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Friday, June 08, 2007

The Jewish Week Does it Again

When I started reading this story in the Jewish Week, I thought it was a simple feel-good story about the beautiful new Mikvah built on Manhattan's Upper West Side neighborhood:
The reception area is clad in palm wood, with gold-leafed ceilings and mosaics in rose and gold hues based on those from ancient Israel. Preparation rooms feature Frette robes and a new kit with shampoo, soap and nail clipper for every visit. The women’s immersion pools are lined with glass tile and surrounded by white marble.

It’s all part of the trend to make new mikvehs a luxurious and sensual pleasure.

“Many women don’t come with a tradition of mikveh, so you need to do everything you can to make it appealing,” says Sharon Liberman Mintz, an Upper West Sider who has been involved with the new mikveh’s construction and design.

“Making it physically beautiful is the first step. When people come into a spa-like atmosphere, they feel relaxed. That’s the way it should be,” she said.
I agree completely. When a woman - especially a newly observant woman - takes the time out of her busy schedule to perform the Mitzvah of Taharat Hamishpacha, making it a pleasant experience should certainly be a priority.

I have had the dubious pleasure of, due to scheduling issues, having seen Mikvaot in cities all over the US. Let's just say that some are more, er...spalike than others. A local Mikvah here in the Five Towns has also gone through a recent renovation, and I can assert that the experience of visiting it has definitely become a more positive one. And I can't dispute that just like any other Mitzvah, beautiful accouterments make the Mitzvah more of a positive experience - which is always desirable.

All well and good.

But then the Jewish Week article takes a turn for the worse, becoming rife with unverifiaed anonymous allegations about the new Mikvah:
The new mikveh also has a new attendant, who replaces the storied Mrs. Lobel. Lobel, a tiny woman with a thick Hungarian accent, was the mikveh lady for decades at the old location. She lived above the mikveh and is regarded with affection by many of the women who used it.

The mikveh’s board forced her to retire in February, say some Upper West Siders, and gave her a severance package that she wasn’t happy with. Lobel, who reportedly moved in with one of her grown children in Brooklyn, could not be located for comment.

Sources critical of the change asked not to be named because of Gibber’s influence within the New York Orthodox community, as president of the nearby Manhattan Day School among other volunteer leadership roles.

The old mikveh was “perfectly fine, not glamorous or glitzy. If the price of having a deluxe mikveh is treating people this way, that feels very disturbing,” said one woman. “We’re building castles but treating people as if they’re expendable.”

Another concern some have had is that the new mikveh attendant will be less tolerant than her predecessor was of unconventional uses, as when Conservative rabbinical students have immersed on the morning of their ordination, or when women who are unmarried but are sexually active have visited the mikveh.

There was also concern that non-Orthodox rabbis, who along with their Orthodox colleagues have long used the West Side mikveh for conversions, would now be barred.

That has not been the case, said Conservative rabbis who have used it since Lobel left.

Anonymous allegations that the former Mikvah lady is unhappy, without any interview of her to back up those allegations? Check. Anonymous suggestions that certain users will be barred from utilizing the Mikvah - while there is evidence presented in the article that no such banning has occurred? Check. Anonymous jibes at a community leader, with the reason stated for the anonymity because he has "influence"? Check.

Classic Jewish Week. Nothing like a few unverifiable, anonymous allegations to spice up what could have been a very positive story. Just the facts, guys. Please. Just try to stick to the verifiable facts.

85 Comments:

Blogger Yid With Lid said...

Sorry Mom gotta disagree with you the story as you posted it doesn't say that the stuff happened it say that Non-orthos had a concern that it would happen--then it goes on to say DIDN'T happen.

You can't have things both ways with anonymity. When I was posting about Greenbaum a few months ago. I used anonymous sources (and confirmed the info before I posted it) to get her comments, EmaIl adress and pictures.

