NYC Jewish newspaper stirs outrage with photo ‘glorifying’ Capitol riots

In the picture, Gila Jedwab, a "Five Towns Jewish Times" columnist, is seen standing outside the Capitol building with the rioters in the background smiling broadly and with her hands outstretched.

After years of positive coverage of Donald Trump, some Orthodox publications condemned the violence at the Capitol but declined to blame it on the president. (photo credit: GRACE YEGEL/JTA)
After years of positive coverage of Donald Trump, some Orthodox publications condemned the violence at the Capitol but declined to blame it on the president.
(photo credit: GRACE YEGEL/JTA)
The incendiary political situation in the US and the storming of the US Capitol in Washington last week by supporters of President Donald Trump has affected the Jewish community nationally in several ways.
But it also spilled over specifically into the Orthodox Jewish community in New York when the Five Towns Jewish Times weekly newspaper published a hugely controversial picture of the riot on the front page of its January 8 edition.
In the picture, Gila Jedwab, a columnist, is seen standing outside the Capitol Building with the rioters in the background smiling broadly and with her hands outstretched.
The caption below it read “5TJT columnist Dr. Gila Jedwab joined the Save America protest in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. She returned to New York before the violence broke out.”
The publication of the letter caused an outcry, however, and the leadership of two local synagogues, Young Israel of Woodmere and Congregation Beth Shalom,  denounced Five Towns Jewish Times for printing it.
The leadership of Congregation Beth Shalom, including Rabbi Kenneth Hain and Rabbi Avi Miller, called the publication of the photo “an outrageous desecration of God’s name... which glorifies Wednesday’s violent attack on the US Capitol,” and also objected to the description of the riot and the storming of the Capitol as “a protest.”
Young Israel of Woodmere president Stuart Wagner wrote to the newspaper in the name of the synagogue’s rabbis and lay leadership, saying that 5TJT had glorified the attack on the Capitol through publication of the picture and similarly described it as a desecration of God’s name.
Both synagogues said they were banning the paper from their premises.
The controversy led Five Towns Jewish Times editor Larry Gordon to issue an apology, saying the photo had “communicated a terrible damaging message” and that the paper “condemn[s] all violence regardless of its motivation and feel[s] that the assault on the US Capitol in Washington, DC, will be recorded in history as a dark day for our country.”
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Jedwab, who lives in the Five Towns, works as a dentist and is Orthodox, said she had received a great deal of support from friends and relatives since the synagogues’ letters were published.  
Jedwab said she had participated in the rally held by Trump’s allies and family at The Ellipse adjacent to the White House, but left midway through Trump’s speech and headed back to her hotel.
After resting for a while, she then noticed her phone light up as the attack on the Capitol began to unfold.
Rioters massed on the steps of the Capitol at around 1:30 p.m., and the Capitol Building itself was breached at about 2:15 p.m., after which both houses of Congress were evacuated as the rioters invaded further into the halls of Congress. The Capitol was cleared of the attackers only by around 6 p.m.
Having seen events begin to unfold on her phone, Jedwab said she headed back toward the Capitol. It was then, at about 3 p.m. she said, that the picture which was published in the paper was taken.
“The gesture was a ‘thank-you to Hashem [God] moment’ for this beautiful day,” she said. “If I wanted to capture the emotion of the moment: That was it.”
She insisted that she was unaware of the breach of the Capitol or the violence taking place inside the building, despite her phone going “crazy” when she was  back in the hotel.
Jedwab said the atmosphere outside the building was “a chill environment” and described the “patriots” outside the building and on the scaffolding outside it for the inauguration “as peaceful and nonviolent as could be.”
However, a photograph she posted on her Facebook page, currently not publicly available but seen by the Post, showed her in front of the Capitol with a beaming smile and in a muscle flexing pose, and was captioned with the words “We took back our house today.”
Jedwab said she took the caption down after she heard about the violence.
Jedwab says she believes the November 3 presidential election was not fair, and that evidence presented by Trump’s attorneys, including Rudy Giuliani, proved this. She also cited the conspiracy theory that electronic voting hardware was corrupted to favor US President-elect Joe Biden.
Dozens of district, federal, appeals and state Supreme Court judges also ruled against the Trump campaign’s claims of fraud, including judges appointed by Trump himself.
FOR HIS part, Gordon explained that an hour before the paper was sent to print, at about 7 p.m., he had not received any other pictures he could use.
“At that moment, when that decision was made, I had no information about the extent of the violence, or that anyone had lost their lives,” he said.
“Had that been the case I would not have run that picture,” he said.
Rabbi Hershel Billet, the retired head rabbi of Young Israel of Woodmere, said that the culture in the Orthodox Jewish community in New York is “very pro-Trump.”
He said, though, that he believes the overwhelming majority of those people were upset by the events of last Wednesday and would look on those who participated or supported it with disdain.
“This was a revolt against the government, but the US works by elections; we don’t have coup d’etats, we don’t have armed coups,” he said.  
Billet noted, however, that the community is “complex,” and that political divides have erupted within it, noting that he himself had once been derided as “an anti-Zionist.”