Jewish newspaper sets off ‘firestorm’ over same-sex wedding announcements


A Jewish newspaper in New Jersey has announced its first published same-sex engagement announcement will also be its last, bowing to complaints from members of the traditional Orthodox Jewish community.

The Teaneck, NJ-based Jewish Standard announced its decision on its website, just a week after it published the announcement for Justin Rosen and Avi Smolen.

We set off a firestorm last week by publishing a same-sex couple’s announcement of their intent to marry. Given the tenor of the times, we did not expect the volume of comments we have received, many of them against our decision to run the announcement, but many supportive as well.

A group of rabbis has reached out to us and conveyed the deep sensitivities within the traditional/Orthodox community to this issue. Our subsequent discussions with representatives from that community have made us aware that publication of the announcement caused pain and consternation, and we apologize for any pain we may have caused.

The Jewish Standard has always striven to draw the community together, rather than drive its many segments apart. We have decided, therefore, since this is such a divisive issue, not to run such announcements in the future.

The newspaper’s snap decision may have set off an even bigger firestorm. Readers have reacted with dozens of posts on the newspaper’s website condemning its decision, saying it promotes homophobia and anti-gay sentiment.

“This apology is disgusting and abhorrent. In light of the recently publicized suicides of gay youth, how dare a Jewish newspaper apologize for publishing a same-sex marriage announcement?,” asked one reader. “This kind of absurd public apology is shameful, embarrassing, and dangerous. You are basically telling every young gay person who might happen upon this apology that, oops, we shouldn’t have shown support for gay people, because it offends some ignorant, insensitive members of our community.”

“You should be ashamed of yourselves, cow towing to a bunch of BIGOTS,” wrote another angry reader.

“It is such an incredible insult to think a newspaper would censor itself based on pressure from certain homophobic members of the community” added another. “I hope this reaction to such censorship, and to the recent suicides of gay children due to isolation, harassment, abuse, and social shunning will make you reconsider your misguided, shortsighted decision.”

Steven Goldstein, the chief executive officer of Garden State Equality, said the newspaper’s decision was a “slap in the face” of the Jewish and gay communities.

But the newspaper may be having another change of mind.

“We did not expect the heated response we got, and — in truth — we believe now that we may have acted too quickly in issuing the follow-up statement, responding only to one segment of the community,” Publisher James Janoff said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “We are now having meetings with local rabbis and community leaders … the issue clearly demands debate and serious consideration, which we will do our best to encourage.”

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