On the same-sex announcement controversy

On the same-sex announcement controversy

A common thread running through many of the comments concerning your recent gay marriage announcement is the complaint that The Jewish Standard is, “empowering this minority [i.e. the Orthodox]” to dictate to the majority. It is these complainers, however, who are in the minority. The Orthodox reluctance to redefine marriage to include same-same-sex unions represents the majority view in this country. There has never been a clearer case of activist judges being repudiated every single time the issue has been submitted to American voters. The majority views arrangements such as civil unions to be a more appropriate means for gays and lesbians to gain equal access to the benefits and privileges accorded to traditional marriage. The majority of Americans resent the minority of “liberals” who are dictating unwanted changes to their deeply held beliefs and millennia-old religious strictures.

There are, of course, powerful arguments to be made against the majority view. Rather than proffer those arguments, rather than attempt to persuade others in a reasoned, respectful manner, Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner launched an intentionally public, name-calling attack on the Orthodox (i.e., majority) view as, “homophobia masquerading as religious piety.” Predictably, this broadside by a rabbi against a whole segment of Jews was immediately beamed across the world by The New York Times. This group libel, masquerading as a quest for tolerance and diversity, unfortunately increased neither.

Even more dismaying is the statement given by Rabbi Jarah Greenfield, who is quoted in your paper as saying, “I would have all non-Orthodox Jewish leaders commit to condemning Orthodox-bashing in exchange for the Orthodox understanding that they are not the sole arbiters of authentic Judaism.” If this “concession” represents the conciliatory face of Progressive Judaism, it is not that progressive. Throughout Jewish history, its host countries have demanded that Jews concede the alleged irrelevance of their deeply held religious practices, such as Shabbat, kashrut, and circumcision, in return for normalcy.

I have a counterproposal to Greenfield’s: Get all non-Orthodox Jewish leaders to commit to condemning Orthodox-bashing. Period. Change to long-held fundamental beliefs, even if appropriate, will not be induced by aiming internecine insults through The New York Times. The only path to true understanding and accommodation is respectful dialogue.