A striking example of the chasm that yawns between the lip service given to unity and pluralism and the persistence of bias and discrimination, a chasm that weakens and shames the Bergen County Jewish community, appeared in last week’s edition of The Jewish Standard.
On the top of the editorial page appeared a statement by the Standard regretting the “firestorm” it set off the week earlier when it included in the simchas page the upcoming wedding of a gay Jewish couple. Due to outrage from the “traditional/Orthodox” community, The Jewish Standard stated it has decided “not to run such announcements in the future.”
With no apparent self-consciousness, on the bottom of the same editorial page, the Standard, in a piece written by the assistant editor, issued a call for harmony and fellowship in honor of Simchat Torah. “During this time of unity, we encourage all Jews – whether Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, or secular – and all Americans â€¦ to put aside their differences and focus on what we have in common, rather than what keeps us apart.”
“All Jews” and “all Americans”? Or all heterosexual Jews and all heterosexual Americans? Exactly what “time of unity” is the Standard (which tellingly titled its message “Sha shtill” â€“ Shhh, be quiet”) referring to when on the top of the same page the publication silences and renders invisible a whole segment of the Jewish people? I think we all know now who should “put aside their differences and focus on what we have in common, rather than what keeps us apart.”
Perhaps The Jewish Standard, which purports to be “the Jewish voice of northern New Jersey,” needs to be reminded of its own stated goal “to provide a forum for members of the community” and of its mission statement in which the paper describes itself as “not affiliated with any program, organization, movement or point of view but is dedicated to giving expression to all phases of Jewish life.” The disclaimer in last week’s paper suggests otherwise, and reflects a far narrower and rather disingenuous definition of unity and pluralism.
In the week in which we witnessed – right in our own backyard – the tragic suicide of an 18-year-young man shamed for his sexual orientation, how shameful – and dangerous – for this paper to be widening the chasm of rejection into which too many disappear – gay and straight – rather than fulfill the Jewish obligation to show respect and love for all people and to mend our breaches of compassion and inclusivity.