Guest column by Moshe Phillips (Jewish Exponent Watch – Report Four)
Published Wednesday, October 26, 2011. 7:25 PM
The more things stay the same at the (Philadelphia) Jewish Exponent, the more things stay the same.
The October 20, 2011 Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah edition of the Exponent featured the same tired editorial choices that have helped the paper to continue to spiral out of control, or at least toward ever-increasing irrelevance.
As one well-known Jewish community activist wrote to us earlier this week: “I do not read the Exponent because it is superficial at best.”
The Exponent’s “Torah Portion” column continues to be written by nonobservant rabbis without Philly-area pulpits. Is there not a single local synagogue rabbi whom the Exponent can publish? Conservative, Traditional or Orthodox rabbis continue to be a rarity. Rabbi Danielle Stillman, the Hillel adviser at Ursinus College and a Reconstructionist rabbi, wrote the October 20 column on Simchat Torah.
The op-ed page also continues to be a place where mostly out-of-town writers are featured.
Neither of the two Gilad Shalit columns were penned by local writers. One was by Rabbi David Ellenson, who is the president of the Reform seminary, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and who is also a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. The other essay was written by Israel-based writer Yossi Klein Halevi; he is also a fellow at Shalom, as well as a contributing editor at The New Republic.
The Exponent failed to mention that Ellenson has a relationship with Shalom Hartman. To say that Shalom Hartman is controversial is an understatement. Why did the Exponent’s editors use two writers with an affiliation in common and leave out the fact? Where there no other writers available?
Clearly Shalom Hartman generates a lot more attention in the U.S. than in Israel. Its staff is top-heavy with Americans. For example, Reconstructionist leader Arthur Green gave a talk at the Institute in 2010 about his book Radical Judaism: Rethinking G-d and Tradition. Green and Reconstructionism are hardly known in Israel.
Lastly, as in the Yom Kippur issue, this Exponent was mostly comprised of Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) wire service reports and local feature stories. Local hard news stories in the issue were nearly impossible to find.
NOTE: Thank you to readers of the previous Jewish Exponent Watch reports who sent their comments to us by email at [email protected] We’d like to hear from you too.
Moshe Phillips is the president of the Philadelphia Chapter of Americans For a Safe Israel / AFSI. The chapter’s website is at: www.phillyafsi.com. His blog can be found at http://phillyafsi.blogtownhall.com and he tweets at http://twitter.com/MoshePhillips.