Tablet Magazine Publisher Once Accused of Sexual Harassment
Tablet Magazine is one of New York’s leading Jewish publications. I’ve profiled it here before and some of its writers as well. It’s well-funded by far-right pro-Israel foundations. It’s slick, it’s glossy. It prides itself on being trendy, while retaining a strong Jewish cultural identity. New York Magazine called “a must-read for young politically and culturally engaged Jews.” The neocon New York Observer called it “hip and hawkish.” Its writers think of themselves as suave, elegant stylists, in the old tradition of New York intellectuals who wrote once upon a time for Commentary, the New Republic, or the New Yorker. In reality, they are ideological hacks whose prose betrays a brutish, go-for-the-jugular style against their Jewish enemies. But above all, what Tablet is is a slicker version of what Commentary has become: a rigid, ideologically extreme scandal sheet attempting to be an arbiter of Jewish religious, political and cultural trends. It offers extreme right-wing bromides about Jewish identity, but in a hip, trendy package. Its managing editor, Alana Newhouse, once referred to herself as a “well-honed JAP.”
Sometimes it goes very far off the deep-end in its attempt to be edgy. Like this piece which argued that Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predation had a Jewish component; or here, where a contributor wrote about her distaste for Holocaust survivors. Though it’s hard to say this: these articles were anti-Semitic and many critics said so explicitly. And yes, Jews can be anti-Semitic when they pass on egregious damaging stereotypes about Jews as if they were real or valid.
But until now, few have known a secret the magazine harbors: its publisher, Morton Landowne, once admitted to videotaping one of his female subordinates undressing in the employee locker room and settled a lawsuit with his victim. Landowne is a bastion of the New York Orthodox community. He was president of Lincoln Square Synagogue for three years. The institution was founded by modern Orthodox rabbinic powerhouse, Shlomo Riskin. Riskin also founded of the West Bank colony of Efrat.
Landowne is president of the non-profit Edah, which offers a modern Orthodox commitment to what this particular community would consider liberal values: celebrating the achievements of women (ironic, considering what you’ll read below) and integrating Orthodox observance with important social and political issues. He’s taken the initiative in founding several worthy charity projects serving the Orthodox community. He also writes periodically for Tablet about his love for travel, culture, food, and the arts.
Until 2008, Landowne was a senior vice-president of Plaza Packaging Corporation, where he’d worked for twenty-five years. He was one of its most successful sales representatives. But one day, by his own admission, he hid a video camera in a towel in the employee locker room on a bench near his secretary’s locker. His goal appears to have been to videotape her while she changed and showered there. His secretary discovered the video camera. Landowne was confronted and admitted that he’d done it.
But he claimed that he’d tried to videotape her because she owed him money and he needed an insurance policy in case she refused to repay the loan. In 1997, his secretary eventually sued both the company and him under provisions of the worker’s compensation law. A lower court dismissed the charges against the company, finding it did nothing “intentional” that would have permitted or approved of Landowne’s behavior. It also, strangely found Landowne not liable because his actions were “accidental.”
His secretary, Denise Hanford, appealed the ruling and in 2003, the NY State Court of Appeals threw out the earlier ruling and reinstated the case against Landowne. As we don’t find any public record of the outcome of the case, lawyers I’ve consulted assure me it was settled out of court with a financial payment to the victim.
I have unsuccessfully approached Ms. Hanford. She did not respond to the message I sent to her via her Facebook account. The same lawyers I consulted added that there is likely a non-disclosure agreement (of the type Harvey Weinstein so infamously forced his victims to sign) which prevents both the victim and perpetrator from speaking publicly about the incident.
I also reached out to Alana Newhouse, the managing editor of Tablet, asking her a series of questions about Landowne, including whether she knew of the sexual harassment charge before she hired him; whether Tablet has a sexual harassment policy in place; whether there are any restrictions on Landowne regarding interaction with female employees. Neither she nor Landowne answered me. I had hoped to include their response in this blog post.
What first alerted me to Landowne was an interview he did for Israel HaYom, Israel’s far-right daily paper owned by Sheldon Adelson. The article profiled both Landowne’s role with Tablet in the context of an international conference of pro-Israel journalists and bloggers hosted by the Israeli government press office. The article explicitly lays out the goal of the event as part of the hasbara battle in the media and social media platforms on Israel’s behalf. It sees the participants as “hasbara ambassadors” for Israel.
This of course begs the question: what are journalists doing posing as agents for Israel? How can they be both reporters and propagandists? Landowne doesn’t disappoint his hosts when he says that his role in the media is to “stand by Israel’s side always.” In fact, he proudly states that two of his children made aliyah and his grandsons serve in the IDF. He adds that many of the writers for the magazine have similar life stories. Yet, Landowne delusionally claims that Tablet has no particular editorial slant and that it is “politically diverse.” While he describes the Forward as “rigidly leftist.” No political judgments in those statements at all…
The hiring of Landowne raises questions about Tablet’s commitment to values like feminism. Can a publication priding itself on being the center of New York Jewish cultural and literary style be stuck in the dark ages when it comes to the #MeToo movement? How is it possible that a female managing editor could have hired such an man with such a past?
