: Jacobson proclaims that Mokom Sholom cemetery was never instructed by the Vaad to permit any burials against "Poskei Hador". He comments that "management has no plans to develop additional graves on this land." No plans? This is not a definitive statement that says he will never have burials in Mokom Sholom. It only means he "has no plans now!" Additionally, I am not satisfied with his use of the term "Poskei Hador." Which Poskei Hador will he be listening to? Is he using the term "Poskei Hador" to avoid saying he will listen to Rav Elyoshuv? He is evasive and says nothing about whether he will be following Rav Elyoshuv's ruling. (Rav Elyoshuv is the Godol Hador) Should the public pressure subside. Should the issue die down, the plans could of course be changed!

His statement that he has never tried to do this in the past is a lie. See our cemetery story in this issue and you will find a copy of a letter from "New York Recycling Company" that reveals Jacobson did discuss covering up Jewish dead and pour earth over them. He has refused always to commit himself to promise that there would be no two heir burials ever.

The Vaad: The Vaad's ad is a classic exercise in damage control. They admit things they know I can prove so that they do not look so bad and then they go on with a song and dance. It's almost like a page out of the Clinton Handbook - "We were caught so now we'll say we were always for cemetery reform."

"Since our involvement with Mokom Sholom there have been no Matzeivos removed." They know this cemetery has had Matzeivos removed wholesale and they are trying to tell you it didn't happen under their watch. But it did. See our photos in the accompanying article. These stones were piled up with a bulldozer in one spot. Vandals simply are not capable of lifting and carrying stones from one place to another.

They then admit there was a proposal to fill in graves with six to eight feet of earth but it happened before current management. (This is to get Jacobson off the hook) But wait, in 1994 they admit they did discuss pouring six or eight feet of earth on the cemetery, (this was while Jacobson managed Mokom Sholom) but only for a good cause - to fix up Bayside cemetery next door. Did these guys read Jacobson's ad? The one that says he has never considered linking any of his cemeteries to Bayside? How could they determine that monies made by Jacobson could be used to fix up a cemetery he had nothing to do with if they didn't speak to him? They want us to believe they made all these plans and never said a word to him? It's easier to believe in the tooth fairy than to believe this!

The Vaad would have you believe they listened to what the Poskim said. I'm not new to this story. They spent the first year insisting against all evidence that there were no burials in the cemetery. Only when the same evidence was presented through our people and supportive Rabbonim to Rav Elyoshuv and Rav Elyoshuv ruled against their plans did they admit the cemetery was full. They then changed tactics and tried to claim the cemetery was a mass burial ground and not subject to normal cemetery Halocha. That is the reason Rabbi Zohn flew to Israel and argued with Rav Elyoshuv for three days straight. Rav Elyoshuv found him not credible. Yet, when he came back from Israel Rabbi Zohn told everyone he got that heter. It's also interesting to note that I have witnesses telling me that as late as September 14, 1997, the Vaad was still discussing the issue of whether Rav Elyoshuv has the right to "Pasken" issues and overrule American Rabbonim.

It's actually quite funny that these two ads appear together on the same page of the Jewish Press since each ad can be seen as testimony to the untruth of the other. A careful reading of the Vaad ad alone by the way, confirms almost all the details we've published in our last story.

Is the Mokom Sholom story over? Not by any means! Considering the lies this bunch kept telling us for the past four years, we have made the decision not to rest until Matzeivos are put back in the free burial area declaring publicly that there are Jewish people buried below. Our politicians should be pressured to declare this cemetery a landmark so that it can never be in danger again. We cannot allow the possibility of this happening again in Mokom Sholom thirty years from now. I now understand why there are so many halochos that demand Jewish graves be marked. I would suggest the Vaad set aside some of the vast profits (they take in over a million dollars a year on taharas alone) made on Taharas to pay for these markers. It is these huge sums of money that
have corrupted them. They could use some atonement.

Rabbi Zohn can consider this a fair warning. Arrange for all Matzeivos to be replaced in the free burial area as Rav Elyoshuv has ruled, (you did say in your ad you'll follow rulings of poskim) have the gates of the cemetery opened, make sure the public is satisfied that Mokom Sholom will be hallowed ground forever.

Most Vaad members should be considered innocent of this immoral behavior. The guilty parties here are the few rotten apples right at the top of the Vaad. To those good Rabbonim who may have felt hurt by being associated with this bunch, but never knew just how bad they were, I am sorry for the hurt I caused you. I asked many Shaalos before I went ahead and wrote these articles. To those who kept quiet and should have spoken out - you should be ashamed of yourselves. To those who begged me quietly to write these articles because you didn't want to be part of the problem but were afraid for Parnosso and or violence, (in the course of this investigation there has been indications of tampering with papers and survey maps at high levels and even one cemetery trustee who was beaten to death days before he was supposed to speak to me. I don't make accusations but it was an interesting coincidence to say the least. His murder was never solved.) you should be proud you didn't keep quiet. In the future my behavior towards the Vaad will be directly linked to my confidence that they are doing the proper job in caring for all cemeteries, especially Mokom Sholom, in Queens.

This story emphasizes the need that Vaad's in general should report to the public all expenditures of all the activities they're involved in. A Vaad has great power and as we see here this power was abused big time. This Vaad is not necessarily the exception to the rule. It's just that they have gone much further then most. A yearly accounting to the public would make it much harder to behave dishonestly.

More Grave Disclosures

Moshe A. Handler © December 1997

When we published the story of how thousands of headstones were removed from Mokom Sholom, a Jewish Cemetery in Queens, in our last issue, we knew there would be strong reaction. The reaction was overwhelmingly magnificent, yet apparently we have still not been able to resolve the problem. It seems, our allegations were so shocking that many Vaad members simply could not believe them. Nevertheless, the evidence is there if only anyone would care to examine it. So, in this issue we will present even more evidence proving that Rabbi Elchonon Zohn has led a deliberate campaign to mislead many of his fellow Vaad members not only in the issue of Mokom Sholom but on other issues as well.

First a correction. Rabbi Zohn's son does not work for David Jacobson. It was two of David Jacobson's son's that worked for Rabbi Zohn. Currently, one of these son's is listed as director of "Kehilla," a chapel based in Flatbush. Kehilla does almost all burials for UHC (United Hebrew Community or Adath Yisroel,) having taken over all
funerals that used to be done by Kirschenbaum Brothers). Guess who's the director of UHC? David Jacobson, operator of Mokom Sholom Cemetery. Guess who is now called in from Queens to provide Taharas for almost all Kehilla burials? Rabbi Elchonon Zohn. Again this confirms my original contention. Rabbi Zohn has no business ruling on any Halochos involving Jacobson cemeteries. He is by any standard considered "Nogaya Badovor."

In our last issue we started listing (and published) some of our evidence that Mokom Sholom grave sites have been tampered with. One of our strongest pieces of evidence are before and after pictures of Mokom Sholom. Our 1954 aerial photo (provided to us by a congressman) shows that the Mokom Sholom cemetery was landscaped with many trees. Between the trees it was very easy to see headstones in areas that showed through. To appreciate these photos, they must be viewed clearly. It is for that reason that they are not printed here, however, we invite and ask all interested parties to view them with full contrast and brightness at our internet site ( One look will remove all doubts.

