Ha'aretz has an exposé on the Nefesh B'Nefesh-sponsored International Jewish Bloggers Conference to be held this month in Jerusalem.
The list of favored blogs – i.e., those blogs whose publishers were personally invited and, in many cases, offered airline tickets or transportation and other inducements to attend – is made up…
… primarily of blogs that represent the political right and/or Orthodox Judaism.
Absent from the list appears to be blogs run by Orthodox skeptics, former Orthodox and ba'al teshuvas upset with the Orthodox world, blogs from the political left, the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements, and more.
Treppenwitz, a right wing blogger, agrees there is bias – although he approves of it:
David Bogner, one of the panelists and author of Treppenwitz, a blog about the "specialness" of everyday life in Israel, might agree that the conference lineup is ideologically skewed, but is not bothered by that. "Who wants to go listen to some carefully hand-picked panel discussion where there are exactly equal numbers of right-wing, left-wing, girls, boys, religious, secular Sephardi, Ashkenazi - there's no end to that kind of madness," he said. "I have the sense the organizers of the conference were going for pro-Israel, pro-aliyah bloggers who also get lots of traffic. Unfortunately, that demographic seems to skew somewhat right-wing religious - just as the actual aliyah statistics do."…
He goes on to say there are "some" "excellent" left wing and secular bloggers participating. Of course, the key word is "some."
Ha'aretz did a brief email interview with me about the conference. He's the quote, as published today:
Shmarya Rosenberg, whose Failed Messiah blog is critical of Orthodox Judaism, also slammed the convention. "At first glance, the conference seems stacked in favor of Orthodox bloggers with right-wing political leanings," he told AngloFile. "I think what Nefesh B'Nefesh is doing is deceitful. A true Jewish bloggers' conference would be both open to all Jewish bloggers and far more balanced."
Although Failed Messiah was a finalist in the 2007 Jewish and Israeli Blog Awards and has been quoted in newspapers ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Haaretz and The Forward, Rosenberg was not contacted by Nefesh B'Nefesh about the conference.
I forgot to tell Ha'aretz that I used to live in Israel and that, in a previous life, I led an American national Jewish students group that heavily promoted aliya – all good reasons, I suppose, to exclude me.
I'm not the only blogger quoted who feels this way. LIsa Goldman, who writes the blog On The Face, which received a huge amount of media attention during the 2006 Lebanon War, is also upset with the conference.
Nefesh B'Nefesh, ever deceitful, spins a response:
Nefesh B'Nefesh denies any bias in its selection process. "The First International Jewish Bloggers Convention is open to the entire Jewish world," the group's director of communications, Yael Katsman, said yesterday. "All official bloggers are welcome and invited to join. We don't have a prerequisite - if you're Orthodox or not, if you are on the right or left-wing, it doesn't matter."
Katsman noted that a number of blogs whose authors are scheduled to participate in the panel discussions are "completely secular." The fact that all participants have to register is standard for international conferences and merely serves to ensure that only Jewish bloggers can participate, she added.
The problem is, Katsman tells only partial truths.
Nefesh B'Nefesh offered certain bloggers airline tickets to attend the conference, and sent personal invitations to them encouraging attendance.
Those favored bloggers are overwhelmingly Orthodox and politically right wing, and so is the makeup of its conference presenters.
Remember when being religious was synonymous with being truthful? That was a long time ago, wasn't it? Especially if religious is defined as Orthodox.