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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘editorial’

Skewing The Shalit Deal, New York Times-Style

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

I’ve been reading The New York Times pretty much every single day since I was ten years old. That’s more than a half-century by now.

Along the way, I’ve been informed, inspired, and occasionally infuriated.

Last week, there were several causes for infuriation.

The first came on Monday, in the form of four photographs that appeared on the first page of the International section.

The largest of the four, 6 x 9 inches, was at the top of the page and immediately caught the reader’s attention. It was a poignant picture of a little girl leaning against a largely empty wall and staring upward, as the caption explained, to a small picture of her grandfather.

Walid Aqel, 48, was to be among those Palestinian prisoners released in the exchange for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in 2006.

The paper failed to mention, in the caption or elsewhere, that Aqel was a founder of Hamas’s military wing, had much Israeli blood on his hands, and was sentenced by Israel to life imprisonment.

Instead, the overriding impression conveyed was that Aqel was, above all, a grandfather, whose adorable granddaughter was pining for his return from his Israeli captors.

Then, just below the photo was the article itself – “Israel Names 477 to Go Free in Trade for Hamas-Held Soldier.” And beneath the article were three small photos, each measuring 2 x 3 inches, which conveyed images of the human havoc wreaked in Israel by some of those Palestinians to be released in the deal.

Because of their diminutive size and busy images, those photos didn’t draw the eye easily, though they should have been the heart of the story. After all, they conveyed the nature of the terrorists to be freed, helping readers understand how gut-wrenching the decision must have been for Israel.

Yet those photos, together totaling 18 square inches, were submerged, while the single, stark photo at the top, 54 square inches, dominated.

Then came a Times editorial, “Gilad Shalit’s Release,” on Wednesday. It was among the most upsetting I’ve ever read.

The day after Shalit was returned to Israel, with 477 Palestinian prisoners sent to Gaza, the West Bank, and elsewhere, and a second group to be freed soon, the paper chose to go after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yet again.

He’s been a favorite whipping boy for the editorial writers since he assumed office in 2009.

They give him little credit for what he’s done to advance prospects for peace and Palestinian development – the ten-month settlement freeze, the lifting of blockades and checkpoints on the West Bank, oft-expressed support for a two-state outcome, and help for the rising Palestinian economy. And they spare no criticism for his alleged misdeeds.

But this editorial took the cake, darkly suggesting the Shalit deal was really a Machiavellian plot to further weaken chances for peace — and the blame, predictably, was laid at Netanyahu’s doorstep.

Of course, the editorial could have gone in other directions.

It might have dwelled on the extraordinary importance Israel attaches to human life, in this case the life of one soldier. It could have focused on the nature of Israeli democracy, where Gilad Shalit’s parents never stopped mobilizing on behalf of their son, and created a national movement to liberate him, irrespective of the cost.

It might have reminded the world of the contrast between Shalit’s captivity – more than five years without a single visit by the International Committee of the Red Cross, much less his family – and that of the Palestinian prisoners, none of whom surely would have wished to trade their diet, access to the outside world and, indeed, to sunlight, or opportunities for education with what Shalit endured.

David A. Harris

Who Saved Soviet Jewry?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

The recent release of additional Nixon White House presidential documents and tapes produced the usual response. As has become customary, brief excerpts of the tapes – excerpts that invariably show President Nixon and members of his administration in the most unflattering light possible – are pulled from the reams of material and hours of conversations and given broad coverage in the media.

This most recent release has refocused attention on the terrible plight in the early 1970s of Soviet Jewry – the many hundreds of thousands of Jews living in the then-Soviet Union who were subject to persecution by the state and whose attempts to emigrate from the USSR were systematically blocked by Soviet authorities.

Henry Kissinger recently put into context a brief, one-minute exchange he had with the president about this issue that, on its face, is simply appalling. But that’s why context is important. The widely quoted conversational snippet does not reflect the Nixon administration’s efforts to improve the condition of Soviet Jews.

Responding to Kissinger, Gal Beckerman, the author of a recently published book about Soviet Jewry, claims Kissinger was “dismissive” of the Soviet Jewry movement. He seeks to award sole credit to the Soviet Jewry movement for the enormous increase in the number of Jews permitted to leave the Soviet Union during the Nixon years.