We also published a letter from a Mr. Hyman Drucker in which he complained about the missing headstone of his grandmother. Mr. Drucker wrote of how he was told by a Mr. Shwartz "that in an effort to improve the appearance of Mokom Sholom cemetery many stones were removed." Not only was this letter further corroboration that most of the stones were removed in a wholesale fashion from Mokom Sholom in the sixties, it's
remarkable that the letter matches the time-frame that the aerial photos show the cemetery was cleared. Additionally Mr. Drucker's letter pins down the location of Mokom Sholom graves. It's exactly where we say they are, not "unknown" as claimed by Rabbi Zohn at the Vaad. We have now been in contact with Mr. Drucker's son who again can confirm the entire story.

We published a letter from Rabbi Elyoshuv of Israel in which he ruled that Mokom Sholom had to be returned to it's previous state. He ruled that it was absolutely forbidden to cover Mokom Sholom over and make new burials. This ruling showed that we had presented enough evidence to a "Godol Hador" so that he ruled Mokom Sholom a cemetery that was
forbidden to be touched. Rav Elyoshuv's ruling should have ended the Mokom Sholom controversy right then and there. Yet, on September 14, 1997, eight members of the Vaad of Queens were still discussing whether to cover over Mokom Sholom or not. Why did they not accept the ruling of Rav Elyoshuv? If they did accept the ruling of Rav Elyoshuv why would they refuse to say so publicly? Here is some new evidence I've uncovered since our last issue.

As I wrote, representatives of the Queens Vaad spent three days in Eretz Yisroel trying to get Rav Elyoshuv to agree to allow Mokom Sholom Cemetery to be covered. Rav Elyoshuv refused to change his ruling. The Rabbi who argued the case for allowing the covering of the cemetery was Rabbi Zohn himself. (This fact can easily be checked with a call to
Rabbi Elyoshuv's office.) I made the call. They also confirmed that the ruling was not overturned. Yet, when Rabbi Zohn returned from Israel, he himself told members of the Vaad that Rav Elyoshuv had allowed new burials and he would soon be in possession of written confirmation that the ruling was changed. That written confirmation, of course never came. To this day he cannot produce it.

There are some hard questions that must be asked. Why was Rabbi Zohn so insistent on getting a "heter" to cover over old burials and make new burials on top? Was there a Halachic need for this? Why did he lie when he came back from Israel and say he had the "heter" when in fact he didn't?"

The fact is, Rabbi Zohn has lied directly to myself, David Gevertzman and Florence Marmor. To me, he promised that if any evidence could be provided that there were burials in Mokom Sholom he would do everything in his power to stop new burials.

To David, he promised that if any burials were proven, he would fight to stop the two tier cemetery. He repeated this lie to Florence Marmor and even promised her that if proof was provided he would pay for a monument to be erected out of his own pocket. He patiently explained to Florence, that the monument could not list all the names of the dead since he could not afford such an expensive monument.

Later, after being presented with evidence that the cemetery was full, his story changed. He then told David that the cemetery needed the money that would come in from the new burials.. He gave David Gevertzman an explanation that the sefer "Kol Bo" allowed double burials Halachically and that he would follow that principle. (We tried to find that heter in the sefer but were unable to. The closest mention we could find is that it was done in a case where new cemetery land was not available. If anything, our translation of the "Kol Bo" seemed to indicate that it ruled old cemeteries must be protected.) He then told David and other people that he had a ruling from Rav Dovid Feinstein, Rav Dovid Cohen, and Rabbi Zelig Epstein allowing him to do double burials at Mokom Sholom. (I doubt that these Rabbonim ever said anything of the kind.)

Of course when I met Rabbi Zohn for the first time (at Ach Tov restaurant in Brooklyn) he told me the following:

He swore to me that if evidence were brought to him showing any kind of burials at Mokom Sholom, he would fight to the death to defend that cemetery and make sure new burials would not take place. At that time I believed him. During that same meeting, he characterized David Jacobson as a ruthless businessman and told me that Jacobson does not do Taharas "K'Daas U'Kdin". Specifically, he told me that Jacobson Taharas were
done with too few people and that he had complained to Jacobson, asking him to stop putting bodies into coffins that were too small to contain the bodies in a respectful fashion. He also complained of Jacobson's practice of putting coffins into graves at an uncomfortable angles in order to use smaller plots and thereby fit more graves in his
cemeteries. Rabbi Zohn said he felt it was his duty to set Jacobson straight.

I could not have gotten this inside information from anyone else except for Rabbi Zohn, and the fact that I have it should be a sign that I have spoken directly to Rabbi Zohn.

Mokom Sholom is extremely important for the following reasons;

It is not the exception, perhaps it illustrates an unwritten rule that cemetery operators remove headstones from old graves to make room for new burials, and benefit from the profits that come with this deed.

The problem seems to occur in the smaller Jewish cemeteries (and some non-Jewish ones) where there is very little supervision and where the manager of the cemetery has very little to stop him. Because of laws that exempt religious cemeteries from state regulations. (Ironically these laws are meant to protect religious freedom) unscrupulous cemetery managers can take advantage. The most vulnerable graves are those of children. Graves of children are very often not visited since children do not have children of their own to honor them and perpetuate their memory.

Additionally, the parents of children who have died over a hundred years ago are no longer alive to advocate for their grave sites. Mokom Sholom is an exception to the rule of these neglected cemeteries since it is one of the few cemeteries that has had extensive research done on it. In other words, gravestones are being removed in many cemeteries, but in Mokom Sholom, we can prove it. Incidentally almost eighty five percent of the total burials in Mokom Sholom are burials of children, infants and stillborns.

A Rov from the Vaad HaRabonnim of Queens called me and complained: Why did I pick on Rabbi Zohn in my article?

I explained. Rabbi Zohn has lied to us and contradicted himself on a consistent basis over the period of the last four years. He has shown a pattern of lying about Mokom Sholom to his own fellow members of the Vaad in Queens.

I reminded him that when Rabbi Zohn returned from Israel, he told people that he had obtained a reversal from Rabbi Elyoshuv. He would soon have a letter from Rav Elyoshuv confirming the reversal of the P'sak. The letter never came because what actually happened was that Rav Elyoshuv never reversed the P'sak. There are witnesses to the fact that Rav Elyoshuv never changed the P'sak forbidding new burials. There are witnesses to the fact that Rabbi Zohn said he had a reversal.

I told him that any Rov investigating this story needs to get direct answers from Rabbi Zohn to the following questions:

1. Is it true you promised Moshe Handler, David Gevertzman and Florence Marmor that you would not allow new burials at Mokom Sholom if evidence of old burials were presented?

2. If you claim you never promised this, then you must have been in favor of covering up old graves. Why would you want to do this, especially since this was never done previously except in extreme emergency such as when governments did not allow Jews to have new cemeteries? (Even in these cases the new graves had headstones with the
names of both buried people on them.)

3. Why did you find such a strong need to cover a known cemetery that you actually flew down to Eretz Yisroel and spent three days in a row at Rav Elyoshuv, trying to get permission to throw new dirt over old graves?

4. Rabbi Zohn, did you feel you would benefit financially either directly or indirectly by getting this "heter?"

5. Is it true that you told Moish Handler, when you met him in front of Rabbi Steinberg's Shul on September 14, 1997, that if he had not published the original story about Mokom Sholom in The Jewish Interest Magazine, Mokom Sholom would be already covered over and would have new burials in it today? (Careful when you answer this one Rabbi Zohn, both Rabbi Steinberg and Bernie Fryshman were present at the time and heard
you make this statement.)

