Voice of the Jewish News: Are we sorry for doing our job? Absolutely not
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here
Analysis

Voice of the Jewish News: Are we sorry for doing our job? Absolutely not

News, as we all know, can be both good and bad, and we do not look away when bad things happen. Nor would you expect us to.

This week's front page alongside last week's JN investigation
This week's front page alongside last week's JN investigation

We put our community first in everything we do and grab every opportunity to show off its vibrancy and achievements to the nation. That is our mission, our passion, our raison d’être. That is also why we have covered the great and good of the Charedi world, and done so extensively.

In London alone this includes the neighbourhood watch service Shomrim, emergency response service Hatzola, mental health charity Bikur Cholim, special educational needs school Side-by-Side, public affairs group Interlink Foundation and new hospital food service Bedside Kosher, to name but a small handful – everything from interviews to whole days spent observing how an organisation works, meeting the people, seeing what they do, then telling readers.

Far from ignoring the marvel that is the strictly-Orthodox community in full flow, we showcase and celebrate it. We have done more than any mainstream newspaper in Britain in recent years to build these ties and senior figures will happily confirm this. But ‘news’, as we all know, can be both good and bad, and we do not look away either. Nor would you expect us to.

The Charedi world derives its strength and longevity from keeping the secular world at arm’s length, but the drawbacks of tight-knit self-isolation have been thrown into sharp and shocking focus like never before by this deadly pandemic.

With much reduced access to information from the outside world, this 20,000-stong community relies on its leaders – senior rabbis – to convey the deadly seriousness and ever-changing threat of Covid-19. If they say ‘adhere’, Charedim will adhere. If they say ‘no simchas,’ we would have no breaches to report. Yet our investigation last week, showing how large Charedi weddings have continued throughout the pandemic, means some of them are saying no such thing.

Yes, it caused upset nationally, both externally and internally, yet the reaction was telling. Many were more upset than shocked. Many were not in the least bit shocked at what we reported, only that we reported it.

We make no apologies. We can think of nothing that better defines ‘public interest’ than the exposure of huge underground (literally) super-spreader events – a clear illegality and a danger to life. These events fly in the face of British and Jewish law that places life above all else. 

Yes, it caused upset nationally, both externally and internally, yet the reaction was telling. Many were more upset than shocked. Many were not in the least bit shocked at what we reported, only that we reported it.

Likewise, it is with no joy that we report this week on a government study showing that two thirds of Charedi Jews contracted coronavirus last year. This is one of the highest rates anywhere in the world and nine times the national average.

And it is with open ears that we listen to criticism, shown by the letters we publish today. 

This week’s Jewish News front page

Some asked why we do not instead reveal secular Jews breaching lockdown, ignoring that we reported on our front page about a barmitzvah with 100 guests in Edgware just weeks ago. Some said we should not report bad things about Jews. Some accused us of having an agenda (although of what we’re still not sure). Some even said our reporting echoed the kind of thing one might have read  in Berlin in 1940. Tellingly, virtually no one contested what we wrote. 

Is it not this newspaper’s job to reflect the frustration – fury, even – of the many readers, who cannot see their loved ones, angered by large weddings being broken up in Stamford Hill? And would we not be criminally negligent if we were then to ignore those who came forward to tell us what, in fact, was happening every week? 

Are we supposed to not act on this kind of information about deadly events? If you think we are, we politely suggest that your idea of “a newspaper” is different to ours.

We’d be criminally negligent if we ignored those who came forward to tell us what was happening every week

Let’s be clear: our investigation could not have happened were it not for those living and working in the community itself who spoke to us. Did we set out to tar all with the same brush? Of course not. We firmly believe the majority do their best to keep to the rules like the rest of the country. 

It is a disgrace if law-abiding Jews have faced antisemitic abuse as a result of our coverage, as we have been told. But are we sorry for doing our job? Absolutely not. To those angry that Jews are dying from a deadly virus, we suggest your ire is directed at the rabbis and venues signing off on opportunities for its spread. We wouldn’t presume our word carries sway across the Charedi community, but we know who does and it is to them we look. 

Did we set out to tar all with the same brush? Of course not. We firmly believe the majority do their best to keep to the rules like the rest of the country

And to those who say we deliberately set out to hurt the strictly-Orthodox community, the same strictly-Orthodox community we so enjoy celebrating, we say this. 

There were plenty more details that we heard during the course of our investigation. Only things we could corroborate with a high degree of surety made their way onto our news pages. Had we wanted to be salacious, or vindictive, or any of the other accusations, these anecdotes would have gone in – late-night after-parties and all.

The way forward, for everyone, is for those who hold sway on the ‘Hill to vent their fury at the law-breaking few, not at reporters upholding the journalist’s code of conduct. Think about it: if we stop hearing reports of events in community halls being broken up by police, as we did this week, we have no publishing decision to make.

Things may be moving in the right direction. We are pleased to report moves to bar entry to anyone not wearing a mask from 50 Jewish shops in Stamford Hill and north-west London and the growing number of rabbis speaking out on the importance of following British – and Jewish law – in protecting oneself and others. 

Other than anger from a few and praise from others, if our reporting has brought anything we hope it has helped bring change. Someone once said something about the importance of saving even one life.

Now, who was that…?

 

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments