Using religion as a smear tactic

Using religion as a smear tactic

In its continuing obsession with Jews and Jewishness, Newsweek has outdone itself. In an article called “Bernie’s Bag Lady” in the issue out this week, the word “Jew” (or its adjective “Jewish”) appears five times and “Orthodox” twice – and none of them, as far as we can tell, to any journalistic purpose. What is the point, pray tell, of noting that Sonja Kohn, the woman Newsweek calls Bernard Madoff’s “bag lady,” is a “sturdy Orthodox Jewish matron from Austria wearing a red sheitel”? The magazine absurdly translates this, by the way, as “a religious wig,” as if a wig could do the davening.

Newsweek notes, as well, that Kohn “was born … to a Jewish family named Blau.” Do we need this information? Does anyone? Anyone but someone looking to make a connection between Jews and crookedness?

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in his recent book “Jews & Money,” “Unfortunately, Madoff’s ‘Jewishness’ became, for some people, the central story of the Madoff scandal.” By harping, now, on Kohn’s Jewishness, Newsweek is compounding what we called, in a Dec. 24 cover story, “the money libel.”

Meanwhile, commentator Glenn Beck has his own obsession with Jews and Jewishness, and it sometimes leads him astray (and amok).

On his Tuesday radio show, he compared Reform Judaism to “radicalized Islam” – although noting that he was speaking about politics, not about faith, and “not about terror.” That does not absolve him. It was an incendiary and wrong-headed statement. Reform movement leaders are understandably up in arms, and the ADL’s Foxman said it revealed Beck’s “bigoted ignorance.”

He is ignorant, indeed, about Reform Judaism. Reform Jews are increasingly expressing their Jewishness in a return to tradition, as we noted in a Dec. 17 cover story. And the movement’s aptly named Religious Action Center views its deeds as acts of faith.

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