homophobia is alive and well and living in new jersey (UPDATED!)

by marjorieingall on October 5, 2010

Hoo boy. Yesterday a New Jersey Jewish newspaper published an apology to its readers. For what? For the “pain and consternation” caused by the “divisive” act of running its first (and apparently last) engagement announcement for a Jewish male couple.

So many rabbis and academics and pundits fretting about intermarriage, yet here we have two Jews getting married, wanting to celebrate their simcha with their community, and the community’s own newspaper slaps them in the face at what should be a joyful time. (And the editor’s craven act, kowtowing to an unnamed group of Orthodox rabbis who objected to the engagement announcement, flies in the face of the newspaper’s mission statement: “The Jewish Standard is not affiliated with any program, organization, movement or point of view, but is dedicated to giving expression to all phases of Jewish life.”)

The paper has been published since 1931. Apparently its social attitudes still live there.

I blogged about it for Tablet.

UPDATE!

On its Facebook page, the paper says it is reconsidering its reconsidering of the decision not to run engagement/wedding notices from The Gay.

And two comments at Tablet I find intriiiiiiiiguing:

An insider has provided us with the facts.

The editor was forced to write an editorial that she totally disagrees with or risk losing her job.

She is absolutely heart broken over the entire situation.

Members of the local orthodox Jewish community are acting like the Taliban and have threatened the staff with closing down the paper and relieving them of their jobs if they don’t tow the line and print what they are instructed to print regarding this issue.

The clout of the local orthodox rabbis and some of the more vocal and obnoxious members of their flocks is such that the paper, the oldest Jewish newspaper in NJ, feels threatened.

However, our informant writes that if they can be pursuaded that they will be supported in their fight, their intention is to retract the bigoted policy and fight the hatemongers.

and from a different commenter:

It is my understanding that the Jewish Standard was basically being blackmailed. The RCBC, the Orthodox Rabbinate threatened to take away the hechsher, the certificate of kashrut, from any restaurant that continued to advertise in the Jewish Standard if they did not announce that they would never publish another gay wedding announcement. This would effectively put the Standard out of business, as it is advertising and not subscriptions that keeps their doors open, and it would have put the Kosher restaurants, caterers, and other Kosher food providers in the position of having to find another hechsher, which in Bergen county would be hard to do. It would alienate the Orthodox community from all of the liberal Jews who keep Kosher and it could cause financial havoc in the Jewish community. RCBC should be ashamed.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura October 5, 2010 at 3:17 pm

So I read this here first…and I have to admit, I’m a little anxious to head over to Tablet. What will your…um…more vociferous readers say?

Nevertheless, thanks for speaking up. The rampant homophobia needs to STOP. I’m heading over to Tablet now, holding my breath…

Laura October 5, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Okay, that wasn’t bad at all – in fact, there seems to be overwhelming support.

But here’s what is nibbling at the back of my mind. Supporters, myself included, seem to be so reactive lately, rather than proactive. I don’t know if that’s because we’re increasingly apathetic, lulled into a sense of complacency, or if homophobia is so rampant that we just can’t stay on top of it…I don’t know. But I feel increasingly hopeless, as I feel that I’m constantly reacting to tragedy, rather than helping to prevent it.

(Wow, wasn’t that a little Debbie Downer of me? I blame early on-set Seasonal Affective Disorder.)

marjorie October 5, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Laura, I understand.

Theresa October 5, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Thank you for writing about this.

Looking for the bright side… it’s impressive to me that the couple even thought of submitting their announcement to a small, suburban, religious paper, and that the editor didn’t bother to pre-check it with the right-wing rabbis. Automatic self-censorship is still a way of life for many, but it is diminishing. Instead, it was those opposed to the announcement who were forced to be reactive. And the groundswell of counter-reaction from straight allies has been awesome.

When a large number of straight people, even within religious communities, have our backs, that says that queers are valued and bigots will be shamed in mainstream culture. That’s a big step toward preventing future tragedies.

Side note: How can Tablet commenters have so much love for The Gay, but so much hate for a cute little cartoon sukkah of death?

gayle October 6, 2010 at 6:30 am

Score another point for Jersey!

renee October 6, 2010 at 7:42 am

This reminds me of the recent flap here in Portland, ME, where the paper covered the Muslim community’s observance of Eid, which fell on September 10. Photos of the event appeared on the front page of the print edition of the paper the next day, which was of course September 11. A few lunatics complained (Muslims in the paper on September 11! The terrorists have won!) and the paper actually APOLOGIZED. I was relieved to see that most of the commenters on the online apology were appalled that the paper would feel the need to do that.

It’s just another example of reasonable people in the press being too easily cowed by the right-wing fringe. Unfortunately, the left-wing fringe isn’t half as intimidating, I’m not sure why.

gayle October 8, 2010 at 9:32 am

Dude, you have informants!

Also, if true, so sad about the editor. I would hate to be in her position.

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