I enjoyed reading this New York Times Motherlode blog post by a Jewish writer describing her experience letting go of a superstition against baby showers, until I got to the comments. Midway through them, I found myself wondering when someone would make an explicit pejorative reference to the “Jew York Times.” It may as well have been there, given the umbrage a handful of readers took at what they characterized as an over-representation of Jewish voices and concerns in the popular parenting blog.
A commenter named Sharon thusly kicked off the fracas: “The topics presented in this blog seem to always have some sort of direct or indirect Jewish tie-in… this one, Zachary’s shiva, the acne lady mentioning that her secular school friends left her alone but the Hewbrew [sic] school kids were merciless, the over-priviledged [sic] pre-school couple was Jewish.”
I’ll be generous and give Sharon the benefit of the doubt that she did not mean to offend. I have, in the past, been accused of naivete.
But my optimism quickly waned when I examined the sentiments of other commenters, who glommed on acrimoniously to Sharon’s observation. “This blog is overly Jewish and it’s obvious,” wrote DH. “Blacks comprise over 12% of the population, compared with the measly 3% of Jews, and yet you don’t see guest posts by or about Black parents on here very often at all. Hispanics, even Asians comprise a larger percentage of the population than Jews do, yet they don’t get much of a voice either.”
Does a newspaper have an obligation to publish stories on a percentage basis reflective of demographic realities? That’s an interesting question, but there are more pressing, insidious ones lurking here. Are Jewish writers more narcissistic than writers of other background? That is, do Jewish parents feel worthier or more entitled than parents of other lineage to share their stories and experiences of child-rearing? Are Jewish parents, perhaps, more outspoken? And, finally, is there simply too much Jew in the New York Times?
The Motherlode’s editor, KJ Dell’Antonia had a brief response to readers’ complaints, effectively throwing them a gauntlet. “Really, it’s just a coincidence that so many guest pieces with links to Judaism ran close together this week,” she wrote. “It’s far more about who submits what and what fits with the hope of crossing age ranges and topics than anything else.”
In other words, if you want to read about a mother preparing for her daughter’s quinceanera, Lisa A., then get to work.