NJ Jewish paper threatened by orthodox thugs.

Next year in Teaneck.

Our previous story detailed the decision by the NJ Jewish Standard to change its policy of printing announcements of local Jewish couples by specifically excluding same-sex unions authorized by New Jersey law.

After we published the story we were inundated by readers who clicked on the article and sent it to friends.

One person sent a comment which we posted following the story.

She is obviously very familiar with the situation at the newspaper and notes that the editor, Rebecca Kaplan Boroson, who signed the editorial announcement regarding the new policy took responsibility for a statement which, in fact, was not written by her. Apparently, she was forced to sign her name to a statement which did not reflect her personal views.

Furthermore, it was noted that this is a private newspaper and the employees must do as they are told or lose their jobs. The NJ Jewish Standard is dependent on its advertisers all of whom are very vulnerable to condemnation and boycott by the local rabbinical community and their supporters within the orthodox world of New Jersey. The newspaper is located in Teaneck, New Jersey which has a very large orthodox Jewish population many of whom advertise in the newspaper and read it.

The situation, as explained in the posted comment, is that members of the local orthodox community have threatened the newspaper with a financial boycott unless it follows their views on Jewish law. This includes refusing to publicize anything which positively reflects on gays and lesbians whom they believe are violating Jewish law.

The author of the comment explained that the staff of the newspaper, which includes one gay member, is afraid that if they do not follow the demands of the orthodox Jews who threatened them, they will no longer be able to earn a living and that the newspaper will be closed.

She ends her comment by offering a way out of the situation:

“Instead of vilifying the newspaper and withdrawing support from it, those opposed to this statement should make it clear that the newspaper’s rescinding this decision means they would *support* it by advertising and/or supporting its advertisers. With the threat of financial ruin removed from the equation, see what the Standard will do – remember what they did before this, before any pressure was brought to bear.”

This last line may reflect the original policy of accepting all wedding announcements from the Jewish community regardless of whether it was a heterosexual or homosexual couple. This was in keeping with the mission of the newspaper to accurately report the news of the entire Jewish community.

Click on comments to read the full comment following this article:



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14 Responses to NJ Jewish paper threatened by orthodox thugs.

  1. Robin Wolaner says:

    I worked in publishing for many years. Do you really believe that the course of action should be that the publisher should solicit funds in order to stand up for the civil rights of its readers? Are you kidding? I was the publisher of Mother Jones. We took it in the pocketbook often by publishing. That’s what you sign up for as a publisher. To suggest that people send money to a publisher who has already demonstrated craven behavior? You’re kidding, right?

  2. You are absolutely right if you work at Mother Jones.

    However, these are not politically aligned or driven people.

    They are working at a small community paper and are feeling tremendous pressure to take orders or be fired. Many of them have families and are terrified that they will be out of work in an economy where work is not easily obtained, ostracized in their insular community, and blackballed from future employment.

    What the orthodox bullies are doing is horrific. It goes against the entire tradition of tolerance and love for all Jews and people regardless of whether you agree with them or not.

    Unfortunately, many of these thugs believe that the end justifies the means. They believe that they and they alone possess the truth. The rest of us are lesser Jews than they are in their eyes.

    The writer was not suggesting that anyone send money to the paper, as I read her words. We have changed the headline to reflect this. The previous one may have been misleading.

    She was simply requesting outside support to give them an alternative to the morons who are trying to silence them. It need not be financial support, as she pointed out. They just need to hear from those who will aid them in reporting the news accurately without losing their jobs.

    We report what she wrote and nothing more.

    The rest is for you to do with as you see fit.

    This is a new development in this story.

    As you will note, if you read our gay and lesbian-related articles, we fully support the right of complete participation for the LGBT community in all Jewish affairs and at all levels.

    I know with surety that as a gay, Jewish man I and my gay brothers and sisters are made in the image and likeness of God.

    We must never allow ourselves to be pushed around by bullies and cowards such as are attacking this newspaper.

    They are under siege and so are we all.

  3. pacingguy says:

    You should be happy to now many straight Jews are standing with you on this. We are indignant at the stupidity of the Jewish Standard for their decision.

  4. pacingguy says:

    Good news. The Jewish Standard is now reconsidering their stupid decision. The non-Orthodox community has made a big enough firestorm that hopefully they will make the right decision this time.


