Op-Ed: The JTA And The Undisputed King Of Jewish Music – MBD


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mbd[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman]

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency was once known for its commitment to quality news coverage. In their appeal for funds to the general Jewish public they write that they are, “providing unbiased, timely, quality coverage of news of Jewish interest and concern..”

In fact, however, a recent JTA report that spread to the general media was filled with misleading and false information that serves to spread hate and discord.

Quoting no Hebrew language or grammar experts, the JTA characterized a word in biblical Hebrew as a “pejorative term for blacks.”

With this characterization, they then attempted to portray Hasidic singer Mordechai Ben David as racist. The JTA then slurred the audience by juxtaposing the audience bursting into applause after the alleged racial slur was said. The Forward also made the same error. It’s headline ran, “Hasidic Star Mordechai Ben David Uses Racist Slur Against Obama — Crowd Cheers.” Whether they did this purposefully or just followed the JTA error is unknown, but the damage and false information has snowballed. JTA has vilified an entire community.

In fact, the JTA has committed two very grave journalistic errors, and in doing so has falsely maligned an entire audience of people.
The bursting into applause occurred at the announcement of, “in a few weeks there will be a new president.” The JTA either purposefully or erroneously placed the applause after the full statement. Anyone examining the video footage itself will see how the JTA maligned this audience.

The second error lies in JTA stating categorically that the word “Kushi” is necessarily derogatory. In fact, it is the English equivalent of the word, “black”, “colored”, or “negro.”

The word appears in the bible many times and it is not derogatory at all (See Samuel II chapter 18, Jeremiah 13, Jeremiah 36 and 38, Divrei haYamim II Chapter 14). In the Mishna, Tosefta and Talmud the word is not used pejoratively either.

In Israel the word “Kushi” is not used for Ethiopians, rather the word “Et’iopi” is used. When referencing an American “African-American” the word, “Kushi” is often used and it is not pejorative. There are uses of the word in certain contexts that are pejorative. Also, in this context if someone were to say, “and the Jew can go home” that would also be considered as a negative statement. It is certainly wrong, but not, however, as pejorative as, “and the kike can go home.”

No one is condoning the statement that was made. He should also never have mentioned the president’s race. This was wrong and something that should never have been done. However, it is far different than the standard pejorative words that the JTA article seems to imply. Mordechai Ben David should apologize for the usage. The JTA should also apologize both for the unwarranted slur on the audience as well as the excess in its attack on Mordechai Ben David.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.


(Yair Hoffman – YWN / Photo Credit Baruch Ezagui)


  1. why did he need to mention Obama’s race? What’s the difference? The point is what damage Obama has done & that we daven Trump will be better

  2. Agree with No. 1….there is an undertone of blatant racism among a small segment of Trump supporters, sadly including some elements of the frum Tzibur. You can passionately disagree with Obama’s policies on EY and other issues, but that can be done in a civil and respectful manner. Those yidden who stoop the level of the Paladinos and other right wing racists are likely to find themselves the victims of their own hateful rhetoric and deservedly so. Fortunately, many of Trump’s appointees, and Trump himself, are pushing back against these types of comments so there is some reason to be optimistic.

  3. When was the JTA ever “known for its commitment to quality news coverage”? They and the Forward have always been rabidly anti-religious and have never hesitated to distort the truth in order to further their agenda.

  4. Rabbi Hoffman,

    Thank you for your article. YOu are really something!

    Seems like the JTA is siding with the lousy liberal lefties who find fault with everything that does not go according to their opinion.

  5. He’s a singer and should stick to singing. Expressing opinions such as these can only antagonize Obama and his supporters. We need to remember we’re in golus and keep a low profile!

  6. MBD shouldn’t of mix in the USA presidency in middle of a concert,
    But the truth is that Kushi means African not the N word
    Also what Obama ימח שמו did by abstaining in the biased UN is much more worse then what MBD did, he didn’t have in mind anything bad like what that sore loser did to whole Israel
    He is only a singer he happens to be the best of all but not a politician he didn’t think what he said so he said something what he shouldn’t of say , big deal ,
    Swallow it and go on

  7. I agree with Gadolhadorah. Everything depends on context. The word ‘goyim’ is not pejorative per se, but can be based on its usage. Similarly here, there are many pro-Jewish and pro-Israeli blacks, such as Dr. Ben Carson and Hermain Cain. Thus, it was inexcusable to use the word “Kushi” lumping all blacks together.

  8. I think Rabbi Hoffman is 1000% incorrect….
    The only apology should come from MBD…

    Nobody except MBD would know if the intent was racist..
    but it sure sounds like a racist comment and an apology
    is inorder for that reason….

  9. The actions of an antisemimite are suddenly kosher when you involve race. Suddenly it’s not about Obama and his hatred of Israel and the rights of the Jews to their ancestral homeland. Now it’s a bunch of racist Jews. Instead of just saying in two weeks the rasha is gone, calling Obama bad, he called himself bad.

  10. How would you feel if the president were jewish and someone said ‘let the jew go home?’ You’d go nuts, writing about how antisemitic that is, even though the word ‘jew’ is not offensive on its own. It’s the fact that someone randomly brings in the president’s race that makes it racist, not the exact word he used to describe it.

    And Yair Hoffman, instead of kvetching about being treated unfairly by the media, maybe you’d be better off decrying racism in the frum community so the JSA would have less material to report on.

  11. Sorry Rabbi Yair, but in modern hebrew the term Kushi is indeed considered derogatory, and is considered the equivalent of using the N word in English. Anyone who lives in Israel (as I do) and speaks modern hebrew can tell you this.