NY Times knowingly used false data to slander Jewish schools in blistering report

“Now that they have been exposed, they should do the only decent thing they can do: issue a public apology to the yeshiva community.”

By World Israel News Staff

A spate of recent reports in The New York Times on the Orthodox Jewish school system in New York have ignited widespread criticism due to allegations of inaccuracies, a lack of context, and outright falsehoods, the most recent of which was an email which proves the so-called newspaper of record was aware that data it was citing was incorrect.

At the heart of the controversy is a NYT article published on December 29, 2022, authored by Brian Rosenthal, which claimed an unusually high percentage of students at Brooklyn yeshivas were recipients of special education services. The Times ignored appeals from numerous yeshivas about the inaccuracy of the figures before the story went to print.

Adding fuel to the fire is an email, reportedly sent by Rosenthal to the State Education Department, which suggests he was aware that the data underpinning his claims were flawed. In the email, he purportedly pointed out inconsistencies in the state’s data, where the recorded number of special education students exceeded total enrollment for several schools.

The revelation of this email has amplified the controversy, with many within the yeshiva community viewing it as evidence of the newspaper’s lack of journalistic integrity in this matter. Rabbi Moshe Dovid Niederman, a member of Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools (PEARLS) executive board, has called for the Times to issue a public apology to the yeshiva community.

“This proves what we and the Orthodox community have been saying all along,” Niederman said. “The Times wasn’t objectively reporting facts about yeshivas but was pushing its anti-yeshiva narrative. Now that they have been exposed, they should do the only decent thing they can do: issue a public apology to yeshivas and the yeshiva community.”

Education experts consulted by Yeshiva World News (YWN) suggested that the state’s data, which the NYT relied on, likely represented cumulative figures rather than annual student numbers – which explains the reason why, as Rosenthal’s own clarifying email to the state asked, the number students “classified as special ed is higher than their overall enrollment.” The experts argued that the data may have included students who had received services in previous years but had since graduated or left the school.

As Attorney Avi Schick told YWN, the incident could potentially lead to legal scrutiny of the Times, highlighting the serious implications of this ongoing situation.

“It is normally very difficult to establish that a journalist acted with actual malice. But the revelation of this email demonstrates that Rosenthal knew the data he was relying on wasn’t accurate,” Schick said. “That is the kind of thing that can give a lawsuit legs and allow it it get to the discovery phase where the Times would have to disclose its own internal communications.”