Arthur J. Bloberger, the former editor of the “Jewish Reporter”, emails me today:
Although I’ve still not heard the results of my unemployment appeal hearing (way overdue by their own estimation – I don’t know if that’s good or bad, I might be screwed by a technicality), I’ve finally decided to start singing personally. I personally kept quiet for the longest time, hoping that the powers that be at the fed might righten up and take some responsibility for some of their ungodly actions. That hope has all but disappeared for now, but let’s not totally give up on the possibility. I do believe in miracles, and that righteousness will eventually prevail, one way or the other.
So here is my personal JFLV/Karp story, from the horses mouth this time, so to speak.
This is a story I hoped I would not have to write. These are feelings and events I wish I had never experienced, but I did. Each time I have had to relive these tragedies, I can’t help but think how unnecessary it all should have been. Now the time to remember has come again, this time presented in a more public forum. Let me make it clear: much has already been circulated related to this story – including several letters – but these are the first such words I have ever put to paper myself.
I had been editor of Las Vegas’ Jewish Reporter for well over a year and a half when I first met Elliot B. Karp. Like many, I was excited at the prospect of new leadership for the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas, which had floundered a bit over the previous year. He seemed intelligent and articulate, poised to begin a new era of prosperity for this respected charitable organization.
That he was to usher in a new era has been proven true enough. But sadly, it has become one of anger, hatred and fear-mongering – a tangled web of deceit and discrimination, power and prejudice.
The JFLV published the now-defunct Jewish Reporter newspaper, and as new CEO/President of the federation, Karp became my new boss. I had no problem with that, as I had already given him free-of-charge something I ordinarily make someone earn – my respect. But early on, an ugly incident took place that would make me regret such deference.
Mark Levine had recently been hired by Karp for the position of the federation’s communications director, a position that had been vacant since long before I began my tenure there. As such, I was showing him some of the ins-and-outs of the paper, going over some of the rough pages. Karp came into the office and pointed at one such page that had an in-house ad in it for Hillel, the federation’s UNLV campus program.
“Who’s that nigger?” Karp said to the two of us. Our jaws dropped simultaneously.
On that page, in that ad, a young person of color appeared in a group picture taken at a recent Hillel event. Karp repeated himself, this time changing the offensive term to its Yiddish equivalent. “Who’s the shvatsa?” he asked. “Have you two lost your minds?”
I was indignant and highly offended by his comment, even though I was not Jewish or black myself. “These pictures were provided to us by Hillel” was all I said.
“That’s a Jewish student who just happens to be black,” added Levine, equally aghast.
“You damn well better be right!” spit Karp. “Especially if I have to explain it to one of our donors,” he hissed as he angrily winded his way out of the office. I believe at that moment, Levine and I began to fully understand the rough ride we were in for.
By that time, unbeknownst to me, Levine had already heard many disparaging and equally racist comments about me during even his earliest meetings with Karp, but in his embarrassment and shame as a proud Jew, he chose not to subject me at the time to those revelations. So I went about my job for the next several months, always wondering why Karp treated me with such furor and disdain, even though I was clearly working my tuches off for the federation and the paper. I locked up the offices on many a late night.
I had been hired by the prior CEO, one Meyer Bodoff. He knew full well that I was not Jewish when he trusted me with the position of editor, but I had a world of experience and a strong publishing portfolio. I worked hard for him to help repay his confidence in me. And even after Bodoff was released, leaving the federation temporarily leaderless, I ate, breathed and slept the Jewish Reporter. Jewish or not, I dedicated my life to that newspaper and its mission, supporting the federation and its annual campaign. Actually, I loved it. I felt like I was doing something really worthwhile.
But Karp did not possess Bodoff’s inclusive humanity. And I believe Bodoff’s gamble paid off quite well, as the Las Vegas Jewish community was clearly noticing the love and sweat I was putting into their publication. The response to my editorship had been almost totally positive. But conversely, each interaction I had with Karp had grown more and more arduous, full of bullying and constant criticism, I began to realize that he had something personal against me. I already knew he hated blacks, so perhaps I should have caught on sooner. But I would soon learn that he also had a hatred for gentiles, and women as well.
The first time he directly attacked me with remarks of religious discrimination was in early July of ’09. I had just written a draft of a short piece about the political unrest in Iran following its recent controversial election results, tying it in with some live demonstrations of support taking place here in Las Vegas by local Iranian-Americans. Mind you, I was not endorsing, just reporting. Upon reading it, Karp burst into my office unannounced in a rage, catching me off guard.
“You’re making Iranian-Americans look good,” he yelled, “and that will piss off the local Jewish community.” I didn’t agree with him; I had more trust in their intelligence. But at this point in my relationship with Karp, what else was new? But it was the unforgivable words and actions to come that would wound me to this very day, even though I know it shouldn’t – given the source.
