Haredi press uses ‘Jewish center' when describing Tree of Life synagogue

Haredi online media rejects community’s establishment standards, describes Tree of Life as synagogue and Conservative.

October 28, 2018 15:21
2 minute read.
Man reads newspapers in Jerusalem.

Orthodox haredi man reads newspapers media news 390. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)


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Israel’s haredi press covered the Sabbath attack on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in full Sunday morning, but as has become the norm the online haredi media reported uncomfortable facts and notions without blinking whereas the daily newspapers, which are controlled for content by rabbinical committees, used their traditional euphemisms.

The troubling matter in question: non-Orthodox synagogues and Jews.

Almost all the leading haredi daily newspapers led their Sunday editions with the news, but neglected to use the word synagogue to describe the building where the Conservative congregation which was attacked prays.

The widest circulation haredi daily Yated Neeman of the non-hassidic “Lithuanian” community led its newspaper with the story, with its headline reading “Neo-Nazi terror attack in Jewish center,” but did not mention that the Tree of Life community is progressive or use the word synagogue.

Hamodia, another widely read haredi daily of the hassidic community, also led with news of the attack, and like Yated described it as a “Jewish center”, but unlike Yated noted that the synagogue was non-Orthodox describing it as Conservative.

The newspaper did however run a page one commentary decrying the rise in antisemitism in the US, and the Tree of Life shooting and the shooter for his antisemitic attack, which it described as seeking “to harm Jews just for being Jews.”

The Hapeles haredi daily also had a front page headline about the attack and described the synagogue as a Jewish center, without mentioning that it was a progressive community.

By contrast, both the widely read haredi news websites Kikar Hashabbat and B’Hadrei Haredim used the word synagogue and mentioned that Tree of Life is a Conservative congregation.

And the US branch of the Agudath Israel haredi movement denounced “the murder of 11 people during a Shabbos service this morning in a Pittsburgh synagogue” and expressed sympathy with the bereaved families and their friends “who were targeted because they were Jews.”

Agudath Israel America also condemned antisemitism in general, called for social media platforms and other groups not to tolerate antisemitism, and concluded that “Until all Americans confront the horror of anti-Semitism head on, our great Democracy will not have achieved its promise.”

Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said he was “shocked to hear of the murder of innocent Jews in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for simply being Jews,” and said that “My heart is with the bereaved families & with all our Jewish brothers living in the US.”

The chief rabbi also denounced rising antisemitism in the US, saying that ”Unfortunately, antisemitism has risen its head again in the US,” calls on Jews to act with “extreme caution.”

An editor on the national-religious website Srugim tweeted out an acerbic comment in reference to a Conservative rabbi from the same neighborhood as the Tree of Life congregation who gave an interview on Shabbat, seemingly violating the Sabbath, saying “A rabbi who does an interview on Shabbat. Tell me more about Judaism in the US.”

He later deleted the tweet following heavy criticism.

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