Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Letters to the editor re "Charged" front page
Last week’s cover
IS there no other news to print on the front page of the newspaper (AJN 19/06)?Do we have to display so openly events that bring us nothing but shame and disgrace?A large number of our community, myself included, are greatly disgusted both with the Adelaide rabbi’s actions and with the current display of that ugly event on the first page of The AJN.Many of the Elsternwick newsagents – not exactly friends of ours – pointed out this page with their great pleasure to their customers.A smaller article inside the newspaper would have been more than sufficient.
Not page one worthy
WHAT is your aim in showing us a full front page of newspaper devoted to a photograph of a disgraced rabbi (AJN 19/06)? How does this help us as a community? Certainly it is newsworthy, but it should be in small print inside the paper. Surely there are more important items for the front page, hopefully more than one item of interest, from our vibrant community at home and overseas. Your decision reeks of self-centred sensationalism, and I would have hoped your ethics and aims were higher than that that your priorities in evaluating the portrayal of different items would have thought of encouraging collective pride and highlighting opportunities for improvement, never forgetting the impact of the newspaper on our non-Jewish neighbours, friends and foes. The AJN has been a great newspaper for a long time, and I expect it to go forward, not backward, and reflect good journalism with balance and sensitivity.
Bellevue Hill, NSW
Preferring The Age
SHOULD The Jewish News be better referred to as “the Anti-Jewish News”? The front page gleefully shouts “Charged” about Rabbi Engel of Adelaide, surely a serial killer, or so one might think. Then a full-page article on brit milah, a mitzvah held dear by the majority of Jews, which is headlined: “Mitzvah or mutilation?” I believe we (Jews) would be better treated by even, dare I say, The Age?
St Kilda East, Vic
WE were absolutely disgusted by the sensationalism your paper indulged in by splashing Adelaide Rabbi Yossi Engel’s photo and caption across the front page of this week’s AJN (19/06). Surely more fuel for anti-Semitism. Surely your editors realise that the paper is seen by all and sundry in the numerous newsagencies that stock it. It is not a paper that relies purely on subscription and home delivery.
FRANKIE AND RAYMOND GARFIELD
North Bondi, NSW
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Calling on our Sydney readers!
(Unlike other newspapers which have comprehensive online editions, the AJN realises that they cannot allow this, as their hard-copy sale figures would plummet. Whilst other media sources _ Jewish and non-Jewish are reaping big bucks from online advertising, it seems that businesses have given the AJN the thumbs down. Just check out how little advertising their site has.)
Thus we make a special request to our Sydney visitors, please scan and forward any items that you feel may need addressing. We appreciate your help.
Aussie Echo post
I was just made aware of a new blog, AJN Watch, which has been setup to counter the perceived anti-orthodox bias of the Australian Jewish News.
As an observant Jew I must agree that the AJN certainly seems to do its best to highlight any negative issues that the community has and appears to emphasise stories when a frum individual is accused of doing something wrong. Case in point was the disgusting front page in last week's paper of a Rabbi who has been accused of wrongdoing. Despite a one's personal feelings this rabbi has not been tried and found guilty yet. Maybe the Jewish News and others know something we don't but I always thought that one needs to be found guilty by a judge before he is sentenced.
I also find it frustrating that the AJN journalists know very little about the frum community and often have incorrect reports, quotes etc in articles that pertain to us. I put this down to the fact that there do not appear to be any frum journalists (except for Yossi Aron who seems to be confined to one particular area of the paper) and also that the paper does not seem to care about our segment of the community. Until the Jewish News editors and management make a concerted effort to understand the frum section of the community I cannot see this changing.
The solution the writers of the blog propose is to purchase the Hamodia. While I do like this paper it has nothing to do with our local community. I certainly enjoy reading news about frum communities overseas but I would also like to know what is going on in our community. I know that there is a segment of frum Melbourne who care nothing for the less frum but most of us want to know what is happening in the Jewish community. Until there is someone who wants to invest in another newspaper for the Jewish community of Melbourne (or Australia) I cannot see the Hamodia taking the place of the AJN.
If I can offer a defence of the Jewish News (at my peril)...I am sure that we understand that the orthodox community is only a small section of the Melbourne Jewish community. The fact that the overwhelming majority of the journalists are not frum, the owners affiliate strongly with the Liberal/Progressive/Reform (whatever it is being called today) movement and the prevailing culture is extremely secular leads to articles in that paper which have very little Jewish content apart from the fact that they are about Jews or written by Jews. I cannot see this changing.
