NY Times reporter blasted for complaining about separation of sexes at Western Wall

Some focused on Emma Fitzsimmons’ lack of respect for different religious traditions, while others complained that journalists shouldn’t make themselves the story.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Critics are slamming a New York Times reporter for her religious insensitivity in complaining that she had to stay on the women’s side of the Western Wall when covering New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ visit to the holy site Tuesday.

Emma Fitzsimmons, City Hall bureau chief for the paper, posted on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, a picture of herself looking over the partition that separates male and female worshipers at the Wall, as per Orthodox Jewish tradition at a prayer site.

She wrote in the caption, “TFW [The feeling when] you’re at the Western Wall in Jerusalem as a female journalist and you have to climb a bench and look over a fence to see the mayor.”

The post went viral, with some 1.1 million views to date. Many reacted with sympathy and went further in complaining about “ultra-Orthodoxy’s takeover” of the Western Wall. Others – especially religious Jews – decried her lack of respect.

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Joel Petlin, the school superintendent for Kiryas Joel, a Satmar Hasidic-majority town in New York, wrote back, “The comments and quote posts to this post by a @nytimes reporter should be instructive to all journalists who are covering religious groups and places of worship. If you don’t respect the traditions of the faith that you’re covering, then give the assignment to someone who will.”

Famed American conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who is Orthodox, mocked Fitzsimmons’ wording, posting, “TFW you think others’ religious standards ought to bow to your secularism at one of their holiest sites.”

“She should travel one mile into PA-controlled territory to see how much they love feminist secularism,” he added, “and how things would go if she demanded they mimic her standards. But boo hoo, she had to stand on a bench to take a picture over a mechitza [partition] in Jerusalem.”

Others wondered if Fitzsimmons would have complained if she had been visiting a mosque and had to adhere to Muslim customs so as not to offend their religious sensibilities.

The idea that the journalist made herself the story instead of reporting one also rubbed people the wrong way.

Writer and community activist Chaskel Bennett tweeted, “As journalistic integrity, honesty, and impartiality has grown obsolete, the new norm for attention starved reporters seems to be the need to insert themselves into the story. What was once a cardinal sin for journalists has become the pathetic new standard. The @nytimes is certainly leading in this dubious category.”