During the whole Vaad think last year the Star and 5TJW used anonymous Rabbis to report things without attribution. If the J-week is wrong for what they did above than I was wrong as well as those newspapers also

9:01 AM  
Blogger DAG said...

That is an interesting debate, BTW. Should single women who are sexually active be allowed (or encouraged) to use the Mikvah.....

9:08 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Actually, yidwithlid, I maintain my position. I am not a reporter, neither are you. We are bloggers that do not blog under our real names. Therefore we definitely give up some of our credibility. A news outlet, however, should stick to different standards. When they allow anonymous sources to criticize a subject of the article, they turn into nothing more than a gossip column. Real news outlets do not grant anonymity just so that a source can insult a subject of the article. Anonymous criticism isn't really criticism - especially in this case, when the criticism is either baseless or completely unproven. That's a whole different animal from a news outlet granting anonymity to a source who is providing facts - as opposed to personal insults and swipes.

If every legitimate news source allowed anonymous sources to make unproven, unproveable, or demonstrably false allegations (as in this story), we would no longer be able to rely on such news sources for actual "news".

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dag,
An unmarried woman having intercourse without Mikvah gets a punishment of KARET - unnatural death.
IF she goes to Mikvah - it is ONLY MALKOT - 39 lashes.
Pretty heavy price to pay for a bit of pleasure.
Anyway - I don't understand the debate, we can't pick and choose which of the 613 we will keep or violate. It's an all or nothing deal, the last time I checked.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Yid With Lid said...

But then what about the Star and 5TJW quoting Anonymous Rabbis during the whole VAAD thing last year?

9:27 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Yid With Lid said...

But then what about the Star and 5TJW quoting Anonymous Rabbis during the whole VAAD thing last year?


Again, as I noted, there are times when a news source makes a decision to use information from an anonymous source that they deem too important to leave out (not making a judgment on this particular case). In this case, we are talking about anonymius criticism of an individual, without any backup of the facts - infact, there is evidence to the contrary noted in the article.

There are certain specific standards for news outlets regarding the use of anonymous sources - and the Jewish Week breaks them again and again. Anonymous criticism with no facts to back them up is de rigueur in the blogosphere - but I expect better from nationally distributed newspapers.

I got e-mailed a few years ago by a reporter for a major local publication, looking for me to go on the record about a certain story. I was ready tp do so, until the reporter made it clear that her editor had ruled that "on the record" meant I had to do it under my real name. I politely declined.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous jono said...

To Yid With A Lid:

the New York Times has a policy on anonymous reporting:



In any situation when we cite anonymous sources, at least some readers may suspect that the newspaper is being used to convey tainted information or special pleading. If the impetus for anonymity has originated with the source, further reporting is essential to satisfy the reporter and the reader that the paper has sought the whole story.

We will not use anonymous sourcing when sources we can name are readily available.

Confidential sources must have direct knowledge of the information they are giving us — or they must be the authorized representatives of an authority, known to us, who has such knowledge.

We do not grant anonymity to people who are engaged in speculation, unless the very act of speculating is newsworthy and can be clearly labeled for what it is.

We do not grant anonymity to people who use it as cover for a personal or partisan attack. If pejorative opinions are worth reporting and cannot be specifically attributed, they may be paraphrased or described after thorough discussion between writer and editor. The vivid language of direct quotation confers an unfair advantage on a speaker or writer who hides behind the newspaper, and turns of phrase are valueless to a reader who cannot assess the source.

Anonymity should not be invoked for a trivial comment, or to make an unremarkable comment appear portentous.


I think the NYJW must have a different policy.

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.apme.com/news/2005/060805anonymous.shtml

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They are entitled to bring up concerns that the standards might change, but not the way they present it, wothout any proof or on the record quotes. I can make any suggestions I want in an article, but that doesn't make it reporting. The NYJW consistently uses journalistic standards well below what they should. Of course, they are far from the worst ofenders in Jewish journalism, but thats a whole otehr story.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ortho-

I think you misunderstand the point of that segment of the article. Its point is to convey the mixed reaction of the community to this new mikva, it wasnt an “exposé” on the mikva.