His face turned red and a finger darted out at me. “You’re a non-Jew!” he pointed to my face. “You can’t possibly understand these things because you’re a non-Jew!” I was speechless as he shot out of my office. As much as I had already learned that Karp wasn’t even remotely a nice guy, I was still stunned by such outwardly discriminatory remarks. What I didn’t realize until later was how this and what would follow next would ultimately also make me question my own worth as a writer and editor – and a Christian.
Roughly a little more than a month had passed and I was working on our annual education issue, which featured the local kollel as its cover story, something I had been fighting Karp to let me present for at least six months. I argued that the kollel was something of which to be extremely proud, and he eventually acquiesced, although he always winced at promoting anything other than the federation itself. But when he read the story, he again took me by surprise, cornering me in my tiny office. Much to my disbelief, he was angry because I was making the kollel sound “too good.” In the end, I took out just about every complimentary adjective in the whole report, since he was the boss and I could only argue to a point. But then, it happened again. Out came the finger. Crimson washed over his face. The angry tone turned to an ear-shattering accusation.
“You’re a non-Jew!” he boiled over. “This is way over your pay-scale!”
I certainly felt my self-esteem deflate just then. But at this point, I was worried about a lot more than just my next raise.
Besides me, other victims of Karp’s temper began to pile up in the hallways, a place where a few of his foul-mouthed tirades inappropriately took place for the whole office to hear – making them certainly anything but private matters at this point. The recipient was usually just someone who was simply trying to do their job, but for one reason or the other was Karp’s target for the day. Separately, we were all living in fear for our jobs. Perhaps cumulatively, we could do something about this monster.
After working a while longer aside Mark Levine, I learned he was a man of integrity after my own heart. There were six of us in particular who were feeling persecuted by Karp (and others we didn’t know about at the time) and we looked to have a meeting with Leonard Stone, the incoming JFLV chairman of the board and one half of the law firm, Shook & Stone. Seemingly a mentsh, Stone had, after all, come around to just about all of us at one time or another and said if we ever had a problem, “his door was open.”
Thus Levine called Stone’s secretary and made an appointment for the six of us to meet with him at 4 p.m. on August 17, 2009. We all hoped that this would be a solution. Instead, it just made matters worse.
Instead of meeting with us as we had requested, we were ambushed. The day of the appointment, Stone showed up at the federation offices. The six of us were all called into the conference room, although one chickened out. There sat Stone and Karp, as Stone put it – “connected at the hip.” Also present was CFO Marjorie Griebel, a smirk on her face the whole time.
Before even one of us could choke out a terrified word, Stone spoke clearly and decisively. “I don’t know what your problems are with Elliot Karp, but if it’s not razor blades and white powder on his desk, then we just don’t want to hear it!”
I don’t think anyone could believe such words came out of the mouth of the incoming chairman of the board, let alone an attorney. Only two of us had the courage after that to even try to interject.
“We are just doing what the employee handbook says we should do if we have a problem with the CEO,” I said.
“No, you’re not” barked Griebel, hardly a likeable or respected fixture of the federation either. Just ask around.
“We just wanted to make the federation offices a better place, a non-hostile place to work,” offered Levine, to no response at all.
Had Stone just kept our original appointment, or even just leaned across the conference table and said, “Now all of you, tell me, just what seems to be the matter…,” a lot of pain and anguish and potential legal proceedings could have been avoided. Instead, we were all just readily dismissed from the meeting. And that included our concerns.
I know we were all disillusioned at that point. We felt trapped with no place to go, knowing full well that we had all just made ourselves even bigger targets. The economy was so tough right now; this was no time to be without a job and insurance. Sadly, that meant the torture would continue, for as long as we could possibly take it anyway.
For me, it was only as long as strike number three, which took place about ten days later.
I was working on the Rosh Hashanah issue and had solicited some cheery comments for a cover story from many of the valley’s rabbis and other influential Jews. Karp wanted to see who I was contacting – okay. I was confident my choices were good. After more than two years at the helm of the Jewish Reporter, I knew who to go to in the community to get warm recollections on the prior year and a positive outlook on the next. But what I did not know was that Karp had it in for one of my respondents – the valley’s only female rabbi.
He couldn’t even wait this time until he had entered my office. “I will not have that woman’s comments in my paper!” he screamed at me from outside my office door. It was then that it dawned on me that he hated not only blacks and gentiles, but women as well.
The incredible finger-pointing red-hulk had returned. “You’re a non-Jew,” he lashed out. “No one wants to hear what she has to say. You don’t understand the politics involved!”
The heck I didn’t. I insisted that having a lady rabbi was a great thing and I argued with him until he stomped away. I had met the rabbi in question on a few occasions and knew she was a truly inspirational figure.
I sat there shaking. I knew I could no longer work under someone so hateful, so racist. So I began to type my resignation, making the reasons quite clear. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, and also, I think, one of the most important. I sent it to Karp and Stone, as well as the outgoing Chairman of the Board, Danny Greenspun.
