Saturday, July 04, 2020

“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.” —Voltaire.

This week the editor of a large Jewish newspaper was attacked online for publishing an op-ed that he didn’t write. The article was certainly controversial and more than a little divisive. It called into question whether marching in a gay pride parade is in line with halacha, and whether gay pride, for Jews, is something we should join in on in public life.

The editor defended it online but found himself, instead, in front of a social media firing line. He was threatened. His Twitter feed was dissected. People who disagreed with him tried to get him fired from his job. They called him a bigot and much worse, online. His publisher was questioned by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Since we’re in the newspaper business ourselves, we know that opinions are funny things: Some are popular. Some are offensive. Some are pedestrian. Some opinions hurt the feelings of others. (And some weeks, we get a variety of them in our inboxes.) But most of the time, as long as they are not physically threatening or hate speech, they’re not actually illegal. Because we live in America, we are guided by the right to pursue happiness, and to pursue life and liberty, in whatever way we believe is right, without religious discrimination.

Two Jews, three opinions, right? It’s pretty common that Jewish Americans might admit to, or celebrate, having a chasid in our family tree. We might have a rabbinic great-grandfather whose interpretation of halacha was different from ours, either more or less in line with our current observances. On the other hand, we might also admit to, or celebrate, having a communist or socialist somewhere in our lineage. Radical views are somewhat part of our heritage as Jews, and guess what? That’s okay.

In the Jewish community, our halachic directive is to love our neighbor. We love our children. We want them to know that our love is unconditional no matter what their choices are. Loving our children, though, does not come at the expense of destroying newspaper editors for having, much less publishing, an opinion that questions secular societal norms.

There are those who have opinions on whether marching for gay pride is a Jewish idea. They question whether celebrating a private sexual identity in a public way is in line with Torah values. In this day and age, this might be a radical idea that you disagree with. You might disagree with us that it can even be written down in this direct way. While we at The Link may not print every socially or non-socially acceptable view on this, and while we definitely have an editorial perspective based strongly in halacha, we don’t feel the need to always court such divisive controversy. Life isn’t always so simple and not every opinion can be expertly expressed on the op-ed page.

Nonetheless, we defend our community’s right to express opinions, whether radical or pedestrian. We should all defend one another from being attacked for having unpopular opinions.

And social media is not the arbiter of what is right or true or fair or halachic. Whoever screams loudest on social media is still just someone screaming at a screen in an empty room.

Everyone has a right to educate themselves and have their own opinion. That’s a real American value.