While my Jewish community experiences in Bergen County are mostly limited to my membership at Temple Avodat Shalom, I think it is important for all Jews in our community to confront the engagement announcement of Avichai David Smolen and Justin Taylor Rosen. Therefore, as UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey and all Jewish federations provide common leadership to our community (and all communities around the globe), I urge our leadership in UJA to use this as an opportunity to engage and confront this controversy.
The beauty of Judaism is and has always been grounded in its diversity. This goes beyond the liberal, Conservative, and Orthodox movements. We at Temple Avodat Shalom welcome Jewish members of many colors, languages, cognitive, and other individual needs. Sadly, some of our members may not be considered “Jewish” based on the interpretations from some streams of Judaism. However, as I see it, not only are they Jews, but they are the same Jews who will be leading great segments of our religion in the future. Therefore, unknowingly, Avi Smolen and Justin Rosen’s simcha can serve as a catalyst for our Jewish community to build better and stronger bridges for all North Jersey Jews. With this in mind, I have decided to make a pledge in honor of Smolen and Rosen’s engagement. I am asking anyone who feels as I do to consider doing the same. I especially ask those who have not donated to UJA for one reason or another (such as myself) to rethink this decision. My son is named for a relative who died far too young because he was not proud of who he was (like Smolen and Rosen), and my daughter is a Jew of Chinese decent. My donation will also be in their honor, as well as anyone else whose individualism may be questioned by some in our Jewish community. Again, please consider doing the same. The time for change and acceptance may be right in front of us if we are willing to face it.