6. Although I originally felt that all of the Vaad were culpable in this story, after checking with sources, I have been told that most members of the Vaad are very "Erlich" and have provided a great service to the residents of Queens, Nassau County, Monsey and Long Island. There are members of the Vaad that are surely to be respected as true Talmedie Chachomim. Still, good people can be fooled and the good people in the Vaad have been fooled by Rabbi Zohn. The Vaad should concentrate on whether the charges I made were true and should have questioned Rabbi Zohn, demanding to understand all the details of what happened. At the moment this is not what is being done. Some respected Rabbonim who are well known to the public, have been threatened with dire consequences if they dare speak to me. This behavior is more suited to a Clinton White House then to a Vaad. Rabbi Zohn has managed to put Vaad members into crisis mode. The are so busy doing damage control they have forgotten to check if the information is true. (It surely is) These Rabbonim need keep focused on the main issue.

These tactics are to keep them from getting information from me, not to keep me from getting information from them. There already are quite a few Vaad members who gladly speak to me and beg me to expose the wrongs they no longer wish to be part of. I urge the good Vaad members to continue to gather courage and go public with their refusal to
participate in these heinous crimes against the Jewish dead. It is incredible to sense the fear in world respected Rabbis as they beg me not to reveal it was they who gave me the information. (I won't) I applaud Rabbi Fabian Schoenfeld for at least protesting strongly against Mokom Sholom double burials in previous meetings. I wish him the strength to continue to be on the correct side of this issue.

7. If Rabbi Zohn Accepted the ruling of Rav Elyoshuv then why was there still a meeting in September to discuss whether Mokom Sholom should be filled with six feet of new earth or not? Why would Rabbonim still be arguing the merits of the case when Rav Elyoshuv had already ruled on this issue two years before?

8. Rabbi Zohn is supposed to be the Orthodox Jewish representative to the New York State Cemetery Commission. He attends their meetings and advises them on future laws affecting cemeteries. Why is a man who is supposed to be representing us and advocating for us so intent on destroying old Jewish graves? Why would he refuse to publicly announce Mokom Sholom full and provide markers so that future generations would keep this land sacred?

9. Last year, during construction of a downtown project in Manhattan an old black slave cemetery was discovered. Construction was immediately stopped and there was no question these graves would be respected. Why would a Jewish Rabbi not want to show the same respect to a Jewish cemetery in Queens?

10. In the meantime, I hope that the Vaad will start asking tough questions of Rabbi Zohn. I have tried to reach out and call some members privately in the past few weeks and most have expressed fear of the repercussions they would suffer if they spoke to me. Some have expressed how sad it is that the Vaad has fallen into the trap of raking in big money and has forgotten many Torah principles.

11. I would also urge elected officials not to fall for the strange story Rabbi Zohn has been feeding them. He keeps claiming that the Boro-Park Chevra Kadisha made up these stories about him because the Vaad of Queens now does Taharas in Brooklyn. This is a total fabrication and he knows it. I have been fighting Rabbi Zohn over Mokom Sholom for over four years, long before Jacobson brought him in to do Taharas in Brooklyn. No one could manufacture evidence such as the letter we now published from New York Recycling Company and the photos of thrown away grave-stones.

The Queens Rabbi who spoke to me on behalf of Rabbi Zohn made one remarkable statement in his conversation. He told me "The Vaad really needs the money from Mokom Sholom." I promised him anonymity but I must ask you Rabbi. How far do you go to get money?

Since writing the last article. I have been flooded with calls from all kinds of people whom have worked with Rabbi Zohn who have provided me with much information about the way he operates. I've heard complaints about his shouting and ranting at employees in the Tahara rooms (It is forbidden to speak while a Tahara is in progress.) I've heard from Funeral Directors of his constant intimidation of workers. One funeral director laughed as he told me Rabbi Zohn actually calls ahead and demands fresh pots of coffee be ready for him when he arrives. "It's not worth not putting up the coffee. When you don't follow Rabbi Zohn's demands no matter how silly they are you pay."

Funeral homes working with Rabbi Zohn are pressured to buy hand made Tachrichim from a company called either HUSS or Solomon (they are the same) that works out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The whole point of hand made Tachrichim is that they are made by Jewish women, generally over fifty who have special Kavonos (thoughts) while they make them. The "Mais" has a special "Zchus" being clothed in garments made with these "kavonos" as he or she is buried. This has been a long time "Minhag Yisroel."

For many years, the garments provided by the Vaad had the words "Naaseh al Yedie Shomer Shabbos." (Made by Sabbath observant Jews) on every package. This implied they met the highest standards of Tachrichim. A few years ago, it was suddenly discovered that HUSS manufactured these garments using the lowest paid non-Jewish workers they could find - good for business - not so good for families of deceased who were looking to provide their loved ones with a truly special (Hodor) Jewish burial and relied on the Vaad of Queens to provide it. What is the whole point of having a handmade garment when it would be impossible for that garment to be manufactured with the right "kavonos?"

How did Rabbi Zohn react when it was discovered the labels on his Tachrichim were false? (As if he didn't know it beforehand?) He did not cut off the supplier. He had them put on a new label. It now reads "Naaseh Behashgochas Rav Yaakov Huss." (Made under the supervision of Rabbi Huss.) Every person who believes that "under a Rabbi's supervision" means that these garments are what they are represented to be is being fooled. If the Kashrus division of the Vaad would be doing this, it would be a major scandal. Is it right to rip off, mislead or in general cheat dead people and their families? (I'm sure Rabbi Zohn must have a "heter" for this)

Perhaps Rabbi Zohn can explain this to the Vaad, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Anyone who keeps silent about this matter when he can do something about it, is part of the problem.

Readers who want to help can write or call one of the following numbers. You should be asking that Mokom Sholom cemetery should be declared a landmark so it will be out of reach from tampering by unscrupulous operators. You should ask for an investigation as to why stones were removed wholesale throughout the years and no one noticed. The more
people that call the faster action will be taken.

Dov Hikind (718) 853-9616

State Attorney General Dennis Vacco (212) 416-8000 518-474-7330

Senator Al D'Amato (212) 947-7390

Consumer Affairs (Jules Polonetsky) (212) 487-4444 (complaint Hotline)


More Grave Danger In Queens

Copyright © 1997 Moshe A. Handler

Important Correction: The printed version of our Jewish Interest Magazine inadvertently claimed that Rabbi Zohn's son worked for David Jacobson. The version of the article that should have been printed is this one with the correct claim that two of David Jacobson's sons had worked for Rabbi Zohn. We regret the error due to the wrong draft of the story going to print. This draft is the correct one.We regret our error.

This is an article that I have spent over two years trying not to write. I have no choice now. Two separate Rabbonim have ruled that I am under Halachic obligation to write it. They feel that the only progress ever made on this subject was due to the previous articles I wrote about it.

They now feel no further progress will take place unless I write about it again. Sadly, I know they are right and that the only hope to solve this problem is to publicize it.

Four years ago, I was approached by three people, David Gevertzman, David Priever and Florence Marmor. They told me a story about Mokom Sholom, a cemetery on Liberty Avenue between 80th and 81st street in Queens. David Gevertzman was trying to find the grave of his great grandmother, who records indicated was buried there. He had enlisted the aid of Priever and Marmor, both whom were qualified Genealogists. As they searched for David's Great Grandmother they were shocked at what they discovered.

