Teaneck Rabbis: Whatever it is, we deny it!

The orthodox rabbis in Teaneck, NJ who have pushed the local newspaper, the NJ Jewish Standard, to refuse to carry Jewish same-sex union announcements, have, with one exception, refused to allow their names to be known.

As the NY Times wrote in its recent article on this matter, “Neither the Orthodox rabbis contacted nor the newspaper responded to phone calls. And on the streets of Teaneck, businesspeople preferred to speak anonymously, rather than risk offending. Still, there was widespread speculation that the economic clout of the Orthodox gave them outsize influence.”

Now, however, they have emerged with a statement which was leaked by The Jewish Channel (TV).

As publicized by Failed Messiah , a major online journal of investigative reporting on the Orthodox Jewish community, this statement is noteworthy both for its condemnation of the exposure of the rabbis, who were caught with their pants down as well as for their excessive denial of any wrong doing while at the same time affirming that they are innocents whose only crime was that they are too devout to be involved in such bitul Torah ( waste of time when you could be learning Torah) as terrorizing their local Jewish newspaper.

Here are some choice nuggets taken from the statement .

Following Jewish traditional exegesis, we have inserted commentary  as appropriate. All bold type is used to highlight certain language used by the rabbis and is not to be found in the original statement.

To our great consternation,

[hence the phrase, ” pain and consternation“, used in the NJ Jewish Standard statement disavowing future same-sex union pieces which Rebecca Boroson, the editor of the paper allegedly was forced to sign. ]

the local Orthodox rabbinate, comprising the RCBC (Rabbinical Council of Bergen County), has become and continues to be the target of much venom presently being spewed, especially on the aforementioned blogs, based on the presumption that the rabbis played a major, and indeed bullying and arm-twisting role in the Jewish Standard’s decision making process. As a result of many erroneous assumptions, unsubstantiated claims and baseless fabrications, the rabbis of our community have been vilified in the most insulting, defamatory and obnoxious of terms.

[ One of the aforementioned blogs was the NY Times which included language in a previously referenced article discussing the allegations of extortion and financial pressure on the newspaper]

The following open statement is directed to our congregations in an attempt to accurately present the facts and set the record straight.

In the days following the appearance of this marriage announcement, a number of RCBC rabbis spoke with each other either in person, on the phone or through email. There was never, as suggested in one report, any special rabbinical meeting convened to deal with this matter. The reactions among the rabbis varied. Some stated that they had been approached by numerous congregants who were very upset by what they saw in the paper; others said that only a few in their synagogue seemed to care. Some held that the RCBC should send some kind of response to the newspaper, either orally or in writing; others contended than in as much as this paper does not conform, and does not claim to conform, to Orthodox standards – they do, after all, advertise non-Kosher food establishments and announce communal events which take place on Shabbat – this is not an RCBC problem. In light of the lack of any consensus, and in light of the fact that all this was taking place in the middle of the holiday of Sukkot, when the minds of most rabbis are understandably focused elsewhere, it was decided that any official RCBC reaction would wait until a full discussion could take place at our next regularly scheduled meeting, already planned for the week after Yom Tov.

[ No official meeting took place but  it was decided  via informal discussion among the various rabbis that any official RCBC reaction would wait. But none of these unofficial discussions count except that they resulted in a group decision.]

One single RCBC rabbi, who has been consulted by the Jewish Standard on a number of occasions in the past about issues relating to the religious sensibilities of the Orthodox community, did go, with the approval of the RCBC leadership, though not representing the RCBC,

[ Come on, guys, you can’t have it both ways]

to meet with the executive staff of the Jewish Standard. The meeting was characterized by calm, civility and mutual respect. The rabbi communicated that there were a significant number of Orthodox Jews who felt that the Standard had crossed a line by publishing this wedding announcement, and that if the leaders of the paper are concerned about the opinions of these members of our community, they should reconsider their position on this matter for the future.

[ As in, we respectfully advise you that you have crossed a line and in publishing this announcement – it was a union, not a wedding – to do as you are told or there will be consequences. Sorry, we cannot discuss the consequences now because our minds are understandably focused elsewhere, on our spiritual duties.]

- At no time did this rabbi or any other RCBC rabbi express any threat whatsoever, financial or otherwise, to the newspaper.

[ Such as, “you have crossed a line”; if you are concerned about our opinions, don’t publish what we tell you not to publish. Read the report in that tiny blog, The NY Times, for what everyone is discussing.]
– At no time did anyone representing the RCBC ever contact any proprietor of a food establishment under RCBC Kashruth supervision regarding anything to do with this matter or with the Jewish Standard.

[ No one officially “representing RCBC” but unofficially things kind of get known, even though, as mentioned earlier it is via email, phone, conversation, innuendo,etc. Come on, we weren’t born yesterday.]
– At no time did anyone representing the RCBC advocate any kind of boycott of the newspaper or force, urge, encourage, coax or cajole anybody else to do so.

[The magic words throughout this statement are no one officially representing the RCBC. These same rabbis to this day refuse to put their names on paper and even identify themselves in the media. They simply will not take responsibility for the mess they have created.]

Any reports, allegations or accusations implying the contrary are outright lies. They remain outright lies regardless of how loudly they are proclaimed or how often they are repeated.

