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January 17, 2014     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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January 17, 2014
 

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 17, 2014 : i Menachem Stark, slumlord or saint? Depends who you ask Menachem Stark, shown with his wife and seven children, was hailed as a loving father and generous giver by his Hasidic community. By Talia Lavin baal chesed," or charitable giver. Hamodia, a leading haredi daily, called Stark a "greatly beloved member of the Williamsburg commu- nity," citing anecdotes that showed his generosity within his Hasidic neighborhood. Another Hamodia article condemned the Post for pub- lishing "a litany of untruths to malign the integrity of Mr. Stark," though it made no mention of the nature of the tabloid's allegations. "It's irrelevant if the alle- gations are true or not," Yo- chonon Donn, the Hamodia editor who wrote the article, told JTA. "Now is not the time to dance on the fam- ily's blood." The haredi media's ap- proach to the case reflects its journalistic ethos, which aims to report the newswhile complying with traditional Jewish prohibitions against lashon hara, or"evil tongue," a term that encompasses gossip, slander and mali- cious speech. "The contrast between the haredi media's treat- ment of the case and that of the general media reflects the chasm between how journalism is defined by each," Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for the haredi umbrella group Agudath Israel of America, wrote in an email. "Halacha- respecting journalism will always endeavor to shun the negative, particularly when it is sourced in innuendo and one-sided 'interpretations.'" NEW YORK (JTA)--The murder of Menachem Stark has sparked intense media scrutiny of the Brooklyn real estate developer's troubled business record, prompting the New York Post to ask "Who didn't want him dead?" on its front page. Butwhile mainstream me- dia outlets scrutinized the Satmar hasid's relationships with tenants, contractors and lenders, haredi Orthodox publications offered a decid- edly different take--looking not for clues to why someone would kill Stark, but cel- ebrating his many virtues. Yated Ne'eman, a promi- nent haredi weekly, praised Stark as a "loving father and Starkwas abducted Jan. 2 outside his office in Brook- lyn's Williamsburg neigh- borhood. Video footage from the scene showed Stark struggling in a snowstorm with assailants who forced him into a white van. The following day, Stark's partially burned body was found in a dumpster on Long Island. A medical examiner concluded he had died from compression asphyxiation. New York Police Commis- sioner William Bratton said police have "no significant leads" in the case. Stark, who reportedly owned 17 properties in Brooklyn, was a prominent figure in Williamsburg's Satmar Hasidic community. At the time of his murder, however, he was deeply in debt. In 2008, Stark and his business partner, Israel Perlmutter, defaulted on a $29 million loan, and they declared bankruptcy the following year, according to The New York Times. New York newspapers re- ported on numerous tenant complains and building code violations at Stark's proper- ties. While some tenants criticized conditions in his buildings in online postings and elsewhere, other ten- ants have come to their late landlord's defense. The Post's controversial cover story called Stark a "slumlord" and cited anonymous law- enforcement sources who suggested he was a "scam- mer" with plenty of enemies. But coverage in the haredi press sidestepped Stark's business woes and allega- tions of improprieties. This is consistent with the high regard in which he was held in his community, where one of the Satmar sect's two rebbes, Zalman Teitelbaum, delivered an emotional eulogy. In a December 2013 edi- torial, Hamodia publisher Ruth Lichtenstein explained her publication's general approach, noting that the paper's concern not to "in- advertently embarrass or hurt an organization, indi- vidual, or child" plays a large role in editorial decisions. "A crucial part of our mission is protecting our readers' right 'not to know,'" Lichtenstein wrote. "Far more difficult a task than providing you with news- worthy and ethical reading material is ensuring that you, our loyal reader, aren't exposed to material you would find unfit to enter your home, your mind, and your heart." Meanwhile, the haredi community has rallied against the Post, organizing a Jan. 5 press conference with local elected offi- cials at Brooklyn Borough Hall. Brooklyn's borough president, Eric Adams, denounced what he called "hateful coverage." New York City's public advocate, Letitia James, accused the Post of having "given license to murder" and called on elected officials to stop placing advertisements in the paper. Hamodia published an editorial Wednesday blast- ing New York City's newly elected mayor, Bill de Blasio, for not joining other elected officials in condemning the coverage or publicly extend- ing his condolences to the Stark family. "The Jewish community must not feel, as they've felt several times in the past, that they are alone in this," Hamodia wrote. "The mayor's silence is a shock- ing blow." In a letter to the New York Post, the Anti-Defamation League called the Post's headline "insensitive" and also took issue with the accompanying article for referring to Stark as a "mil- lionaire Hasidic slumlord" in its lead sentence. "Just substitute any other minority for 'Ha- sidic' in such an opening description and it would be understood how provoca- tive it is, particularly asso- ciated with the descriptor 'millionaire slumlord,'" wrote Evan Bernstein, the ADL's New York regional director. Yated Ne'eman staffers declined to discuss their coverage of the Stark mur- der. In lieu of comment, they forwarded a poem they planned to publish by the paper's editor and publisher, Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz. A Yated Ne'eman reporter said the poem was "indicative of the direction" of the paper's coverage. Titled "Who Didn't Want Us Dead?" the poem de- scribes Stark as a "Giving, loving/Holy soul/Snuffed out." Accompanied by an image of the New York Post's front page, the poem referenced historical anti- Semitism, mentioning Hit- ler, Stalin and Ferdinand and Isabella. "Jewish blood has always been cheap, nobody cared when they came after us," Lipschutz wrote. 