The Jewish Report Editorial

Shooting from the hip

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A Johannesburg man told his father-in-law this week that he was ashamed to be a Jew because the SA Jewish Report “named and shamed a Jew to other Jews” to (apparently) sell newspapers. They had this conversation via cell phone voice notes that were distributed to members of the community.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Jul 11, 2019

This man was speaking about the story we wrote last week about a Jewish accountant who ran a Ponzi scheme that allegedly left people in the community without their pensions or life savings. The accountant has since left the country in an apparent attempt to avoid prosecution.

Suffice to say that the man claimed in his voice note that by naming the accountant, we were humiliating his family, and that we were “the most disgraceful”, “disgusting” (among other choice adjectives) newspaper.

He went on to claim that Howard Feldman totally agreed with his sentiments about how bad we are. We have since discovered that Feldman did no such thing, which certainly would have been odd, considering that he writes a weekly column for us.

We gave our readers the simple facts of the story. Isn’t it incumbent on us to warn the community about the man, and alert it to what has – and possibly still is – going on? Or should we ignore it, or tell you a story without any names, so that unless you are personally linked to this accountant, you won’t know who we are talking about?

To accuse us of causing pain to the man’s family is misdirected. If the person was concerned about the potential humiliation of his family, he would have avoided committing a crime.

I believe it is incumbent on us to tell you the facts, not who he is related to or any other information that isn’t part of the essence of the story. Why? You have a right to know to protect yourself and others. Also, you might somehow be able to help convince him to come home to clear his name.

Clearly there are people who disagree with us, and who choose to shoot the messenger rather than seeing the need for such a story.

I accept that they want to protect this man’s family. I understand that it’s awful to read about someone you care about in such terms. And we wish them only well. However, they clearly weren’t one of the alleged victims.

For the record, neither I nor any of the journalists on this newspaper get any joy from writing stories like this. There is no upside for us, except in giving information to people who potentially need to know.

In fact, we did everything we could to make sure that we didn’t give out any details that would embarrass or point to family, friends, or the community. We didn’t paint a picture of the life this man led. We just gave you the facts about the case, trying our best to avoid exacerbating the pain.

We didn’t cause the pain. The person responsible is the person who did the deeds, and then left the country.

For the record, we – the board of the SA Jewish Report and I – deliberated long and hard on how and if we would run this story. We don’t run every story about Jewish people involved in financial crimes. We believe we had to cover this story because it is in the community’s best interest.

This wasn’t the only story that had people criticising the newspaper last week.

In our front page story, we worked closely with the family of a 19-year-old who took his life while in Israel on a two week Ohr Somayach trip. We purposefully did this to avoid causing them additional pain.

While many recognised this, including family and friends, we still received messages condemning us for causing his loved ones further pain. Clearly these readers didn’t know the family or they would have known this wasn’t the case. They – out of the kindness of their hearts – were also shooting the messenger, because they assume we are heartless creatures.

Well, we aren’t. We care about this community. We believe we are working for the community, and giving you the best possible newspaper we can. The journalists on the SA Jewish Report work long and hard to make sure that they give you a quality product every week. We work from a moral and ethical base. We do our best to make sure that once you’ve read this newspaper, you know what is going on in our Jewish world.

I’m not telling you this to try and win your honour or respect. That’s not something we can ask for. I’m telling you this so that you know. It’s your right to get angry with the stories.

You are 100% entitled to tell us what you think – I encourage it. We work for the community, so we want to know what you think. We do our best to give you food for thought. We want to give you material to debate, discuss, and ruminate over.

The death of Adam Seef has encouraged people to question how those who don’t fall into a heterosexual mould are accepted and treated in our community. This week we ask the question, and get some expert opinions.

In the light of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s 25th anniversary, we consider what he stood for, and what he meant to Jews internationally, and in South Africa specifically.

Our role is not to demean, humiliate, or upset people, it’s simply to inform you, and be the messenger of the community.

To the voice note-man and his father-in-law, I simply want to say: please think twice before shooting the messenger.

Shabbat Shalom!


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