Beckerman falls into the trap of believing that the Soviet Union, at the height of its global power, could be swayed in its course by the vigorous expression of public demands by the West, especially by the president of the United States. He appears to forget that the titanic struggle for global dominance between the Communist world and the free world being fought at that time – especially on the battlefields of Vietnam – meant the Soviets would never give an inch when challenged publicly. They dared not risk appearing to yield to the demands of the West, especially given their struggle with China for supremacy of the communist world.

Perhaps those of us who admire President Nixon’s foreign policy achievements should be grateful that people are fighting over the credit for this particular success of détente. Beckerman, however, does the historical record a disservice when he dismisses the Nixon administration’s unprecedented success in substantially increasing the numbers of Soviet Jews who were permitted to leave the Soviet Union as a result of détente.

Nixon’s policy toward the Soviet Union was predicated on engaging the Soviet Union, through diplomacy, on issues in the national interests of both nations. Nixon eschewed the hot rhetoric of the Cold War in favor of an approach that allowed the Soviets to maintain their public countenance of a mighty nation who wouldn’t yield to the public pressures of anyone, anytime, anyplace.

The Soviets maintained their “tough face” for the world even as they found themselves working with the United States to limit the growth of nuclear arms, open their borders to greater numbers and varieties of cultural exchanges, and increase trade. All of this reduced tensions and, ultimately, launched the beginning of the eventual end of the Soviet Union.

The Nixon administration’s approach to the Soviet Union on the matter of Soviet Jewry was informed by the belief – a belief well grounded in Nixon’s own experience and in history – that efforts to publicly embarrass the Soviets in the court of world opinion on matters they considered strictly their own “internal affair” would be counterproductive.

Nixon understood the Soviets would respond to such pressure by digging in their heels. He knew that to maintain their aura of power and invincibility – both domestically and to their “allies” in the Warsaw Pact and beyond – the Soviet leaders believed they had to stand up to such pressure. They always wanted to show that the West could not use the bully pulpit to bully them.

Richard Nixon’s Memoirs is the definitive source for insight into his thinking on the issue of Soviet Jewry:

I have never had any illusions about the brutally repressive nature of Soviet society. But I knew that the more public pressure we placed on Soviet leaders, the more intransigent they would become . I felt that we could accomplish a great deal more on the Jewish emigration issue when we were talking with the Soviets than when we were not. Although we did not publicly challenge the Soviet contention that these questions involved Soviet internal affairs, both Kissinger and I raised them privately with Brezhnev, Gromyko, and Dobrynin. This approach brought results . [T]he statistics are proof of undeniable success: from 1968 to 1971 only 15,000 Jews were allowed to emigrate. In 1972 alone, however, the number jumped to 31,400. In 1973, the last full year of my presidency, nearly 35,000 were permitted to leave. [RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, page 876]

Beckerman in his book identifies 1964 as the beginning of a 25-year Soviet Jewry movement in the United States. Notably, the first five years of the effort brought few results. Prior to the Nixon administration’s policy of détente, the annual number of Soviet Jews permitted to leave for Israel was counted in the hundreds. It is only after Nixon began his private approach – head of state to head of state – that the annual numbers began to be counted in the tens of thousands.

Bob Bostock

Title: The Hidden Hand: Uncovering Divine Providence in Major Events of the 20th Century

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Title: The Hidden Hand: Uncovering Divine Providence in Major Events of the 20th CenturyAuthor: Yaakov AstorPublisher: Judaica Press 

 Yaakov Astor applies the time-honored tradition of examining world events through a Torah lens, which he applies to the 20th century, leaving readers wiser than they were before.

 The author includes facts, supported with End Notes – which are often overlooked by mass media and too rarely appear in history texts. By educating his readers with a more complete context for events such as the lead-up to World Wars I and II, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Gulf War, he enables us to better appreciate the messages in the parshiot of the corresponding weeks.

 By the time your spine stops tingling over the Divine significance of 39 Scuds falling on Israel, your sense of kedushat Shabbat will have improved forever. The rest of the book quite possibly makes the reader hunger to learn Torah.