They interviewed people who are upset that the lady was switched and who have fears about the way it will be run. None of this really needs to be verified. Some people are upset, some think the lady wasnt treated properly and have uncertainty about this new mikva. These are the rumors and speculation that are spreading throughout the community, and the JW is reporting them. They never tried to pass this off as inside info or anything more than neighborhood gossip.

The jewish week could have investigated each community members concern and speculation, but as I said, that wasnt the point of this article. They were just reporting the community perception.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Annie said...

As a single (religious) woman who will one day be using the UWS mikveh (IYH), and who has seen some of the grody older ones, I'm excited about the new mikveh. And disturbed that the Jewish Week printed a comment about how the old mikveh lady is "unhappy" without comment from her.

If that type of evidence doesn't pass as evidence in a Beit Din, it shouldn't in the Jewish Press, either.

10:33 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...



I think you misunderstand the point of that segment of the article. Its point is to convey the mixed reaction of the community to this new mikva, it wasnt an “exposé” on the mikva.


Either way. They take anonymous swipes at the community member who heads the new Mikvah board (Gibber) - so every allegation they make about the new Mikvah not being up to snuff should be sourced responsibly. This is my opinion on the matter. This isn't a situation where the allegations are amorphous and don't affect a specific person. The article names someone, and suggests that people don't want to speak out against him because he is "influental". I think the Jewish Week allows anonymous sources free rein to take swipes at individuals far too often, and I think it's shoddy.

There is not one verifiable thing that anyone has found that is wrong with this Mikvah - yet the reader walks away thinking that there is. There is no balance to this article, and I find it objectionable.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Yid With Lid said...

Actually the pont of that part of the article was to Dispel those fears. Not to critisize.

JONO I wouldn't use the NY Times as a source for rules about Journalism. They perpetuate some of the worst slander about Isreal and the Jewish Community.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

There is no balance to this article, and I find it objectionable.

This is precisely the problem here. There are three paragraphs using anonymous sources taking swipes at the mikvah and only one paragraph at the end suggesting that these concerns are unfounded. To the extent that the very fact of the objections are newsworthy, the way to report on them is to say something like "while some in the community expressed fear that the new mikvah will be intolerant and exclusionary, these fears appear to be unfounded as several Conservative rabbis reported that they were allowed to use the mikvah." Instead, it reads as a he said/she said, with much more attention devoted to one side of the dispute.

Also, their heavy, almost exclusive reliance on anonymous sources is just plain bizarre. Can't they get anyone to go on the record? Even the "Conservative rabbis" who reportedly used the mikvah are unnamed.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Observer said...

Couple of points: 1) I think Krum hit the nail on the head (which backs up one of OM's points). Why the heck would a paper print unverifiable anonymous allegations that are proven wrong in the last paragraph of the very same article. It is as if the reporter went began to write the story based upon such innuendo, found it it was wrong with a phone call, but then printed it anyway because it made the story juicier (jewcier?). Shoddy journalism! Yid mit der Lid -- I half disagree with you about the Times: I think they have great policies; the highest standards in the business. They just don't live up to them. E-mail their ombudsman with a complaint or question (as I have a couple of times with respect to Israel stories) and you get a beautiful form e-mail laying out wonderful policies. Just no follow-up -- in apparent violation of the Times' own standards.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

um, anon, the issue of whether or not an unmarried couple sleeping together constitutes a lav deoraisa, is not perfectly clear, and now it seems that it may not be one at all.

not to say it is good, but it does not seem to be a formal lav.

11:51 AM  
Blogger DAG said...

Halfnut...that doesn't mean it is not Assur....the debate, as I understand it, is based on the belief that out of wedlock sex IS assur at some level, and that we try to prevent Averios whenever possible, but we do NOT try to minimize the severity of an Avirah by one who would be committing it anyway.