At least one fifth of the headstones at Mokom Sholom cemetery were missing. Completely gone. There were no signs of the graves that had previously been marked. At first they didn't believe it themselves. They set out on a course of checking paper trails, obtaining aerial photos and speaking to witnesses who lived in the area. The evidence was concrete. Someone had removed all above ground traces of thousands of graves. These were burials all made by the UHC (United Hebrew Charities using land that was donated by Congregation Darech Amuno of Manhattan.) What should have looked like a full cemetery now looked empty.

I arranged a meeting in Boro Park with Rabbi Elchonon Zohn, head of the Chevra Kadisha of the Vaad Horabonnim of Queens. Rabbi Zohn assured me that he was told by David Jacobson, the cemetery operator, that Mokom Sholom was empty. If however, the people who charged the cemetery contained graves could prove it, he would see that the cemetery would remain untouched. (Only in dire emergency does Jewish law permit burying one person on top of another.) This proved to be a false promise. I should have realized this when in order to impress me with how close he was to Jacobson, Rabbi Zohn told me that Jacobson's son was at that time working for him. Nevertheless, I asked for and Priever, Gevertzman and Marmor provided me with, mountains of proof which were later presented to Rabbi Zohn and some other members of the Vaad. We hoped they would do the right thing. Some of the proof we had and showed included;

Aerial photos over the years that showed markers on graves in previous years but no trace of any markers now. Letters written to the cemetery commission by relatives of the dead people complaining of missing graves in the cemetery. Photos of piled up removed headstones. Testimony of neighbors who lived near the cemetery who remembered graves in the now empty looking area. Documents from the cemetery commission files stating the cemetery was completely filled. A state report by one Perry A. Fischer, detailing how the cemetery trustees were forbidden by Rabbis in previous years to reuse graves
because there already were burials there and how when they attempted to bury where there appeared to be no bodies they always uncovered bodies and had to stop.
Correspondence between David Jacobson, the current Mokom Sholom operator, to one New York Recycling Company complaining that they were charging him too much to cover over the graves that were present. His method and his workers could do it for less. A year by year log of just how many burials took place in Mokom Sholom calculated from Darech Amuno yearly reports.

Of course there was much, much more.

Despite the overwhelming proof offered to Rabbi Zohn, it became apparent he really did not want to see the proof we showed him. What he really wanted was to go ahead, give a "heter" and cover a known Jewish Cemetery so he could allow Jacobson to bury bodies in a clean field. After giving a full six months to have meeting after meeting and examine the evidence, I realized the obvious. Rabbi Zohn was assuring Vaad members that there were no problems at Mokom Sholom. He had every intention of allowing the covering of twelve thousand Jewish Graves with fresh dirt and every intention of allowing David Jacobson to sell these graves to unsuspecting Russians looking for burial plots. They would never question whether there were previous burials at that location. I could only guess at the motives but perhaps the words "big profits" would have something to do with it.

Since I soon realized, I was not being dealt with honestly and would be unable to stop them quietly, I used the only weapon I had left... publicity. I published the full story in The Jewish Interest Magazine. Thirty thousand copies of the magazine were distributed in the Boro Park and Flatbush area. It had a major effect. It stopped their plans dead.
No one would cover the graves in the glare of publicity.

David Gevertzman was not fully satisfied. He wanted to make sure this issue would be settled for good and wanted to be sure they would not try this again. So he had a messenger sent to Rabbi Elyoshuv in Israel.

Rabbi Elyoshuv is considered the Godol Hador (major Jewish Sage) today. The Rabbi sent back written notice that not only was it forbidden by Jewish law to pour earth over Mokom Sholom but as much as possible it was Halachicly required to restore the cemetery to it's former condition. We published the original text of the letter in The Jewish
Interest Magazine. That to us seemed to end all the arguments about Mokom Sholom or so we thought.

New reports started coming in. A friend of mine in Israel called to tell me that representatives of the Vaad, including Rabbi Zohn, had flown out to Rabbi Elyoshuv. For two days they worked on convincing him that he made a mistake in ruling Mokom Sholom untouchable. They seemed to be making headway. But something they said on the third day set off alarms. Rav Elyoshuv realized they were lying and them told them flatly he would not reverse his P'sak Din (ruling.) The stunned Rabbis returned home in the same position as before. We were fairly satisfied that the cemetery was safe.

Things seemed quiet. But in the summer of 1997 I heard new stories. Rabbi Zohn was now telling people that he had a Halachic ruling stating Rav Elyoshuv had Halachic jurisdiction only in Israel and not in the United States. He now admitted that although he knew that there were graves in Mokom Sholom, it would be permissible to cover them in order to make money to use for repair of nearby Bayside cemetery, a cemetery that even now is not run by Jacobson, but was expected to go bankrupt soon and be given to him. Rabbi Elyoshuv's "P'sak din" was to be considered irrelevant.


Covering Jewish dead in the USA was never done before! To do so would violate a most basic tenet of Judaism - respect for the dead. If this ruling goes forward, it would mean that in later years Jewish graves could regularly be covered over if money could be made from it (for good purposes only of course) and this ruling will by cited as the precedent! Covering over Jewish dead of one cemetery to support another could become a regular occurrence!

We recruited other Rabbis to enter the fray. (Most Rabonnim don't want to help because they don't wish to battle other Rabonnim.) After a recent major meeting of the Vaad I received a call from one Rav. He wanted to let me know that the Rabbi Zohn was only afraid of one person. Me. (little old gentle me? Not really. What he's really afraid of is people knowing the truth) The Rav informed me that he had ruled that I had the Halachic obligation to write a full article and expose what was going on in order to stop it since this was the only way it could be stopped. Soon another Rav called me. He too demanded I write this article. You are now reading the results of their request.

I met Rabbi Zohn and Rabbi Steinberg in front of Rabbi Steinberg's Shul a few months ago. Between heated shouts at me, Rabbi Zohn admitted that were it not for my articles exposing their intentions, Mokom Sholom would be covered over with another six feet of dirt and there would be double burials there today. He denied promising me that if I proved there were graves at Mokom Sholom he would stop the double burials (an out and out lie.) He confirmed to me that he felt he did not have to follow Rabbi Elyoshuv's P'sak Din. He also said that if David Jacobson suddenly poured earth over Mokom Sholom at his own whim there is nothing anyone could do. (Apparently, this is now the plan according to my sources.)

This may be true but we are supposed to be a Jewish community. We wouldn't allow the Czar or a communist government to wipe out all traces of a Jewish cemetery so can we allow two so called Jewish frum rabbis do it?

Rabbi Elchonon Zohn should not be allowed to rule on cemetery matters where David Jacobson is involved as he has been doing. Rabbi Zohn is a "Nogaiah Badovor" (involved too closely in the case.) There are witnesses who have told me he has taken gratuities from funeral homes as an award for sending them business even while forbidding his workers from to do so. (Gratuities reportedly have included, freezerfuls of Thanksgiving turkeys, fancy luggage and other items.) Many members of the Vaad, have reported to me that he has, a real interesting "Tachrichim" HUSSle going on. It is reported David Jacobson's two sons had worked for Rabbi Zohn. (Rabbi Zohn told me this himself.) In
addition, Rabbi Zohn has had and continues to have great financial benefit working with Jacobson. Rabbi Zohn has now gotten the contract to do most or all Taharas for "Kehilla Chapels" a funeral home run by David Jacobson's son and wife. Since "Kehilla" has now taken over all UHC, (United Hebrew Community, otherwise known as Adath Yisroel) burials from Kirshenbaum Bros, it does a major amount of burials. (An interesting side note to this is that David Jacobson is the director of the UHC.) Halacha clearly forbids one who is involved as deeply as Rabbi Zohn is to rule on issues affecting Jacobson yet he has been doing so for years.

