A general view of the exterior of The Washington Post Company headquarters in Washington.
(photo credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)
It took a few days for the full Internet outrage machine to kick in – perhaps the Passover and Easter weekend delayed things. But when a Washington Post op-ed from last week caught attention online, the reactions were swift and brutal.
And five days after it was published, the writer has issued an apology for its contents.
The article in question, “I Am Tired of Being a Jewish Man’s Rebellion,” by Carey Purcell, was published online in the Washington Post’s “Solo-ish” section on Thursday. In it, Purcell details two long-term relationships she – a Christian from the US South – had with Jewish men, which both ended in heartbreak.
“Not being Jewish,” she wrote, “was not the official reason either of these relationships ended.” But, she noted, both men went on to later marry Jewish women.
And despite statistics she cited on the high rate of intermarriage among American Jews, Purcell nevertheless concluded that “dating me had been their last act of defiance against cultural or familial expectations before finding someone who warranted their parents’ approval.” She ended by swearing off ever dating Jewish men in the future.
When the op-ed began circulating online on Sunday and Monday, the responses ranged from outraged and angry to confused or amused – with a healthy dose of mockery.
And there were many parts of the essay that were ripe for censure.
As when Purcell detailed her WASP credentials making her irresistible to the rebelling Jewish man: “I’m blond, often wear pearls, and can mix an excellent and very strong martini.
Manners and etiquette are important to me, and when I’m stressed, I often cope by cleaning.” Or her interactions with one of her boyfriend’s mothers, who “was extremely overbearing, somehow getting my cellphone number and calling me, asking where her son was.”
On Tuesday, Purcell broke her social media silence and published a blog post apologizing for the op-ed.
“I am truly sorry I offended so many,” she wrote. “It was never my intention to disrespect the Jewish faith or anyone who engages in Jewish customs, traditions or religious beliefs... I realize now that I touched among serious issues for Jewish people in America and worldwide, for which I sincerely apologize.”
But during Purcell’s silence, she found herself the target of a host of mocking tweets and posts, including a Forward satire titled “How Dare Jewish Men Keep Breaking Up With Me.”
WHILE PURCELL was quiet until Tuesday, her editor, Lisa Bonos, took to Twitter to defend the op-ed and her decision to green-light it.
“The essay was clearly about her experience,” Bonos wrote.
“That’s why it’s labeled as PERSPECTIVE).”
She added that “yes, I’m Jewish. And the product of a happy interfaith marriage.
Religious identity plays a big part in people’s dating decisions and interfaith relationships *are* hard.”
But plenty of people – including some celebrities – were not having it.
Actor David Krumholtz (Numb3rs, Harold & Kumar) accused Bonos of publishing “a petty racist sensationalist article at a dangerous time to do so.” He added that he could understand those on Twitter calling for Bonos to be fired: “Many are sick of the petulant ignorant paranoia of racists pervading our media and democracy. The fact that you won’t acknowledge your poor choice speaks volumes about your overcompensating EGO.”
Former child actress Mara Wilson – best known for her roles in Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda – called the article extremely misguided and under-researched, to say the least, and borderline dangerous at a time when this country has become fraught with increased antisemitism.” She told Purcell that “I am sorry you had trouble dating Jewish men. I bet the world’s tiniest fiddler on the world’s tiniest roof is playing for you.”
Few in the twitterverse had anything nice to say – or any sympathy – for Purcell or Bonos.
New York Times writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner wondered if “maybe these Jewish men aren’t leaving you because you’re not Jewish as much as they’re leaving you because you hate Jews?” And Helen Rosner, a writer for The New Yorker, tweeted that “it’s definitely not super racist and pathologically narcissistic to write an op-ed in a major newspaper about how you’re done dating people of one specific religion, no sirree bob.”
Chabad social media director Mordechai Lightstone tweeted a thanks to Purcell “for getting so many Jewish men to talk about dating Jewish women.”
He lamented the way the article – and many stereotypes and portrayals – demonize Jewish women. “I don’t think Carey meant anything personally wrong with this. But there’s something deeply shameful about our society and how it allows us to so consistently shame Jewish women.”