April 23, 2022

Frank Rasky obit stirs bitter memories

by Gil Zohar

TORONTO -

Members of Toronto's Jewish community are still rankled by an obituary of former The Canadian Jewish News entertainment editor Frank Rasky, the brother of film-maker Harry, which ran in the Toronto weekly Feb. 25, five days after the 70-year-old Toronto writer died of cancer at Sunnybrook Hospital here.

The flattering obit, written by Maurice Lucow, The CJN's retired editor now living in Victoria, B.C., cited Rasky's long career as a newspaperman with the Vancouver Sun, Globe and Mail, Windsor Star, Toronto Star and New York Herald Tribune. It hailed his coverage for almost a decade with The CJN of the show biz and entertainment beats.

What it failed to mention was that The CJN shamefully and maliciously fired Rasky for sexual harassment in 1991, that he sued the paper for wrongful dismissal, and that the case was settled out of court to his satisfaction.

Rasky was not however reinstated to his position. He went on to freelance for the Globe and Mail, and for the Village Post - a newly-established neighbourhood monthly distributed in Forest Hill and Bayview. The paper's March edition noted of Rasky, a recipient of the George Polk Memorial Award for courageous journalism and the Canadian National Award for magazine food writing: "To our staff of young reporters and editors, Frank brought experience, and lots of it. Never in our wildest dreams did we expect someone of Frank's calibre to come knocking on our door, ready to work."

A gifted writer with a droll and risqué sense of humour, Rasky was a gentleman from the old school for whom every actress was a "raven-haired beauty," "doll" or "dame" - terms which may be politically incorrect today because they objectify women but were perfectly innocuous when he used them. In the Dec. 5, 1991 issue, he interviewed Yiddish singer Gloria Valentine and Israeli-Canadian diva Batsheva Avery for a piece about the Jewish Artists' Scholarship Society.

A politically correct letter to the editor dated Dec. 19 complained that Rasky reeked of male "misogynist mythology" by calling the two as "gorgeous-looking," "talented Jewish beauties" and "sassy entertainers." A second letter of Dec. 26 repeated the canards. Ironically Rasky was being kind with his praise. Valentine is old enough to be a grandmother - albeit beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The die had been cast for Rasky, it seems. He had crossed swords once too often with The CJN's new editor, Patricia Rucker - known as Genghis Khan by the paper's managing editor Len Butcher. Since moving into Lucow's editor's chair in 1989, Rucker had initiated an unprecedented series of firings and de-hirings of staff writers and columnists.

After interviewing an entertainer in the fall of 1991, Frank had the "audacity" to give the actress a kiss on the cheek and wish her good luck in her upcoming performance.

A letter to the editor by filmmaker Cayle Chernin saying the allegations against Rasky were absurd and baseless was never published.