Temple Sinai of Roslyn, the largest Reform synagogue on Long Island, recently decided to cease its business relationship with Blank Slate Media’s Roslyn Times after the newspaper group published a letter to the editor that the temple viewed as “bigoted, insulting, dishonest hatred.”
After the temple pulled all of its advertising with Blank Slate Media, Senior Rabbi Michael White said that the temple supports the publisher’s right to print any view it wishes but, at the same time, the temple does not see this as a free-speech issue.
“[Blank Slate Media editor and publisher Steven Blank] admits that he chose to publish anti-Semitic lies,” said Rabbi White. “And just as he has a right to do that, we have a right to choose what institutions we want to associate our names with. We do not want to give our members’ dollars to any institution that enables bigotry.”
The letter in question was published in Blank Slate Media’s six North Shore papers, including the Great Neck News, and on its website, The Island Now, on Dec. 16. In the letter, the author, a reader and former East Williston School Board trustee, made reference to George Soros, a Jewish investment banker. The author called Soros a “Rothschild banker”—a reference to a 200-year-old anti-Semitic slur.
Rabbi White said that this reference was clearly anti-Semitic and cultivates a “dangerous conspiracy theory that Jews control governments on a global scale. I read a lot of periodicals and I’ve never read such outright bigotry like this in any mainstream publication,” he continued. “We would object if this sort of hatred was directed at any community. He says this is freedom of speech. That is absurd. He is the owner of the paper, he decides what to publish and what not to publish. This is an anti-Semitic canard and he said he would do it again.”
Blank responded to Rabbi White—and to numerous letters condemning the decision to run the letter—with an editorial published Dec. 30. In his response, Blank defended his decision to publish the letter and said, “we also believe we are better served by confronting ignorant or hateful ideas than pretending they don’t exist.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed concern about Blank’s decision to print the letter and heard about the letter firsthand from concerned members of the Jewish community in Roslyn after appeals to remove the letter from the website were declined.
Evan R. Bernstein, ADL New York regional director, and Louis P. Karol, chair of ADL’s Long Island advisory committee, issued a joint statement.
“We are disturbed by [Blank Slate Media’s] failure to exercise editorial responsibility in publishing a letter brimming with some of the most well-known and harmful anti-Semitic innuendos and conspiracy theories. This is not about censorship, but rather exercising sound judgment,” said the ADL. “Media outlets are under no legal or moral obligation to publish material that is false and offensive. This diatribe of the most insidious conspiracy theories does nothing to educate readers or advance the marketplace of ideas. To the contrary, it serves only to foster hate and distrust at a time of growing polarization. We call on [Blank Slate Media] to demonstrate more responsibility in what they print and take corrective action to ensure that their editorial review process does not permit the use of such dishonest and hate-filled tropes against Jews or any group in the future.”