January 18, 2005

by Reb Yudel
All along the telegraph: JTA fails to evolve

What's the role of a Jewish weekly newspaper in a blog-based world?

For that matter, what's the role of a Jewish blog that takes off a week here for a server change, a holiday there to take the kids to the aquarium, and then finds itself hopelessly without comment on the stories of the moment?

I'm not sure of the answer to the former question. But you can bet you won't find it at everyone's favorite Jewish telegraphic agency, which today decided that the Jewish angle on the Cobb County anti-evolution stickers is that.... Avi Shafran isn't willing to go on record loudly opposing evolution:

“If one teaches that the human being is just an evolved ape, and that our consciences and sense that we have a soul and free will are just phantasm — that road leads to amorality,” said Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, a fervently Orthodox group.

“It leads to it being impossible to say that any particular way of living is right or wrong.”

“It’s perfectly reasonable to hope that teachers teach students that there is such a thing as a religious approach,” Shafran added.

While I wouldn't expect the JTA to challenge Shafran as to whether his idea of "morality" still includes the idea of exterminating "like vermin" several of the other rabbis quoted in the article, the piece might be a bit more timely if it had, say, at least alluded to the current controversy about the banning of Rabbi Slifka's books -- one of the big stories I have neglected to blog. Other worthy recent posts on the matter can be found at Luke Ford, Gil Student (who is picking up the banned books in question) and the House of Hock, to name just a few.

I wonder how the Jewish newspapers who rely on JTA for their news will feel when they read the Slifkin story on Thursday at the Forward or the Jewish Week. Will they simply say "Dash it!"? Or something altogether Morse?

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