Home Exclusives Exclusive: Helen Thomas’s Rabbi- Interviewer Speaks

The rabbi-journalist who got the explosive interview with veteran reporter Helen Thomas spoke to me tonight exclusively.

Rabbi David Nesenoff is a journalist and filmmaker from Long Island who has his advanced degree from the Jewish Theological Seminar. He went to the White House on May 27th with his 17 year old son and the son’s 18 year old friend on a press pass. Both boys as well as the Rabbi wore yarmulkes and tsi-zit. They were obviously religious Jews.

And that’s what shocked Nesenoff when Helen Thomas told him — as he filmed her on his Flip camera– the Jews should “get the hell out” of Israel and go “home” to Poland or Germany–places they’d been tortured and killed in, and escaped from during the Holocaust.

“There’s anti-Semitism in the world,” Nesenoff told me. “And it’s sitting a foot from the president.”

Nesenoff says he isn’t aligned with any political party or ideology. He’s basically pro-Israel and is happy to meet any politician who agrees with him. Thomas surprised him, he says, because she knew who she was talking to. “She must have felt comfortable to just tell us how she felt.”

“It was shocking,” he said. The reason it took a week or more to post the video interview on his site, www.RabbiLive.com, or YouTube? “My 17 year old son is my webmaster and this week was finals,” he laughs. “So we had to wait.”

Nesenoff says there’s a little more that he’ll post, including a conversation with Thomas on the state of journalism. Once she made her “Poland” remarks, Nesenoff says there wasn’t much time to respond. Thomas was whisked away by a helper or page.

The Rabbi, by the way, has credentials: one film he worked on went to Sundance a few years ago, another garnered several prizes. A few years ago Nesenoff worked for the U.S. Department of Justice as an intervention consultant on a famous racial hate crimes case with Denny’s.

More recently he’s consulted Mel Gibson on the aftermath of his DUI arrest and anti-Semitic crimes. The rabbi says, by the way, that Gibson still has not really apologized for what he did. “You can’t just say you’re sorry for what you’ve done. You have to become the Poster Boy for apology, and he hasn’t done it,” Nesenoff says.

As for Helen Thomas, Nesenoff is all for sitting down with her and talking this out. “I’m into expose and propose,” he says.

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
9 replies to this post
  1. Intimately, the post is really the greatest subject on this associated problem. I agree along with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your approaching updates. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the extraordinary lucidity in your writing. I will at once grab your rss feed to remain informed of any updates.

  2. For anti-semitism, Madonna takes the cake – making a film glorifying dangerous Nazi collaborator the Duke of Windsor and his wife Wallis Simpson. If this film is allowed to use palaces belonging to the Queen of England, as Madonna claims, it will be a disgrace. Apparently Ewan McGregor and Abbie Cornish are involved.

  3. Calling a posted comment a “rant” does not make it so. Helen seemed to be opposed to the occupation, hence the encouragement of Jews who moved there to “go back.” As I said, I DISAGREE with that opinion. I merely argued that her view isn’t inherently anti-semitic. By the way, I’m a slave descended African-American, so I think I’ll drop my bucket where I am, thank you very much.

  4. Hey Whilome, your rant is totally uncoherent and make no sense. Helen was questioning the rights of the Jews to live in Israel, not Israel’s policies or military actions. Understand? Meanwhile, if you are an American, what gives you the right to live in the land of the Native Americans? It is their land. I think you should take Helen, and the two of you should go back home, to Europe or the Middle East, or wherever the hell you belong. You know, you are not above criticism either.

  5. There are many people who feel that settlements of Israel that encroach on Palestinian land wouldn’t be necessary if Jews repatriated to now ostensibly safe countries from whence they came. Why is it considered anti-semitic to suggest that Israel shouldn’t be given dominion over territory that was inhabited by someone else? We have that same discussion in the midwest over treaty rights and native Americans. If we lobbed the term “racist” at everybody with an opinion, nothing would ever be settled. I, for one, don’t believe ex-pat Jews should be encouraged to “go back” anymore than I thought Blacks in the US should return to Africa. You never step in the same river twice. But, I caution folks who equate dissing the policies of Israel with anti-semitism. It is not perfect, as a nation. Israel is not above criticism.

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