The Forward Just Publicly Abused A Woman And No One Is Saying Anything

In general, I really try hard not to post things that anger me. Especially if I feel like I am rewarding the site by giving them a link.

But I’m so very tired of The Jewish Daily Forward, a “progressive” Jewish news site, that I just don’t feel like I have a choice in this situation.

A few days ago, a woman was publicly abused. Her name is Racheli Ibenboim and she happens to be a Gur Hasidic woman running for political office in Jerusalem.  She was mocked, made fun of, and pushed to her limits by a man bent on pushing his agenda. And all of this was published on the Forward, in this article.

Not one “feminist” on their site has spoken up about this. Not one liberal Jewish site (like Haaretz) has decided this is worth discussing. No one, in fact, seems to care. Except Hasidic Jews.

Because, of course, the only person who has really spoken up was a Hasidic man named Mordechai Lightstone, who bravely wrote a defence of her that I won’t be able to improve on, so I’ll just take the best part:

He asks more directly about how it feels to be physically intimate with someone for the first time. Clearly uncomfortable she resorts to euphemism to maintain her dignity.

He pushes and pushes. She asks if they can move on. He tells her “No” — and asks again.

Is it ever acceptable to sit down with a woman and repeatedly ask her how her wedding night was, in the face of her discomfort and objections, again and again and again? Are Haredi women different than other women that their sense of personal boundaries and right to privacy is somehow denied to them?

Mordechai does the right thing and calls out the author of the piece.  But I don’t think that’s the real problem.

The real problem is sites like the Forward.

The Forward is responsible for the work it puts out.  Its editors set the agenda and the tone for the writers.  And pieces like this, make no mistake, are a big part of their agenda.  It wasn’t a mistake or an oversight or a screwup.  It’s how they work.

If we all understood that the Forward was simply a rag, no better than a tabloid, and more interested in views and hits than it will ever admit, then this would not be a problem.  But the problem is that the Forward, with its century of existence, is seen by many, especially the liberal Jewish world, as some sort of bastion of journalism.  And so articles like this: misogynistic, sick, abusive articles, are read and consumed without

The Forward is the go-to paper that is regularly quoted by the New York Times when it comes to anything happening in the Jewish community.  Its editors are generally respected in the publishing world.

What a disgrace.

The fact that there has been no outcry from the rest of the liberal Jewish media speaks volumes. If such an article was written in a more conservative article about a liberal, the outcry would have been tremendous.

Not one person in the Forward or anywhere else has spoken out against the post. A progressive, feminist community not fighting misogyny in its own backyard. Instead, a Hasidic Jew had to do it for them.

Why? Because this is just politics, pure and simple.  Division between people.  Division that is promoted at the expense of the values of the very people that claim to be its standard-bearers.

When will unity, tolerance and understanding apply to all people on sites like the Forward?  When will progressive actually mean what it should to these sites?  When will morality overcome politics?

I’m turning blue as I hold my breath in anticipation.

UPDATE: Thanks to a fan who sent me this article just published today in Jezebel that could have just as easily been about the piece in the Forward.

  • Rebecca K.

    The Forward published a response to the horrid, abusive article. A gentleman stood up for the lady in questions. Hooray.

  • Yehoishophot Oliver

    I don’t get it. Are you upset because she’s a woman or because she’s Chasidic? Your title seems to imply that the main objection is that she’s a woman. Maybe add in the word “Chassidic.”

  • Quiet self

    This is so frustrating, so angering. Putting politics before people means the heart has withered. It is done so often that we may grow calloused to it – so public outcries against doing so are precious. Thank you for using this platform.

    So many talk as though they would achieve a fair world if they could – based on changes in others’ behaviour. Wish they’d self-reflect.

  • Andrea Schonberger

    What I’d like to know is why she answered those ding-a-ling questions in the first place? She’s just as bad as those movie stars who give so-called interviews to scandal rags.

