Jewish Standard: Followup

There’s some fascinating follow-up to the story of the Jewish newspaper in New Jersey that decided to discriminate against gay couples.

Yesterday, the newspaper published a new statement saying that it may have acted too quickly in deciding to discriminate:

We ran the wedding announcement because we felt, as a community newspaper, that it was our job to serve the entire community — something we have been doing for 80 years.

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.

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.

We urge everyone to take a step back and reflect on what this series of events has taught us about the community we care so much about, and about the steps we must take to move forward together.

There’s also word that the editor of the paper, Rebecca Boreson, personally disagreed with the decision to discriminate but was pressured into it by the Orthodox community of Teaneck, NJ, where the newspaper is published.

It’s also possible that the newspaper was essentially blackmailed into this decision by the organization that certifies kosher restaurants, which threatened to decertify any kosher restaurant that continued to advertise in the newspaper if the newspaper continued to run same-sex marriage announcements:

It is my understanding that the Jewish Standard was basically being blackmailed. The RCBC, the Orthodox Rabbinate threatened to take away the hechsher, the certificate of kashrut, from any restaurant that continued to advertise in the Jewish Standard if they did not announce that they would never publish another gay wedding announcement. This would effectively put the Standard out of business, as it is advertising and not subscriptions that keeps their doors open, and it would have put the Kosher restaurants, caterers, and other Kosher food providers in the position of having to find another hechsher, which in Bergen county would be hard to do. It would alienate the Orthodox community from all of the liberal Jews who keep Kosher and it could cause financial havoc in the Jewish community. RCBC should be ashamed.

If true, these are disgusting and thuggish tactics.

On the other hand, this is not an example of courageous journalism, either, and it could have been handled much better. The publishers of the newspaper look like total cowards. As one commenter here says:

I’m not going to say “thanks” for your reconsideration on the subject like some other people. I’m taking a step back and I’m still baffled by the quick kowtowing to these Orthodox Rabbis SO quickly- like they were the Sopranos threatening cement shoes.

Additionally, here’s an interview with the couple who was the subject of the original wedding announcement that started this whole thing. They talk about what they think of all this:

I would hope that people don’t jump to conclusions and blame the newspaper. I think they made a mistake but are a generally good and pluralistic newspaper. The Jewish Standard will stay afloat with support from the greater community. They don’t need to toe the Orthodox line.

Finally, the New York Times might be working on a story about all this. That wouldn’t be surprising.