I have been a reader of the 5TJT since its inception. But the paper seems to be moving inexorably in a dangerous direction. Many people are saying that it is becoming, whether intentionally or otherwise, a mouthpiece for far-right propaganda. Some examples follow.
Even as cases of smallpox were beginning to spread dangerously in some Jewish communities, the newspaper featured an interview with an anti-vaxxer. Although the individual had already been widely criticized, and his “theories” debunked by experts in the field, the article was published without a balanced rebuttal. The paper also featured a series of articles by a local dentist and self-proclaimed Trump “groupie” who advocated dangerous, anti-masking behavior, again without counter-balancing testimony. Regarding the January 6 insurrection, rather than discuss the many unlawful, dangerous, and unprecedented actions of the mob attacking the Capitol, the paper featured a picture of the demonstration, highlighting a 5TJT columnist who attended. The paper has yet, to my knowledge, to condemn the illegal behavior of the rioters who breached the Capitol. These acts, primarily the latter, resulted in the banning of the paper by two of the largest Orthodox congregations in the Five Towns.
And in the latest issue, the From the Editor column peddled a conspiracy theory from unnamed observers and without a shred of evidence that the president is not in charge of the White House. But of more relevance to the Jewish readership of the paper, the column defended Tucker Carlson’s promulgation of a well-known anti-Semitic “Replacement Theory.”
Carlson stated, “The Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate … with new people, more obedient voters from the third World.” Anyone familiar with white supremacist ideology is aware that “The Democratic Party” is a euphemistic expression for Jews and other liberals. Proof of this can be seen in the TV images of white supremacists in Charlottesville chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), among others, has expressed outrage at this not-so-hidden anti-Semitism, and demanded Carlson’s firing. The ADL has been fighting anti-Semitism in the U.S. for over 100 years and their credentials on this subject are well-documented. For our own protection, Jews would do better to align ourselves with a known ally like the ADL rather that a ratings-seeker entertainer posing as a journalist.
A paper that purports to represent and speak to the local Jewish community would be better served being guided by the Torah and its teachings of chesed and openness than embracing anti-Semitic tropes.
Thank you for you thought-provoking note. Unfortunately, your assertions are way off the mark and wholly inaccurate. I am pleased to address them one at a time, as follows:
1. In terms of the paper’s editorial position, it has not wavered over the 21 years that we have been publishing. We are not a “mouthpiece for the far-right propaganda” but rather a centrist voice that approaches the issues of the day in a fair and open fashion, examining and analyzing the issues from both sides as is proper. Accusing us of being a voice of the far-right is a blatant distortion of the reality but does serve the agenda and narrative of a scant few left-wing extremists who tend to occasionally speak up in our direction.
2. You refer to smallpox and appropriate vaccinations but I think you meant measles and the controversy that reared its head back in the pre-corona days of about two years ago. The writer—J. B. Handley—who has written in a critical fashion of the damage he believes vaccines cause in children was simply a presentation of one position on the matter. We offered a local physician space to refute Mr. Handley’s contention—as any fair-minded publication without an agenda would do—but we were turned down and were told by the doctor that responding would just legitimize Mr. Handley’s position. Over this period, we have featured numerous pro-vaccine articles, so your criticism is just plain misguided and wrong.
3. As far as the photo of Dr. Gila Jedwab on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 is concerned, that was one of the most misunderstood stories we have ever covered in over two decades. We explained the following week that we regretted unintentionally generating this kind of misunderstanding. What is clear is that it was not an endorsement or an expression of support of the violence that ensued there, which some disingenuous elements in our community wanted readers to think.
We did indeed condemn the violence at the Capitol with a front-page banner story. It could not have been more obvious and could not be missed unless it was your agenda to miss it.
As far as the two shuls banning the paper, one of the shuls banned all newspapers from their premises because the papers were creating a mess unbecoming of a shul. The other shul had only a small Shabbos turnout to services, which meant that most of papers that were delivered there each week were left over. It was no longer worth the effort or the cost of delivery to that location.
Most of the rabbis involved in this matter have since apologized for acting the way they did and one even told a congregant that the reaction was misplaced and a big mistake. Additionally, the president of one of the shuls wrote an e-mail apologizing to Dr. Jedwab.
5. As far as the comment that President Biden is not in charge of policy at the White House, that was not our editorial comment, but rather the words of Texas Senator John Cornyn, which we quoted.
On the matter of Tucker Carlson and the use of the words “Replacement Theory,” it clearly meant nothing of a racist or anti-Semitic matter. As Mr. Carlson said the next night, his intent was a voting-rights matter and nothing more. This week the Coalition for Jewish Values organized a statement signed by 1,500 American rabbis condemning ADL Director Jonathan Greenblatt for trying to turn the Carlson comments into support or use of anti-Semitic verbiage.
As for your final suggestion that we would be better served being guided by the Torah and its teachings of chesed and openness rather than anti-Semitic tropes, that is exactly what we do and have done from day one. That you missed that is a confirmation of your agenda and a narrative that is not honest or grounded in reality.
A Shared Shavuos
Although it may be hard to believe, Shavuos is just around the corner. Shavuos is one of the hardest yomim tovim for single mothers, especially mothers of boys—little boys, pre-adolescent boys, and teenage boys. Even a single mother who can provide food, clothing, and yeshiva tuition for her son cannot provide someone to learn with her son and take an interest in her son on Shavuos.
Now is the time to search our local communities for single-mom families. Invite them for a yom tov meal. Let them know that they and their children are remembered and taken into consideration. When all of the families are sending their boys off to learn on Shavuos night, let the boys with single mothers have the same joyous yom tov experience.
If you’d like to volunteer to host a single-mother family or to learn with the young son of a single mother, please reach out via the e-mail address below and we’ll arrange a neighborhood appropriate match.
JCCRP Program Director
Success Space for Women