What if a couple said they want to be "married" but without Chupah, Kedushin or Nessuin so that they can sleep around without Cheyuva Korais? Should we endorse their relationship at some level?

12:21 PM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

dag, the two are entirely different.

Firstly, the second example the couple is formaly married. They are just transgressing alot of other laws in the process (remember that sleeping together is a valid kinyan)

in the first example you have what ever level unmarried sex is as an issue (which evidently isn't much) and then you have an additional lav, that od niddah.

and why on earth do we have to give them a second lav if they're going to break the first? We're not minimizing an actual avaira, we're only removing an unecessary lav.

(and this comes from someone who would have no plan to benefit from such a permission.)

If memory serves in former times, IE in the times of the bais hamikdash when tehara was a real issue, even unmarried women went to mikvah.

why on earth do you have to give them a seperate, completely unrelated lav in addition to the first not-good action?

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

half,
Sleeping together is only a kinyan, when it is done with the intention of marriage with all the proper kavanot. I highly doubt that is what is on their mind at this moment. Also there are issues of witnesses (I do not mean to the act, to the "marriage") etc.
Anyone who would like to use this "form" of marriage ceremony should consult with the proper people (Rabbi or Dr, I don't know which is more appropriate).
BTW, we are not adding or taking away lavin, G-D is. if He wanted out of wedlock sex to be muttar, it would be.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But then what about the Star and 5TJW quoting Anonymous Rabbis during the whole VAAD thing last year?

9:27 AM

the whole "vaad" thing was created to force a business out of business/.. the vaad created a tumult and succeeded in GG's forced sale.. and now, the vaad is doing it again to bagel island.. do you all know that RE has even specified who the buyer must be..someone who is currently a GG investor. COLLUSION, OF COURSE.

there has been talk of legal action.. verified talk... this will be a hot topic in a few months.. be prepared to have all our MO dirty laundry exposed to the secular world.. Kudos to the vaad for helping make us pariahs..

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I have a problem with this: "The reception area is clad in palm wood, with gold-leafed ceilings and mosaics in rose and gold hues based on those from ancient Israel."

Why go for the ornate when practicing a positive commandment? It is a bit of idolatry here. How about clean, new tiles that are easily sanitized (I LOVE pearly white bathrooms or stainless steel countertops, sinks, appliances, etc.).

We all know that the unwed should abstain and they have to answer to G-d, so that isn't the discussion as far as I am concerned. The attraction by spending money where it can be used for other purposes (like the poor lady that was let go) should have been the answer.

You know, people don't have their priorities in the right place anymore.

2:07 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

Halfnut...but an issur still. Should we try to find ways to minimize the Issur involved in Lavim in general? Should we encourage those who eat Basar Vchalav to make sure the meat and the chesse were not cooked together....or ask them to eat chicken and cheese as opposed to beef?

4:45 PM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

again, two different issues. The issue of unmarried boys and girls sleeping together has nothing inherent to do with niddah.

one issur is entirely unchanged, the other not really related, but only to a different issue.

YOu realize that at one point unmarried women as well as married women went to mikvah?

5:55 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

Yes I realize they did, Halfnut...but wheter or not single womne are niddah or not...the act is the same. The sex itslef is prohibited, PERIOD. It is not our job to try and minimize the aveiros committed when they are commitng avereiros.

Check this out, btw
http://www.ou.org/abstinence

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. I read it today. Felt weird about it. Similar to how I feel about the Chareidi "reporting" that I sometimes stumble on. I have read the Jewish Week for years and they do do this from time to time. It weakens their credibility and I'm glad that people notice. A well-written letter to the editor...or a few...

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Facts never make good stories.

1:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is a well known story of reb yisroel salanter teaching storekeepers who wrote on shabbos to do it with a shinuy so it would only be an issur drabanan

9:20 AM  
Blogger DAG said...

Source, Anon 9:20?

