Nattering Nabobs of Negativism: How The Blogosphere Hates The Frum World

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frum-jewsBy CJ Strullowitz

A blogger whom I follow recently posted that, due to news coming out of Israel and certain events making headlines in America, he was “embarrassed to be a religious Jew.” It was the second time in two days I had read such a statement, and it disturbed me greatly.

This awful sentiment is the result of the constant attention and amplification given to these scandals. Yes, these scandals are despicable. Their perpetrators are guilty of the worst sin possible, desecration of the Holy Name. Yes, these scandals are embarrassing. Those of us who are law-abiding citizens of Halachah pay the price, too, in public perception.

Nevertheless, the constant, sometimes exclusive, harping on these dirty deviants demonstrates the utter disaster that many Jewish blogs have become. Rather than being sources of inspiration and introspection, most of these blogs simply serve to depress and alienate. The unceasing barrage of bile and vindictiveness leads their readers, and their creators, away from Yiras Shamayim rather than toward it. People read and read and read this stuff until they throw away their yarmulkas in disgust.

But that’s not how it should be. Mussar-particularly in our generation-should be about building up, not tearing down. Every time a religious-looking (notice I said “looking”) Jew lands in the newspapers for evil behavior, I too am embarrassed. But rather than hide, I stand up. It makes me want to keep my yarmulka on, to mount a counteroffensive, to show the world-both Jewish and secular-how a Jew is really supposed to behave.

Unfortunately, however, any input on these blogs that’s designed to bring insight, or even a bit of even-handedness (after all, not all scandals are created equal), to the conversation is met with dismissal at best and character assassination at worst. Essentially, these bloggers seem to be saying, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” You are said to be sweeping the problems under the carpet, and deemed an apologist.

With that in mind, there are a few points that ought to be made.

One, there is absolutely no statistical evidence that the behavior of religious Jews as a group is worse than that of the general society, or, in fact, not significantly better. Empirical evidence, as demonstrated by newspaper headlines, says less about Orthodox Jewish behavior and more about how newspapers operate. Newspapers aren’t interested in fair play. They are only interested in selling papers. To that end, “Man Cheats and Steals” isn’t a headline. “Rabbi [or Priest, for that matter] Cheats and Steals” is.

To believe that media scrutiny is an accurate barometer of behavior patterns, is to believe that athletes, politicians and celebrities are more likely than the rest of society to beat their wives, cheat on their taxes, use illegal drugs, engage in illicit sexual behavior, and shoot people. It is also to believe that plane crashes, which are always reported in the paper, are far more common than automobile accidents, which are not-unless there is an athlete, politician or celebrity involved.

Second, the Jewish blogosphere is not consistent. Its righteous repulsion is reserved for a certain segment of Orthodox Jews, i.e., those who happen to be of the beard-and-black-hat variety. This only betrays the blinders of their bias.

The recent Bernard Madoff scandal involved a very prominent Modern Orthodox man, who was president of his Modern Orthodox shul, and head of the investment committee at the Modern Orthodox Yeshiva University. He has been charged with civil fraud by New York State, named in countless lawsuits, and has had his picture in the paper for months.

What sayeth the bloggers to this scandal? Barely a peep.

Third, there is a startling inconsistency in this group’s trust of the media, which is vexing to the point that it can only be described as bipolar. The very same Jews who go apoplectic over the media’s slanted coverage of Israel, trust completely that very same media when they are covering stories about Orthodox Jews. If certain people want to base their opinion of the frum world according to what’s reported in the media, then, in fairness, they should base their opinion of Israel according to what’s reported in the media as well.

Only they don’t. Bloggers who throw fits, charging the media with bias and distortion, when news organizations refer to Israelis as a callous cabal of colonizers, stealing Arab land, violating Arab civil rights, and shooting Arab children-these same bloggers embrace whatever negativity the media reports when the subject is ultra-Orthodox Jews.

I’ll say it again: Every time a frum-looking Jew creates a chillul Hashem it is a tragedy of great depth and proportion. But to think that such behavior is disproportionately occurring within the frum world because of the disproportionate number of media reports simply reflects a naive view of how the media work. The publication of stories, even a lot of stories, is not a condemnation of the whole community or an indictment of its values.

