Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Being a Straight Ally

This week, we have been bombarded by injustices surrounding the LGBTQQI community. Multiple suicides of young adults who were bullied and outcast because of their personal identity. To help prevent this from happening again, celebrities have been recording messages standing up and asking for the greater community to help. Friends and neighbors who are gay making "It Only Gets Better" videos on YouTube - targeted to young LBGTQQI people who are struggling. Leaders of LGBT organizations were asking friends and colleagues to go back to their elementary, middle and high schools (and religious organizations) to request that they open GSA's (Gay-Straigh Alliances) and work hard to protect our young people. Organizations like Keshet are asking us to sign commitments to stand up for bullying and discriminatory injustices in our Jewish communities. [I have already signed it as a sponsoring agency with my consulting firm.]

And then, The Jewish Standard (a Jewish newspaper in NJ) writes this:

Given the tenor of the times, we did not expect the volume of comments we have received, many of them against our decision to run the announcement, but many supportive as well.

A group of rabbis has reached out to us and conveyed the deep sensitivities within the traditional/Orthodox community to this issue. Our subsequent discussions with representatives from that community have made us aware that publication of the announcement caused pain and consternation, and we apologize for any pain we may have caused.

The Jewish Standard has always striven to draw the community together, rather than drive its many segments apart. We have decided, therefore, since this is such a divisive issue, not to run such announcements in the future.

This is the note that I wrote to the Jewish Standard publisher upon hearing of their printing of this:

Dear Mr. Janoff,

I am writing to you as one voice in a firestorm of voices you are hearing right now on the issue of the same-sex engagement announcement. My name is Robyn Faintich and I live in Atlanta, GA. You may be wondering why someone from Atlanta is taking interest in a situation with a NJ Jewish paper.

First of all, I am a Jewish educator and have been for 15 years. I consult in Jewish communities all over the country and therefore my Jewish interests know no geographic limitations. Second, as a Jewish educator, especially when I work with youth and teens, I try to instill in them a sense of meschlichkite and the idea of making all choices through a Jewish ethical lens. I believe your team did not make a meschlichkite decision. Third, I teach these youngsters to stand up for the injustices in the world, whether it be in their home, school, neighborhood, country, or the world. How can I teach them this and not stand up against this injustice? Fourth, I also happen to have a degree in Journalism and when I was in school, I was taught that news outlets must remain impartial, and I believe you failed to do that as well. Lastly, in a time when we are bombarded in the news with stories of young gay, lesbian, transgender and questioning teens killing themselves, I can't call myself a Straight Ally and turn my head while you add to their emotional pain and burden.

Of these issues, I want to remind you of Jewish ethics that I feel needed to weigh into this decision. The Jewish value of not embarrassing, the Jewish value of love your neighbor as yourself, and the Jewish value of celebrating with a Jewish couple as they approach Chuppah. I believe your stakeholders made this choice out of fear and not through the lens of Jewish ethics. What a shame.

Please reconsider the message you are sending and the role modeling you are doing (or lack thereof) by maintaining this hurtful decision.


Robyn Faintich

p.s. I am almost afraid to ask what your policy is for publishing interfaith announcements ... if you do that and don't publish same-sex Jewish couple announcements it makes this situation even worse.

After hitting the send button, I wish I had written more. I wish I had asked them what their policy is/will be when a Lesbian couple has a child with a donor or a gay couple adopts ... will they deny the child the welcoming s/he deserves into the Jewish community? Because their parents are gay and it might offend someone?

Some people may question why I would get involved ... since I am not gay. I never feel like I have done enough when it comes to being a Straight Ally. Despite learning as much as I can from my gay friends and family members, about their journeys and their struggles, I can never truly understand. But I do understand what it is like to be teased and bullied. I understand what it is like to be a minority. So it's with that emotion and commitment to humanity that continues to motivate me to stand up and to make it my fight, too.


Gary said...


Gary said...
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