10:35 AM  
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12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised The Jewish Week didn't tack on an added paragraph ripping a huge Talmid Chacham or local Orthodox Rav. Maybe they only do that every other week.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

Dag, in my experience the rabbis are ALWAYS doing things to lessen intentional sins, infact there is an explicit satement in the kitzur that "regarding this issue, do not speak about it to them (ie those doing it) because they will do so anyway and better that they should transgress unwittingly than willingly."

And this is ALL OVER our litterature, cases where we are adjured to minimize the sins of our fellows because they will be doing so anyway.

I'd want to see a source for saying we can't!

12:43 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

Halfnut...that is not an anlogous case. That comment refers to Mazid as opposed to shogag. It does NOT refer to lessenig the severity of an act that is fully mazid

6:44 PM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

and there are such examples as well, although I am poor with examples.

Our sages constantly sought to lessen peoples guilt.

so tell me, where in the talmud is this principle formulated exactly?

9:32 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

Halfnut...I don't have such a quote...but if the sages were "constantly" doing it, can you provide one example?

The sages would encourage positive behavior by avoiding the issur in a particular case (Pruzbol). I can't think of a case where the sages tried to eliminate the more severe of a transgression in an act that remained prohibited

9:12 AM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

the dag, as we seem to stand at a stale mate, until you can quote an actual authoratative source accepted as halacha (such as the bais yosef), please refrain from criticising people who chose to allow teens to minimize the number of sins they are doing.

Certainly the danger of loosing them completely would be far more worrisome no?

and I would still be interested in seeing what exactly the source is for it being a sin at all once niddah is removed, since I cant' seem to find it and the common source (in kedoshim) has been debunked as not being a source at all!

11:47 AM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

the point is such a stance drives people entirely away from torah, making it totaly all or nothing, as in if your not willing to do everything we want you to, then we don't want anything to do with you.

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fact. single women on the upper wesy side use the mikvah. fact. this is not in accord with halachah. so the mikveh lady that allowed this is wrong.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

where in halacha does it say that a single woman may not use the mikvah?

Me thinks you wont find it, because in certain cases the shulchan aruch instructs single women to use it (like on erev yom kippur).

so please stuff it.

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a married frum man, with children, BT background from a long time ago.

I would win the bet that all of the commentators here are FFBs, led by Orthomom. You're all whiny, kvetchy yentas, typical of everything I see in the dysfunctional FFB "community".

The Jewish Week is a good paper. This was a good article. You want perfect, go learn Torah. Otherwise, stop with the orthodox persecution complex and get a life.

Call me, Barely Tolerant of Most of You....

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:48pm

finally, a man i can identify with...i agree,, these women need to get a life and spend more time with their children and less time looking down their noses at the rest of us that are not "as frum" as they are....at least i dont gossip or speak ill of others... i listened to my morah and do unto others..... i wish my neighbors did the same.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A sane voice is heard from Anon. at 4:59 p.m.

Ladies, listen up. You've got too much time on your hands.

Barely Tolerant...

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, the last few are obviously the same guy, and all I can say is...HUH?

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am anon 4:59pm i am sorry you thought i was a man.. i happen to be a female psychologist somewhere in queens/far rock/nassau county.

i guess i think like a man where nonsense is concerned. fellow females with brains....stop following and start leading your children to be better people in general.. judaisim can only benefit.

6:15 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

half...we are at a stalemate...but methinks if you endorse a practice that is decidedly NOT the custom, you need to bring the proof, not me. I ask if you can give me an authoritative halachik source that endorses minimizing the severity of a sin done entirely premeditated and Bmazid in an inclusive act (even in a Derabanan Vs Doriash case).

My understanding is that the Gezaira that disallowed single women from going to the Mikva was established specifically to prevent Znus. I will hunt for that reference tomorrow. Until then here's what I could find (I did NOT research these myself, they are from Mail Jewish Volume 29 Number 51)
Ribash, Siman 425
Shulchan Arukh HaRav, Siman 606, S'if 12
Ben-Ish Chai, Year One, Nitzavim, S'if 3
Sdei Chemed, Ma'arachot Yom Kippur, 1:6

6:45 PM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

at least the shulchan aruch harav explicitly says they chould practice it.

