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Case Closed

As the New York Post's Page Six noted last week, a nasty accusation greeted David Remnick upon his ascension to the The New Yorker's top editorial position. A New York magazine Intelligencer item from 1993 has resurfaced in some journalistic circles; it accuses Remnick of having lifted material without attribution from a scholarly book for a December, 1992 New Yorker article Remnick wrote on Crown Heights.

This mini scandal is unlikely to affect Remnick, however, because the book's author is deceased.

Jerome Mintz, who taught in the Anthropology and Jewish Studies departments of Indiana University and wrote Hasidic People: A Place in the New World, died last November at the age of 67.

Back in '93, New York reported that The New Yorker offered to give Mintz's book a favorable review--which could be interpreted as an indication of guilt.

But then-editor Tina Brown scoffed at the notion five years ago, a denial Remnick repeated this week in a Voice interview. Remnick recalled that, at the time, Mintz had written him "an aggrieved personal letter," to which he responded immediately. He had used the book, among "seven or eight or nine books" about messianic thought. Remnick insists, however, that his article "was not in any way plagiarism."

The matter was soon dropped, and no one--save whoever is faxing the old gossip item around--seems to want to keep it alive. When contacted this week by the Voice, Harvard University Press, which published Mintz's book, refused any comment.

Most important, the charge itself is thin. The original gossip item cited a single anonymous source, and did not point to any specific material deemed to have been lifted. A Voice comparison of the book and the Remnick article found some shared sections; most of that, however, was boilerplate material that both writers probably obtained from newspaper articles and official reports.

Remnick calls the incident "embarrassing," and though he felt he used other interpretations more than Mintz's, he agreed that "if I had it to do over, I would probably have nodded in the direction of Mintz and other scholars I leaned on." He says that in subsequent pieces--such as his recent article on the Amish--he has been attentive to citing other authors' work.

Research: Leila Abboud

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