  5. Eillene says:

    In the early 1980’s I was an editor at an independent weekly Jewish newspaper distributed throughout Long Island and NY. Our cover photo one week was of the Batsheva Dance Company dressed in flesh colored leotards in an exciting dance pose. A day after the paper hit the stands and reached people’s homes, the publisher received a call from a group of Rabbis in Brooklyn who threatened to put a “Charem” (Jewish excommunication) on the paper if he continued to publish photos such as these. To their credit, the publisher and editor ignored the threat and continued to publish the photos and articles that represented the full gamut of Jewish life and news.

    What has transpired here in Teaneck at the Jewish Standard, is so similar to my experience in the 80’s, where a small group of Rabbis attempted to assert control and authority over an open minded independent press. Unfortunately, this publisher and editor appears to have capitulated to these pressures and in the name of appeasing this small group and the people for whom they caused tremendous “pain and suffering,” they have threatened to undermine the long term support of the majority of their Jewish readers, subscribers, advertisers and friends. I hope they rectify this situation and open the pages of the Jewish Standard to all Jews in the community and not just those deemed appropriate by a small group of Rabbis.

  6. Daniel says:

    I support the right of the Standard to publish whatever it wants about whomever its wants – but object to the reference to Orthodox “thugs”. There was no suggestion that that there was ever any threat, or anything close to it, of any sort of violence or vandalism here. Lets reserve the use of the word “thugs” to where its really apropo — which is plenty of times.

    • Does threatening the livelihood of someone, telling them that if they don’t do what you tell them to do they will lose their job, be unable to support their family, that you will bankrupt and blacklist them qualify as thuggish behavior?

      These threats and others were made in the name of Judaism by orthodox rabbis in Teaneck, NJ to the staff of the NJ Jewish Standard.

      The paper actually wanted to keep on publishing announcements of all Jews in the community regardless of whether they were gay or straight as long as they follow the law of the State of NJ.

      The orthodox holier-than-thou rabbis intervened and said, it’s either our way or the highway.

      They are threatening the paper with extinction by boycotting and harassing anyone who advertises if the paper continues to publish what they find threatening and objectionable.

      Curiously, these defenders of Jewish morality have never once objected to non-kosher restaurants advertising. They couldn’t care less if a function that violates the Sabbath, which they loudly support, is publicized in the paper.

      However, when two men who are pledging love and commitment in a ceremony performed by Reform and Conservative rabbis, and backed by the authority of the State of NJ, announce their ceremony, the holy rollers go crazy.

      Yes, they are thugs.

      We have our very own ayatollahs and Taliban in Teaneck, NJ.

      • Martin says:

        You are so “off”. If you think that bashing Orthodox will win you some sort of recognition for being “cool” and “flippant”, you are sorely mistaken. You cite no statements that show that Orthodox and Traditional rabbis used blackmail to get the paper to retract their original intention to publish such announcements, except for one uncorroborated sentence in the NY Times article.
        Why don’t you speak to some of these rabbis- even off the record- and get some clarification. You might even get an education- which you sorely are in need of. But at least you would be acting as a responsible journalist- which is obviously way beyond your capablity or intention.

  7. ghj says:

    Let me get this straight:

    1) As an orthodox Jew, I am obliged to read and give advertising to a paper that publishes things that I believe are immoral.

    2) Because of the different moral standards that I have, I have to expose my children to things that I believe are wrong.

    3) I could care less about whether or not the government or the Reform-Conservative allow people of the same sex, or people and animals, or close relatives to marry each other. It’s absolutely none of my business. But don’t tell me what to read, where to shop, what synagogue I go to, or what to believe. Call me a bigot or a thug if you want. Don’t give my institutions money; but don’t complain when I don’t give to your causes.

    4) Don’t assume that I hate gays because of what I believe in, or the lifestyle they choose. (Yes, I said choose. I know that people can’t force themselves to be attracted to someone of the opposite sex. The Torah forbids homosexual acts, not individuals It requires people under certain circumstances to be celibate.) I care deeply for my gay relatives, friends, and co-workers. But, if they choose not to associate with me because of their beliefs, don’t expect me to change anymore than I expect it of them.

