NYPost 'Crossed the Line' in Murder Coverage of Ultra-Orthodox Man

Monday, 06 Jan 2014 04:35 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Scores of ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders joined by New York City African-American elected officials protested the New York Post's coverage of the January 2 murder of an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish real-estate entrepreneur, according to Brooklyn News 12.

Menachem "Max" Stark, 39, a father of eight, was kidnapped outside his Williamsburg, Brooklyn, offices at midnight during a snowstorm. His charred remains were discovered two days later in a nearby suburb.

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The controversial January 5 Sunday New York Post front page, pictured Stark in the formal Hasidic garb and headgear of his Satmar sect alongside the headline: "Who Didn't Want This Man Dead?"

The paper quoted
an unnamed law-enforcement source as saying "Any number of people wanted to kill this guy," because of his debts and multi-million dollar bankruptcies.

According to the Post, "The millionaire Hasidic slumlord found burned and suffocated in a Nassau County dumpster . . . had so many enemies that investigators say they almost don't know where to start looking."

The Post said "Stark left behind a trail of angry tenants from more than a dozen residential properties" as well as "an untold number of unpaid contractors and angry business associates."

At the time of his murder, Stark owned New York City thousands of dollars for violations of the city's building code. The paper's coverage characterized Stark as a "scammer" and "loan shark."

According to the New York Times
, the "vilified" Stark was also a "pillar of his synagogue and his community" who was "quick to donate and quick to lend." His "unsavory reputation outside" contrasted with his reputation for charity within his tight-knit community.

Many members of the Satmar community — which is strictly Orthodox, stridently anti-Zionist, and whose leaders rarely coordinate with New York's mainstream Jewish organizations — live at or near the poverty level and depend on charitable donations, Reuters reported.

The conservative Agudath Israel of America, which represents many ultra-Orthodox Jews but not Stark's Satmar group, denounced the Post for having "crossed a line . . . even for a paper specializing in the sensational."

In a press statement provided to Newsmax, the organization said "The paper demonstrated the poorest taste by choosing to focus on anonymous accusations rather than on the human tragedy of a wife and family's sudden and terrible loss."

Agudath is apprehensive that the Post's coverage will incite hostility against ultra-Orthodox Jews who are already targets of violence by hooligans on New York streets. 

At the left-leaning Jewish Forward
, columnist Eliyahu Federman termed the Post's coverage "a new low," "inappropriate" and derisive, asking: "How about any decent human that believes murder is the wrong way to settle disputes?"

Shmarya Rosenberg, who broke away from the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle, and whose FailedMessiah.com blog is invariably critical of the Satmar defended the Post: "I've spent hours these past two days listening to Satmar Hasidim complain about…media [coverage]. Not once have I heard a Satmar…say that what Stark allegedly did to tenants, contractors and lenders is wrong."

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