Landowne fancies himself a refined and cultured individual. He enjoys being photographed inside museums besides artistic masterpieces. He even penned a short meditation on Vermeer that was picked up by the NY Times’ Metropolitan Diary. In the piece, he notes that he visited a show at the Frick Museum of paintings by Johannes Vermeer, whose most famous portraits are of beautiful young Dutch working girls. After leaving the museum, he describes a vision of loveliness walking down the street toward him:
So, while walking east on 70th Street, I noticed a woman approaching, out of the evening’s darkness into the dim glow of a street lamp. She had an angelic face and blond locks, loosely framed by the hood of her jacket, and was glancing down at a cellphone, parallel to her chest.
The illumination from the phone evenly lit her face, and only her face, as if by candlelight, and as we passed, I felt certain I was seeing an image, contemporary yet timeless, worthy of being immortalized by Vermeer.
Of course, if one didn’t know any of Landowne’s history, this would appear to be little more than a rather charming male urban reverie. But considering that Landowne is old enough to be this woman’s grandfather and considering his own history, the piece takes on an entirely different, altogether creepy aspect.
Landowne did not respond to my request for comment.
12 thoughts on “Tablet Magazine Publisher Once Accused of Sexual Harassment – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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These predator men have nothing to do with the fact they are Jewish. But it does, probably have something to do with the wounds they suffered when they were teenagers and ugly boys, boys that shicksa girls wanted nothing to do with. They grew up thinking, “If I am ever rich and famous, I’m going to get even.”
I’ve seen it happen many times with powerful men who were shunned when they were teenagers, and it has nothing to do with their ethnic background or religion. It has to do with an immense inferiority complex they carry with them for the rest of their lives.
This sounds like you have a PHD in psychology and are practising psychoanalisis.
“Landowne is president of the non-profit Edah” – Since Edah closed up shop in 2006, some of your content is 12 years out of date – http://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/modern-orthodox-think-tank-to-fold/
Don’t you have a strong agenda that you push through this blog and traditional news outlets? I’m yet to read from you a positive sentence about either Netanyahu or Trump. Even broken clock shows the correct time twice a day.
Yet, you title yourself as a journalist, analyst and commentator which implies you don’t push any agenda which obviously you are even if you believe that agenda is ‘justice’ or peace.
Also, a newspaper can be balance by having reporters from both extremes. It will make it way more interesting that just have some parve articles by centrists.
Your clock is always broken. You want a cheerleader for vile human beings go elsewhere.
@Ginger bread: I didn’t know I was required to say a “positive sentence” about Trump or Netanyahu. Why, pray tell? They have enough supporters without requiring me to weigh in on their behalf.
You have a misconception about what a journalist is: most journalists have an agenda. But if they are good, their agenda either isn’t evident or never gets in the way of good journalism. I definitely have an agenda. And unlike journalists for MSM outlets who have an agenda and try to conceal it well, I have an agenda and don’t conceal it. BTW, that does not mean that my journalism is not reliable or credible. It is.
Good media outlets have a diverse array of columnists and journalists. Tablet is not a good media outlet. Much of its strictly Jewish cultural or religious writing is fine. But anything to do with Israel or politics is terribly skewed. And they do not generally have writers with liberal, let alone progressive views on these questions.
Landowne sounds pervy as shit, but to be fair, this lawsuit was twenty years ago.
@ Sho Time: When it comes to sexual harassment there is no emotional statute of limitations. The pain and trauma lingers forever. So while the incident may have happened 20 years ago, that does not mean that the case is less severe. BTW, the legal proceedings didn’t end until 2005 or 2006.
No. I wasn’t suggesting that the emotional pain of the victim had gone away. It hasn’t, and clearly it won’t go away when people like you re-open the wounds.
What I meant to say is that Lowndowne’s harassment of his co-worker appears to have been a single incident. Lowndowne doesn’t appear to be a serial predator like Weinstein and Cosby; not a threat to women.
And since this single incident was addressed, and some measure of justice of meted out, maybe we should lay off Landowne and let him earn a living like everybody else.
Just my two-cents.
@Sho Time: Nice try blaming me for Landowne’s proclivities. He should be shamed for his behavior whether he did it one time or a thousand times. AND how do you know he only harrassed once? Because he was only sued once? You think that’s a true indicator of a harrasser’s real behavior? You are either ignorant of how this behavior works or an apologist for him.
Notice folks how people like this pretend that they’re protecting the victim by suppressing awareness of a serious act of abuse.
You have an axe to grind and it’s obvious.
Hi Richard. Thanks for publishing this. I don’t understand, though, how a publisher is “hired” by an editor. Isn’t it the other way around?
@Clare: great to hear from you. Newhouse founded Tablet and i think raised the funds. I don’t know what Landowne’s function is. My guess is he was installed as a favor to the 2 major foundations which fund Tablet. He may handle more of the business/ad sales/payroll side of the business. While she handles the creative editorial side.