A version of the following post was accidentally, briefly published without being edited earlier today. The edited version below was to have run tomorrow, but since it has garnered attention, we’re running it now instead.
Yesterday, the Forward announced that George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island will be displayed next month at the National Museum of American Jewish History.
Congratulations, and no small degree of respect, are due to Paul Berger and our friends at the Forward. Berger tracked down one of the most important documents in American Jewish history—of which even scholars had lost track—in which the first president promised that the new nation would “give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,” then, finding the document languishing in a Maryland storage facilility, launched a campaign to get the document displayed to the public.
In what is possibly the worst timing ever, the announcement coincided with a story in the Washington Free Beacon by Adam Kredo citing “insiders” that argued the Forward was a biased publication, without worth, that practice bad journalism.
“They’re so irrelevant to me I don’t even focus on them,” said one Jewish media figure who declined to be named. “I never return the phone call. They’re not on my radar screen—as far as I know, nobody reads them, and they’re totally irrelevant.”
The best (read, worst), part of the story is that many of the “insiders” it cites are people who have come under investigation by the Forward. Nathan Lewin, the lawyer for Shalom Rubashkin, blames the Forward for the fact that his client is currently serving a prison sentence for 86 counts of bank fraud. He also attacks them for investigating the prominent—and, for what it’s worth, shady—Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto. Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America attacks the paper for a story suggesting he has bad workplace practices.
Among the other accusations, Kredo suggests the paper faced a “backlash for providing a forum to an American Jewish leader [Kathleen Peratis] who met with Hamas.” The backlash he cites, however, is a story attacking Peratis by … Adam Kredo. The story also accuses the paper of abetting the BDS movement. Here’s a story by Josh Nathan-Kazis noting that BDS has yet to score a victory on U.S. campuses. Here’s an op-ed by editor-in-chief Jane Eisner, attacking the first national conference of the BDS movement. I could go on.
I’m not going to defend the attacked articles, except to say that they’re immaculately sourced. But, since it goes entirely unmentioned in Kredo’s piece, I’d also point out just some of the service done by the Forward, including reporting the compensation of American Jewish communal leaders—like, for instance, Klein, who pulled in $363,462 last year—or bringing light to the underrepresentation of women in their ranks.
This is not the sexy work, but it is essential, worthwhile work that has caused real change in the Jewish world. It is absolutely understandable that if your client is in jail you might hold a grudge—but, I have to say, it doesn’t seem very relevant.