New York Times Columnist Slurs Orthodox Jews as ‘Semiliterate’


Even when it’s trying to stand up for Jews, The New York Times somehow manages to find a way to insult us.

Ginia Bellafante, a New York Times columnist last observed smearing observant Jews as ignorant welfare sponges, has a new piece out noticing that there’s lots of anti-Jewish hate out there and that not all of it comes from the far right. Her latest column appears under the provocative headline “Is It Safe To Be Jewish In New York?”

Her concern is welcome enough, I suppose, except that toward the end it veers off with this passage: “Sympathies are distributed unevenly. Few are extended toward religious fundamentalists, of any kind, who reach the radar of the urbane, ‘Pod Save America’ class only when stories appear confirming existing impressions of backwardness — the hordes of children delivered into the world whom families refuse to vaccinate and keep semiliterate.”


The yeshiva students to whom the Times columnist is apparently referring are highly literate, most of them, in biblical, mishnaic, and prayerbook Hebrew and in the Aramaic of the Talmud. Some of them also speak or read Yiddish. So on the basis that their English isn’t Oxford-level, the Times is going to insult them as semiliterate? By that standard, Bellafante herself is semiliterate if she can’t read Rashi.

Imagine the cries of “racism” and bias if a politician or Times columnist were to refer to the caravan of asylum-speakers approaching the US southern border, or even to some professional baseball infielders, as “semiliterate” merely because they are literate in Spanish but not in English.

In trying to critique elite condescension toward Orthodox Jews, the Times columnist winds up reinforcing it.

Is it safe to be Jewish in New York? It would be safer if the Times columnist asking this question could manage to do so without issuing her own slur along the way.

The Algemeiner   (c) 2018 .      Ira Stoll



  1. We can not read. NY Times is too smart. If I ever pick it up again I am sick sure I am flying out of a shady little airport with no WSJ. Why would I want to the Times. They are so grand their vocabulary might ever give me a new word. I do look them up.

    The WSJ gives me a new dollar. Save the big words for the native 12th grader. He is good to the times. College out now the good WSJ and FT are much nicer. There is no vomit their read.

    Gasket trash.

  2. It always amazes me how the New York Times writers have the skill to take a simple concept, and write it in such a confusing, extremely complex, and convoluted way. Reading an article from the New York Times is like going through a tortuous serpentine labyrinth of double (even triple) negatives and changing of tenses in the same run-on sentence. With such a high level of head-aching read; anybody else is considered “Semiliterate”

  3. Dear Mr. Stoll עמו”ש
    While i enjoyed reading your article this מוצ”ש i felt the need tho point out the following,

    While it is Reprehensible to Reinforce the notions of semi-literacy of our Brethren, amongst the general readership (mainly ppl. who are either entirely or partially not acquainted with our form of life ) and it stokes a hatred of us by creating a impression that we are a backwards group of welfare recipients & members of the anti-vaccination movement of conspiracy theorists, (in plain english “Nut-Jobs”).
    If you read closely the article, you will notice that Mrs. Bellafante was pointing out a portion of the Cause (i.e. belief) held by the “Progressive Movement” and that therein lies the reason why they don’t speak up or identify with us in our hour of need, not necessarily that she believes it to be so.
    (I have pasted the entirety of the paragraph – “Sympathies are distributed unevenly. Few are extended toward religious fundamentalists, of any kind, who reach the radar of the urbane, “Pod Save America” class only when stories appear confirming existing impressions of backwardness — the hordes of children delivered into the world whom families refuse to vaccinate and keep semi-literate.”)
    if i understand her correctly her sentence “the stories appear confirming existing impressions” means that the general media on their quest to create some “interesting articles of Journalistic Investigation” tend to attack the “queer” group of ppl. living amongst the general population whom they cannot seem understand alongside their readership and end up “confirming existing impressions” by writing “stories that appear” so.
    That aside the comeback to Mr. Stoll’s well intentioned article would be that:
    1. while it is nice that the Benei Torah know Hebrew, Aramaic, & Yiddish, the language of the land is English and that we are semi-literate in a language that is most important in the arena of the larger world of commerce, government, healthcare etc. (an assumption which is proven wrong by the fact that the author who is a current Yeshiva Member can write an article in a competent level of English)
    2. the immigrants who are coming to America while they may speak a sub-par level of English they don’t shy away from making their way to a better command and grasp of English a certainly they don’t try to hold their children back from learning a competent level of English
    Therefor i would like to commend and give a heartfelt thank you to Mrs. Bellafante on her exposé article which in essence is a stand for the truth, for which a publication such as hers (NYT) is not known for and definitely when it comes to our community and the level of vitriol it generally spews against us.
    In the future when we read articles please be careful to review it carefully rather than making a knee-jerk reaction to something we think sounds Anti-Torah Observant Jews and thereby alienate those precious few in the Mainstream Media who stick to the truth (this is why i took the time to write this at the expense of time that could be better spent learning)
    A proud Member of the Semi-Literate

  4. why make a issue of what a shtick shmutz prints something somewhere. what kind of like does this writer live. does in anyway shape or form resemble our holy way of life?

  5. Actually, the offending sentence is poorly phrased and open to interpretation: “whom families refuse to vaccinate and keep semi-literate” –can be understood as “refuse to vaccinate and [refuse to] keep semiliterate.” (I.e., “whom families keep semiliterate and refuse to vaccinate” is much more clear.)

  6. Y’yasher Kokhacha: a true SH-U-B! Bodeq before Shokhaet. Outstanding, just like Mrs. Bellafante is among swill-throwers of the anti-Semitic Judaist press. Hope the calumnators above have learned an important lesson about b’deqah, which applies as much to Hachmah & Binah as it does to miqweh and sh’khitah. Hope the NYT doesn’t censor or punish her.

  7. @S Shub – I earned two college degrees (without Yeshiva credits). I have written and translated extensively, taught both secular and religious subjects in both public and private school systems, and have held administrative positions in both.

    Nonetheless, I did not understand what you were trying to convey in the above post. Could you try again with fewer clauses and run-on sentences and shorter paragraphs?


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