 This 256-page hardcover makes a superb addition to any library and is a terrific kiruv tool. The see-through paper cover and hand motif atop the chapter headings impress a sense of peering through the veil of humanity’s intellectual limitations and onto Heavenly intentions.

 The news gets better. A sequel to The Hidden Hand, covering the events of the Holocaust – including Hitler’s rise to power through usurpation of Germany’s weakening democracy, is nearing the end of its editorial stage. It might arrive on store shelves Chanukah time. As current events propel us to pray harder and to ponder what Hashem wants of us, both books make for recommended reading.

Yocheved Golani

Memoirs, Bad And Good

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

The Monitor’s recent listing of worthwhile books on the media brought in a number of interesting responses, with many readers sharing their own favorites – several of which probably should have been included among the recommended titles and possibly will be in a future column on the subject.

One book not on the list but mentioned in positive terms by no fewer than four readers was Reporting Live, the 1999 memoir by veteran CBS newswoman Lesley Stahl. The Monitor was highly disdainful of the book when it first came out, but might the criticism somehow have been unjustified?

A rereading seemed to be in order, especially since the Monitor had something to measure it against, having just reread one of the volumes on the list – The Times of My Life and My Life with The Times, an autobiography by former New York Times executive editor Max Frankel.

It would be nice to report that Stahl’s book read better the second time around, but it would also be a lie. The truth is, Stahl assaults her readers with writing that is at once pedestrian and predictable, devoid of any semblance of wit or insight.

For someone who’d been covering national affairs since the Nixon years, Stahl shows no evidence of having attained the sort of nuanced political understanding one might expect from a seasoned media insider. Her observations on the presidents she’d covered, for example, are dismayingly banal, conveying hardly any information not already known to even the most casual newspaper reader.

In fact, there is a quite definable lightness to Stahl’s effort, with the author devoting interminable paragraphs to fluff and trivia – her clothes, her hair, her fluctuating levels of self-confidence and self-esteem, her partiality to sling-back high heels.

Ironically, for someone who helped pioneer the art of feminist posturing now obligatory for women in the media, Stahl comes across in print as the most stereotypical of females. If at some points in her narrative it appears she just might be ready to go beyond the superficial and offer readers something of substance, she invariably snaps back to ruminations on lipstick and mood swings. The lady can’t help herself.

Stranger still, in a volume purporting to be an intimate glimpse into her life and career, Stahl does her best to leave no ethnic or religious fingerprints; those who pick up a copy of the book unaware of her Jewish background are likely to come away none the wiser, even if they happen to be such gluttons for punishment that they force themselves to read all 400-plus pages.

So the bad news is that Stahl’s book was not worth a second read (or a first, for that matter). But the good news is that those who expect a seasoned journalist to possess the intellectual wherewithal to craft a smart and engaging memoir can do worse than turn to Frankel, who ably blends autobiography with history and deftly places his personal story firmly in the context of the era’s most momentous events.

While Stahl’s Jewish background is a non-issue in her memoir, Frankel’s Jewishness permeates large chunks of his, particularly the sections detailing his boyhood as a refugee from Nazi Germany and his thoughts on the Times’s editorial stands and news coverage vis-à-vis the American Jewish community and Israel.

Unfortunately, though, because of his wholehearted rejection of Judaism’s religious core – a decision he claims to have made at a young age – Frankel’s Jewishness amounts to a pastiche of distant personal memories wedded to a passel of attitudes and assumptions having less to do with Judaism than with standard-issue New York Times dogma.

Still, he writes with admirable candor, often at the expense of the Times’s institutional reputation and his own journalist’s ego.

Among his admitted lapses and misjudgments: an editorial excoriating Israel for its 1981 bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor (Frankel, the paper’s editorial page editor at the time, had written that “Israel’s sneak attack…was an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression”) and the Times’s inexplicably weak coverage of the 1991 Crown Heights riots (by which time Frankel had succeeded A.M. Rosenthal as the paper’s executive editor).

Frankel’s book – brainy yet accessible, destined for a permanent place on readers’ shelves rather than a quick trip to the remainders bin – was, no doubt, the kind of product Stahl’s publishers hoped she’d bring in. Turns out they just didn’t have the right author.