Which isn’t to say that we should ignore these stories. We must face up to them and seek to restore our collective reputation. Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is very good at doing this in a positive, productive way. But, in many quarters, the conversation long ago degenerated from constructive criticism to a scorched-earth policy. We can and must do better.

 {luleidemistafina/ Newscenter}


  1. The answer is, as we have learned from the Nixon days. Worse than the action is the denials. People are frankly fed-up and disgusted by whitewashed apologetics.

    Intelligent readers want to see:

    1] If something is wrong, say it’s wrong with a open mouth.

    The actions of the “Chareidi” apologists frankly become cliche. Everyone knows who they are, and what they will argue. Instead of arguing the facts of the SPECIFIC issue at hand, they argue in generalities, trying to gain sympathy with emotion-laden diatribes against those who attack us. The apologists must realize that not every issue involves blood libels, Nazis, or Amalek.

    2] If something is wrong explain immediately how you plan on fixing the issue.

    When the specific M.O. person involved with Madoff found out, the M.O. organziation he represented came out with an apology for lack of oversight, and a PLAN. They were made aware of a problem and immediately planned for past issues, and implemented safeguards to avoid future abuses. The same can certainly not be said about the more “Chareidi” organization in America.

  2. Couple of points,

    I too used to follow some of these so-called jewish blogs and noticed a couple of items.

    1) Many of them are just embarrased to be jewish and use events as an excuse.

    2) The “logic” they use in their posts and rants is not linear. It starts with a premise and the proffs they bring miss a couple of steps in the middle. It is therefore useless to prove a point to them because logic is not a factor.

    3) Like a lot of talk radio hosts and their callers, they are just loud mouthed “farbissne” people who are happiest complianing about unhappy they are.

    4) They believe as gospel items that are included in blog posts or even newspapers. As anyone who has been close to a news story can tell you, any resemblence to the truth that appears in their “heilige” papers such as New York Times is either purely conincidential or an oversight by the editors. And blog posts are much worse.

    5) A favorite method of building an argument is based on quotes or items they have “heard” from a respectable person but they cannot publicly attribute it. These invariably support the host’s most outlandish theory. It is no question to me that the important rabbi or public figure who they allege support their view, is none other themselves and their g-d like opinion of themselves.

    6) Even the so -called unmoderated sites block posts and posters, you can imagine what the moderated sites do. The fact that this is incogrous with their oft repeated mantra that the truth will win in a free and open exchage does not seem to occur to them. As noted before logic is a foreign concept.

    7) Only they know the true teaching of their Rav, anyone else has clearly misunderstood the Rav even if it is contridiction to open gemara or halacha.

    8) They feel that secular scholars are more knowledgeable even in matters of Torah and halacha.

    9) Have you ever seen what happens when they are cuaght in a serious flub? For instance attributing something to clearly the wrong person. Suddenly it is either “Well what if so and so had said this” or ” He definitely could have said it” or ” it is easily understandable why I made the mistake” (Of course because it is the bloggers preconception).

    10) The Chofetz Chaim is probably not an important person in jewish history, halacha or haskafah.

    11) They believe (R’L) that Gedolim know nothing and are always led around by the nose and our out of date, especiallty when they pasken aginst something that these bloggeres believe is mutar and a mitzvah.

    12) The internet is the most important thing out there for our children’s chinuch. Gedolim and experienced mechanichim do not know what they are talking about when they mention the dangers of the internet. These rabbonum and mechanchim are just out of touch.

    This is just the beginning. They are so concerned with chillul hashem yet the amount that they do and create does not faze them. There is no question in my mind that there are certain stories that recieved more exposure in the general media because of the chatter on these blogs. The main stream media has been in a downward spiral in the last few years. Look at how many of the established meadia are struggling to stay afloat fianncialy. Salaries for reporters are down so they take the easy route and scan the blogs and see where there is chatter. I think everyone can think of instances where this is obvious and the detremintal effect this had.

    I would not be surprised if this also played somewhat into the chiloni Isreali government’s increased negative reaction to the religious citizens in Israel.

    I have stopped looking at them because I was so turned off by how bad they were and they were getting worse because of the reactions they were getting from their miserable, farbissne sychophants who encorage them to move further and further from the “center” to the nether world of paranoia and conspiracies.