    5) I too am sick and tired of the orthodox trying to control your lives, both here and in Israel. Don’t keep Shabbat, eat a ham sandwich with a glass of milk on Yom Kippur, sleep with and marry whomever you want, don’t go to the mikva. Frankly, this thug/bigot is tired of being told what to think and how to live. It’s only fair that you have the same rights. I don’t care that much about you anymore, and don’t care what you think about me. I’m tired of telling my fellow orthodox Jews that they have to reach out to you, and understand where you’re coming from. And don’t think that this is coming from a “black hat.’ I wear a knitted kipah, am a staunch Zionist, believe in giving territory for peace, and value secular education.

    6) I’ve had enough of this “Love your fellow” crap. I don’t like or respect you any more than you like me. I will attempt to treat you civilly, as I try to do with Protestants, Catholics, Moslems, Mormons and Budhists. Let’s make this a clean divorce. You laid the groundwork for that with non-halachic conversions, patrilinaility and changing the way you live your lives. I believe that the Israeli government should give your religion money and support your institutions. Actually , I get stuck with the wrong end of the stick: I’m stuck with the charedim and the real estate Zionists.

    7) I’m not usually this blunt or nasty. I try to live my life to be a decent person, not just ritually but morally, and teach my children to do the same. It’s just that I don’t think this unity thing will work anymore. Enjoy the Jewish Standard every week. I have plenty of sources for my Jewish news. Feel free to criticize me or call me every name in the book. You don’t mean anything to me anymore.

    • IH says:

      The word used in the Torah regarding male homosexual acts is תּוֹעֵבָה — a word not used very often and generally translated as “an abhorrence”.

      The word is also used in reference to food (Deut 14:3) and even more curiously in reference to a man remarrying his 1st wife once she has been divorced or widowed by a 2nd husband (Deut 24:4).

      Do you require due diligence on food-related and heterosexual marriage announcements to make sure these other potential forms of תּוֹעֵבָה are also not published?

      • ghj says:

        I would say yes. Why would I want to give support to Jews eating traif, or announcing intermarriages, or marriages of someone without a get or halitza. You’re free to support a newspaper that announces these things. This bigot/thug chooses to spend his money elsewhere. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem

      • IH says:

        I guess you were shmoozing during Chamishi on Shabbat Ki Teitzei a brief 1.5 months ago. Check out out the first 4 psukim of Devarim 24. I find it hard to believe you would consider that תּוֹעֵבָה as immoral behavior.

        And the only thing I would call you is: angry.

        Shabbat Shalom.

  8. well wisher says:

    Of course you are right. They ought to object to anything in the paper which does not conform to Jewish orthodox standards. They ought not to be giving a ‘hechsher’ to someone who is not orthodox anyway. It shouldn’t be necessary for the ‘rabbis’ or thugs as you call them for them to ‘warn them away’. But you have to realise these rabbis are in business just like the paper is. They choose what Jewish laws they will conform to, and those dont include where making a profit is concerned. I don’t think most people buy a paper for the adverts, they buy it for the news. And if they can’t get it elsewhere they will still buy it. But that won’t cover your running costs. You have to make a commercial decision and expose the ‘rabbis’ and thugs for what they really are. Only concerned with Jewish laws where there livelihood is not at stake

  9. pacingguy says:

    The problem is it boils down to who wrote the Torah. The Orthodox believe it is directly G-d’s word where the Reform and some other sects believe the Torah was written by man, meaning some of their opinions at the time got included.

    Back when the Torah was written, no doubt men thought homosexuality was a deviant behavoir and thought so for a long time after. However, now science has proven that homosexuality is not a deviant behavoir or choice, it is how people are programmed in the uterus; in other words, it is natural just like some people are born lefties. If the Torah was written now, I am sure homosexuality would not be considered an abhorence. Yet, people keep going back to that quote written back when humans did not have the knowledge they have now that homosexuality is not an acquired or learned trait, but part of a person’s genetic make-up; their being. Are my Orthodox brothers suggesting G-d creates some humans born with deviant behavoir?

    All I can say is thank G-d, the Torah says nothing about Lefties being an abhorence because I would hate to think my simcha would not be permitted to be printed in the Jewish Standard.

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