Jason Maoz

History Lessons

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Several readers, at least one or two of them presumably not in the employ of the Democratic National Committee, took the Monitor to task for suggesting that Sen. Hillary Clinton was a pioneer in the art of elevating a scamp like Al Sharpton to the status of esteemed statesman.

The common plaint was that Hillary wasn’t even a senator yet when local pols like Chuck Schumer, Eliot Engel and Mark Green were hoofing it uptown to be seen and photographed in Sharpton’s ample shade, so it was simply wrong – and terribly mean-spirited – for the Monitor to have used her as an example of political expediency at its most shameful.

Mean-spirited? That’s a subjective call. But wrong? Let’s look at the Monitor of Jan. 28, 2000, for a contemporaneous account of Senate candidate Hillary Clinton in action:

Not only did Mrs. Clinton become the latest Democrat to hop a limo up to Harlem to bend the knee to Rev. Al Sharpton, her pander routine backfired terribly when one of Sharpton’s brethren in Christ, the Rev. Charles Norris, bestowed his own special blessing on the Martin Luther King Day convocation by referring to a couple of former employers, one of whom had fired him, as “those two Jews.”

The first lady, who was not in the room at the time of Norris’s remarks but was informed of them before she got up to speak, merely added a tepid throw-away line on anti-Semitism – which made no specific reference to Rev. Norris or his remarks – to her prepared speech.

The New York Observer, in an editorial titled “Is Hillary Supporting Jew Haters?” opined that “New Yorkers should count themselves fortunate that for every one of Hillary Clinton’s carefully choreographed appearances, such as her recent turn on David Letterman’s show, there are also unscripted moments that allow voters to take the true measure of the candidate.”

The Observer suggested that rather than react in her proper and mealy-mouthed fashion to Norris’s anti-Semitic rhetoric, Mrs. Clinton should have found it in herself to “do what any decent person would have done, namely, politely tell the audience that she would not dignify such statements by her presence and walk off the stage.”

In another stinging editorial, the Washington Post recalled that the first lady had excused her mute reaction to Suha Arafat’s anti-Israel invective by claiming she didn’t want to jeopardize prospects for peace or create an “international incident when I was abroad.”

But this time, the Post archly noted, “Hillary Clinton was home in America, where she is free to denounce bigotry without upsetting any peace talks or negotiations…. If candidate Clinton cares what anti-Semites think, what should the rest of New York think of her?”

The Monitor stands vindicated.

Let’s change the subject with a pop quiz. Name the New York mayor of whom the following was said during his terms in office:

● “[The mayor] is a man who cherishes vindictiveness – getting even – as his chief political currency; who verbally brutalizes friends and enemies alike; who boasts that he has made people cry, sweat, twitch, and turn gray; who demands absolute loyalty from those around him, but thinks nothing of publicly humiliating the few dedicated souls who have supported him longest and most unwaveringly; who believes it is more blessed to give ulcers than to get them.”

● “I see [the mayor] as an instigator of the climate of racial fear in this city.”

● “He has been remarkably adept at polarizing blacks and Jews, exploiting their pain and vulnerability, opening and deepening their inner wounds, nourishing their resentments and dreams of revenge…”

With Rudy Giuliani all but an officially declared presidential candidate, expect to hear this kind of pretentious and fairly nonsensical stuff on a regular basis from the leftists and race hucksters and civil liberties zealots who detested and opposed Giuliani throughout his mayoralty.

Back to our little quiz. The subject of the above-quoted comments (from, respectively, authors Arthur Browne, Dan Collins and Michael Goodwin; the Rev. Calvin Butts; and CUNY professor Marshall Berman) was not, as most readers doubtlessly assumed, Rudy Giuliani. The correct answer: Edward Irving Koch.

Some food for thought as the presidential campaign shifts into high gear and the season of the demagogues is almost upon us.

Jason Maoz

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Information Sought
   I am looking for Arthur Kurtz, whose photograph of my late husband, Rabbi Meir Kahane, zt”l, appeared in a Brooklyn College newspaper in 1974. I’d appreciate hearing from him, or anyone knowing his whereabouts, to request permission to use the photo in a book about Rabbi Kahane. I may be contacted at mrslkahan@yahoo.com.