    I just hope that others will see the futility in confronting these bloggers who are not interested in open and honest discussion and that they will fade from existence.

  3. in respose to chicago you sound like you really dislike the chareidi. what are you? you sound like you hate the frum.

  4. I commend you for writing this post. Most of the time there are no suggestions made on how to correct the issues and scandals – bloggers simply rush to be the first to post shocking news. The laws of loshon hora apply even on the internet! Of course, writing about scandals brings more hits and popularity than talking about acts of chesed and tzedeka people in the frum community are doing. Publications such as People Magazine, The New York Post, and The National Enquirer discovered that secret to success a long time ago.

  5. #3

    I am a geshmack, yeshivishe, former kollel yungerman now in business. I just happen to be sick of sheker. I supervise over 100 people who all know, no matter how bad they mess up admitting what was done will keep their job secure. Dreikups make me sick. It takes time to investigate and formalize that which was known all along. Such people don’t last very long.

    It makes no difference what race, religion, gender, or personal belief. Anyone who uses apologetics for actions done irresponsibly makes matters worse. It just happens to be that besides for the Catholic Church, OUR Heimishe publications rank at the top of the apologetics department. And, it’s sickening.

  6. Apologists are numerous on both sides.
    Self-reflection is a difficult process, check Mesilas Yesharim on how the yetzer harah devises tricks to keep us away from self-introspection.

    Regarding all the apologists, keep in mind the words of the Chofetz Chaim ztz’l who cautions against bad-mouthing even those it’s permissible to disparage, because developing an attitude of finding fault (or lack of it)will become a habit that will extend to everyone in our lives.

  7. To Chicago,

    You sound very much like one of the negative nabobs who hails from Chicago. Can that possibly be?

  8. When there is a problem with someone MO, the MO people don’t try to cover it up. That’s why you don’t read about it – when a MO person gets in trouble, nobody screams anti-semitism about it. Only the chareidim do that.

    To The way I understand it:
    You know nothing about Modern Orthodoxy or its values. To say we treat the NY Times as “heilig” is just plain stupid. If anything, the chareidim are the ones who see their newspapers (Yated and Homdia) as holy things. They trust everything written in there without ever questioning if it’s accurate or not.
    Why do you think they don’t think the Chofetz Chaim was important at all?
    As for the internet, we do recognize the dangers it poses. We also recognize that with the way the world is going, it will be impossible to make it without using the internet. The internet also provides an invaluable tool for chinuch, provided it is used properly. That is what MO is doing – trying to use it properly. As for the Rabbonim, our Rabbonim haven’t banned the internet. As for you, if it’s banned, why are you here? Don’t tell me parnassah, you don’t make a penny for going to

  9. ‘You sound very much like one of the negative nabobs who hails from Chicago’.

    Don’t you just love those STEREOTYPERS!!!!

  10. Who are “they?” I sometimes wonder, every time I hear that word, what “they” look like. Ghostly shadows in dark sunglasses lurking in the depths of circuit boards plotting to undermine “our” world.

    I’ve checked out some blogs over the years. True, some are bitter, some even seem to be certifiable nut cases. But some seem to be sincere, non-hating Jews, who sometimes see things in our camp that they can’t accept and therefore speak up. (Chicago #5 is right on – it isn’t the deed that alienates people so much as a cover-up coming from people who we expected to know better.)

    So – a challenge. Let some of those people who think “they” are nattering nabobs counter by starting a blog publicizing what’s -right- about the frum community – acts of chesed, how to be mekayem mitzvos bein adam l’chaveiro, how to avoid ona’as devarim, and so forth. Don’t just curse the darkness, light a candle. Better yet, a hurrican lamp, with the Chofetz Chaim on your logo.

  11. wow! what an article!! anyone that has been on any of these “blogs” will know that the above is 100% true. so straightforward, so clear so logical, so reasonable, so UNLIKE THE TYPICAL BLOG RANT- SO TRUE. cudos to “THE WAY I UNDERSTAND IT”- great points.

    I have been feeling these things (and more) for a long time great to see it presented well.
    Not OF COURSE, to defend any wrong behavior but what gets me the most is to see commenters side with ,or give the benifet of the doubt to anti-torah jews,or to goyim over another frumme yid-hashem yirachem

  12. “The recent Bernard Madoff scandal involved a very prominent Modern Orthodox man, who was president of his Modern Orthodox shul”

    Not true. He is not Modern Orthodox and was not President of such a Shul. Please check your ‘facts’ before writing.

