Thursday, June 14, 2012

Elecetion Update #3: The Jewish Week

As many of you know, I am running for the Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America.  The ballots were sent out yesterday by e-mail and by regular mail for older members who are not computer literate.  Over 1,000 Rabbis world wide received ballots.  Voting will stay open until July 5th to accommodate members in Israel who need to send in their ballots by mail.

There was an exciting development yesterday morning right before the ballots went out.  Apparently someone from the RCA leaked to the Jewish Week, a major Jewish newspaper, that the RCA was holding elections.  The Jewish week published an article that you can find here, and later it was picked up by a blog called False Messiah that you can find here.

False Messiah is an entertaining sensationalist blog which draws attention to scandalous stories in the Orthodox Jewish world.  His take on this story is so preposterous and conspiratorial that it just falls short of suggesting that aliens from outer space are orchestrating the election.  But he is just a blogger and I don't think that people hold him up to the same standards of journalistic integrity that one would expect from a major Jewish Newspaper. 

The story in the Jewish Week, however, is filled with speculation, inaccuracies, hearsay, and gossip.  The author, assisting managing editor Adam Dicktor, should be absolutely ashamed of himself for engaging in such blatant and irresponsible yellow journalism.  I don't read the Jewish week but I had thought that they were a reputable and respectable news source.  From Adam Dicktor's piece it is clear that they are just another gossip blog like False Messiah. 

The headline of the article is "RCA faces leadership challenge."  The real story - RCA holds its regularly scheduled annual democratic election for leadership.  The headline is meant to mislead people into suspecting that the RCA is experiencing some sort of turmoil.

The sub title: "Discord reported over executive choice as opposing slates vie for control of Modern Orthodox rabbinic council."
He tries to paint us as fighting around over the choice of a new hire.  The article is accompanied by a large picture of Rabbi Mark Dratch, the final candidate for the executive director position of the RCA. 
In what appears to be a sign of the increasing ideological stress within Modern Orthodoxy, the rabbinical arm of the Orthodox Union is facing a serious split over the direction of its future leadership, The Jewish Week has learned.
In a highly unusual development — some are calling it an insurrection — the proposed slate of officers set to continue in their lay posts to lead the 1,000-memberRabbinical Council of America for another year is being challenged by an upstart group reportedly opposed to the choice of executive vice president, the only paid position and one that calls for directing the day-to-day operations of the organization. 
He goes on to mention the "insurrectionists"  (false messiah calls us "rebels") by name, including me.
There are so many inaccuracies that I cannot even begin to go into all of them.  Just as one example, he writes that we are the rabbinical arm of the Orthodox Union.  That is not true.  I wondered where he got that idea.  Then I checked wikipedia and there is was.  Does he consider that acceptable journalism?  Even high school students are not allowed to site wikipedia without checking the source.

Not a single candidate running by petition for the RCA leadership has made any mention in any campaigning regarding the recent search for an executive director.  I would challenge Dicktor to provide even one shred of evidence.  This is certainly not why I am running nor have I heard or read anything in public or in private that supports this claim regarding any other candidates.

Dicktor goes on to write:
The critics are said to feel that Rabbi Mark Dratch, who was named after a long selection process to succeed Rabbi Herring, is too liberal for the job, though they have not publicly articulated their specific reasons for that conclusion.
Notice, he does not say, "the critics say" but "the critics are said to feel."  That's because none of the supposed critics would speak to him.  He called about 3 alternative candidates (he did not call me.  I guess he does not read Amerabbica - YET!) and tried to fish for some juicy gossip.  But all the candidates said the same thing.  We are a group of individuals with a variety of different views running for different reasons.

He refers to Rabbi Barry Freundel as the head of the opposition slate.  That is an inaccuracy and needs clarification.  Barry Freundel is running for the position of first Vice president which is the 2nd highest ranking position in the organization (I am running for Midwest VP, which, along with the other 3 regional VPs, is the 3rd highest position).  He is the Rabbi of a prominent shul in DC which is attended by a number of Congressmen, Senators, and other high ranking government officials including Joe Lieberman.  Dicktor assumed that since Rabbi Freundel is running for the highest ranking position of any of us that he represents the head of a unified group. 

But that is not true.  I have only met Rabbi Freundel a few times in my life and he has noting to do with my decision to run.

Dicktor mentions that nobody is challenging the position of president.  If we were in fact a unified group trying to take over the RCA wouldn't it have made sense to run for the head position of the RCA?
Contacted during a visit to Israel on Tuesday week, Rabbi Freundel declined to comment on specifics of the differences between the two slates.
“We have a different position on many issues, which are internal issues, not a single issue,” said the rabbi. But he stressed that the potential hiring of Rabbi Dratch is “not one of the issues on the platform.” 
So he quotes Freundel, our supposed "leader," and learns that Rabbi Dratch is not the Issue.
But some, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid creating a further rift in the organization, said there is increasing pressure from right-leaning members over issues such as the possible inclusion of rabbis ordained by Yeshiva Chovevei Torah (YCT), an institution that was founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss of Riverdale and that describes its philosophy as “open Orthodoxy.”
Are you kidding me!!!!  He found some random anonymous Rabbi who happens to be a member of the RCA who speculated as to why we are running and considered that a credible source!!!
That would be the equivalent of CNN saying, "Prime Minister Netanyahu told us his version, however some cab driver has a different view of events which we thought was worth reporting to you.  The cab driver wishes to remain anonymous."
“There are objections to Rabbi Dratch on the basis of concerns that he might be too liberal,” said another member. “They are making assumptions about him.”
So now I am some irrational right wing extremist insurrectionist who makes erroneous assumptions about people without knowing all the facts.

Oh, and did I mention that Rabbi Dratch runs an organization called JSafe that advocates for Jewish victims of sexual abuse?  Well, Dicktor did.  I suppose that was meant to imply that I am opposed to advocating for sexual abuse victims too.

When he mentions my name he has a link to my shul's website.  He didn't even have the decency to link to my blog and get me some hits!  Had he done proper research he would have read my blog and he would have seen what I really stand for.  He could have also reached out to any one of the dozen other candidates running and found out what they stood for.

But he didn't.  Is it because he is a sloppy, lazy, and irresponsible journalist?  Or maybe he is just incompetent.

Or perhaps this whole article had a different agenda all together.

He closes the article with a quote by some random dude who has absolutely nothing to do with the RCA, Steven Bayme, director of the Contemporary Jewish Life Department at the American Jewish Committee.

Bayne says, "I am not privy to the internal politics of the RCA."  That should have been the end of the quote. 
But Bayne goes on, and Dicktor saw this uninformed guy as worth quoting.

"Rabbi Dratch has been a positive force in his work in Jewish education and at his pulpits. He is very much a person who is open and willing to work with others. His [appointment] would be a very positive step.”  

What motivated Dicktor to slop together some uninformed, poorly researched, and irresponsible piece about a private internal matter that wasn't newsworthy in the first place?

What is his obsession with Rabbi Mark Dratch?

Is there some hidden agenda going on here?

Or was it just a slow news week so he resorted to some old fashioned muckraking by dragging the RCA, and some Rabbis including me through the mud?

There is something shady going on here, but for the life of me I cannot figure out what it is.


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