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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, April 27, 2002

New York Yiddish retro radio feels anti-Israeli backlash

By Katherine Roth
Associated Press

NEW YORK — The Yiddish Radio Project, a 10-part series airing on National Public Radio, was meant to be a sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking glimpse of an immigrant community at its peak.

But after the most recent violence erupted in the Middle East, the program featuring gems of Yiddish radio from the 1930s to 1950s is attracting anti-

Semitic e-mails from listeners of NPR's 700 stations.

"The vituperative nature of some of the e-mail caught everyone off guard," said Henry Sapoznik, co-producer of the series. "Some of it is what I call good old-fashioned nativist American anti-Semitism."

The series airs Tuesday evenings on "All Things Considered."

About half of the 300 letters NPR received were negative — and half of those were "blatantly anti-Semitic," NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin said Tuesday. The number of negative letters was about average for a series, but the tone was unusual.

"A lot of it is the 'Jews control the media' and 'Who's really paying for this?' type of thing," he said. "Then there's a whole bunch of stuff that's predicated on the turmoil in the Middle East."

For instance, one person wrote: "How do you say bloody Israeli stormtroopers in Yiddish?" Sapoznik said.

"Who in their right mind is going to conflate a program about Yiddish-speaking Jews from New York in the 1930s and Israeli soldiers today?" Sapoznik asked.