Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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8 Kislev 5760 - November 17, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Time Magazine Taken To Task For Anti-Chareidi Article

by A. Sapir

An article in the October 25 international edition of Time magazine, which is distributed in Europe and the Middle East, has generated deep irritation in Orthodox Jewish communities both overseas and in America.

The article, "Be Fruitful and Multiply", by Time Jerusalem Bureau Chief Lisa Beyer, recounts three cases of Israeli children accidentally left in cars during the summer, two of whom died.

"In all three cases," writes Ms. Beyer, "the parents were chareidim and had six or seven children."

The piece goes on to quote "a chorus of voices" within the chareidi community in Israel that claims the deaths were the indirect result of what the article's sub-headline calls "the chareidi fashion for large families."

The day the article appeared, e-mails and phone calls began to come in to Orthodox groups on both sides of the Atlantic from readers outraged at the insinuations that large families were a mere chareidi "fashion" rather than a Jewish ideal and that they in some way had contributed to the tragedies.

And the sense of outrage resonated.

"To begin with," says Rabbi Avi Shafran, who directs the American office of Am Echad, an Orthodox group dedicated to Jewish unity that often takes issue with press reports it sees as misrepresenting Orthodox Jews, "the article offers no evidence whatsoever to support the contention that tragedies born of child negligence occur at any greater rate in large families than in smaller ones."

And certainly no evidence that they are more common among chareidim. "And what was implied to be a virtual epidemic," the Am Echad representative continues, "simply was not."

One of the two fatal cases referred to in the article, he further points out, did not even involve a chareidi family.

Rabbi Shafran contends that the Time article is symptomatic of a larger anti-chareidi bias throughout the media, and claims to have amassed a small mountain of material to prove its existence.

Another point of contention regarding the Time article was its claim of a "chorus" of critical voices within the chareidi community. Jonathan Rosenblum, Shafran's Am Echad counterpart in Israel and a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, points out that two women quoted in the piece, Naomi Ragen and Tzvia Greenfield, seem to "always have something unflattering to say about the chareidi community.

"If Ms. Beyer wants to describe them as chareidi `insiders'," he contends, "she might as well add her husband Ze'ev Chafets, the Jerusalem Report's resident chareidi- basher, to the list."

Ms. Beyer objects to any insinuation that the opinions of her husband, who has written a number of rancorous columns about chareidi beliefs and practices, might affect her own reportage.

Particularly telling, the Am Echad representatives stress, was the Time article's lack of what they call "any balance." No defenders of large families at all, they point out, were quoted. There was, moreover, adds Rabbi Rosenblum, no description of the chareidi community's love for and dedication to its children, something that is uncontested even among the community's harshest critics. "Chareidi children," he says, "feel, and are, deeply loved by their parents. They know that their parents wanted them to be born, that they were never weighed against leisure time or disposable income. To reduce larger-than-average chareidi families to a `fashion' is to deny that there are people who actually live their lives for their children."

In a current column for The Jerusalem Post about the Time article, Rabbi Rosenblum suggests that "anyone who thinks chareidi children lead miserable, unhappy lives should walk through a chareidi neighborhood any day of the week with open, unjaundiced eyes."

"My wife and I took that walk twenty years ago," continues the chareidi columnist, who came to traditional Jewish belief and observance after graduating Yale law school, "and it's much of the reason we are blessed with a large family today."

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