The New York Post’s strikingly insensitive treatment of the gruesome murder of Menachem Stark has outraged New York’s Orthodox Jewish community (as well as many non-Orthodox and non-Jewish New Yorkers), and rightly so.
Even as his parents, wife and eight children were sitting shiva the tabloid graced its front page with the following: A flag declaring “Slumlord found buried in dumpster” accompanied by a large photo of a shtreimel-wearing Stark and a huge main headline asking “Who Didn’t Want Him Dead?”
The story itself began with “The millionaire Hasidic slumlord found burned and suffocated in a Nassau County dumpster….”
Plainly, the Post was not interested in simply telling the story of a horrific murder, which was, after all, the subject at hand. Indeed, the overall tone of the coverage suggested Stark was the victim not of assassins but of some form of rough justice. A final retribution, as it were, administered by, or at the behest of, almost anyone from among the people with whom he interacted, including disgruntled tenants. Implicit of course was the notion that most of his tenants and business contacts were so disgruntled as to seriously want him dead.
While one can argue about whether the Post’s choice of a picture of Stark in a shtreimel was gratuitous, there is no excusing the story’s introduction of Stark as a “millionaire Hasidic slumlord.” What did his chassidic status have to do with the murder?
Nor is this the first time the Post has seemingly gone out of its way to cast aspersions on chassidim; the paper routinely identifies subjects of stories as “hasids” or “hasidim,” as in an August 16, 2012 headline that screamed “Drug-Cash Rap vs. Hasid Trio.” What exactly is the point of the “Hasid” reference? The point becomes sharper if you substitute “Jewish” for “Hasid.”
The Post, of course, is notorious for its willingness to stoop as low as possible in order to sell a few more papers. But it’s one thing when the paper flashes its lack of good taste in skewering politicians and celebrities and quite another when it plays up racial and religious stereotypes, particularly at a time when a number of religious Jews have been singled out for “knockout” attacks in the city.