Same-sex marriages in NJ Jewish newspaper

The New Jersey Jewish Standard recently published a wedding announcement for a marriage between two Jewish men.

And then a week later they published an apology for having published the announcement, and said they wouldn't publish such announcements in the future; it seems some Orthodox rabbis complained.

I found the apology sad and depressing—and a little confusing, given that their stated main reason for apologizing was that they wanted to “draw the community together” rather than be divisive.

As it turned out, they kind of did draw the community together, though not at all as they'd intended: there are now over 400 reader comments in response to the apology, and the overwhelming majority of them object to the apology.

I'm not sure I've ever seen such a unified front among Internet commenters on any article anywhere before.

When I first looked, there were 80 comments, and only one of those supported the apology—and even that one noted that for consistency, the paper also ought to stop printing other things that the Orthodox community might object to, like announcements of events held on Shabbos.

I figured at the time that it was just that the anti-gay forces hadn't yet arrived at the site, and that there would be a backlash wave of commenters saying “You're doing the right thing by keeping those gays out of the newspaper.”

But that hasn't happened. There are a few comments that say things like that being gay is inconsistent with being Jewish, but somewhere on the order of 97% of the now-over-400 comments are objecting to the apology, and supportive of publishing same-sex marriage announcements.

Which I find really heartening.

Some of the comments go further than I can support. A bunch of them, for example, compare the Orthodox rabbis in question to Nazis (yep, Godwin's Law is proved true once again), and a bunch of others are generally vituperative. (Note to some of my Orthodox friends: reading some of those comments might be pretty rough going.)

But there are also a lot of lovely heartfelt clear statements of support for gay and lesbian members of the Jewish community. Including some such supportive comments from (non-Orthodox) rabbis, and—I'm especially pleased to see—several from members of the Orthodox community.

The next day, the publisher posted a followup statement noting that they had acted too quickly in apologizing, and that they're meeting with local rabbis and community leaders to try to come to some sort of workable conclusion.

There've been suggestions and speculations in a couple of contexts that the paper was worried that if Orthodox rabbis were to organize a boycott of the paper, and/or put pressure on the paper's advertisers, that could end the paper's existence; and thus the paper had no real choice but to give in to the pressure. If that's true (I have no idea whether it is or not), I don't envy the publisher and editors; but I hope they can find a way to survive as a newspaper while still publishing same-sex wedding announcements (and other things that some members of the community might object to). For example, if they do decide to continue publishing such announcements, I hope a lot of people will subscribe to support that decision.

For more about the whole thing, see a New York Times article about it, and an interview (from a national Jewish student magazine) with one member of the couple whose wedding was announced.

Thanks to Shmuel for posting about this, and for providing most of the above links.

8 Responses to “Same-sex marriages in NJ Jewish newspaper”

  1. BrevilleJE900

    I agree with you that it’s sad they posted the apology.
    Anyway, it’s interesting to read that they can be married by a rabbi in a synagogue. I hope the gay couple are happy together and wish them all the best.

    [Note from Jed: I allowed this comment because the commenter appeared to have read the post, but I removed a spammy URL.]

  2. SarahP

    Hey, your post appeared in my LJ feed! It’s been a while since that happened.

    This is heartening, especially the part about the comments, since the crazies usually appear there.

  3. Jay Lake

    Our cultural discourse has come to be dominated by whoever can claim the most offense. This dynamic benefits cultural extremes in all directions.

    • Jed

      Jay: I disagree, both in general and in this case in particular. I don’t see the cultural discourse, in this case or others, being “dominated” by whoever can “claim” the most offense, and I think that phrasing it in those terms does a disservice to people who are hurt by others’ words.

      I suspect, though I could be wrong, that you’re drawing a parallel between the actions of the Orthodox people who complained to the newspaper and the online comments of (for example) people who work against racism. I don’t see those as parallel.

      If that’s not what you’re getting at all, then I apologize.

  4. Hershl

    The decision is a done deal.

    Unfortunately, the demographics of Teaneck, NJ where the paper is published make it so that the orthodox community can pretty much dictate its terms to the paper.

    We have documented these allegations. We published a comment from an insider which makes it very clear that the paper is faced with an economic boycott if it publishes such announcement.

    The rabbis control kosher certification of all Jewish establishments, food, etc. If they yank it the company goes bust.

    That simple.

    • Jed

      Hershl: I’ve now read the article you linked to, but I don’t really see it documenting your allegations. It seems to me to repeat speculations that I’ve seen elsewhere (and linked to in my entry), without giving any clear or strong evidence of the truth of those speculations. In particular, you say here that it’s a done deal, but I see no documentation of that allegation.

      I’m also a little perturbed to see that your article reuses material originally written by James M. O’Neill (Rabbis discuss Jewish Standard’s gay marriage notices) and Peter Applebome (Whiplash Can Follow a Car Crash or a Wedding Announcement). Possibly others, too; I didn’t keep checking after I found out why the phrasing of your opening paragraphs sounded so familiar.

      You probably ought to get permission from the authors and/or attribute their writing to them; neglecting to do so could potentially be considered anything from plagiarism to copyright violation.

      Note: I am in sympathy with your concerns; I strongly support printing same-sex marriage announcements in newspapers. But I get twitchy when someone posts a comment in my blog to further their own agenda.

      • Hershl


        If you check the article, you will see that full attribution has been provided. You also have the right to remove my comments from you blog.

        My agenda, as you describe it, is to report Jewish-related news that others either ignore or refuse to print.

        This topic, the pressure on the NJ Jewish Standard by some local orthodox rabbis, has garnered a lot of coverage.

        We and False Messiah, another web blog covering the orthodox community, have emerged as two of the sites willing to do in-depth coverage on this matter.

        For that, we have received the attention of the anonymous rabbis in question in their recent statement.

        I enjoy your blog and believe that it adds a lot to the discussion on all of this.

        When I went to yeshivo I was encouraged to question as a means of learning gemoro.

        I have not forgotten the training I received there.

        Jewish Daily Report

  5. Hershl

    The rabbis, who still wish to remain anonymous, have issued a statement defending their actions and saying how offended they are that anyone would question their wisdom.

    They reserve special space to denounce online publications such as the Jewish Daily Report and False Messiah, that work to accurately cover their activities. They know that print publications are especially vulnerable as is the case with the NJ Jewish Standard.

    Since we accept no advertising we, unlike the NJ Jewish Standard, are not vulnerable to their threats to yank kosher certification from advertisers.

    They are furious that anyone would have the temerity to expose them for the homophobic bigots and pressure-group that they have shown themselves to be.

    Here is the article on the statement with commentary:


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