The Haredi media ecosystem is missing something crucial

What does Shtetl bring to the table?

Credit: Mo Gelber/Shtetl


This is both the best and the worst time for American journalism. The quality of investigative reporting and the reach of digital media has transformed the power of the press. At the same time, community newspapers across the country are folding or constricting, leaving many readers with little opportunity to find out what’s going on in their communities.

By contrast, the media landscape in the Haredi world remains largely untouched. Print media is thriving, thanks to a growing readership. Online Haredi outlets look much the same as they did a decade ago.

But just because Haredi media isn’t facing an existential crisis doesn’t mean it is serving the community well. Like all communities, Haredi readers deserve news that is produced independently, not controlled by vested interests. At the moment, most Haredi newspapers have a rabbinic board that closely monitors and regulates what they are allowed to publish and how they can report the news. Stories about important trends and communal challenges are rarely reported. Advertisements are closely scrutinized.

And even outlets without an official rabbinic board feel pressured to censor the stories and advertisements they run for fear of offending the powers-that-be in the community.

All this makes one of the central missions of good journalism – to hold the powerful to account on behalf of the community they serve – difficult if not impossible to do.

This is why I have started Shtetl. There is a recognizable need for a different kind of Haredi press, an independent enterprise that will explore trends and developments in the community, and accurately and fearlessly uncover wrongdoing and hold leaders accountable.

Many of you reading this know me through my work at Yaffed, an advocacy organization I founded more than 10 years ago to ensure that children in our community benefit from the secular education they are legally required to receive along with their religious classes. I am proud of what we accomplished, and now turn my attention to a different need – the need to provide a free, independent, vibrant digital news outlet to serve the growing Haredi community in New York and beyond.

Shtetl will report on abuses and misdeeds in the community, and hold official and unofficial leaders accountable. It will also share the unique aspects and joys of Haredi life, with the goal of bringing a variety of readers’ perspectives into the conversation.

This will be journalism relevant to those within the community, and to those in the greater Jewish world interested in the fastest-growing segment of American Judaism today. Shtetl will also inform political leaders about this increasingly influential group of voters and citizens.

Shtetl stories will reflect the variety of Haredi life, in all its complexity, combining the highest standards of American journalism with deep knowledge of this important community.

Shtetl operates under a few unique principles:

-We think of Haredi leaders and their relationship to their constituents the same way traditional media thinks of elected officials and other powerful leaders and their relationship to their constituency.

-Shtetl intends to cover, and be a voice for, the entire Haredi spectrum, including those whose voices tend to be absent or marginalized in existing Haredi media.

-We also believe that the broader Jewish community has an interest in, and a responsibility to, the Haredi community and its members. We are all one Jewish people.

Credit: Mo Gelber/Shtetl

Shtetl is a nonprofit enterprise, funded by donations and advertising revenue. As we await full designation as a registered 501c3, our fiscal sponsor is Jewish Creativity International, which receives and administers our donated funds.

This website will be updated frequently with a range of stories and opinion pieces – all original work edited by our small but mighty staff. 

Our aspiration is for Shtetl to be a true community partnership, and there are many ways to get involved. Read our stories and share them with your friends, family members, and colleagues. Send us your story ideas and tips. Support our reporting, and offer your feedback. Donate so that we can continue to do our important work. 

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