Got the Message!



Was I the only one who was totally offended by the Oct. 2 Metro section of The New York Times? First, there was the photo below the fold on page one showing two men, one checking a PDA, the other his phone, standing outside the doors of what was clearly a synagogue. The small headline read "Checking Market Before Services" and the caption said: "The financial crisis has hovered outside the synagogue door for many worshipers this week. Mark Yoss, left, checked his BlackBerry, while his brother, Alan, also of the Upper East Side, looked at his phone on Wednesday before entering Central Synagogue in Midtown for Rosh Hashana services."

What was offensive was that, not only did the image play into every stereotype about avaricious Jews, but these gentlemen were defiling the holiday, when all worldly matters, particularly money, are to be set aside for spiritual introspection. I do not mean to criticize the Yoss brothers; how they deal with their Judaism is their business. However, I might have thought that the Times, which was once Jewish-owned (let's not go into that), would have had a Jewish employee nearby who could have sensitized the powers that be about what the photo implied.

But to make matters worse, there was a story, too, on Page 3. And there were two more photos accompanying it. The larger one showed two other Jewish men, one even wearing a kipah, similarly engaged in consulting their individual machinery. This caption read: "Alan Krinsky, right, an advertising consultant, checked his phone outside Central Synagogue in Midtown on Wednesday after a Rosh Hashana service." In the smaller image of the two, Gary Herman had "stepped out of a Tuesday service at Temple Emanu-El to check the market." He leaned casually against one of the massive pillars characteristic of that majestic edifice, as two other congregants were walking toward the front doors.

The headline for the story read: "Rabbi Has Message. So Does Cellphone."

The reporter James Barron wrote: "Standing on the sidewalk outside the Park Avenue Synagogue after attending a service on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, Joel Beeler said, 'I feel troubled.'

"Mr. Beeler is a real estate investor who has been trying to line up financing for a shopping center project. He said that an hour on the phone with a banker before the service had been fruitless. But he said he was not just thinking about the deal.

" 'I'm praying for the whole world and the country,' he said as he headed to his office. …

"[T]his week, perhaps more than most, it was hard to check one's worries at the door, hard to concentrate on what it means to mark a religious holiday during a financial crisis.

"Some worshipers arrived at Rosh Hashana services carrying The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times. Others slipped out from time to time to check their voice mail … "

Now, was the point of all this to make the Jews look really bad?


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