Originally, I had said that I would work two more weeks, even under such religious discrimination. I really intended to do so; my heart was in the right place. We were in the middle of a production schedule, and I hated the thought of leaving my loyal co-workers in a lurch. But when I showed up the next morning, I was not prepared for how I would feel.
By the time I got to my desk, my heart was pounding like a hammer, I was short of breath, and sweating profusely. Sick to my stomach, I said a few sad goodbyes as I stumbled to the parking lot. At the front door was Griebel.
“I’m sorry; I had no idea,” she said to me. “I hate to see you go. You’re one of the few people here I actually like.”
But I didn’t believe her. No one else would or should either. She’s one of those who continually tries to make herself look good by making others look bad. Just ask around the office – look for the ones with a knife in their back.
The next day, Karp deceitfully announced the cancellation of the Jewish Reporter, citing financial difficulties. But this was an absolute lie, which he fed to the community hook, line and sinker. As editor, I was in a position to know; the paper was clearly in the black, especially after having recently renegotiated its printing costs – saving thousands of dollars annually – thanks to former Advertising Director Joanne Friedland (a 14-year veteran of the federation who Karp was continuously heard referring to as “a dinosaur,” so you can add “age discrimination” to the list). But “creative” accounting by Griebel, who unjustly weighed down the paper’s budget with improper overhead and overinflated external staff involvement, supported his argument. I now suspect that Karp hated me so deeply that he was actually willing to destroy the paper just to put an end to a non-Jew’s tenure as editor. Not to mention that it was common knowledge that Greenspun had wanted to kill the reporter for years, so he could provide the community with his own (for-profit) Jewish publication. Now, everybody gets what they wanted, except the Las Vegas Jewish community, who still longs for the Jewish Reporter. Just ask around.
A few days later, still in shock, I received a letter from the federation’s attorney, a Ms. Wanker, wanting to “investigate” the situation. At this point, I had taken no action at all and had no idea what I was going to do other than file for unemployment. But the letter scared me, as letters from lawyers often do, so my very supportive wife, Amy, called the State Bar and got a recommendation for a religious discrimination attorney. From there, things began to escalate.
As an “investigator,” Wanker is lousy. She has long since uncovered the truth about Karp (which includes a litany of prior offenses around the country, including striking a female underling and being sanctioned to attend anger management classes) and learned of the many hateful, racist comments he made to other members of staff about me behind my back. She is just covering up his behavior, as have so very many others by now, except the federation is paying her big bucks for it. Rather she is a shark of a lawyer, out to devour the federation’s rightful complainants, of which the numbers are ever-increasing.
Of the five who dared show up for the impromptu meeting with Karp and Stone, three have been terminated. The total now released is five – all dedicated professionals who eschewed the federation’s mission and programs, only to be raked over the coals by Karp and those who support him. Most of us have not even been allowed the dignity of collecting our well-deserved unemployment benefits. And apparently, mine is not the only lawsuit in the works. A few other employees also have left recently for “other reasons,” but we all know the truth. No one wants to work for that man. No one should ever have to work for that man and I feel sorry for those who are still forced to do so. Given all that the Jewish people have been through, Karp is a mockery of everything for which they have lived and died.
The fact that the JFLV board continues to employ this man, and thereby endorses him, is inexcusable. He is a bigot, pure and simple, and a nasty one at that. He needs to leave the federation for good. But the fact is, they actually knew about his anger problem before they hired him, even falling for the line that “he was cured.” Someone explain that to me, please. He also likes to say when questioned about his anger that he is just being “passionate” about whatever the problem is, another excuse eaten up like worms by some of the bigger fish on the board. Sorry; passion and anger are two very different emotions. And this is one Karp that needs to be thrown back.
And that brings me full circle to the beginning of this story. I did not want to have to write this. I have had great angst over the whole thing. All I asked Wanker from day one was that Karp be released and that I receive my old job back or a similar one with like pay and benefits. Since then, she and the powers that be have fought tooth and nail to keep my rightful unemployment benefits from me, as well as defaming my character to the Jewish community as just a “disgruntled employee.” Yes, I am disgruntled, and it’s time for the community to know why.
In a short time, my case will go to the EEOC. This and the inevitable publicity from it could hurt the federation and its annual campaign, which has never been my goal. My former co-workers at the federation were some of the best and brightest professionals I have ever worked with, and I am proud to have done so, even in the face of such evil.
But Karp is still CEO, so I’m afraid I will have to up the ante. He must go, for the good of Jewish Las Vegas. And the leadership that looks the other way must also be held accountable, at any and all costs.
I did not choose this. But it was thrust upon me and I must not shirk my duty or my belief in America’s religious freedom and equality.
It’s time for the entire Jewish community to know the truth before Elliot B. Karp, representing the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas, commits another federal offense. Perhaps someone else besides this non-Jewish person will answer the call, take a stand, and try to right the wrongs that have been perpetuated.
If not, justice must then be sought in a court of law.
-Arthur J. Bloberger
former editor of the Jewish Reporter