The Vaad has clearly been fooled by this man. He has misled them greatly while betraying their trust. How could the Vaad Horabbonim of Queens, a Vaad with one of the finest reputations for Kashrus supervision and integrity, fall for this phony? What should the Vaad Do to keep their good name?

The Vaad should immediately issue a letter acknowledging the cemetery is full (they already admit this privately) and acknowledging clear evidence that Rabbis previously banned new burials in Mokom Sholom.

A permanent memorial should be put up in the now empty field acknowledging and memorializing the people who are buried there. (If they are agreeable to this, we can supply thousands of names of people who are buried in Mokom Sholom.) Halacha requires markers in Jewish cemeteries.

The Vaad should look into having Rabbi Zohn replaced. Certainly, he cannot be trusted to work without strong supervision. The sweetheart deals with funeral homes and suppliers are not fitting for someone doing holy work. It may seem like he is irreplaceable but in truth Rabbis in the Vaad have secretly told me that there are many candidates who can take his place. He should not be allowed to maintain a position where Vaad members fear for their livelihoods if they oppose him.

Certainly, this article should be considered an official Halachic protest against the use of Mokom Sholom as a virgin cemetery. A "Michoa" (protest according to Halachic Tradition) as you will.

The Vaad Horabonnim of Queens should publicly proclaim the ban of covering known graves in Mokom Sholom. This would go a long way towards restoring public trust. Any member of the Vaad with ties to Jacobson should have no business making decisions on Jacobson cemeteries.

David Jacobson should publicly acknowledge the ban and be halachicly forbidden to cover over or remove headstones from any Jewish graves in the many Jewish cemeteries he runs, funeral homes and monument stores he is associated with in New York, New Jersey and Staten Island should not be patronized if he does not cooperate with Halachic rulings. If he will not accept this, then Rabbonim all over should issue a ban on using Jacobson's services and connected funeral homes and monument stores. The situation at Mokom Sholom does not require that precedent should be set in the United States to cover up Jewish dead.

It should be publicly acknowledged that at one time, Mokom Sholom graves were properly marked (as late as 1961.) It should be noted, that those monuments were removed with the express purpose of covering graves of already dead people, (mostly children under sixteen) to gain profit. There should be no reward, even thirty years later for trying to steal Jewish graves.

We should strongly consider that someone undertake to catalog all Jewish burials in New York and make it available as a public database to insure moves like this can never be pulled off again. With computers, it is very easy to make burial records accessible to all. With burial logs publicly available, it will be hard to "make graves disappear" as has been done in Mokom Sholom. (No doubt in other cemeteries we don't know about too. In the four years since I started writing about Mokom Sholom, I've received report after report about missing graves in Washington cemetery in Brooklyn. I've been told that out of all people, Rabbi Zohn certified this cemetery as Okay)

I can't believe that it has taken four years to get to this point. In my wildest imagination, I never dreamt that I would have to battle supposedly religious Rabbis to stop them from covering over a cemetery full of Jewish dead right here in our own back yard in Queens. In the past four years, I have been accused of being "Mevazeh Talmud Chochom" for exposing these wrongs. Now, because of this Halachic ruling I am writing about this subject again. Truthfully, I cannot even understand the controversy. Are Jewish graves so valueless that we can erase all traces of them at whim?

It is my sincere wish that the Vaad Horabonim do the right thing and make sure this travesty will never happen in order that their good name survive. If they insist on not doing the right thing, I will do whatever is needed to publicize their direct violation of Halachic ruling. My first duty is to truth and to the protection of the thousands of "Neshomos" (souls) in Mokom Sholom who must have someone to speak out for them.

Writers Note: The printed issue has not even hit the streets yet and I have been receiving calls from people who have worked with Rabbi Zohn constantly. The word is out that I am writing about him and I am being inundated with terrible tales about him. I will only post those that are relevant to the issues since the purpose here is to save close to twelve thousand graves and to preserve the dignity of Jewish dead not a
vendetta against Rabbi Zohn. Except for speaking to him about Mokom Sholom, I have never had any dealings with him at all.

Writers Note 2: Some of my sources have commented that I have not emphasized that the Vaad Horabonim Of Queens is one of the most well organized and respected Vaads's in the country. Their Kashrus certification program is known to be first class. Certainly, there are members of the Vaad who are nationally respected for their knowledge and expertise. My latest reports are that there are some in the Vaad who have been willing to go along with Zohn because they felt the Vaad needed the money. At one meeting, Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld courageously stood up and demanded there should be no more burials at Mokom Sholom. He has been rewarded for his courage. He is no longer asked to attend
meetings where Mokom Sholom is discussed. Reportedly, he is no longer on the New York State Cemetery Board.

All the more reason not to let a rotten apple spoil the bunch. MH.

PSS As of today, I have been warned Rabbi Zohn has organized meetings designed to rally Rabbonim to his side. I advise these well meaning Rabbonim to speak to me before they make any rulings. They should certainly check out my follow up page for new information.

Try the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to access the extras.

Includes: Rav Elyoshuv's tshuva (yes, that Rav Elyoshuv)


1) Aerial Photos Before and After:

2) Pile of monuments ready to be carted out:


LOS ANGELES (Wireless Flash) -- Americans not only believe in freedom of the press, but many are happily willing to help the media fake sources for a story. That's what journalist Rodger Jacobs discovered when he pulled a media prank by placing a classified ad on, explaining he was a reporter who fudged a story about buying fake I.D.s and needed someone willing to "pretend to be Paco," a phony street source quoted in thestory. Jacobs posted the ad on Saturday (Jun. 26) and he received more than 35 inquiries before it was taken down onSunday night. Some of the potential Pacos include one voiceover actor who touted his radio commercials for Papa John's pizza and another who claimed he actually sold fake I.D.s for a living. The plug on the prank was pulled Sunday night (Jun. 27), when a reporter contacted Jacobs about the ad. As he puts it, "She had faith no real journalist would actually do this." That might sound like good news to some, but Jacobs is still "disappointed" that so many regular citizens had "no qualms about helping a journalist violate their ethics."

Tikkun's Claims For R. Berenbaum

Tikkun magazine writes: "Michael Berenbaum, an Orthodox practitioner."
Michael emails me: "Not correct. I am a most unorthodox practitioner."

Taking the Prize

By Rabbi Avi Shafran

Last December, an article appeared on the front page of a national Jewish weekly that sought to implicate the largest yeshiva in the United States – and by association, the entire “ultra-Orthodox” world – for its connection to what the piece’s headline called an “anti-Gentile book.

The book in question, self-published with a run of several hundred copies, had indeed been written by an alumnus of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, N.J, and carried approbations from revered rabbinical figures at that institution, a de rigeur practice for books published by alumni. Whatever the book’s merits or demerits, though, the newspaper article’s characterization of it was far off the mark, caricature bordering on (if not constituting) libel.

