One of America’s most influential Orthodox newspapers has taken a strikingly defiant tone while defending the recent publication of an article about gay Jews.
In a staff editorial entitled “The Jewish Press Won’t Be Silenced,” the New York-based newspaper declared that it “won’t give in to threats” – a reference to an apparent attempt by critics to start a boycott by advertisers.
The controversy began with the Jan. 25 publication of an op-ed by Chaim Levin criticizing – in gentle terms – “reparative therapy” and other efforts by the Orthodox community to “cure” or reject gay members. Levin – who describes himself as being from a “heimishe family in Crown Heights,” Brooklyn – wrote about his own negative experience in reparative therapy, and said a different attitude toward homosexuality is necessary to bring down the number of suicides among Orthodox gay youth.
While the essay inspired an outpouring of positive feedback on the Jewish Press website, it evidently didn’t please everyone. In yesterday’s staff editorial, the paper – which describes itself as “the largest independent weekly Jewish newspaper in the United States” – said it would “continue to be the voice of the Jewish people, no matter who threatens us.”
Noting that it didn’t print Levin’s article to “promote homosexuality” or “condone anti-Halachic behavior,” the paper nevertheless stood by its decision to publish the essay. “We ran this article because, whether one wants to admit it or not, there is a serious problem that some members of our religious community face – day in and day out. It could be your Chavrusah (study partner) in Yeshiva, the guy sitting next to you in shul, or your brother in your very own home . . . Pretending that there are no frum Jews with homosexual inclinations won’t make the truth go away.”
The Jewish Press added that it ran Levin’s piece after being “approached by a therapist from the frum community,” adding that a “significant percent of suicide attempts are committed by boys from not just religious, but rabbinic homes, because they thought they were homosexual and had no place in the Orthodox world.”
While more conservative than the vast majority of American Jewry, the Jewish Press has taken a relatively liberal position on some social issues. It notes on its website: “The paper has been a tireless advocate on behalf of . . . agunot (women whose husbands refuse to grant them a religious divorce), and has taken the lead in urging a greater communal openness in addressing domestic violence and other social ills.”