Based on the large number of calls we?ve received at the Pacific Northwest Anti-Defamation League office, many within the Jewish community have seen the recent cover article in the Seattle Weekly, ?The ?Jewish? Con,? by George Howland, Jr.
We?ve seen it, too.
So many people have called to complain about the title of the story and the graphics used (a skin-head with a Star of David tattooed on the back of his head, a Star of David superimposed on a swastika), that we wanted to let you know that we have responded and what our response was.
First, for those who have not read the article, read it. It?s well-researched and well-written. Howland?s story on the prison scam where non-Jews (often gang members and white supremacists) claim to be Jewish to get privileges (kosher food, opportunities to meet together regularly, etc.) highlights the dilemma faced by dedicated prison chaplains. Chaplains find that the prisoners and, through them, the state, effectively dictate how religions are to be interpreted and observed in the prisons.
Chaplains, like Chaplain Gary Friedman here in Washington, face a choice: accept and minister to these false converts, becoming party to the misinterpretation of their faiths, or adhere to their religious beliefs, rejecting the self-proclaimed converts, and face the prisoners? lawsuits, lawsuits that may result in the chaplains facing personal liability.
Unless this is resolved soon, chaplains may quit, leaving legitimate practitioners without religious assistance or support. Washington State, Attorney General Rob McKenna, and the courts need to solve this problem.
We did complain about the title and graphics to the writer and to the editor of the Seattle Weekly. The title and cover photo, which grabbed attention, left many who did not read the story thinking it was about a ?con? by Jews. And the image of the Star of David (the ?Jewish star?) superimposed on the Nazi swastika was completely unnecessary and insensitive and, based on the numerous calls we have received at the ADL, caused many members of the Jewish community a painful, visceral negative response.
Please know that we think the Seattle Weekly management understands our concerns and recognizes now how their choice of graphics, meant obviously to promote the story and the paper, has hurt many people. We will follow up with the paper and hope that, in the future, they will think twice before associating a religious symbol, let alone a Star of David, with a symbol that represents the hate and horror of the Nazi regime and neo-Nazis today
Robert S. Jacobs
Pacific Northwest Region