Why I left jewish-boston

By | March 3, 2008

I’ve just asked to be unsubscribed from the “jewish-boston” mailing list. I just can’t take it anymore.

Although the list is intended to be non-denominational, the membership is overwhelmingly Orthodox, and messages which display intolerance toward the non-Orthodox are posted to the list, and allowed by the moderator, on a regular basis. For example, in a recent message to the list, a member objected to a resolution adopted by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs calling for American Jews to support a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict (a solution which, incidentally, the Israeli government itself has consistently supported for many years). Such an objection would have been part of a perfectly reasonable political debate, had its author not also stated, “This would be no different had the JCPA publicly proclaimed the American Jewish community’s support for eating pork or violating Shabbat,” thus suggesting that anyone who disagrees with his political point of view is a sinner and a bad Jew.

In a recent political discussion, a member of the list made the sweeping generalizations that any Republican candidate is better for Israel than any Democratic candidate, and that Democratic candidates “just don’t see that the US is at war with militant Islam and Israel is an important ally.” These statements were allowed to appear on the list. However,when the leaders of eight major national Jewish organizations published an open letter to the Jewish community, calling for an end to the smear campaign claiming that Barack Obama is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, the moderator did not allow that open letter to be forwarded to the list.

The moderator recently polled the list and announced that the responses he got “overwhelmingly” indicated that members did not want political discussion on the list (he did not publish the actual results of the poll). Leaving aside the fact that the “poll” was entirely inaccurate because most people who didn’t mind the status quo wouldn’t have bothered to respond, he created a separate mailing list for political discussions and instructed members of the list to direct all political content to the the new list rather than jewish-boston. Since this occurred, several openly political messages have been allowed to appear on the jewish-boston list, all of them espousing right-wing positions, and responses to those messages presenting the other side’s point of view have not been allowed.

I have repeatedly asked the moderator of the list to either apply the no-politics policy consistently and uniformly to all political messages, or to eliminate the policy so that discussion on the list can be fair and balanced. He has not even acknowledged my complaints, let alone acted in any meaningful way to address them.

I tire of being subjected to the intolerance displayed on the list. I tire of being forced to read other people’s political propaganda but being unable to respond to it with an alternative point of view, because I am actually following the rules laid down by the moderator, and even if I were to try to break them, he would block (and indeed has blocked) my responses.

If this list is to be truly representative of Jewish Boston, then it should be overseen by a panel of moderators from all different parts of the community, not by a single moderator from one synagogue with no oversight of or accountability for his actions. If this list is to be truly representative of Jewish Boston, then it should be either unmoderated so that anyone can speak their views, or it should be consistently moderated, with the same standards applied to everyone. Silently moderating some members but not others is completely unacceptable.

Until then, perhaps the list should be renamed from “jewish-boston” to “intolerant-right-wing-jewish-boston”.

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6 thoughts on “Why I left jewish-boston

  1. E.T.

    I always thought it was intended to be an Ortho list. And I mainly subscribe for announcements and news. Other stuff I usually just delete.

  2. Ari Trachtenberg

    Unless I misunderstood, the new mailing list created was called us-elections, and it was specifically designed for discussions that related to the upcoming US elections. Political views related to these elections were supposed to be relegated to that list … but other political ideas are still fair game for jewish-boston, as I understand it.

  3. Jen Gordon

    Um, it IS YI’s mailing list, even if they presume to be *the* Boston Jewish community’s mailing list. YI’s leanings are well-known, both in Israel-oriented and secular politics. Still, *I* think it’s fun to see what tweaks I can get in under the moderator’s radar. 🙂

  4. jik Post author

    First of all, if the list is not intended to be non-denominational, then it’s an impressive display of hubris and intolerance for it to be named “jewish-boston”.

    Second, there is a separate mailing list for YI members, so if this list were intended to be merely another YI list, then what’s the point?

    Third, there are clearly subscribers on the list who are not Orthodox, and clearly non-Orthodox content is permitted, since announcements for events organized and sponsored by non-Orthodox groups and institutions are posted to the list on a regular basis.

    But really, it all comes back to the name. You can’t in good conscience name a list “jewish-boston” and then exclude the Jews you don’t like from it. I’m giving the maintainers of the list the benefit of the doubt and assuming that’s not their intent.

    1. jde

      I’m stumbling upon this six years later, and I must say I agree with you. The only statement with which I disagree is this: ” I’m giving the maintainers of the list the benefit of the doubt and assuming that’s not their intent.”
      I’m quite sure it *is* their intention. As a result of several decades of Haredi influence, all of Orthodoxy has moved profoundly to the Right, both politically and theologically, and the Orthodox habitually dismiss and disavow all Jews who disagree with them. This applies to the Modern Orthodox as much as it does to the Haredim, as apart from the few stragglers on the leftmost fringe (e.g., Avi Weiss and his congregation), there *is* no more Modern Orthodoxy – there is only Haredism and Haredism Lite.

  5. jont

    I agree with much of what you write here, particularly regarding the issue of political discussions. But where do you get that “the list is intended to be non-denominational”? I’ve never seen that mentioned in any descriptions of the group. The description on Google is: “An e-mail list of subscribers who may read and post to this Young Israel of Brookline sponsored list.” The page on YI’s web site gives the brief definition “Community-Wide Posts”, but doesn’t specifically say *what* community.


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