Further from a halachic perspective it is utterly impossible that it lead to znus, as znus is not relevant to a case where the two could theoreticaly marry. (see rambans comments on vayikra 19:29)

from what i'm seeing the sdei chemed is the source on this, and from what I have seen, if they are concerned about the unmarried sleeping around, the implication is that it would then actaly be permitted them.

this means that any such gazera is of very recent, around actualy a hundred years old.

7:57 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

My understanding is the gezira went into effect after single women stopped needing to go to the mikva (after the churban).

Znus was wrong word..I meant promiscuous

9:10 PM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

then praytell why do most of the achronim state that young girls should also go to the mikvah on erev yom kippurim?

Obviously noone thought that way in the alter rebbes time or in the magen avrahom's time or in the rishonim's time, so obviously who ever told you that was wrong. (I prefer not to say that they were lying.)

again you need a source, and you need a source to say that this gezara was ever fully accepted by klal yisroel.

9:58 PM  
Anonymous frumsatire said...

You have got to check out the mikvah in Birmingham Alabama. It is way cool and a pleasure to dunk in.

10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

half nut case; the reason for the mikvah on erev yom kipur was the same reason men go. it was not so they can sleep around. dag is correct the gezera the rabanan instituted was to prevent the sleeping around. so yes if a girl goes to the mikvah and sleeps with a guy she is oiver on a isur drabanan.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

half... it seems that if you would let your daughter sleep around if she went to the mikveh then you are an am ha'retz. are there those who say they can dip yes, but we do not paskun like them. this is an isur d'rabonon, and no diff. than any other isur drabonon. so if you dont lain megillah esther on shabbos, and you dont blow shofar on shabbos, etc. then dont sleep around b/c you went to the mikveh.

10:06 AM  
Blogger DAG said...

Anon 10:06...no need to get personal....

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"fact. single women on the upper wesy side use the mikvah. fact. this is not in accord with halachah. so the mikveh lady that allowed this is wrong. "

does anyone know that the mikva lady even knew they were single? Many of the married women at this mikva do not cover their hair, and are not otherwise acquainted with the mikva lady (ie, don't see her in shul...). people just come in and out. should the lady make them sign an affidavit that they are married?
it's quite likely there are also people using the same mikvah who are keeping something like "buiblical" niddah laws (ie, 7 days, no shiva nekiyim). does that make the mikvah lady who did not interrogate them as to their personal practice before "allowing" them in "wrong"?

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Ted Mundy said...

JEWS should realize that Orthodoxy does not have a monopoly of Judaism and even within Orthodoxy there are many stripes. Some of you brave frumies should take the courage and attend a friday night service @ Temple Sinai on Washington Ave ( right near Dougies). There's alot to learn from Paula Winnig She has more integrity in her brand of observance than our entire Vaad put together . ( she has been seen at Gourmet Glatt)

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fact. single women on the upper wesy side use the mikvah. fact. this is not in accord with halachah. so the mikveh lady that allowed this is wrong.

FACT???!!!!!!! single women on the upper wesy side use the mikvah
In what world is this a FACT????

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used the mikveh when I was single. Yes, I had sex before marriage and, as an observant couple, we decided that I should go to mikveh. I am not Orthodox. The mikveh is there for me, as it is for any of you. The mikveh lady did know my marital status, as she does not now, for I don't cover my hair.

The mikveh is there for all Jewish women (and men) who wish to partake of this mitzvah. If you hope to encourage any and all Jewish women to embrace the mitzvot, you will respect their right to do so in their own way. This will keep it going for all Jewish women, not just Orthodox women.

I'm so tired of people saying all this "all of nothing" hogwash. It just alienates those who wish to practice mitzvot.

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