I have been paying close attention to the recent news about gay and lesbian teens who could no longer take the incessant bullying they received at the hands of their high school peers — and ended their lives. An initiative by local sex-advice columnist Dan Savage and his partner first brought my attention to the matter. This initiative is called the “It Gets Better” project, in which they and hundreds of others have created short video testimonials to let these teens know that their lives can and do improve once high school ends. The videos are honest, simple, and very affecting.
But this issue, I should point out, is not just about being gay. It’s about what we do in the face of injustice against other people, whether it’s bullying or something far worse.
And it appears this issue is gaining traction: More than 3,000 Jews across the country have signed a pledge, created by the Jewish gay and lesbian group Keshet but sponsored by a massive list of national Jewish organizations, to “send a message to everyone in our communities that we will not stand by in the face of suffering and injustice.”
But there was also the counterpunch. On Oct. 4, a firestorm was being unleashed at the offices of one of our East Coast counterparts: A few days before, the Jewish Standard of northern New Jersey ran a lifecycles listing announcing the engagement of two men. Then, following what the editor described as having “caused pain and consternation” to the Orthodox community, she posted an apology with a statement that the Standard would no longer run such announcements.
I was stunned. But I was not alone.
Two days after the Standard’s apology, following an outcry heard across the country and as far away as Jerusalem, the paper retreated — somewhat — to the point of saying it would hold discussions with community leaders. But it did not, as of that time, reverse its decision.
Why should we be upset, and given that the Jewish Standard serves an audience 3,000 miles away, why should it matter here in Washington State? Simple. We are a community newspaper. We serve our community. It should not be incumbent upon JTNews or any similar publication to decide who within this community should or should not be included. Even if doing so may hurt the feelings or not fully adhere to the beliefs of others, it is up to us to stand up and let the disenfranchised in. We must err on the side of inclusion. This goes for all members and segments of our community.
It is an issue far bigger than a wedding announcement, but given the outcry on both sides, the JTNews editorial committee agreed that now would be a good time to bring up our own policy regarding such announcements for same-sex couples, which we adopted in 2004:
JTNews Editorial policy – Lifecycle announcements
The mission of JTNews is to be inclusive of the entire Jewish community. Therefore, the policy of the JTNews is to accept marriage, commitment ceremonies, engagement, B’nai Mitzvah, birth and obituary announcements from all couples — including interfaith and same-sex couples — as long as at least one of the members of the couple is Jewish.
While it is JTNews’ mission to be inclusive of all members of Washington State’s Jewish community, this does not include so-called “Messianic Jews,” or any others who claim to be Jewish while embracing Jesus Christ.
As of this time, JTNews has never run an announcement for a same-sex couple — because nobody has ever submitted one. So let us indulge in being a little self-serving to note that the lifecycles section as a whole has been looking a bit anemic of late. Whether you’ve got a wedding announcement — gay or straight — a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a birth, a conversion — yes, we accept submissions but have yet to run one of those, either — or, because it too is a part of life, death notices, visit the lifecycles page on our Web site, where you can download the appropriate form. And of course if you’ve got something to say about this policy, we would love to hear from you about that as well.