Since beginning to convert to Judaism, New York Times journalist Nellie Bowles has come to regret much of her work. “I do not want to cultivate sociopathy in myself. And cultivating sociopathy was exactly what I was doing,” she said in a recent post on her blog Chosen by Choice. The blog explores matters related to accepting Judaism and Jewish identity.

'A major sin'

Judaism admonishes against “Lashon Hara,” Bowles said, explaining that the Hebrew term can be translated as "evil tongue.” It can also be thought of as malevolent gossip, she said. Character assassination, even if based entirely on fact, is not permitted by Judaism, the journalist noted.

Badmouthing people is no trivial matter, Bowles said, stressing “Committing Lashon Hara is a major sin.” This complicated life for a reporter whose job often involved focusing public attention on the misdeeds of others, she said.

'Anything truthful was fair game'

Bowles recalled beginning her career in Journalism “thinking I would be a mirror” that reflected the human condition in its entirety. “Anything truthful was fair game,” she said. She noted that she was able to gauge the popularity of her reports by looking at social media. One sure way for her to gain popularity was appealing to "communal outrage," she mentioned. Sometimes triggering outrage helped society but often it did not, she said, recalling a story which she had written for the San Francisco Chronicle.

"I got a man fired because he talked to me," she recalled. "I still feel sick when I think about him." Bowles said she now wanted to develop "my empathy not my cruelty." Her blog can be seen at chosenbychoice.substack.com.

'I credit Judaism for that entirely'

Bowles's ongoing conversion came to the attention to The Jewish News of Northern California, which is published in her hometown of San Francisco.

In a report on March 2, the paper said Bowles had been drawn to Judaism by a romantic relationship and Jewish values rather than by a sudden spiritual awakening. According to the paper, she began the conversion process around the time she met her fiancée, fellow New York Times journalist Bari Weiss. The publication said the two were now living in Los Angeles where the coronavirus pandemic had so far prevented them from integrating into the local Jewish community.

The paper said writing viral articles had ceased to be Bowles's priority. "I credit Judaism for that entirely," she told the paper. Bowles introduction to Judaism took place at an independent congregation in San Francisco called The Kitchen/.

Jordan Peterson responds

Psychologist Jordan Peterson was the subject of a New York Times article by Bowles in 2018. Followers of Peterson on Twitter have called the article a "hit piece." In her article, entitled "Jordan Peterson, Custodian of the Patriarchy," Bowles said she had gone to Canada and spent two days observing Peterson.

Peterson retweeted a link to Bowles’s blog post and introduced a quotation with the curt remark “Nellie Bowles, NY Times reporter, reveals herself.”

Peterson is currently promoting his new book "Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life."

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