We were sitting around the Shabbat table discussing an interesting event that was taking place in the neighborhood. Maybe interesting is the wrong word. The situation that the event has created is more than interesting. It is also upsetting and potentially divisive. But, even though it was an important topic, it was not covered in any of the appropriate local newspapers. Meira, my bright, talented niece, was quick to point out several hypocrisies in the mailing that we perhaps inadvertently received, and in effect, potentially causes one part of the community to pit itself against the other. The mailing, which was the event I refer to, had something to do with kashrut, and just how kosher and acceptable the local kosher certifying agency was for a particular segment of the community. This piece of religious compulsive adherence does not bother me, to each his or her own, though it seems as if there is some strong arming against the majority community. What does upset me is the fact that there are some real issues in this situation as well as others that must be addressed but are deliberately and absolutely avoided by the local media. I would have much preferred to read about this situation from a reporter who had investigated it. Let’s look at just two examples.
There are rumors circulating about a particular rabbi from a local congregation in the community. The rumors are both fantastical and sad, humorous and disappointing. It might be helpful to know the truth. Apparently some local community rabbis have sermonized about the situation, but still rumors persist. Some of the rumors suggest that the police should have been involved but were never contacted. I received a phone call from a reporter for a major media outlet asking about the situation. I told her I have no specific knowledge. She said to me “Strange that so many people are impacted and the potential for others to get hurt is so great yet no one is willing to talk.” She is of course correct. If any of the rumors are accurate and if the alleged offender is not properly outed than the potential for continuing harm to other individuals in other communities remains high.
Similarly, an alleged child abuser is being protected by some of his well-intentioned but seriously misdirected friends, some powerful attorneys among them. Without getting into specifics, I am still totally flabbergasted by the fact that so many people are content to sweep these situations under the rug. Even more though I am distraught by the threats from certain members of the community that cause people to not report to the authorities and prevent properly trained and experienced investigative journalists from reporting on these events. And worse, when there is some attempt to openly deal with the threats such people cause, the backwash is like a typhoon, with attempts to destroy the credibility of those who take responsible actions.
One local paper even published a diatribe against a reporter whose name was by-lined in a major daily reporting on a terrible kidnapping – murder case. The article was filled with innuendo and outright lies sprinkled with small tidbits of truth to make it look reasonable. If a community leader is given a column in a local paper that is used to bash honest people but honest reporting is censored why should those honest people bother to try to expose the sinister issues that may destroy us? Their work is put to better use elsewhere. And we are the worse for it. And we are the worse for not having local papers devoted to honesty and integrity, willing to confront our problems and helping us find ways to cope with them.