Libby Kahane

(Via E-Mail)


Olmert’s Chelm (I)
   Chelm beyond Chelm certainly describes Israeli politics today as illuminated in the December 1 issue of The Jewish Press. The front-page essay was a chilling interview by Aaron Klein of a potential suicide bomber. In the main news story on the same page we read that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert can’t wait to give away to our enemies more Jewish land in Judea and Samaria, “to establish an independent and viable Palestinian state with Israel’s blessing.”
   Then on page two we read about how Olmert and his defense minister, Amir Peretz, are engaged in an argument about who should get the credit for the latest “cease-fire” in which the fire has not ceased.
Boy, do we ever need Moshiach now!
Helene Wishnev
Pittsburgh, PA


Olmert’s Chelm (II)
   Has Olmert’s Israel become Chelm? The defenseless citizens of Sderot are suffering constant injuries and fatalities resulting from the bombardment by rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. The official response, as reported in The Jewish Press of Dec. 8, (page 46) is to build a new medical facility in Sderot!
   In Chelm, the railing had broken off from the walkway of an old bridge and the residents of Chelm were falling off the bridge in large numbers. After much debate, the town elders solved the problem – they ordered a first-aid station to be built under the bridge!

George E. Rubin

New York, New York


Queen Uncovered
   In her continuing series on why married women should cover their hair, Rebbetzin Jungreis stated, “The Queen of England will not be seen without some sort of hat covering her head.”
   Ironically, the very same issue of The Jewish Press (Dec. 8) featured a front-page photograph in which the Queen is seen, very much bareheaded, accepting a gift of a menorah from the British chief rabbi.

Marsha Greenberg

Stamford, CT



Consider The Source
   Professor Yakov M. Rabkin of the University of Montreal last week took to the pages of The Jewish Press to defend anti-Zionism against the charge that it is poorly disguised anti-Semitism (Letters, Dec. 8).
Without even taking a breath he defended at one and the same time the Neturei Karta cult and far-left anti-Zionists as sincere believers in peace. He also cited as a “patriot” Professor Joseph Agassi of Tel Aviv University, citing Agassi’s statement that “As an Israeli patriot, I consider it essential to integrate the discourse of Judaic anti-Zionism into the badly needed public debate about our past, present and future.”
   What the good professor Rabkin conveniently forgot to mention in his letter is that he himself is a longtime advocate of the “One State Solution” (also known as the Rwanda Solution) by which Israel will no longer exist as a Jewish state (http://www.one-democratic-state.org/articles/rabkin/html). When he is not turning out anti-Zionist boilerplate for PLO-front websites, Rabkin writes for the extreme left-wing Tikkun magazine.
   As for Agassi, he happens to be a far-left anti-Israel radical from Tel Aviv University, which is crawling with such people. No wonder Rabkin writes of him with such fawning approval.

Chaim Weissman

Raanana, Israel


Foxman’s Unconvincing Argument
   Last week’s letter from ADL National Director Abraham Foxman was vintage Foxman. He focused on the final paragraph of your editorial of the previous week (“Foxman Hearts Chirac,” Dec. 1), which speculated that given the award Foxman was presented with by French President Chirac, the Anti-Defamation League might, in the future, go easy on France.
   But Foxman totally ignored the thrust of the editorial – namely, the damning evidence you presented against Chirac (including some statements sharply critical of Chirac made by Foxman himself some years back) regarding Israel. The substance of the editorial rendered incomprehensible Foxman’s praise of Chirac for his “strength, moral courage and friendship to the Jewish state and people.”
   I also found disingenuous Foxman’s account of how he provided a forum for the mother of the young French Jew murdered in a bias attack in Paris and how he called for an investigation into how the police handled the matter. He obviously wants us to think that, notwithstanding his award, ADL will pull no punches where France is concerned. He failed to convince me.

Herbert Ritter

(Via E-Mail)


Chirac’s Prop
   Who authorized Abe Foxman to tell the world on behalf of the Jewish community that Chirac’s ongoing challenges to the U.S. and his continuing antipathy to Israel don’t really amount to much?
   Chirac obviously saw Foxman as an easy mark – someone who, in his zeal for the spotlight, could be used as a prop in the French government’s attempts at damage control in the wake of the terrible Halimi killing.
   It’s time Foxman got over his delusions of grandeur and realize that the size of his salary is in no way a realistic measure of his importance.