    • HS

      I’m sorry, giving a political interview about your career and upbringing to a well-known news site should not feel the same as giving a “tell-all” interview to a “scandal rag”.
      She answered very gracefully under the circumstances, but she should not have needed to be on her guard for questions like that. The “journalist” should be enough of a human to respect her privacy.

      • Andrea Schonberger

        When the interview started going into intimate and personal business that have nothing to do with her career and upbringing, she should have ended the interview right then and there and walked out of the room. The news site may be well known but obviously they hired a “journalist” who has an interest in news of a prurient nature that serves only to titillate and not inform the public.

        • Rivki Silver

          I wondered the same thing, but at the same time, maybe she was so shocked at the question that it didn’t occur to her to leave. I don’t know how I would respond in the face of such questioning. And maybe she was hoping that by giving a decent response, he would move on to something more appropriate (which he didn’t).

          • She may have been afraid that if she walked out he would make that the story instead (“Haredi woman too prudish to discuss sex” etc.). Or maybe she was just worried about getting on the wrong side of the newspaper and that they would run more negative stories about her.

        • HS

          I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced sexual harassment or something of that nature, G-d forbid, but I can tell you it’s very confusing. On the one hand you feel uncomfortable, but on the other hand you don’t want to “make a scene” or be seen as overreacting. It can be hard to make the split-second decision to stand up for yourself.
          I think given the circumstances, she acted in a very mature and modest way, and it’s incredibly unfair to compare her to an attention-seeking celebrity.

      • Richard Rabinowitz

        The woman is a politician. Not a prostitute. If she were a hooker, it would’ve been appropriate to talk about her sex life because it would be relevant to her line of work. However, she’s a politician, and sex life is generally not relevant to politics and policy unless some stupid opposing politician goes around trolling the first politician about it.

        (This is what happened during the whole Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky fiasco. Personally, I don’t care that Bill Clinton had fun with Monica Lewinsky, and it’s not really our business anyway, so why did Republicans bring it up?)

        • Milhouse

          Republicans didn’t bring it up. Paula Jones’s lawyer brought it up, because it was relevant to her lawsuit against him. Republicans brought up Clinton’s perjury, which is a felony for which anyone else would have gone to prison. They also brought up his history of sexual harassment of women, and Juanita Broadrick’s very plausible claim that he raped her. These are both of legitimate concern to the public. They’re also relevant when Democrats idolize this man and his wife who actively enabled him, while bizarrely accusing Republicans of waging a war on women.

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  • Dash

    To put things into perspective, when I just now read the forward article, to me it didn’t read the way the other article described it. He came off judge-y and interested too but not harass-y. The second article’s quotes are different from the first, and the first article doesn’t really describe her level of comfort. So that is probably why there is no outrage.

  • Dash

    Also the title of the forward article makes it seem like it was a cheeky interview, and that she knew what she was coming there to talk about. So that might be another reason why it didn’t bother anyone.

  • Richard Rabinowitz

    That was pretty stupid. Guy was barging into someone else’s sex life, which people generally consider private.

  • Sadly, in the UK we seem to be even further down the line than the US. No one is immune from such treatment, whatever office they hold. When Tony Blair was Prime Minister, he returned from a meeting with President Bush on the eve of the Iraq War and was interviewed on Newsnight, a major BBC news programme. “Did you PRAY together?” asked the interviewer (Jeremy Paxman, not normally a gutter journalist), as if that were an immoral or dangerous activity.

    Nor is this type of treatment is limited to religious politicians. When he was leader of the opposition, David Cameron was being interviewed on TV (on a chat show, not a news programme) when he was suddenly asked intrusive questions about his sex life. He could have got up and left, of course, but then he would be called a bad sport. And one can say he shouldn’t have gone on such a programme (the interviewer’s style was well known), but then he would be seen as out of touch – in this country, we insist that our politicians let us mock them, then we wonder why we can’t respect them.

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  • Solita Ayame

    I wasn’t outraged simply because I don’t read The Forward and haven’t for a very long time. Which leads me to this question…Does ANYONE read it anymore???

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