Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, in his column, “Reform Jew Responsible for Wall Street Scandal” (Queens Jewish Link, October 31, 2019), bemoans the fact that this headline will never happen. He gave an example from The New York Times about Michael Milken, which did not mention that he was Jewish. Rabbi Schonfeld argues, in contrast, that when it relates to an Orthodox Jew, there is a different standard. His example is from a Daily News article, “Rudy Pals Aided by Jewish Bigs,” which has a smaller headline of “Right-Wing Orthodox Helped Get GOP Access.”
The Daily News article does not prove his point, since it was relevant to the story:
“The two jailed cronies of Rudy Giuliani, who helped him hunt for dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine, won access and influence among Republican power brokers with the help of right-wing Orthodox Jewish leaders – from New York to Israel.”
“Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman used their tight partnership with Giuliani to win awards from rabbis and the support of powerful pro-Israel groups, culminating in a bizarre 2018 Jerusalem jam session in which Christian conservative and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee serenaded a VIP crowd with the Southern rock anthem, “Sweet Home Alabama.”
“It all started with a yarmulke. Parnas and Fruman spotted [QJL columnist] Dr. Joseph Frager, a gastroenterologist from Queens, wearing his Jewish skull cap from across the room at a conservative political convention in spring 2018, according to published reports.”
The published report was in the article in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency article (October 11, 2019): “Orthodox Synagogue Association Honored Two Giuliani Associates Months Before They Were Arrested.”
“They made a beeline for Frager, who is a pro-Trump activist and vice president of the National Council of Young Israel, a group of more than 100 Orthodox synagogues.”
“Within weeks, Parnas and Fruman found themselves invited to a National Council of Young Israel gala dinner that took place in March. They were honored with the group’s ‘Lovers of Zion’ awards.” There was a link to a report in McClatchy Newspapers concerning the National Council of Young Israel. The article’s title was, “A group faced heat for being too political. Then it feted Giuliani’s ‘Florida fixers’” (October 4, 2019).
The Daily News article also referred to an article in an Orthodox magazine, Ami, which concerned an interview with Giuliani.
There were many other publications and online services that mentioned that these two individuals were honored by the National Council of Young Israel at their gala dinner.
In any event, the article does not identify them as being Orthodox but that they sought out an Orthodox Jewish organization that has become pro-Trump, and they received honors from the organization. This was not an anti-Orthodox article. The information was totally proper for the story.
Assuming that Rabbi Schonfeld is correct that there is a double standard in the media, it is not because they are anti-Orthodox. When they look at an unaffiliated, Reform, or Conservative Jew who is a businessman, such as Milken or Madoff, they consider him to be a businessman who happens to be Jewish. Milken’s and Madoff’s conduct and morals are based on the marketplace. Therefore, their Jewishness is not important.
In contrast, Orthodox Jews are perceived as having a higher standard of conduct, which is based on the Torah. In other words, they are Orthodox Jews who happened to be businessmen. They expect more from us, just as they expect better from members of other religions who hold themselves out to be religious.
Thus, contrary to Rabbi Schonfeld’s conclusion, I think it is a good thing that an Orthodox Jew’s religion is mentioned. I would be more concerned when it is no longer being mentioned, because it will indicate that society has changed its view of Orthodox Jews and no longer expects much from us. In other words, we are now merely “a businessman who happens to be an Orthodox Jew.” I hope that through our actions it will never happen.