    “One, there is absolutely no statistical evidence that the behavior of religious Jews as a group is worse than that of the general society”

    1) If no statistical studies were done on something, that doesn’t indicate one way or the other. That itself is no proof either way.

    2) We are supposed to better than others.

  13. Orthowatch, (what a name)

    I do not see anything in my post about the Modern Orthodox. I was referring to bloggers regardless of how they define their allegance. Does farbissne loud mouths mean Modern Orthodox to you?

    The bitter bloggers look upon the NYT as the ultimate in truth second only to maybe their favorite book of the week, you cannot deny that.

    The amount of loshon hora, rechilus and motzei shem ra, lo alanu, on these sites is frightening to anyone who believes that these are ossur min hatorah. To engage in this so gleefully is a clear indication of what they think of the Chofetz Chaim ZT”L. That is before you start looking at what they think of what is in the Mishna Berura. Yes, that is one of the reasons that I do not read them anymore.

    You have no idea if I have any parnassah from Matzav, that is pure conjecture on your part and a classic example of the arguments of the bloggers I was referring to. And your comment about the internet does not respond to my comment, it is pure obfuscation.

    As far as there being no issues in the Mordern Orthodox community that are hidden,or that are not serious issuee, unfortunately that is farcical presumption.

    But I have no interest in being dragged down to the level of the bloggers by listing this isssue with this community and that issue with that community and so on.

    These bloggers (yes the bloggers, I am not saying the community(ies) as a whole) are so convinced that they alone have the whole and true story and mesorah that, they cannot accept anyone else doing something different.

    As much as these bloggers prattle on about the percieved non acceptance by the most ultra orthodox in Me’ah She’arim or Kiryas Joel or Lakewood or Williamsburg, it, ironically I guess, is nothing compared to the outrageous smugness and self righteousness of these bloggers. And, they certainly do not give any indication that they are sort who would be involved in the tremendous chessed that the ultra orthodox provide to all jeweish communities, including those the bloggers associate with.

    My comments are strictly realted to your responses on this blog. I have never seen your blog as far as I know, nor do I have any intention to do so. As so aptly put by you before, I really have no benefit to visiting it.

    To American Citizen, it was not a stereotype at all, it was very specific. VD”L.

    It would be a healthy idea in the period of the three weeks to refrain from visiting and participating on the negative nabob sites during the bein hamtzorim.

    May we all be zoche to the geulah shlaimah, b’mehairah.

  14. Face the Issues,

    You should check your facts. First understand that he was not referring to Madoff himself. Then understand that he did not want to say the name of an Orthodox person in realtion to the deed, even if such person is Mordern Orthodox.

    To deny that here was a Modern Orthodox person who was president of his shul is silly because it is a well known fact reported in the Jewsish Week, The jewish Press, the NYT and a hundred other publications besides being on his own bio. If not for the fact that the shul’s web site was taken down, you find the info there as well.

  15. One, there is absolutely no statistical evidence that the behavior of religious Jews as a group is worse than that of the general society, or, in fact, not significantly better.

    Should we not expect to be significantly better due to the influence of torah? Why don’t we encourage a statistical study?

    She-nir’eh et nehamat Yerushalayim u-binyanah bi-mherah ve-yamenu


  16. To the Way I understand It.

    While I agree with you and your comments here and the comments of the author, the real reason I don’t read the bloggers anymore is that they don’t make me feel anymore connected to Hashem in any way shape or form. Everything is a crisis to them. The Shidduch Crisis, the Crisis of Toevas, of “frum” perverts harming our children. It just made me feel poorly. My crisis is much smaller and more attainable in reaching an answer. I need to get up on time and make it to Minyan, daven with Kavanah and smile at my children hourly. Maybe I won’t change the world but I won’t have the weight of it on me either. Have a wonderful day and night. May we all celebrate this Tisha B’Av in a rebuilt Yerushalayim. Even the Bloggers.