To be sure, the book’s topic, Jewish religious tradition’s understanding of Jewish “chosenness” and what it means to Jews living within non-Jewish cultures, is a delicate one. It is something more properly discussed with reverence and care in the study halls of Jewish academia or the pages of scholarly Torah journals than dealt with sensationally or superficially on the front pages of popular Anglo-Jewish media – or, for that matter, in an opinion column like this. Suffice it to note that Jewish tradition does indeed consider the Jewish people special.

But to characterize the book’s take on that belief, as the article’s opening paragraph did, as “a race-based theory of Jewish supremacy,” as the claim that Jews constitute a “separate, genetically superior species,” is excruciatingly overwrought. (Yes, Virginia, membership in the Jewish people is usually, although certainly not always, a matter of genetics, and yes, Jewish chosenness is a historic source of Jewish pride; but its upshot is “a light unto the nations,” not a Master Race.) Predictably, the newspaper article has been widely posted on rabidly anti-Semitic websites.

The purple prose, as it happened, clearly tipped the writer’s hand, foreshadowing not only further jaundiced descriptions but outright fabrications.

Like the article’s claim that the book mandates that Jews should employ “deception” and “duplicity” in dealing with non-Jews. Not a single passage in the book remotely says anything of the sort. Nor does any imply, as the article also claimed, that the “terribly harsh treatment of the pagan inhabitants of ancient Canaan… ought to be applied to [our] non-Jewish neighbors in America.” In reality, the book devotes an entire chapter to the importance of Jewish deference to non-Jews and of avoiding confrontation with Gentile neighbors.

The article accurately notes that the book “draws on an array of racist sources ranging from medieval theological tracts to the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche to the words of Nazi figures,” but implies that those sources are somehow cited approvingly. The book, however, employs them merely to make the author’s case that anti-Semitism at its core reflects resentment for the special spiritual status of Jews.

The essential outrage of the newspaper article, as it happens, runs considerably deeper than the subtle disparagements and blatant falsehoods with which it is riddled. It lies in the very fact that the article – a news report, after all, not an opinion column – was vetted by the paper’s editors and accepted for publication in the first place. Because its author (as if his report itself weren’t proof enough) is hardly an objective observer of haredim. An academic who has described himself as having followed a “trajectory from Orthodox Judaism to a more liberal, secular Jewish identity,” he has publicly described the “yeshiva world” as “the Jewish equivalent of the Taliban.”

Can someone who bears animus for a certain population really be expected to objectively report on the subject of his ire? Would any reputable news organization assign a Palestinian political activist to cover a story about a Jewish West Bank community? An anti-Catholic minister to cover a Vatican conclave? For that matter, James Carville to cover the Republican National Convention; or Karl Rove, the Democratic? One imagines such matters are covered in Journalism 101.

And yet, remarkably, it is not unusual for major Jewish media – and not only the newspaper that published the outlandish article – to disregard the deep personal feelings some of their correspondents may harbor, and have them report on a community they distrust or even despise: the Orthodox.

There are exceptions, without question, fine and fair reporters for Jewish media who have no bones to pick and no frustrations to vent; who endeavor, and succeed, to file objective and accurate stories. But the exceptions don’t negate the unfortunate rule.

One natural address for tackling the disturbing ethical problem of bias in Jewish reportage would be the American Jewish Press Association, a national organization of Jewish journalists that does wonderful work. AJPA keeps its members abreast of important developments in the field and offers other resources to editors and reporters. It also organizes annual conferences that include interesting sessions and speakers. Its most recent conference several weeks ago in Atlanta, which I attended, was no exception.

But one aspect of the AJPA conference this year stands as a depressing but telling commentary on the state of contemporary Jewish journalism. Not only was the newspaper article about the “anti-Gentile” book not publicly exposed as an irresponsible hatchet job.

It was awarded a prize, for “Excellence in News Reporting.”


[Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.]

Me writes: Agudath Israel works hand in hand with the Catholic Church to protect abusive clergy.

see (not on-line):
Rabbis Back Law To Report Child Abuse
By Rachel Donadio
The Forward (NY)
March 29,2002 p. 3

With the exception of a major ultra-Orthodox organization, rabbinical groups of all denominations say they support proposed legislation in New York State that would require clergy to report allegations of child abuse.
The ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America, however, said it was wary of the legislation, which would require clergy to "report to authorities whenever they have reasonable cause to believe a child has been
abused," according to a March 19 statement by Morgenthau.
Last summer, Aguda and the Catholic Archdiocese of New York joined forces to oppose a proposed bill in the City Council that would have required all schools, including parochial schools, to file a police report about any criminal act committed by students or staff.
Steven I. Weiss' article in the Forward addresses all of Rabbi Avi Shafran's points.
After reading Grama's book, Rabbi Yosef Blau, a leading rabbinic counselor at Yeshiva University, sent the Forward a letter arguing that the newspaper had accurately translated the work (please see Page 10). But, he added, Grama "is not an advocate of acting against the gentile. On the contrary, his message is the need to separate from a hostile, intrinsically antisemitic world."

Still, Blau wrote, the "possibility exists" that Jewish extremists in Israel could use the text to "justify horrendous behavior." He suggested that American scholars such as Grama may be unaware of the possible impact of such writings in today's charged atmosphere.

The original article in question cab be found at:

It seems to me the only "irresponsible hatchet job" that needs exposing is that of Rabbi Avi Shafran here.

Agudath Israel should take a good long look at itself, its leadership and its agenda. I recommend others do so as well.

see also:

Monday, June 28, 2004

Luke'd Out On Protocols?

Allison Kaplan Sommers writes: I think the title at the blog Protocols should be changed. Currently it reads: A group of Jews endeavors towards total domination of the blogosphere

Now it should read: A guy from Los Angeles endeavors towards total domination of the Jewish world.

To a degree, I do miss the old Protocols -- let's face it, Rav Steven I. Weiss is too busy digging up stories for the Forward to post on his new blog at his old dizzying pace. That's what happens when you get a real job. (Can we admit it? With a few notable exceptions, the truly prolific bloggers are unemployed or don't have the most challenging and stimulating of jobs).

For those who are Luke'd out, I recommend reading Miriam Shaviv's blog. She brings the energy of a new journalist-turned-blogger to Jewish issues.

Jonathan D. Sarna Interview

For years, I've admired the work of Dr. Jonathan D. Sarna. Today I interviewed him for an hour about Jewish journalism.

Here are some excerpts:

"I think the Forward has become much less objective. It has declined under its new regime. I found it more compelling under the previous regime. There are stories that you find in the Forward that you find nowhere else. I also find stories in The Jewish Week that I don't find well done in the Forward. I think The Jewish Week does a much better job of preserving a sense of objectivity whereas the Forward is taking a liberal party line approach. I think its reporting on Israel reflects a certain point of view.

"Whether it was articles on religion, or [JJ Goldberg's] articles on the National Jewish Population Survey... Almost none of the scholars of the NJPS buy into JJ Goldberg's conspiracy theory about the survey, nor do most of us buy into his view that intermarriage is not a significant issue. It is correct that the definition of intermarriage was changed, but I don't think any serious student of the NJPS can not conclude that intermarriage is a highly significant issue. I do not think there was any conspiracy in the world of the NJPS. There may have been mistakes. I think there are grave problems today with telephone surveys as a genre. I do not think the Forward did a good job of explaining that. The New York Times did it.

"I think the Forward would've been better advised to have gone the Leonard Saxe (head of the Cohen Center of Modern Jewish Studies) direction, and helped readers understand complexity.

