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A Guest Post from my friend Asher

B”H 19 Shevat 5767 February 7, 2007 An Appeal for Religious and Secular Sanity to Restore Essential Civility Just a few hours ago, I had a most distasteful terse conversation with publisher Clifford Richner, one of the heirs of a distinguished family whose legacy of public service to the whole of our diverse community seems to be receding. This controversy centers on the operations of The Jewish Star, a local sectarian offshoot in the Herald constellation, self-promoting itself on the masthead Serving the Orthodox communities of the South Shore. Increasingly, and vehemently, people who become aware of such intentionally-inflicted wounds on Jewish unity, distance themselves in embarrassment, while feeling ashamed that such a “business model” is pursued for profit! Other vital concerns revolving on the long-running saga of the Vaad of the 5T & Rockaway, and the perennial issues surrounding the public Lawrence School District are treated innocuously (the former), or intentionally focusing on the negative (the latter), stressing perceived neglect of maintenance, overlooking comprehensive coverage of the considerable, sustaining, widely-distributed to the general press, news of our students’ achievements: on the field, in the laboratory, in the classrooms! Such non-reportage has become scandalous, for it being both obvious and insulting to our sophisticated population. But it was during our heated exchange that the newspaper executive blurted that it was while at a sit-down with Orthodox rabbis, several years ago, that a commercial commitment was forged for precisely the weekly that The Jewish Star has become — explicitly receiving rabbinic assurances that no stories from Conservative sources shall appear within its pages. Shaken, as I immediately became, I was further issued a fatwa that my name shall not again appear in any Richner publication — instantly reminding myself of the discredited censorious Soviet system when one could become a non-person overnight — warning me of legal action, were I to assert my First Amendment right of speech to encourage mass-rejection of his weeklies. Already, one local rabbi who receives bulk shipment of The Jewish Star for his congregation will now cease and desist distributing the paper, after he became aware of corporate policy and the hurt that is being perpetrated to the collective Jewish heart and soul. Imagine! Physically-imposing, this scion has been transformed and revealed to be nothing no more than a corner bully, possessed of similar intellectual acuity. (The New York Civil Liberties Union might want to hear the case.) This latest assault to our communal equilibrium is symptomatic of a series of misfortunes that have been visited on our fabled Five Towns. I beseech our Orthodox rabbis who participated in drafting the unholy agreement with the Richners to rethink their misguided initiative, repudiate it, and actively seek to bring all Jews together! Mea culpas are necessary and have been forthcoming recently, off the public stage: cornering me before a recent funeral, a prominent and most-respected spiritual leader, admitted, for example, that signing the Vaad letter was “stupid,” and wishes the Talit-ban that holds stifling sway in some quarters be brought to account. We have many miles to traverse to make our corner of the world a more welcoming, attractive, tolerant, open-hearted place to live. As in the unfortunate rabbinic call to avoid shopping at Gourmet Glatt, let there spiritual leadership to lift the miasma that engulfs us, joining together to demand fair treatment in reporting all the news from all of us. We, People of the Book, deserve no less! Sincerely, and with fraternal affection, Asher
Prof. Asher J. Matathias

If you want to ask Mr. Richner to explain this policy feel free to email him at [email protected]

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