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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Last week’s cover story about LGBTQ inclusion in the Canadian Jewish community, which continues this week on page 21, garnered a healthy dose of positive feedback from CJN readers.

But I also got a phone call from a subscriber who took issue with our decision to run the story, illustrated by a rainbow flag with a Star of David, on the front page. I’d like to speak about the discussion that followed, because it’s indicative of one of The CJN’s biggest challenges as we move forward.

The caller, an Orthodox woman from Toronto, urged us to consider that some readers may have been offended by the appearance of that sort of article on our cover. She worried what children – and not just Orthodox kids – would think when they saw it. She argued that by suggesting the greater Canadian Jewish community is indeed moving toward more LGBTQ inclusion, as our story did, The CJN was implicitly calling into question the value of the Torah, which prohibits gay sex (and by extension, some Jews argue, gay relationships).

I responded that, as the article and an accompanying essay by Rabbi Steven Greenberg noted, the Orthodox community (mostly – but not entirely – the modern Orthodox community) has taken brave steps in recent years to further LGBTQ inclusion. And I asked why in her mind the biblical prohibition against gay sex necessarily takes primacy over achdut – inclusion – a principle of Judaism also rooted in the Torah.

The conversation was friendly, and at times both of us broke into chuckles. Still, the message was clear: some in the Orthodox Jewish community feel they are underrepresented, or even misrepresented, in the pages of The CJN. Whether it be last week’s cover story or last month’s three-part series examining allegations surrounding the Kashruth Council of Canada (COR), the caller warned, there are Orthodox Jews in Canada who feel The CJN shows a lack of consideration to their community. Some even feel they are under attack from us.

I’d like to assure our readers that this is not our intention – that it goes against what we are trying to do here, which is to bring all Canadian Jews together. And, in fact, a wide range of Orthodox voices are published regularly in these pages, including a significant number of Orthodox rabbinical contributors on our columnist pages and in our Rabbi 2 Rabbi and Parshah features. 

Still, it’s disconcerting to find out there are readers getting the impression The CJN is not inclusive of Orthodoxy, in all of its many manifestations. We’d like to fix that. We hope that our commitment to circulate to all Canadian Jews the positive and inspiring stories happening in the Orthodox community displays our dedication to working together. 

But, should The CJN shy away from tackling controversial topics because we run the risk of upsetting some Jews, Orthodox or otherwise? I don’t think so. Our community stands to gain from asking challenging questions and investigating provocative issues. The key is to make sure we do so in ways that don’t make anyone feel like their religious beliefs are being disrespected – otherwise we are just undermining our own cause.   — YONI

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