My name is Yossi Gestetner, I am a Hasidic Jew, living in upstate NY. Journalism and writing in/for the Yiddish-speaking sectors of the Orthodox Jews community is my job for the better part of the last four years.
Despite that we are now more than a week since the arrests in NJ and NY, I must reveal that I am still very ashamed of my own. I am actually disgusted with what they did.
No, I am not ashamed that a handful of Rabbis and other orthodox Jews tried helping their fellow community member. A member who came to them begging for help and crying at his plight of imminent bankruptcy. No, I am not ashamed that criminal incidences committed by Jews are usually limited to white-collar type crimes rather than killings, shootings, gangs, and organized crime. However, I am ashamed of my fellow Jews (granted, not Orthodox) who work in the press, the journalists, and the news producers in general, at the way they portrayed this unfortunate saga.
For the average reader/viewer of the news, those 44 arrested were one group of crooked criminals who hid under political and religious fronts in order to commit crimes. The fact however is, that the main, if not the only, thing tying these 44 people together is the CW. The CW tried getting the Feds off his back by entrapping others. Most of the people who he approached would not even consider doing him “favors” if not for his slick mouth and relentless pitiful begging requests that he be saved from creditors, banks and yes, the Feds that are on his back.
By following the news surround this story and the press conference given that Thursday by the Feds, one got the impression that murky cellars and dark parking lots of Synagogues were major meeting places for crime and conspiracy. The reality is that these were the places where The CW found an instant to have a lone minute with a Rabbi or congregate. From the reports out there, one got the impression that the Rabbis were using some sort of Rabbinical code to wire money and body parts from NY and NJ to “halfway around the world”-another sad misconception. The fact remains that just one person was involved with this heartrending business of selling body parts, while using one or two of the other 44 that were arrested, to help him wash the illegal money.
The nastiest part of this whole tale is how these appalling journalists threw around the words “Jews” and “Rabbis” like that was the main factor in this case. When was the last time you read a report that “a group of Black men from a prominent Haitian Church were arrested for a certain crime”? The word “African American” is never used in any criminal report if the perpetrator is Black. Even a cartoon against a Black can’t go without an outcry, but a cartoon about Jewish “rabies” published in The NY Daily News, is ok. In the same context, did you ever see a headline saying “Catholics busted” for crimes? Of course you didn’t. But when it came to the group of 44 arrested, it was all about the Jews and Rabbis!
Speaking of Rabbis, I do not understand why Weysan Dun, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Newark Office, said during his press conference that people he arrested included “commissioners, to regularity inspectors, and of course a number of Rabbis from the Jewish community.” What is the “of course” all about? Are Rabbis really in the news all day committing crimes? And why say Rabbis from the Jewish community: Have you ever heard of a Rabbi from the Muslim community or a Rabbi being a catholic? Why the repetition? What was he trying to say by pointing out the Jewish community?
In general, it is beyond me how journalists slap the word Rabbi on every Hasidic Jew that gets arrested. On the day of the arrests, WCBS-880 had reports all afternoon (certainly until their local 3:30 report) that “fifteen Rabbis were arrested,” when in fact only five of them or less are actually Rabbis. (It was only after WCBS got bombarded at the station by calls from Jews outraged, that the report was corrected. At the 5:04 o’clock local news update they said “fifteen people, among them five Rabbis” were arrested). Those journalists, the so-called smart people in the room, should know better than using the term “Rabbi” so loosely. For starters, before using the word Rabbis, a journalist can open up a phone book and check to see if the person is at all listed as a Rabbi.
The Chutzpa did not end that day. The following Tuesday, it was reported that Jack Shaw, one of the 44, was found dead. Foxnews.com had a written story about his death and put next to it a photo of three people, two of them Hasidic, being loaded onto the Federal bus back on the arrest day. Since I am a pro-Fox News Conservative, a family member of mine blasted me with text messages asking me why Fox News, run officially by pro-Jewish politically conservatives, plastered photos of Brooklyn Jews? Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to have pictures of NJ mayors or perhaps a photo of Shaw? Shaw’s alleged crimes were on the political side of NJ, and not with the money washers of Brooklyn.
All in all, I am not saying that washing $10,000 even one time is Kosher, nor am I suggesting that white collar crime under Rabbinical supervision is ok. However, I am asking that journalists and news producers should do a better job in following and reporting facts before running to press with a bundled up “crime ring of 44.” It would be appreciative if Jews were treated by reporters with the same respect as African Americans are treated when they are allegedly (or proven to be) involved in crimes. Finally, I ask the media/press to give full-fledged coverage when the acquittals and light sentences will be handed out to those Jews and Rabbis…
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