Jewish Paper Reflects on Controversy Over Marriage Announcement

A lot has been said about the controversy at the New Jersey Jewish Standard, but the most recent edition of the paper shows how serious the paper–and the community it serves–takes the controversy over deciding to no long run same-sex marriage announcements.

This week’s paper featured a cover story on the controversy, including an interview with the men who were in the marriage announcement and the Orthodox rabbi who raised concerns over the announcement.  The story is titled, quite appropriately, “What do we do when we disagree.”

First, comments from Avi Smolen, whose announcement set off the controversy:

“The previous two weeks, there were a number of suicides by young gay people that got attention, and that was a counterpoint to the announcement about celebrating our union. People really connected those two incidents and thought it was important to speak out.”

He said he can respect the position of those who do not support same-sex wedding announcements, but noted that he “does not agree with tactics to prevent them from being seen. In a way it’s comical,” he said. “The desire to marginalize [the issue] has made it larger than ever.”

“In a sense, I’m glad that this has occurred and I hope people will continue to talk about this,” he said. Being “pushed out of their comfort zone” may prompt diverse groups to deal with the issues and find a solution.

“I hope they will recognize that people with different beliefs and practices exist, and find a way to grow and unite.”

And from Orthodox Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, religious leader of Cong. Ahavath Torah.

Following several calls, the Standard printed a statement saying it would not publish such announcements in the future. Rebecca Boroson, the Standard’s editor, characterized the conversations with Goldin — in which the editors, publisher, and associate publisher took part — as “intense.” “He repeatedly told us that the paper had caused pain in the Orthodox community,” she added, “and that we had ‘crossed a red line.’”

The backlash resulting from the Standard’s about-face goes beyond the current controversy, said Goldin.

“The Orthodox community is involved in an ongoing struggle to determine how to live with the tension between two fundamental principles that have to guide our approach to the gay community,” Goldin said.

On one hand, the movement seeks to “respect all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation,” recognizing in particular “the personal struggles of those who belong to the gay community and want to continue identifying as committed Jews.”

The tension inside the Jewish community served by the paper appears to be intense and the article is interesting because it explains the conflict that a (religious) community newspaper has when trying to respond to concerns in the community. NLGJA’s Rapid Response Task Force sent a letter to the paper reminding them of the need for fair and objective coverage of the LGBT community and reminding them that LGBT people are part of the community they serve.

There is also an editorial by publisher James Janoff.

We have acknowledged that we listened too closely to one group rather than taking the pulse of the entire community; and we have agreed that we acted too quickly in dealing with the “firestorm” we were told we created in the Orthodox community.

Some are questioning our commitment to Judaism, others our commitment to the Jewish people. Ironically, this kind of divisiveness is precisely what we have tried to avoid for 80 years in an effort to unify the community through our pages.

To ensure fairness, we have committed to engage in discussions and to chronicle the ongoing controversy in the paper. Indeed, this edition of the paper reflects that commitment.

We ask for time to address this matter properly — to do the “due diligence” we should have done from the start — and we thank you in advance for helping us conduct rational and thoughtful discussions about an issue obviously important to so many people from so many parts of our one community.

One Response

  1. […] stuggles inside the Jewish press dealing with LGBT issues are not new.  In 2010, we wrote about the controversy at New Jersey Jewish Standard which was being criticized by readers for running a story on the […]

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