NOW THAT'S FUNNY
The Jewish Standard, a major Jewish newspaper based in Teaneck, published a same-sex wedding announcement last week, and then, after a firestorm of criticism from Orthodox rabbis, declared that they will never do that again.
The newspaper also received tons of letters supporting the wedding announcement, and expressing gratitude to the newspaper for its progress in breaking down barriers. Still, the paper issued a statement saying, in part, that because of the "deep sensitivities in the traditional/Orthodox community to this issue ... the announcement caused pain and consternation ... we have decided, therefore, since this is such a divisive issue, not to run such announcements in the future."
The announcement of the wedding of Avi Smolen and Justin Rosen was published September 24, and the subsequent decision to end same-sex announcements has ignited a fierce debate in the Jewish community. Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, said the paper "has thrown three movements of Judaism — Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative — overboard in an effort to mollify the fourth, Orthodox."
In other words, The Jewish Standard allowed itself to be bullied. They had the impulse to be inclusive to gays, but when push came to shove, they backed down. They decided the old bigotry was more comfortable than a new tolerance.
Our culture likes to think its all tolerant and forward thinking, cuz like, we love Ellen, and Neal Patrick Harris, and Clay Aiken, but the fact is most states can't pass gay marriage laws. The heart-breaking suicide of Tyler Clementi, and of other gay teens, reminds us that those kids do NOT feel welcomed. They feel isolated and afraid and shamed. It's fine for glamorous celebrities to be gay, but down here in the trenches of every day life, I don't think gays feel very comfortable.
It's so important that our churches and temples set an example of love and refuge. I am in church every week, and if I didn't have a place to go where I could lay my burden down, and where I could sit alongside other burdened people and be renewed, I would truly be adrift.
My friend Tina goes to a church in Manhattan called "Queer and Questioning". I laughed out loud when I heard that name, I thought she had made it up, but no, that is the name her church chooses to call itself so that parishioners can know that ALL are welcome.
This is just what our gay young people and their families desperately need: some good, old-fashioned, glad-hearted welcoming. I say bring on the slogans. Let's have our houses of worship adopt some catchphrases to bring home the flock.
"Gay? That's OK! Let's Pray!"
"Come Out of the Closet and Into Our Pews!"
As of Wednesday, The Jewish Standard has flip-flopped again. As reported in The Jewish Week, the publisher of The Jewish Standard, James Janoff, said this: "We did not expect the heated response we got, and — in truth — we believe now that we may have acted too quickly in issuing the follow-up statement, responding only to one segment of the community." He continues, "We are now having meetings with local rabbis and community leaders. We will also be printing, in the paper and online, many of the letters that have been pouring in since our statement was published."
Clearly, they realize they are caught in the middle of a big mess, and they're trying to determine if they have the moral strength to come down against fear and prejudice. Let's help them out with some jolly mottos, shall we?
I like "Wedding Announcements Where No One Is Passed Over."
Pam Lobley writes the "Now That's Funny" column. Sign up for her mailing list at www.pamlobley.com.