'Saving Mr. Banks' star Emma Thompson calls for boycotting Israel's Habima Theater ous human rights concerns but hypocritically fail to call for a boycott of the National Theater of China, which is participating in the same festival. The ZOA has condemned Thompson and urged people to boycott her recently-released movie, "Saving Mr. Banks." In a letter to the Brit- ish Guardian newspaper, Thompson and her col- leagues accused Habima of having "a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Oc- cupied Palestinian Territory [sic]... By inviting Habima, Shakespeare's Globe is un- dermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break in- ternational law.., by inviting Habima, the Globe is asso- ciating itself with policies of exclusion practised by the Is- raeli state and endorsed by its NEW YORK--The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has condemned ac- tress Emma Thompson and three dozen other British actors, for seeking the boy- cotting of Israel's celebrated Habima Theater troupe, which is to perform later this year in a six-week theatri- cal festival taking place at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London. Thompson and her colleagues cite spuri- Your in Orlando Real Estate!!!! Over 25+ years Residential Real Estate Sales experience Over $200 Million+ Lifetime Sales GALE MILGRIM, P.A., Realtor Gale.Milgrim@FloridaMoves.com 407-443-9832 Visit www.OrlandoJewishRealtor.com To read my Glowing Client Testimonials and my BIO!!!!! Member Congregation Ohev Shalom Parent of 2 Jewish Academy Alumni Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando Supporter national theatre company... We ask the Globe to with- draw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land" (Nathan Burstein, 'Oscar winner Emma Thompson calls for Israeli theater's ban,' Times of Israel, April 1, 2014). ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, "We condemn Emma Thompson and her colleagues for their advocacy of boycotting Israel's famed Habima Theater. Their call is in no way justified, or in any way less serious or worthy of condemnation, because Habima has refused to boycott a cultural center that opened in Ariel. "Jews have a perfect right in law and morality to live and build homes and communities in Judea and Samaria, part of the territory earmarked for Jewish settlement at the 1920 San Remo Conference. Con- trary to Thompson's ignorant/ malicious claim of illegality, the right of Jews to live and settle in these territories has never been extinguished by any subsequent, legally bind- ing international agreement. Moreover, under the Oslo II agreement, it was specifically stated in Chapter 3, Article 17 that the Jewish communities of Judea, Samaria and Gaza would remain under Israeli jurisdiction, pending a final peace agreement. In other words, the PA itself has signed a legally binding agreement that explicitly accepts the existence of Jewish commu- nities under Israeli control. "Jewish growth in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem has a fundamen- tal legitimacy and poses no obstacle to a true peace if Palestinians are ready for one, so the repeated, periodic international calls for a Jewish construction freeze, or the re- moval of Jewish communities, or the boycott and ostracism of anyone who fails to op- pose their existence, would remain inappropriate even if the prospect of genuine peace negotiations with a truly peaceful Palestinian partner were possible. "Why may not 300,000 Jews live among 2 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria while 1.2 million Arabs live among 6 million Jews in Israel? Emma Thompson and her colleagues are displaying ignorance and prejudice in working towards a world in which Jews are banned from and expelled from their religious, historical and legal homeland. "These people claim to be concerned about justice and peace. But one never hears them criticize the Palestinian, rejection of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, or their rejection of the 2000 Clinton peace plan, or their resort to a wave of terror. They never issue statements demanding that the PA end terror and incitement to hatred and murder against Israel - the demonization of Jews does not disturb these haters of the Jewish state and expose their own vicious bias, dressed up as concern for human rights. "We also note the rank hypocrisy of Thompson and her ilk condemning Habima and seeking its boycott--but having no problem with the National Theater of China participating in the same festival, even though China's observance of human rights is, to put it mildly, abysmal. "Emma Thompson and these other actors are clearly people who, because they are celebrities, enjoy unmerited influence and ability to pub- licize their political views. This places an even greater responsibility on them to think carefully before speak- ing on political matters, which they have clearly failed. They deserve to be condemned and shunned by the Jewish, pro-Israeli community and all other people of goodwill. We urge everyone to boycott Emma Thompson's current movie,: 'Saving Mr. Banks.'"