In any case I am looking forward to reading future posts on this new blog and honestly hope that the owner(s) can encourage a positive change to the Jewish News which will satisfy the majority of the Orthodox community..
We appreciate Aussies Echo's publicising our new blog but at the same time feel that his comments need to be addressed. So here goes:
The solution the writers of the blog propose is to purchase the Hamodia. While I do like this paper it has nothing to do with our local community. I certainly enjoy reading news about frum communities overseas but I would also like to know what is going on in our community.
First of all, the Hamodia welcomes reports submitted by every single frum organization and shul. All they need to do is get someone to write about your organization and it will be published – including photographs. Unlike the AJN which cuts submissions to tiny threads and allows only a few words – if that – to be ‘yotzeh’.
OTOH, do you or any other frum Jew really need to know what is happening at the Temple, Betar, Kadimah, Skif camp or the Mt Scopus debutante ball? Will having this muktzeh machmas mius newspaper add to the Yiras Shamayim or Chasidus of children reading about these topics? Or indeed, letting them see a “Jewish” newspaper advertising chazir-treif and mechalel-Shabbos restaurants? Is this the price you are prepared to pay because you “would also like to know what is going on in our community”?
Aussie Echo continues:
I know that there is a segment of frum Melbourne who care nothing for the less frum but most of us want to know what is happening in the Jewish community.
Really? Even if the price for your inquisitiveness is that you and your community be abused and vilified continuously as well as exposing the family to anti-religious and anti-Torah content?
FYI, most of the segment of the frum community who don’t allow the AJN into their homes actually DO care about the less frum – but not at the price of bringing toxic trash into their homes. One can care about less frum people without taking such risks.
AE: Until there is someone who wants to invest in another newspaper for the Jewish community of Melbourne (or Australia) I cannot see the Hamodia taking the place of the AJN.
Eh? That is EXACTLY why the Hamodia was established. To be the newspaper of record for the entire frum community. But it needs our support. Otherwise you are automatically increasing the strength of the AJN and it’s chazzir-treif restaurants.
AE: “If I can offer a defence of the Jewish News … The fact that the overwhelming majority of the journalists are not frum, the owners affiliate strongly with the Liberal/Progressive/Reform movement and the prevailing culture is extremely secular leads to articles in that paper which have very little Jewish content apart from the fact that they are about Jews or written by Jews. I cannot see this changing.
No, of course it won’t change – unless the frum community asserts its powers. It can be done – but their needs to be a will and leadership of our rabbis and layleaders. At the moment this is sadly lacking.
While most members of the Australian Jewry were appalled and sickened at the sensationalism of the front page of last week’s newspaper, many religious Jews just shrugged their shoulders and stated the obvious: “Nu, what can we expect from our self-hating anti-semitic mamzerim”. After all, this is not the first time that the Jewish News has done all in its power to besmirch and slander the face of frum Jews and if nothing is done about it - neither the last time.
As one prominent rabbi stated: “The Zionists have Antony Loewenstein and we have the Jewish News”. While both are outstanding examples of Jewish self-hatred, the AJN in constantly attacking Loewenstein is also guilty of hypocrisy and duplicity.
For the so-called voice of Australian Jewry to so recklessly and idiotically supply fodder to every Nazi and anti-semitic website in the world is simply sickening - even according to their bottom-scraping standards. Check out the Jew-hater's websites and you'll find most of them gleefully linking and quoting from the Australian Jewish News - helping them confirm their hate-propaganda about Jews and rabbis being swindlers and thieves. If the AJN is aiming to increasing anti-semitism worldwide, it is indeed being very successful.
If Chabad communities all over Australia - as well as the orthodox Synagogues - had any pride or self-respect, they would place a ban on all advertising - communal, business and personal on the AJN both their own and of their constituents - until the accepted minimal standards. It is a colossal Chilul Hashem seeing "Stuermer'-style rabbinical vilification on one page and advertisements placed by religious/Chassidic organizations on another.
The AJN ought to be ashamed of itself, but the orthodox community should not sit back and turn the other cheek.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
PETER KOHN AJN
HAROLD Vallins, a Melbourne rabbi who converted to Christianity after forming a breakaway congregation in the 1990s, died suddenly earlier this month.
Vallins declared himself a Christian some years after founding a small Jewish congregation in Gardenvale, following an acrimonious split with Bentleigh Progressive Synagogue (BPS) in 1991.
