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.