  17. To The way I understand it :
    I thought you were talking about MO because of your point 7. I thought you were talking about the Rav zt”l.
    As for your making money off of Matzav, even if you do somehow make money from it (which I highly doubt), it’s not by posting in the comments section.
    As for problems in the MO community, I never said there aren’t any. I simply said they aren’t covered up like they are in the chareidi communities. We certainly don’t cry anti-semitism whenever someone gets in trouble.

  18. To Orthowatch,

    Thanks for your response, it shows how accurate my comments were.

    And like I said, I have no interest in getting into a discussion of the faults of different communities. We are all part of klal Yisroel. There is much more to be gained by working on the klal part rather than trying to find differences that seperate us.

    And I hope that you and others who spend the time kvetching how “by us” this is different and we are so much better and how dare so and so take upon this chumroh for themselves or so and so rely on such a heter, even though it is an established heter, take these words to heart.

    Unity will certainly hasten the long and desperately awaited geulah.

  19. I don’t think Modern Orthodoxy is better. I also don’t complain when Chareidim accept a chumrah on themselves. I complain when they then try to turn that chumrah into halachah, and say I’m doing something wrong because I don’t follow it.
    As for getting into the faults, have you read your post? You get into the faults in great detail.

  20. Joel Rich – you’ve got it.

    Remember the story from Chazal about the sage who found a jewel on the neck of the donkey he had just bought and returned it to the seller, who thereupon blessed “the G-d of the Jews and His Torah” for producing such honest people?

    That’s the point – the Torah should make us better. What “those other people” are doing ia irrelevant. We are supposed to act better because we have the Torah.

  21. Orthowatch,

    I will write it slowly,because you obviously did not read it earlier. I did not go on to try to identify faults of any community. I wrote about the negative bloggers. I have no idea why you are so insistent that when I am talking about negative bloggers, I am referring to a specific community (Which you insist must be the MO). Perhaps you can explain. But if past performance on this thread is an indicator, you will dodge that as well.

    As I mentioned earlier, I have not read you blog so I have no idea what you write there, only what you have written here and what I have read of others blogs which I again have not identified as MO, traditonal orthodox, ultra orthodox, unorthodox, orthoprax or any other label which you seem so neccesary to place yidden into. But your response as to why you feel it is appropriate to denigrate the hanhogos of other people and your insistence on identifying yourself as belonging to a different group/community indicates that you are included in “u lefi shehoitzee atzmo min hakllal”

    As I have said before, you seem to keep proving my points everytime you try to respond.

  22. Many blogger s are simply our generation’s ‘Sbchol Dor V’dor Oimdom Alenu L’chalisaynu.Have them in mind by V’Lamalshinim.

  23. Thanks to everyone for your comments and for what I believe was, for the most part, a healthy discussion.

    Thanks also to for publishing this piece from my blog. You are all more than welcome to read and comment on my blog at

    First off, I would like to clarify that the phrase “How The Blogosphere Hates The Frum World” is not mine and was added by this site. The phrase “Nattering Nabobs of Negativism” is, of course, also not mine, having been borrowed from the pen of William Safire, who used it in a speech he wrote for then-Vice President, Spiro Agnew.

    Chicago commented: “The M.O. organziation he represented came out with an apology for lack of oversight, and a PLAN. They were made aware of a problem and immediately planned for past issues, and implemented safeguards to avoid future abuses.” This is a very good argument. My point was only to address the behavior of the bloggers, who ignored the scandal entirely. But you make an excellent point.

    Rachel R: As I mentioned in the piece, I think Rabbi Horowitz does an excellent job of criticizing with love, of lighting that candle in the darkness.

    Face the Issues and MO: You weren’t the only ones to think I was talking about Madoff himself. I was not. But I suppose I could have phrased that sentence more clearly, so my apologies for the misconception.

    Joel Rich: I believe you made a similar comment when I first wrote this as a comment on Harry’s blog. And to answer your question, Yes, I absolutely expect frum Jews to behave better than the rest of society – more honestly in the business world, more politely on the streets, more lovingly at home. And I’d like to be able to crunch those numbers. I have often thought that if I had the money I would start an organization to do such statistical analyses.

    Yaakov’s Ladder: I believe your attitude does change the world. Read my post “Crisisism” at

    Reb Harry: I think I toned it down a bit since then. You definitely deserve 50% of the royalties from this one. 🙂

    Again, you are all more than welcome to read and comment on my blog at


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