Like many Torah-observant Jews, I was both shocked and saddened upon hearing the news that a father-of-eight Chassidic man, Menachem “Max” Stark, was kidnapped in Williamsburg one snowy evening, only to end up in a Great Neck, L.I. trash bin at a nearby gas station burned to a crisp. I personally found out about this last night when speaking with a personal friend of mine that lives in the area, when he commented that his parents were worried sick about him considering he lives near the crime scene. He admitted to me that he was shaken up as well as for him, it hit close to home.
While my friend and I were talking by phone, I went straight to the Yeshiva World News to find out more about it. Apparently, Menachem Stark was a slum lord (nothing wrong with that) that owed millions of dollars to a variety of people whom he borrowed from. While I’m not here to justify that kind of activity, I also want to state that I don’t think the “punishment” justifies the crime in any which way.
Which then leads me to the New York Post. Wanting to see how the “semi-professional” media dealt with the situation, and noting the New York Post’s long rich history of being pro-Jewish and pro-Israel (despite the other shmutz and racy photos present in their paper), I went online. I was then greeted with the sensationalist headline “Who wouldn’t want him dead?” Really? Well, let’s see now. His wife and eight children for starters, family and community members. People who he might have helped out. And yet, the Post makes a real attempt to demonize him by implying that nobody didn’t want want him dead! In the actual article, the headline reads “Slain slumlord found in trash has enemies list a mile long.” Assuming that each person standing measures 1 foot, does that mean that there were literally 5,280 people after him? To say that these headlines are sick and insensitive would be a gross understatement.
Another thing that absolutely disgusted me was where the New York Post got its sources. Two of the quotes the New York Post put in the article came from a commenter in the sensationalist blog FailedMessiah.com. For anyone uninitiated, FailedMessiah.com is a blog started out by Smarya Rosenberg, a fellow formerly affiliated with the Lubavitch movement that grew disenchanted with the whole organization, opened a blog, clearly referring to the 7th Rebbe. Mr. Rosenberg has spent the better part of the last decade muckraking, finding anything negative that has to do with Judaism. While a lot of his posts contain some element of truth, one must take much more than a grain of salt when reading his posts as a) the entire story isn’t presented, and b) many that comment on his blog are also fellow haters. Besides, how intelligent does “His slanted shtreimel on his head gives his crookedness away” and “Sentence his kidnappers to live in one of his buildings” sound, anyway?
The last thing that bothered me was where the New York Post got its photo. On Facebook, where I’m friends with B”H a nice Jewish network (and can therefore get information relatively quickly), Eli Wohl, a photographer, is now claiming that he took the photo and the New York Post stole it from him. He is now seeking legal action.
From what I’m seeing on social networks and the blogosphere, many are outraged and have seen organizations publicly condeming the New York Post for its sloppy and offensive bias. For example, at Brooklyn Borough Hall there was a demonstration where the New York Post was publicly denounced.
Until now, I actually thought that newspapers agencies the New York Post were justified in today’s digital age of blogs and social media to charge money for their papers. Now I see that this blog post is as good, if not better, than anything that they write.
So, how far off the deep end has the New York Post gone? I’d say very far indeed.