Tag Archives: discrimination

Homophobia Is Not Kosher

By Steven Philp

On Thursday LGBT-interest blog Queerty posted an article outlining the newest addition to the Kosher.com affiliates program: the anti-gay group JONAH, or Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality. Kosher.com advertises itself as the largest online kosher supermarket, offering door-to-door delivery of several thousand kosher products including meat, dairy, wine and frozen foods. The affiliates program allows customers to select a non-profit organization—including synagogues and schools—to receive 5% of their online purchase; in return, Kosher.com benefits from increased traffic from that organization’s constituent population. JONAH has come under fire for their prescription of “reparative” therapy for LGBT Jews, which has been shown by all major American health organizations—including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatry Association, and the American Psychology Association—to be ineffective; in fact, as outlined in a 2007 article by The New York Times, the majority of certified health professionals hold that “reparative” therapy can damage self-esteem, increase depression and promote suicidal behavior.

Queerty was alerted to the partnership between Kosher.com and JONAH by Jayson Littman, a survivor of “reparative” therapy. Littman had held membership in JONAH for five years, before coming out and starting a “gay Jewish events outfit” in New York. Littman expressed his misgivings in an e-mail to Kosher.com, explaining that their association with JONAH sends “a message to [LGBT Jews] of where you stand on this issue and what your beliefs are.” Kosher.com replied to Littman, outlining their acceptance of any and all organizations in to their affiliates program. Unsatisfied, Littman responded: “I am sure that non-profit organizations that spread hateful messages about Jewish people wouldn’t be considered for the Kosher.com affiliate program.” The following Friday, Truth Wins Out—a pro-LGBT organization that sheds light on the harmful effects of “reparative” therapy—started a petition on Change.org against the partnership of Kosher.com and JONAH. According to an article posted on their site, within 90 minutes they had gathered one thousand signatures. Shortly after, Kosher.com responded to the petition with the following:

Firstly we wish to apologize if any action taken by any member of our company offended anyone. Our affiliate program…was not something that we had monitored but considering the current reaction regarding jonahweb.org’s decision to send their members our affiliate offerings, we have decided to discontinue that affiliation and our management will review our affiliate programs guidelines going forward.

The swiftness with which online organizing produced results is heartening. The article on Queerty coupled with Truth Wins Out’s petition is an example of quick and effective online advocacy. Although we are called to respect—if not cultivate—a plurality of opinion within the Jewish community, supporting an organization that actively discriminates against other Jews is decidedly not kosher.

Sneak Peek at Moment’s March/April Issue!

Here it is, folks, the Moment you’ve all been waiting for: our new issue’s cover!

The Slur That Won’t Go Away

by Kayla Green

JAP: The word has lost almost all of its taboo status, becoming something close to a knee-jerk reaction to any Semitic-looking girl wearing designer clothing or showing any other signs of wealth. The word, which connotes a long history of ugly generalizations, is often bandied about without a moment’s hesitation.

The recent YouTube sensation “Pursuit of Jappiness,” a parody of a song by rapper Kid Cudi, has racked up more than 275,000 views and proves that the word JAP still packs a punch; the video mocks the Jewish population at the University of Michigan with lines such as “When I say JAP, I don’t mean the Japanese, I mean the chicks taking pics at the frat parties, and the dudes at the Scarsdale driving range, new Beamer? Pssh, pocket change.” Lines like these create an automatic connection between Jews and money and also seek to prove the “otherness” of Jews in something as diverse as a university setting. Other stereotype-promoting instruments such as “The Official Jewish American Princess Home Page” website and the 2006 documentary Jewish American Princess still run rampant.

Ironically, post-war Jewish male writers first highlighted the concept of the JAP. Early examples can be found in Herman Wouk’s 1955 novel Marjorie Morningstar and Philip Roth’s 1959 novel Goodbye, Columbus, which featured overly indulged or  “princess-like” central characters.  The term began gaining popularity in the 1970s with the publication of several non-fiction pieces such as Barbara Meyer’s Cosmopolitan article “Sex and the Jewish Girl” and “The Persistence of the Jewish Princess,” a 1971 cover article in New York magazine by Julie Baumgold. The archetypal JAP has been described as “a sexually repressive, self-centered, materialistic and lazy female,” and as “spoiled, overly-concerned with appearance, and indifferent to sex”.

