Thursday, January 24, 2008

Them Cheatin' Jews

(Hat tip: FG) A great piece by the editor of the NJ Jewish News after an Orthodox Jew ripped off another for $78.5 million dollars, discussing the desire many - especially Jews - have to bash Orthodox Jews. I think even Orthodox Jews do this; we'll sometimes complain that "Jews make the worst customers" or "Jews are cutthroat businessmen", etc. and perhaps rightfully so on occasion... but that's not the point. It's a really great piece, check it out. Excerpt:
Crime in a religious community is always going to be magnified since outsiders expect that its members should be above such things. And there are some darker, even Oedipal forces involved. For many Jews, the Orthodox represent the past, and their stubborn adherence to tradition is a rebuke to those who have abandoned it. Nothing expiates a secular person’s sense of guilt faster than seeing an Orthodox Jew show up on the crime blotter. (Call it affinity schadenfreude.)

And it’s an American thing. Despite the best efforts of the New Atheists, the most potent charge you can level at believers is not that they are irrational or intolerant, but that they are hypocritical. Conservatives get it wrong when they call the “liberal” media anti-religious for the salacious way they cover religious scandals. In fact, religion usually becomes a front page, top-of-the-hour story when the reporter can explore the gap between the ideal and the real. “Troubling news tonight, Jim,” says the reporter, standing in front of St. Whatever. “A priest who pledged to uphold the word of God is instead in custody for….”

It’s for this reason that a newspaper is more likely to identify the religion of an Orthodox Jew than his non-Orthodox coreligionist. Take The New York Times’ coverage of Martin Tankleff, the Long Island man whose conviction was overturned 17 years after he was imprisoned for the murder of his parents. Everyone in this sad story is Jewish, including a shadowy businessman who called himself the Bagel King of Long Island, but the word “Jewish” barely comes up in the coverage.

Orthodox Jews also pay the price for their own relative insularity. The more sheltered a community is, the more it’s likely to breed distrust (unless they’re Amish; everything they do looks adorable from the outside).


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