"We have not seen anything that resembles Eve Kessler's articles on Jewish religious life [under the Lipsky regime] in the new Forward. She's still working there but she has a different beat. They never replaced her with someone who was investigating in quite so serious a way. They don't even have such a correspondent. The reason is simple. The current editor is not very interested in Jewish religious life. It's not what he thinks the American Jewish community cares about. I think he's wrong.

"I found the Forward more riveting under Seth Lipsky. I respect Seth for creating a new vision of what Jewish journalism could be. I understand he ran afoul of the people who were paying the tune and that JJ is more in tune with the folks who are from the old Forward and have a certain political [socialist] perspective taken from the old Forward. I don't happen to share that politics. It's not surprising that I find the slant of the Forward less to my liking. Seth opened up stories that we have not seen before or since."

Jewish Journalism - A Story of Decay

By Jonathan D. Sarna, Brandeis University:

The history of Jewish Journalism in the United States presents something of a challenge. Traditionally, historians like to recount the story of progress: development onward and upward from primitive origins to flourishing contemporary success. The history of Jewish journalism in the US, by contrast, represents, at least until recently, a story of marked decay.

Anonymous writes: Decay? From what? To say that jewish journalism has undergone decay is to suggest that it once was something more than it is, which in fact it has never been. Jewish journalism is about defending the status quo and keeping the shekels flowing for all the nice dinners and sponsorship, and screw the working class jews who might actually benefit from an honest airing of what's really going on.

Chaim Amalek writes: Why bother writing a book about a bunch of shlubs who can't do much more than what they have been doing, when there is a far richer universe of people to write about? I am suggesting that instead of writing about Jewish Journalism, you flip this project inside out and write about the Journalism of the Jews. Your targets will be far more numerous, wealthier, and both fearful of your work and eager to win you to their side. You could become the Faith Popcorn of Jewish Journalists, the man al Jazeera turns to whenever it needs a jewish mouthpiece to explain jewish hegemonic control over American mass media.


Mike Albo writes: I always knew that Aussie-geek Luke Ford was nuts, but I don't think I ever truly gauged the depths of his insanity until he sent me the the following e-mail yesterday.


Are you concerned about LA's absence of shared myths, symbols and collective narrative?

If so, what are you doing about it?



Huh? To paraphrase Elvis in Jailhouse Rock, "Lukey, I don't know what the hell you're talkin' about."

Besides being a pretty gay topic to broach with another guy, it's ignorant. My suggestion? Head out to Union Station, cross Alameda and go to Olvera Street. Check out the old town plaza. Better, pay a visit to Mission San Gabriel. Take a trip up Azusa Canyon past Morris Dam. Better yet, just open your eyes. Los Angeles is crawling with "shared myths" and history, you tourist.

My poor friend...

from Young Israel of Century City has only two vehicles in his household. Nebuch! I had no idea. Chaver, feel free to borrow my van at any time. Drive it into the YICC parking lot and you will get Maftir!

For tznious reasons, I would've placed your wife and daughters in the back while driving them to their appointments. They'd be the talk of the kehilla. The whole experience is guaranteed to help them pray harder.

Chaver replies: Levi: Thanks so much for your kind offer. It is tempting to commandeer your van and discover how the other half lives. Alas, I value my image as a wildly successful and powerful Hollywood [rabbi]. However, I will keep your offer in mind, in case I become completely self destructive. *** hesitates to step into the same room as you, so the chances of her catching a ride with you are about as good as me becoming the next Hershel Bernard.

Anonymous writes: I do not want to embarrass Mr. Ford, as this is not the Jewish way. Still, I was once in his van, and while he was standing outside it, arguing with the Mexican over our order of (kosher) tacos, I surreptitiously searched it for Shatnez. I found none. I checked some stains I found next to the drivers seat, but these proved not to be menstrual blood. There was a tattered and very realistic looking sheitel in the cargo space of the van, but genetic analysis of the hairs indicated that their origin was not from the scalp of a south asian woman. And as for the few bones I found nearby, the genetic tests I have done indicate that they were not porcine in nature. Hence, it is perfectly respectable for any respectable Jew to accept transportation from Luke Ford. --Your Moral Leader's Moral Leader

Orthodox Rabbi Michael Berenbaum?

Michael Berenbaum writes me: "I am still a observant and religious Jew. I do not use denominational ties but we daven [by a Conservative temple]. I was ordinated [Orthodox] by Rabbi Yaakov Rabin zt'l [when Michael was 23].
"In reality I was ordained because of Vietnam, but it proved to be one of the most important things in my life. It imposed upon me a responsibility to the Jewish past -- and the Jewish future -- and to become a producer of Torah and not just a consumer, but that is another conversation."

The Rise of an Internet Celebrity

Helpful writes: I truly believe that dear Luke could parlay his 15 minutes into a solid B level tier celebrity status ala Wally Cox on the Hollywood Squares, but I fear that the Paul Lynde level of success will continue to elude him until he does something truly note worthy like shoot the president or marry Joan Collins.

As far as associating with a star getting Chaim laid. Face it, Chaim. If Tom Cruise, himself took you to an all female Scientology lecture you couldn't even get a wink from the ladies. Do your love life a favor. Obsess less on Luke's aura and more on those freakin' carbs you've been gobbling.

Chaim Amalek writes: Here in New York I see plenty of equally short, fat, older Jewish men hooking up with hot non-hookers. He's not short or fat, but look at Howard Stern for Christ's sake. The man is physically repulsive, yet manages to have coitus whenever he wants with a six foot tall blonde shiksa young enough to be his daughter. And even Al Goldstein can find love. If fame can work for them, who is to say that it cannot work for me, even if in its attenuated, reflected form? Besides, there is a much better chance of Luke soon becoming famous than there is of my seeing the low side of 250 pounds any time soon.

As for how Luke might become famous, I think he should become a Maybe Fag, one of those professional Walkers who squire older women about town. Connections count (see Peter Gruber), and this sort of a gig might give Luke the connections he needs to become the next Larry King. All he lacks is the initiative and hunger to give it a go.

The Rabbi Wore Split-Crotch Panties

Anonymous writes: This has gone on too long. There ain't no "Luke Ford" and there never was. He is a pretend character built a created by a committe of under- and unemployed writers, built around an unemployed actor. I hope this finally clears things up.

From A Fly on the Wall:

Briana writes in from some unknown corner of cyberspace:

"I've seen you make comments about Luke Ford on other weblogs where people are commenting about him. This might sound really naive, but is Luke Ford a real person or is he made up? Is this some in-joke with you Los Angeles writers?"

Luke Ford is very much a real person. You couldn't make up somebody like Luke; otherwise, you'd be accused of creating an unbelievable character.

Luke has a new book out, called The Rabbi Wore Split-Crotch Panties, or something like that. He has also started yet another blog. If you're an attractive, unmarried Orthodox Jewish woman, he'd love to meet you.

Writing in First Person

I get a ton of criticism for writing so much in the first person. The owner of Protocols, Steven I. Weiss, writes me Sunday night, "As always, I want to emphasize with you that you can do great work in Jewish journalism. I'm still waiting for that one day without the pronoun "I"."

Steven, it is not the voice that matters as much as the quality. First person is a perfectly wonderful way to tell a story so long as the writer is engaged in meaningful conflict that results in a realization.

