Cause (from the Jewish Standard of Bergen County, NJ, 9/24/10):
Simchas | Engagement
Avichai David Smolen, son of Robert Smolen and Barbara Schneider of New Milford, and Justin Taylor Rosen, son of Keith and Elizabeth Rosen of Coram, N.Y., plan to be married next month by Rabbi Joshua Gruenberg at North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, N.Y.
Smolen, 23, is a development and communications associate at the Manhattan office of Keren Or, the Jerusalem Center for Blind Children with Multiple Disabilities. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Rutgers University and worked as a Faiths Act Fellow in Washington, D.C., a joint venture between the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the Interfaith Youth Core. His father is the principal at the Gerrard Berman Day School Solomon Schechter of North Jersey in Oakland and his mother is a medical technologist and high school biology teacher in New Jersey.
Rosen, 24, is a master’s degree candidate in public administration at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and at the Skirball Department of Hebrew & Judaic Studies for a master’s of arts in Jewish studies. He is a Wexner Fellow taking part in a leadership development program for emerging professionals in the Jewish community. He did his undergraduate work at List College, the joint program between Columbia University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, and Jewish Theological Seminary, where he received a bachelor’s in Jewish thought. His mother is a teacher at Longwood High School and his father is a computer software programmer in New York.
Effect (from the Jewish Standard, 10/1/10):
A statement from The Jewish Standard
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 on 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.
A couple of comments:
– Teaneck’s large and growing Orthodox community weighs heavily in Bergen County, and thus heavily on the fortunes of the Standard. I’m sympathetic to the pressures, financial and otherwise, they and the local federation must have been under.
– Which raises the question: Did they not anticipate this kind of reaction? It seems publishing a same-sex engagement announcement and the next week saying “we’ll never do it again” is worse than not publishing it all.
– I would have demanded that the opponents write and attach their names to a statement explaining their opposition. It seems incumbent on them to explain the “pain” caused by the loving act of engagement by two up-and-coming leaders in the Jewish community and take personal responsibility for their opposition. Now the Standard has seeded suspicion between the ENTIRE “traditional/Orthodox community” and everyone who supports same-sex announcements.
– The Standard has essentially taken the position that a religious act sanctioned by two of the major denominations in Jewish life and at least tolerated by a third will not be mentioned uncritically because of the objections of another denomination. Is it really the role of a non-denominational newspaper to decide whose Judaism is the most authentic?
– The Standard has covered same-sex marriage as an issue in the news pages. (See here and here.) It should make clear whether it intends to do so “in the future”, and then explain the difference in kind between a news story and a simcha/engagement announcement. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that a news article can include “both sides of the issue,” while an engagment announcement does not, and is thus seen as ”sanctioning” the act.
– Very unfortunate timing for the retraction, appearing amid a national conversation over the tragedy at Rutgers and the subject of anti-gay intolerance.
– If the Standard thought the retraction and statement would quench the firestorm, they were either naive or unduly optimistic. It will at least be duked out in the letters pages, while it certainly deserves a more sophisticated public conversation than the brief mea culpa. I doubt the couple or their supporters are going to take this quietly — and I’m guessing it will become a cause celebre among Jewish proponents of gay marriage. Which, in the end, may give the Standard the cover they need to reverse their unfortunate decision.
– Full disclosure 1: I live in Teaneck.
– Full disclosure 2: The NJJN published its first (and so far only) same-sex announcement in its largest (and arguably most liberal) community edition earlier this year, and received not a single comment pro or con. But then, there is no large Orthodox community on the scale of Teaneck’s within our readership.