Eitan Feinberg

(Via E-Mail)


Terrorists In Paradise
   In Aaron Klein’s Dec. 1 front-page essay (“Face to Face With My Potential Killer”), the potential Palestinian suicide bomber understates the fact that his driving force is sexual gratification in paradise.
   The Gemara (Sanhedrin 63a) says that Jews fell for the sin of meaningless idolatry because it was used as a pretext to engage in sexual promiscuity. By the same token, the suicide bombers – young men with raging hormones – are using wars in which Muslims are the supposed victims as a cover for their real motivation: the reward of bedding 72 virgins in the afterlife, as they have been indoctrinated with this nonsense.

Jacob Mendlovic

Toronto, Canada


Menorah Update
   Re: “The Menorah Controversy” (news story, Dec. 8):
   I am pleased to report that in late November the Fair Lawn, New Jersey municipal council voted 4-1 to include a Chanukah menorah as part of the town’s holiday display. The lone vote against this was cast by the borough’s Jewish mayor. This brings to an end nearly thirty years of controversy, petitions, and adverse publicity for the town regarding the erection of a Jewish holiday symbol near a municipally sponsored Christmas tree. In a town whose population is close to 45 percent Jewish, these citizens can finally feel equally represented.
   Kudos to Rabbi Levi Neubort and Dr. Scott D. Lippe who advocated tirelessly for this cause over these past many years. Fair Lawn now joins approximately 28 other municipalities in New Jersey – as well as the White House, the State House, and the Great Wall of China – in including a Chanukah menorah as part of their festive holiday displays.

Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg

Fair Lawn, NJ


Conference Call

   Your columnist Rabbi David Hollander implies that those who demand conferences on issues such as the plight of agunot are arrogant, uninformed rejecters of Torah and halacha.
   I am only concerned about the welfare of my daughters as they approach marriageable age. Shall I recommend to them a ketubah document that protects them for only 200 zuzim and could subject them to literal imprisonment by some mean-spirited man? I want rebbeim to step up to the plate and assure me it’s safe to have a ketubah. People are scared. Let’s have a conference.

David Altman

Toronto, Canada


Forest Of Signs
   There seems to be a widespread need to plaster throughout the Orthodox Jewish community advertisements promoting various causes and/or individuals. I have long questioned whether we should be using public property such as lampposts or trees to promote distinctively Jewish causes. Even if the letter of the law is observed in terms of ad size and timely removal, it still constitutes, in my humble opinion, inappropriate advertising of purely religious institutions and causes in less than ideal settings.
   Among other things, signs fall down, purposely or otherwise, and the faces of our gedolim are trampled on by many who mean us no good. Also, notices of lectures addressing problems in our community serve to tell the world that all is not well in our midst. Do all of the residents of the Midwood/Flatbush and Boro Park communities have to know about our children at risk, our developmentally challenged persons, our shalom bayis problems, and other unfortunate situations?
I think the answer is obvious.
   To the best of my knowledge, virtually every adult in the Orthodox community has at least one phone as well as access to e-mail, either at home or at work (or both). There must be a way (phone, e-mail) by which anyone who needs to know about an event can be notified. I know The Jewish Press has a community calendar, as do other publications reaching our communities.
   There is no reason why every event or visit by an important person has to bring with it news of the event or pictures of rabbinical leaders stuck to every second lamppost or tree. In my opinion, no event promoting kavod haTorah (honoring of the Torah) justifies a situation that leads to zilzul haTorah (degradation of the Torah).

Shlomo Kleinbart

Brooklyn, NY


Chazzanim In A Hurry

   I get very frustrated when I cannot keep up with the chazzan in shul. I try to say my prayers word for word and sometimes would like to look at the English, but I don’t have time. Isn’t the chazzan supposed to represent all the congregants? Doesn’t he know the law is not to rush, but to give us a chance to keep up?
   I realize there are congregants in the morning or afternoon who have to get going – so why can’t the services start five minutes earlier? This rushing is also done on Shabbos, when we are not supposed to be in a hurry.
   The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (14:2) states that Pesukei Dezimrah are not to be said hurriedly and (14:7) that “If the worshiper sees that even if he begins with the benediction Yotzer Or he will not be able to read the Shemoneh Esreh with the congregation unless he reads the prayers very quickly, then it is best that he pray by himself, according to the prescribed order, slowly and meditatively.”
   Because of this rushing, many worshipers do not find davening with some chazzanim very meaningful. On the other hand, if a chazzan says the prayers with more feeling, it may inspire others to join him.