Gene Lichtenstein wrote in last week's issue of The Jewish Week: "Two years ago at a Hollywood screenwriters’ conference, the then head of the Writers Guild, Daniel Petrie Jr., remarked to this reporter that he had no idea how many screenwriters were Jewish, but in any event it was not a significant number."

The use of third person did not make this a superior story.

The overwhelming amount of Jewish journalism is written in third-person, and, frankly, it sucks.

I may attend a Jewish event, and the most interest thing that happens there is the variety of my internal states.

I do not consider the people I write about to always be more compelling than myself, just as I do not always view myself as more interesting than the people I write about.

The use of first person is fine if the writer is a major and compelling part of a story.

If I am not for myself, who will be? But if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

'We're Not A Federation Paper'

I love it how journalists such as Gary Rosenblatt (The Jewish Week) proudly tell me that their papers are not Federation papers. Yet their primary financial support comes from the Federation. Yet they always cover the Federation with mind-numbing detail that is rarely negative. The more such journalists assure me that their papers are not Federation papers, the more...

If The Jewish Week is not a Federation paper, why would it put so much front page space to a dull and pointless story such as this: Top exec out; new president seeks to improve relations with parent body, UJA-Federation.

Like, who cares who the new executive vice president is? Will it make any difference to the education of Jewish kids? No.

Julie B Fit

Check out this bird Julie Barroukh -- she's a Jewish mom -- very active in her synagogue -- former journalist, former producer at the KTLA morning show -- turned personal trainer.

We're friends from Columbia Journalism School. I tease her that this is what happens when you take a smart NY girl and put her in LA. Her brain atrophies and she becomes obsessed with her body....

I offered Nancy Rommelmann and Cathy Seipp a free training session with her a while back, but they never took me up on it.

Chaim Amalek, Friend to the Jewish Woman, writes: There would be more Jewish children in the world if more Jewish women spent more time working on their bodies and less time trying to compete with men in the workplace.

It's too exhausting to try to be hip and cool

Mommy writes: I've found that having small kids and being a mother is pretty much the same routine whether you live in West LA or Boston or London or Israel. You get 'em up, dress 'em, bring them to school. In the late afternoon you pick 'em up, bring them to friends' houses and afterschool stuff like swimming lessons and gymnastics classes, come home, do homework, feed them, put them to bed. You spend the weekends entertaining them.

Your geographical location matters little -- frankly, what matters most is your income and therefore how many activities you can afford for the kids, and how much you have to do yourself, how much hired help you can get to support you and clean up after you and watch the kids sometimes so you can have some form of adult existence once in a while -- and, in our Jewish sphere, whether or not you do Shabbat -- do you spend your weekends eating and praying or at the pool and the beach?

The difference is, obviously, what you do during the time they are in school. I spend it primarily on the computer and the telephone, with the occasional coffee or lunch with a friend, usually an ex-American -- so again, does it matter that I'm in Israel?

I'm really, really glad that I spent my first four years in Israel working and not having kids, so I have a clues as to what real Israeli life is. I used to poo-poo the town I now live in. I used to say, "If I wanted to live in New Jersey, I'd go for the real thing."

But I gave up. It's too exhausting to try to be hip and cool and urban and happening AND raise kids. The suburbs are the place to do it, for now. I'm accepting it as a finite period of my life and am trying not to let too many brain cells die in the process, so hopefully when my kids get older I'll still have a life and a personality. I figure that talking to people like you help this process along. It's like the mental equivalent of the maintenance on their bodies that the Hollywood moms do.

Ori Nir of the Forward

XXX writes: Interview Ori Nir. He is the most intelligent, thoughtful Israeli journalist I've ever met and he's now covering Washington for the Forward. He knows Israeli journalism, mainstream journalism (his wife works for LA Times, formerly Christian Science Monitor) and he's spent enough time in and around American Jewish journalism to form opinions.

He's a wonderful journalist in Hebrew -- worked for Ha'aretz for many years covering the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs -- fluent in Arabic. He and his wife met on the job in the West Bank.

Rabbi Michael Berenbaum Interview

I interview Orthodox Rabbi Michael Berenbaum (born 1945) Friday afternoon, June 25, 2004.

Here's an excerpt:

"Would you be surprised to learn that Malcolm [Hoenlein] threatened The Jewish Week (NY) that if they published an article about a slush fund he kept that he would financially destroy the paper?"


"What's your critique of JJ Goldberg and the Forward?"

"I don't think he has yet established an Op/Ed page that reflects dramatic opinion in the [style of] The New York Times and Washington Post. That you have an understanding of the issues and you shape an agenda. There are enough people writing enough powerful stuff that the Forward should be able to do it. There are usually two or three good stories each week and the rest of the paper is not worth reading. The Culture section is sometimes very good. JJ hasn't fully established his own voice."

"Is he that good of a journalist? I always found his columns tame."

"He may be too tame. Lipsky was anything but tame."

"What's your critique of Gary Rosenblatt and The Jewish Week?"

"Gary earned his place in Gan Eden [world to come] by virtue of what he did on the [Baruch] Lanner thing. He's too tame. He often comes off as if he is ball-less. When he had some good journalists working for him, he restrained them from covering anything too controversial. He had Larry Cohler [renowned investigative journalist]. I helped train Larry. You've got to let him do his stuff and stick by him and 99% of the time you will end up with something of worth. Larry was essentially driven out. He found out that Gary was without balls. Larry may sometimes be without brains but he is never without balls. Gary tends to be tame and timid.

"The Jewish Week doesn't have a good Arts section or a good book review section. Jewish life in its intellectual sphere is flourishing. How a paper like that in New York isn't covering books and literature and arts and dance and theatre at the epic-center of where that is exciting, I don't understand. I don't understand that with my friend [Rob Eshman] at the Jewish Journal. How can you not cover this? Stuff gets covered in The New York Times book review or the New York Review of Books but The Jewish Week doesn't say a goddamn thing about it. The Jewish Journal doesn't say a goddman thing about it."

"They do but they assign spineless book reviewers such as Sandee Brawarsky."

"For example, compare the review of David Myers book by [Rabbi Daniel] Bouskila [in the Jewish Journal] with the way [Samuel Moyn] from Columbia reviewed it in the Forward and you see the difference between something that is serious and something that is not serious. In the areas I know well, these guys [Rosenblatt, Eshman] are not committed to it. Even if you were Gary and you wanted to play it safe, you could raise every issue you wanted to raise through the book review section that you don't want to review elsewhere."

"It's so bad. The Jewish press is so bad."

John writes: Of course Gary lacks balls. He's the editor of a Federation paper. If you want to keep these kind of jobs, especially long-term, lacking balls is a requirement.

Just like if you want to set up an independent web site covering the porn industry and pissing off very scary people, having massively oversized balls and being slightly insane is a requirement ("Boogie Nights" was on cable last night, reminding me of that fact.)

It takes all types to make a world, even in journalism. Would the papers be better if they employed a series of editors with journalistic balls, each of whom got fired after three months on the job? (Maybe, but...)

The question isn't whether the federation rags are journalistically daring or not, the question is whether there are alternatives. Till the Forward and the web publications and blogs came along, there weren't alternatives. And frankly, there would be no Forward if there wasn't a very rich Jewish macher who is willing to bankroll a paper that is critical of, among other things, rich Jewish machers.

It's all about the money -- or lack thereof. That's why the Internet is a boon, because the start-up and support costs are so low.