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There were two outstanding pieces of journalism published last week in which the lead characters were Jewish. As a journalist, this made me proud. As a Jew, it left me disgusted.
Writing in the New York Times, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey catalogued how the Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed women for decades and paid settlements to at least eight of them. Their air tight, painstaking reporting finally put an end to what was evidently one of Hollywood’s worst kept secrets, when Weinstein was fired last night from the company he founded and ran. This is journalism with impact.
But I cringed when I read a ridiculous reference to his bar mitzvah in Weinstein’s initial response to the Times story. And I was furious to read of all his many enablers, who winked at his behavior while accepting his charity and reveling in his clout. The fact that Weinstein lavishly supported Democratic candidates and liberal causes does not for one second exonerate him.
If it’s any consolation to Democrats, though, the embarrassment is bi-partisan. The second story starred a Jewish Republican.
A terrific investigation jointly pursued by WNYC, ProPublica and the New Yorker reported that in 2012, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. were this close to being charged by New York prosecutors with felony fraud for misleading prospective buyers of their new condo hotel in SoHo. That is, until their father’s lawyer paid a visit to District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who then decided to overrule his staff and kill the case.
It just so happens that Daddy Trump’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, is one of Vance’s biggest donors.
Kasowitz’s religion is no secret. In a separate incident back in July, he unloaded on a total stranger in a string of expletive-laden, threatening emails. One of the emails read: “I’m Jewish. I presume you are too. .. I already know where you live. I’m on you.”
Kasowitz later apologized.
Weinstein’s transgressions are on a far more offensive scale than Kasowitz’s. Still that these men behaved so very badly is awful enough. That they referenced their Jewish heritage as some sort of badge of honor is just shameful.
The Forward in the New York Times. We are kvelling in the newsroom today over the story in Monday’s Times about the Forward’s groundbreaking journalism in covering the rise of anti-Semitism in America. As I explained here, we journalists are not used to being the subject of a news story, and it still seems weird to have been before the camera, not behind it.
But I am so grateful for how Times reporter Jaclyn Peiser captured the way my Forward colleagues are rising to the challenge of doing journalism in this new political environment. And deeply appreciative of the support we are getting from readers around the country for our work.
What I’ve been writing. My essay for the October magazine, posted online today, reflects years of frustration with the restrictive and at times quite ugly tone to the Israel conversation among American Jews. There is a better way to do this, folks. As I wrote, “the question isn’t whether you support the current government’s policy on settlements or if you are against it — or myriad other ‘tests’ that certain Jews apply to certain other Jews. The question is whether Israel is a part of your Jewish life. The question is whether you care. And if you do, you’re welcome to our multi-faceted conversation about Israel.”
Meanwhile, the massacre in Las Vegas has once again revived calls for the kind of sensible gun control legislation supported by a majority of Americans. Even a majority of Republicans. Even, in some instances, a majority of members of the National Rifle Association. But the NRA’s obstructionism is so embedded in our political system that it is unlikely anything but a very modest first step will actually be taken. For this, I hold members of Congress beholden to the gun lobby responsible. And, as I wrote, there are two Jewish members who’ve received money and endorsements lately from the NRA: Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee.
Neither of their offices would comment. Shame on them.
Looking forward. I’m traveling to Washington D.C. tomorrow to meet with Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent at NBC News who will receive a Distinguished Journalist Award at the upcoming Forward gala. I’ve long admired Andrea’s groundbreaking reporting and her journalistic integrity, so this meeting will be a real privilege.
Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed and a groundbreaking journalist in his own right, will also be honored at our 120th anniversary celebration on November 13, along with my former boss, Sam Norich, who will be given a Lifetime Achievement Award.
For tickets and information, go to forward.com/gala. And please join us!
Jane Eisner, a pioneer in journalism, is writer-at-large at the Forward and the 2019 Koeppel Fellow in Journalism at Wesleyan University. For more than a decade, she was editor-in-chief of the Forward, the first woman to hold the position at the influential Jewish national news organization. Under her leadership, the Forward’s digital readership grew significantly, and won numerous regional and national awards for its original journalism, in print and online.