It is a source of embarrassment to the greater Jewish community

[ Their homophobia is also a source of embarrassment for the entire world. One wonders,what greater Jewish community are they referring to? How would they know what the greater Jewish community thinks, given that they represent at best a tiny portion of the smallest minority within the Jewish community, the orthodox community. Certainly most Modern Orthodox and even many of the rabbis quoted earlier in your statement have no problem with the announcement.]

that there are various Jewish blog sites, claiming that they accurately report on the Jewish world in general, or cover the Orthodox world in particular, or something of the like, who seem, at least in this case, to have felt no need to display any sense of professionalism, journalistic integrity or even common courtesy. Any one of these values would dictate that all relevant facts should be thoroughly checked and rechecked before launching a nasty verbal attack on others, but that clearly did not happen here.

[Tell it to the NY Times which specifically mentions the speculation of rabbinical economic clout. Tell it to the NJ Jewish News which also addresses this reality. ]

Instead, the sites fed off of one another, built on the uncorroborated posts of others hiding behind the anonymity of a screen name and “protected” themselves by inserting words like “allegedly” and “supposedly” every once in a while. And so the Orthodox rabbis of Bergen County have this past week been labeled thugs, Ayatollahas, Mafiosos, Taliban and who knows what else. All, of course, in the name of tolerance, decency and sensitivity to the feelings of others, and all based on falsehood.

[Actually, all in the name of providing the Jewish community with the news of what is actually happening. That is our mission.]

——

All of this follows on the recent homophobic attacks on several gay men in New York City which the NY Police Department describes as the worst anti-gay hate crime in the history of the city. Just a few weeks ago Tyler Clementi committed suicide not too far from Teaneck, NJ because of homophobic harassment by fellow students who have since been arrested. NJ is vigorous in enforcing hate crimes. The rabbis have been notably silent on such matters. They are too busy attempting to change policy at their local newspaper.

About Jewish Daily Report

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7 Responses to Teaneck Rabbis: Whatever it is, we deny it!

  1. marjorie says:

    In your Talmudic reading of this statement, you forgot to parse “all relevant facts should be thoroughly checked and rechecked.” Unfortunately, it’s awfully hard to check and recheck something if the people you need to check with won’t tell you their names! And, of course, when other players known to be involved in the drama refuse to answer questions from the media at all.

  2. Hi, Marjorie

    People are afraid.

    We just got an e mail from someone at the center of the whole matter; they say that their friends and co-workers fear losing their jobs which, in this economy, is no small thing.

    The anonymous orthodox rabbis have them over a barrel and everyone in Teaneck knows it.

    Essentially, the men of the cloth have pulled out some cards that will allow them to dictate whatever they want to those who are vulnerable.

    Classic thuggery and extortion.

    After the media and the world forgets about Teaneck and the small-minded hypocrites who speak in the Name of God, the people involved will have to continue to live there and go about their business.

    This is what the Jewish Taliban is counting on.

    Forgetfulness and limited attention span on the part of all of those who are enraged by their slimy tactics.

    Their thinking, like that of the worst Islamists and other fundamentalist crackpots is that the end justifies the means. They, after all, are the spokesmen for God.

    It should be noted, as their statement mentions, that they don’t even represent a consensus of their own orthodox rabbinical community. Some of their orthodox colleagues want nothing to do with this whole thing.

    But they, too, prefer to remain silent.

  3. Anonymous like you says:

    You are not a person. You have no name. So you lie and don’t worry about the consequences, never considering that the targets of your venom are real people, with names.

    The NY Times does not say that there was any threat made. It quotes one person who said if the Rabbis were to boycott, it would cause financial pain. That is both true and no indication that there was ever any threat.

    You have made a series of scurrilous accusations and once the RCBC clearly stated that you had concocted the story from beginning to end, you make up MORE stuff to defend yourself.

    You amply demonstrate the worst of what blogging does to supposedly decent people. Just remember you won’t be anonymous after you die.

    • Thanks for your comment.

      I am delighted to post it.

      It is a perfect example of the hate and intolerance which exists in our community.

      If it weren’t for the net these rabbis and other bigots would go unchallenged.

      The mainstream media is dependent on advertising for its existence. Hence, the situation at the NJ Jewish Standard and why it is so vulnerable to these stealth rabbis.

      However, we do not accept advertising of any kind.

      So, we are beholden to no one and tell it like it is.

      Today I saw the results of a new poll.

      Young people are increasingly becoming more accepting of others who are different than them.

      This is in the Torah tradition and I am thankful that the trend is in this direction.

  4. If you are anonymous, I will be so as well says:

    It is difficult to take your complaints about anonymous rabbis seriously if you choose to be anonymous also.

    Shmarya Rosenberg and Harry Maryles, among others, maintain blogs in their names.

    • I like being anonymous.

      Maybe I should just take a pen name.

      Would you prefer that?

      As for the rabbis, neither they nor most people in Teaneck connected with this want anyone to know who they are.

      I guess they must have some reason for that, right?

      None of us are anonymous before HaShem. And that is what counts in my book.

      • If you are anonymous, I will be so as well says:

        You have every right to be anonymous if you choose. However, I think you are being inconsistent by complaining about the anonymous rabbis from behind a veil of anonymity.

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