Our Efforts in Response to the New York Times cartoon and its aftermath


May 8, 2019

To:            JCRC and Federation leaders
                 National Agencies
                 JCPA Board

From:        David Bernstein, President and CEO
                 Cheryl Fishbein, Chair
                 Michael Fromm, First Vice Chair

We want to thank the numerous JCRCs and national agencies that joined forces with us in engaging the New York Times in the wake of its recent publication of a highly offensive cartoon in the paper’s international edition. We want to update you on our efforts aimed at ensuring that the “paper of record” lives up to its billing. That we have come so far is a tribute to the power of our network.

The events and efforts undertaken so far are as follows:

  • On April 27th, the same day as the Poway shooting, it was brought to our attention that an Antisemitic cartoon had appeared on April 25th in the international edition of the Times depicting the Prime Minister of Israel as a dog, leading a blind American president wearing a yarmulke (see above). It contained several classical Antisemitic tropes.
  • That same day, the Times issued a statement admitting to a terrible error, but failed to apologize or share clear next steps.The Times later expressed regret and announced measures it would be taking to prevent such an occurrence in the future. 
  • On April 29th, JCPA sent a letter to the Times executive editor. The letter, attached, was signed by 55 JCRCs, 14 national agencies and 11 other organizations. It expressed our collective disappointment and pointedly asked the Times how the paper could print such an image, what the paper was doing to ensure it never happens again, and what disciplinary action was being taken by the newspaper. 
  • The following day, David Bernstein received word that the publisher, AG Sulzberger, and the opinion editor, James Bennett, were open to having a conversation. He spoke to them both that day. They expressed deep regret and shared privately with David some of the steps they were taking. David requested a meeting between Jewish leaders and the Times publisher and opinion editor, which they agreed to.
  • JCPA coordinated a meeting that took place on May 7th at the Times office. Attending the meeting were top officials from JCPA, Jewish Federations of North America, the Union for Reform Judaism, Orthodox Union, and Hadassah. The group shared its consternation at the publishing of the cartoon. The Times publisher expressed his own dismay and shared the specific actions the paper had taken and will continue to take to ensure such an egregious error never happens again. It was clear that this was a major crisis for the Times, which prompted them to take stock of their current business and publication practices.
  • Although we addressed the cartoon, our bigger priority was to attend to what several us perceived to be the larger culture problem at the Times. Meeting participants relayed concerns shared by many in the Jewish community with the general editorial and news coverage of Israel and Jewish issues. JCPA presented an analysis it had conducted of 107 Times editorials, attached, that were published over the course of nearly three years. Mr. Sulzberger and Mr. Bennett were very receptive to the critique and discussed ways the Times could address these issues. One key finding that resonated was that while the Times has admirably highlighted Antisemitism on the right, it has failed to address Antisemitism on the left. The Times agreed to a second meeting examining in greater depth the news coverage of Israel.  

JCPA recognizes that the Times is no ordinary newspaper. Its coverage sets the tone for how other mainstream news outlets perceive and cover Antisemitism and Israel. We will be conducting a content analysis of the news coverage in the days ahead. Please stay tuned for other opportunities for engagement.Click here for a copy of the letter that was sent to the Times, and click here for a review of New York Times editorial coverage on Jews and Israel. Thanks, again, for making this effort possible.