Mayim Bialik flashes Piers Morgan
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Mayim Bialik flashes Piers Morgan

It all depends what you mean by "flash"

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency was founded back in the early 20th century, at the time of the peace talks that followed the hopefully named Great War. Britain and the other victorious colonial powers were discussing the possibility of a Jewish homeland, and JTA aimed to use the latest in cutting edge communications technology to keep the Jewish people informed.

Back when we worked there, in the 1990s, there still was a sense that JTA was the publication of record for the Jewish community.

After all, how else would Jews around the world find their Jewish news?

The Internet has changed all that. News from Israel is reported daily by online English-language versions of Israeli newspapers, as well as by such English-only websites as the Times of Israel. Blogs report on Jewish philanthropies.

So JTA has tried to find its niche in this new world. And in that niche, this perhaps ranks as the closest thing to an emblematic JTA sentence in the (admittedly still young) year 2016:

“Actress Mayim Bialik, a public advocate of her Jewish faith and modesty, showed her cleavage to Piers Morgan on a talk show.”

This has it all. Celebrity. Controversy. And a dash of Orthodoxy-with-an-edge.

It would have been a truly perfect JTA sentence had it included the factoid that this incident became a trending topic on Facebook on Tuesday.

More details of the hot breaking news from JTA:

“On Monday’s ‘Late Late Show with James Corden,’ the ‘Big Bang Theory’ star declared herself a feminist before turning her back to the cameras and pulling down the front of her dress a bit in front of Morgan, a fellow guest.

“Bialik was defending the honor of Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon, whom Morgan had criticized for wearing a low-cut outfit as a presenter at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Saturday, earning backlash on social media.”

JTA then provides the important context, in an effort to spin the story as newsworthy:

“In the past, Bialik has spoken and written publicly about the challenges of maintaining faith and modesty in Hollywood.

“‘Being a modest dresser, that for me is a certain amount of my religious faith — privacy and chastity. Just because I have a body doesn’t mean it means to be on display,’ Bialik told Fox News last year.”

Finally, we get to that nirvana of a 21st century media company, cross-brand synergy:

“On JTA’s sister site Kveller, Bialik wrote in 2013: ‘And as a person who spends much of my life as a public person being observed, judged, and picked apart for how I look, I have come more and more to appreciate the healthy sense of protection that tznius [Jewish modesty] provides me.’”

We’ll spare you the Twitter back-and-forth that followed.

Call us old fashioned, but as much as we love Mayim Bialik on the “Big Bang Theory, “we liked our JTA feed better when it was covering the ups and downs of Jewish Agency-JDC negotiations.

That was something we couldn’t find on Facebook.

Larry Yudelson & JTA

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