The missing 'places of Jewish worship'

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 30: Airline workers load cargo into an All Nippon Airways passenger plane at Los Angeles International Airport on October 30, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The United States remains vigilant in the wake of an exposed terror plot. Packages containing explosives were sent from Yemen and addressed to synagogues in Chicago but were intercepted yesterday before they could reach their destinations. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

A lot more details have come to light as the international probe into a terror threat emanating from Yemen has widened. But some details should have been much clearer from the start. One of the early oddities with this story was that the Chicago synagogues to which the bombs were addressed were repeatedly referred to as "places of Jewish Worship."

I know that President Obama, in his press conference, called them places of Jewish worship. But reporters often -- maybe not often enough -- translate bureaucratese into more precise words that can be more easily understood by readers.

These weren't Jewish community centers, so it's pretty safe to just identify them as synagogues. Thats the Jewish version of a church.

Even odder, though, was the initial story from The New York Times. It was an earlier version of this story that was titled "Terror Alert Touched Off by Suspicious Air Shipments." The earlier version, which you can still find on online message boards, went straight from talking about the "widening investigation into suspicious packages" to this:

Federal officials warned synagogues in the Chicago metropolitan area to be on alert, said Linda Haase, associate vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

"We were notified about this earlier this morning," Ms. Haase said in an interview. "We are taking appropriate precautions and we're advising local synagogues to do the same."

By the afternoon, Jewish institutions throughout the nation were being told by the Anti-Defamation League to step up their security. "Law enforcement asked us to reach out to the Jewish community to be on alert, to be vigilant, in particular for packages," Steven Sheinberg, the director of community security at the League said in an interview. "We have heard of no specific threat, but these things are unfolding and progressing."

Knowing what we know now, it's no surprise at all that this NYT story added such context. But in this version of the story it was quite the non sequitor. Until the above paragraphs, there had been no mention of Jews, synagogues or places of Jewish worship.

In other words, this story said Jews were on alert but didn't say why. And why, after all, is often the most important question a story should answer.

Have we really gotten to the point that any terror threat from the Middle East is presumed to target American Jews? Or was this just an editing flub in the rush to get this story online as quickly as possible?

It may have been the latter. When I sent this story to the GetReligion team, Bobby -- Go Rangers! -- replied with an NYT news alert that mentioned "places of Jewish worship."

The funny thing was that the link included in the news alert redirected to the home page. Where the earlier version of the story I just discussed was prominently featured.

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