Shoddy Journalistic Attacks on Hasidic Schools Don’t Deserve Honors

The Pulitzer committee plans to announce its annual prize in investigative journalism on Monday, and it is expected that it will award it to the New York Times for an eighteen-part series on New York state’s ḥasidic schools. To Jonathan Tobin, the series is wholly underserving of such a prestigious accolade:

As I wrote when the series started last September, the question of adequate educational standards in these schools is a legitimate one. If they are truly failing their children, whether out of incompetence or a belief that non-religious subjects are unimportant, it would be a tragedy that might be contributing to the already troublingly high rates of poverty in these communities.

However, it soon became apparent that the Times was interested in more than just that narrow question. Even the initial broadside—to which the paper devoted enormous resources in terms of reporters’ time (two reporters spent a full year producing the report with the aid of who knows how many researchers), space, and even the publication of a special Yiddish edition of the account—seemed unable to stick to that concern.

While some of the articles might be defensible when viewed in isolation, taken together, the series revolves around a theme that would, if directed at any other minority group, be quickly denounced as bigotry. The Times’s series portrays New York’s ḥasidic Jews as a scheming, dishonest group interested solely in advancing an obscurant religious vision, as well as willing to sacrifice their own children’s well-being and profit at the expense of their non-Jewish neighbors’ gullibility.

Part of that involves the demonization of efforts by Orthodox Jews to defend their interests in the public square. . . . What would be regarded as a normal, even laudable effort by an embattled and often misunderstood minority community seeking representation and influence in the political system was painted as a sinister effort. Had it been about community activists trying to help African Americans or Hispanics, nothing about it would have been considered remarkable, since those groups are also often mobilized largely by their churches and pastors. But when ḥasidic Jews and their rabbis played the same game, the Times depicted it as an effort to strong-arm politicians willing to . . . sell favors for votes.

Read more at JNS

More about: American Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Hasidim, Jewish education, New York Times

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7