This is reflected in the Jewish American Princess Home Page, a website that introduces itself by saying, “Welcome to the unofficial open house of The Official Jewish American Princess Home Page! Come!  Sit! Help yourself to a warm bagel with a schmear of cream cheese and a nice glass of tea. Please excuse the dust and schmutz. These renovations are such a chore.” After this introduction, the website states, “You might be a Jewish American Princess if the only thing you know how to make for dinner is reservations.”

Other than the blatantly offensive nature of the term, the overall notion of attributing specific traits, qualities or preferences to a group of people renders JAP a brutal term—especially in light of the historical association between Jewish people and material wealth. From medieval times until recent history, Jews were barred from owning land and from various professions. In many cases, they were forced to be moneylenders, which kicked off the lingering stereotype of Jews with money.

JAP builds off of this legacy, reinforcing prejudices. What is really questionable is why we, individually and collectively, have become so complacent with the term being used on such a large scale. It is quite commonly used among young people in social settings; the term was even featured on a recent episode of Glee, a television show well known for promoting diversity and acceptance, proving that the word has thoroughly infiltrated popular culture.

It is commonly considered acceptable for a Jewish person to use the term—a ludicrous viewpoint, as JAP will always have the same meaning regardless of who says it. The identity of the speaker is immaterial when the word is used in a public forum. If we truly wish to become a progressive, accepting society, in which Jews receive the equal treatment they deserve, it is imperative to increase sensitivity towards the term JAP and other like expressions. It is unthinkable for a people who have suffered so greatly and overcome so much to allow—and often participate in—brutal discrimination in the land of the free.

They’re Here, They’re Queer….We’re still getting used to it.

By Niv Elis

Dismayed.  Disappointed.  Disgusted.

These are the adjectives commenters posted in response to a statement by The Jewish Standard, a New Jersey weekly, declaring that it will no longer publish marriage announcements for gay couples.  The decision came in the wake of the first gay engagement to grace the paper’s lifestyle pages, honoring Avi Smolen and Justin Rosen.

Following its publication, reports the Standard:

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 accompanying decision to stop running gay wedding announcements aroused a massive influx of criticism, pressuring the editorial board to reverse its decision.  One writer suggested that the paper change its name to “The Jewish Double Standard.”

The incident demonstrates the contentiousness of a debate over gay rights that has been going on for years, but has only recently started to make headway in the Orthodox community.  Informed by the 2001 documentary Trembling Before God, the focus of the discussion has moved from simply questioning the religious legality of homosexuality to examining the ethical implications of ostracizing gay Jews.  Last week’s shocking suicide by an outed gay freshman at Rutgers university accentuates the humanitarian dimension now central to the conversation.

“There are plenty—and probably a very strong majority—in the Orthodox world who think even acknowledging publicly the suffering of gay Orthodox Jews is out-of-bounds,” points out Steven I. Weiss in his excellent Slate article on the topic.  Loosening rules on homosexuality by definition strains the adherent philosophy to which the Orthodox subscribe.  But there are indications that “a critical mass of Orthodox aren’t going to ignore the problem completely.”

Support groups such as Jewish Queer Youth and the cleverly named OrthoDykes have popped up to offer guidance for distressed, religious  Jews questioning their sexuality and gender identity.  This past July, a group of Orthodox Rabbis cobbled together and signed a statement on homosexuality, grappling with the human implications of the Jewish law in a very serious way.  It opens with the declaration that “All human beings are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (kevod haberiyot).”

Given the strong feelings, religious convictions, and high stakes on both sides of the discussion, it seems unlikely that it will be resolved at any time soon.  In the meantime, all eyes will be on New Jersey’s Jewish Standard, eagerly anticipating on which side of the gay Jewish debate it will ultimately fall.