RELIGION
10/08/2010 08:03 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Jewish Standard's Gay Wedding Announcement Causes 'Firestorm'

By Judy Peet / The Star-Ledger
Religion News Service

TEANECK, N.J. (RNS) After enduring "a firestorm" of criticism from all factions of Judaism, New Jersey's oldest Jewish newspaper says it overreacted in printing and then rescinding its first published same-sex wedding announcement.

"We did not expect the heated response we got. We believe now that we may have acted too quickly in ... responding to one segment of the community," said James Janoff, publisher of the New Jersey Jewish Standard, in a Wednesday (Oct. 6) statement issued on the website of the weekly paper.

Janoff said he is discussing how to handle such announcements with rabbis and community leaders in Bergen County, where the paper has most of its readership. Janoff urged readers "to take a step back and reflect on what this series of events has taught us about the community we care so much about."

The issue arose Friday (Oct. 1), when the 79-year-old paper ran a small unpaid story announcing the upcoming nuptials of Avichai Smolen, 23, of New Milford, and Justin Rosen of Coram, N.Y.

Rosen is studying for a dual degree in Judaic studies and public administration at NYU. Smolen, a Rutgers University graduate, works at Keren Or, the Jerusalem Center for Blind Children with Multiple Disabilities in Manhattan.

Smolen's father Robert, said the family "didn't think too much about making the announcement. Our son is an accomplished, independent young man and we are very proud of him and his partner. We were very surprised and disappointed at what happened."

Editor Rebecca Boronson ran an online editorial on Monday saying "We set off a firestorm last week by publishing a same-sex couple's announcement of their intent to marry."

The editorial said some rabbis claimed the announcement caused "pain and consternation" in the Orthodox community. "We have decided therefore, since this is such a divisive issue, not to run such announcements in the future."

What followed was yet another barrage of negative reaction, this time by others in the Jewish community. More than 100 comments were posted online in response to the editorial; all but one criticized the paper's decision.

The Jewish News, the other major Jewish newspaper in New Jersey, ran its first same-sex marriage announcement in January and received "not a single complaint from readers," said editor-in-chief Andrew Silow-Carroll.