Joseph Platnick

Aventura, FL

Letters to the Editor

The Times’s Strange Potshot

Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

It’s not exactly news that The New York Times editorial page detested Ronald Reagan. But who would have thought that seventeen years after the end of his presidency and nearly two years after his death the Times would still seek to denigrate Reagan’s legacy, on its news pages, in a manner that can only be described as petty and inappropriate?

Of course, no one ever expected the Times’s liberal editorialists to endorse Reagan for president in 1980 and 1984. The last Republican presidential candidate endorsed by the Times had been Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 – a partisan run the Times has maintained since Reagan left office, making it a neat half-century that the paper has now been firmly in the Democratic camp.

And few were surprised at the relentless invective aimed Reagan’s way by Times editorialists throughout his two terms in Washington. In January 1983, barely two years into his presidency, a Times editorial declared that “The stench of failure hangs over Ronald Reagan’s White House” and warned that unless he came up with “better ideas” the country was doomed “to two more years of destructive confusion.” (Reagan sagely ignored the Times’s advice and was reelected 22 months later, winning 49 of 50 states in a historic landslide.)

Even as Reagan’s stature steadily rose among historians in the years after he returned to private life, the Times continued to view him as essentially a mediocrity whose successes, the paper insisted in a churlish editorial on the occasion of his passing, were due largely to “good timing and good luck.”

What’s that, you say? A newspaper has every right in its editorial commentary to assess a public figure as harshly, even insultingly, as it cares to? No argument there, but what about when a paper like the Times takes a potshot at a deceased president not in an editorial but in a news story?

When longtime Reagan adviser Lyn Nofziger died last week, John M. Broder, the Times’s Los Angeles bureau chief, included the following paragraph in his article [emphasis added]:

Mr. Nofziger was at the hospital with Reagan after he was shot in March 1981 and relayed to the press the president’s memorable, if perhaps apocryphal, line to Mrs. Reagan at the hospital: “Honey, I forgot to duck.”

“Perhaps apocryphal”?

Reagan’s display of calmness and grace on the day he was very nearly killed cemented a bond between him and the American people that remained strong even through the darkest days of the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986 and 1987. His quips – in addition to “Honey, I forgot to duck,” he asked a nurse who was holding his hand, “Does Nancy know about us?” and said to operating room personnel, “Please tell me you’re all Republicans” – have been told and retold in hundreds of books and articles on the Reagan presidency, with nary a hint that they were, in Broder’s words, “perhaps apocryphal.”

But leave aside all those books and articles. Let’s look at how the Times itself reported Reagan’s remarks in the days following the assassination attempt. In the Times’s lead article of March 31, 1981, the day after John Hinckley Jr. fired his shots, then-reporter Howell Raines wrote: “ ‘Honey, I forgot to duck,’ Mr. Reagan was quoted as telling his wife.”

In the same edition, the Times’s Lynn Rosellini began her article, “Shortly before he was wheeled into the operating room, President Reagan looked up at his wife, Nancy, and told her: ‘Honey, I forgot to duck’.” The article, by the way, was headlined ‘Honey, I Forgot To Duck,’ Injured Reagan Tells Wife.

For good measure, reporter B. Drummond Ayres Jr. repeated the “I forgot to duck” quip in a sidebar piece that ran in the Times two days after the shooting. Titled Amid the Darkest Moments, a Leaven of Presidential Wit, the article described Reagan’s jocular statements as “good medicine, leavening the crisis, buoying an anxious nation and showing the wounded leader to be a man of genuine good humor and sunny disposition, even in deep adversity.”

Where, then, did John M. Broder get the idea that the “Honey, I forgot to duck” quip was “perhaps apocryphal”? Not, apparently, from his own newspaper. But doesn’t he, as every good Timesman should, consider the Times the nation’s “paper of record”?

Jason Maoz

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/the-timess-strange-potshot/2006/04/05/

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