Reading the comments and emails on Rabbi Jason Miller’s Jewish Week blog about the Yiddish-language newspaper that Photoshopped out Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and White House terrorism official Audrey Tomason from an official photo, I’ve been struck with how many readers, choking on outrage, seemed to blame the Jewish Week.
How could we do it, many fumed? We should be ashamed.
Well, yeah, but we didn’t do it; we just reported on it, or rather Rabbi Miller did in his “Jewish Techs” blog. What started as news about the actions of a tiny Yiddish-language newspapers was quickly transmuted into urban legend about the Jewish Week. Such are the hazards of this Internet age.
Some of the comments, it seems to me, came from folks who obviously never heard of the Jewish Week before, but just picked Jason’s item out of the blogosphere and found that it neatly “proved” their view that Judaism is really a bunch of wackos who want to treat women the same way radical Islam treats them.
They conveniently ignore the fact that groups that go to such extremes are a miniscule proportion of a diverse and still mostly liberal Jewish community, barely a blip on the Jewish radar.
Yes, there are issues about the role of women in Orthodox Judaism; as a non-Orthodox Jew, I don’t feel qualified to comment on them, except to say they deserve respectful, intelligent debate by the people affected by them.
But this isn’t about Orthodox Judaism, it’s about the fringiest of the fringy, and the implication it reflects a pervasive problem in Judaism is absurd, and probably a little – or maybe more than a little – bigoted.
Many other comments and emails came from Jews who are embarrassed by the actions of the Hasidic editors; Jason’s blog and the numerous followups have gone completely viral, adding to the impression Judaism is a pretty flaky religion, many worry.
What I’m wondering: why haven’t the major Orthodox groups spoken out? Doing so would go a long way toward demonstrating that the folks at Der Tzeitung represent…well, themselves, and there’s not very many of them. Today there was a picture of a woman at the top of the Orthodox Union’s home page, so I’m pretty sure that group, representing a lot more Orthodox Jews than the tiny Hasidic paper that started the whole furor, doesn’t fear the impact of a woman’s image on hapless male readers. And good heavens, there’s a picture of a very attractive woman at the top of the Chabad Web site, so I’m guessing that big Hasidic group wouldn’t send Hillary Clinton into Photoshop oblivion, either.
Obviously, PhotoShopping out women isn’t a common practice in the Orthodox world. So why don’t the Orthodox groups make that clear to a world that seems just a little too delighted with the embarrassing actions of a fringe group of Jews?
Today the Failed Messiah blog, one of the first to report on the affair, also reported on what it snidely termed Der Tztung’s "apology." I’m guessing that will do absolutely nothing to calm what has become a titillating story for the non-Jewish world and and embarrassment for many Jews, if our comments and emails are any measure.