British-born Vallins, an atheist in his youth, said he took up rabbinical studies at the Leo Baeck Theological College of Judaic Studies in London after a rabbi showed him the potential of Judaism. He became a rabbi himself in 1970.
Vallins arrived in Australia in 1981 with his wife Naomi to take up the pulpit at BPS, but tensions between him and the synagogue board led to a parting of the ways 10 years later, triggering a workplace dispute.
His departure from BPS aroused fierce criticism within the synagogue and shortly afterwards, a breakaway congregation, Beit Hatikvah, was founded, with Vallins as its rabbi. But some time later, Vallins, who was involved in interfaith work, stunned congregants by announcing he had converted to Christianity. He left Beit Hatikvah and the congregation was later dissolved.
Vallins attributed his conversion to a number of influences, including a close friendship with a local Church of Christ minister and a prayer session at a Christian conference he attended in Washington DC.
Not too long ago - a Jew who converted out of his faith was considered to be on the lowest rung of his people. He was a Meshumad, despised, cursed and loathed by all. As for a 'rabbi' 'shmadding' himself, that was something virtually unheard of. (Though we all have heard the infamous accursed Shabsi Zvi.)
But typically for the AJN, the death of such a traitor and defector from our faith - is worthy of a sympathetic report. Shame.
OTOH, there are those that claim that from the POV of Judaism, Vallins the Meshumad was no worse than Vallins the Reform clergyman (or actually even than the AJN). And they may well be 100% right. Think about it.
Welcome to AJN Watch
Welcome to the AJN Watch blog which we hope will develop into an important element in debate and thought for our communities.
There has long been a need felt amongst many Australian Jews for a site where they can vent their anger and exasperation at various objectionable and unworthy aspects of the almost-monopolistic Australian Jewish News. However, besides 'kvetching', very little has been done to bring these complaints to the attention of the broader Jewish – and indeed, non-Jewish - community. (We write “almost-monopolistic” as Baruch Hashem in the past year or so, we have welcomed the arrival of an Australian edition of the international Jewish weekly newspaper the Hamodia, which seems to be making major inroads in this country. We hope to elaborate about the Hamodia phenomenon in some future post.)
The past few years the AJN has published items, which had the Age or the Sydney Morning Herald given it similar treatment, all hell would’ve broken loose amongst our communal organizations (and no doubt the AJN would have moralized and editorialized about the anti-Semitic slant of those newspapers.)
But when the offender is the Australian Jewish News – no matter how appalling, there is an absolute silence from our community leaders (except of course from those associated with the aggrieved party/ies.)
Unlike other Jewish centers of population, where there are multiple media outlets available to the community, here in Australia we are at the absolute mercy of the editor and/or publisher of the AJN, who decides on which personalities they will let fly with the worst possible levels of legally-permissible ‘slander’ and, on the other hand, whose sins and crimes they will close their eyes to. And those that the AJN deserve vilification, there isn’t a shred of concern that in addition to hurting family and friends, they may be tarnishing entire organizations and communities by their portrayal of their alleged prey. It is not of the slightest concern for these purveyors of ‘truth and justice’ that they may be doing untold harm to innocent groups who are there to help and work in the community. No, the AJN doesn’t give a heck. Their style may be labeled as yellow journalism at its worst. Their choice of eye-catching exaggerations, scandal-mongering and sensationalism accompanied by huge headlines to sell more newspapers.
Of course where it is regarding someone close to them, even where a person has been found guilty and even jailed – not a word! (More about that too at some time in the future.)
Establishing the AJN Watch blog has long been under consideration, but has been delayed time and again. However, following last weeks shameful and disgusting treatment of the Rabbi Engel affair we resolved “Lo eit lachashot” – it is not a time to remain silent. (Read our separate post about this.). So here we are and we look forward to your participation.
As mentioned, there is plenty to comment about in the AJN and we hope to bring such material to the attention of our readers.
We invite, nay, urge, everyone to partake in this task and ask that you send us items which we may have overlooked as well as your comments and ideas.
And while we understand that there are plenty of you out there who are quite livid about pieces that newspaper, we ask that all comments be reasoned, and written in polite language. Comments that we feel are of more importance will be ‘upgraded’ into posts – for further responses.
And we request, please bear with us. We are neither experienced writers nor bloggers. We hope to learn on the job. Your advice and input is welcome.