June 21, 2024
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June 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Challenge of Covering the Contemporary Orthodox Community

When we took on the responsibility of publishing the Jewish Link of Bergen County, we knew we were in for an adventure, but we didn’t realize how challenging it would be. Some of our colleagues thought we were crazy to put a print newspaper together. But we knew we had a vibrant community to cover, one whose residents and readers, on both sides of the Hudson—from Bergen County to Washington Heights and Riverdale are intelligent and articulate—and open minded in many ways. Many are movers and shakers in what we call the crucible of Contemporary Orthodoxy—and it is our job to report what goes on while trying to keep our balance on that white line down the middle of the road.

Staying there often involves a noisy tug of war, all with the goal of keeping to that center line. Falling off can be dangerous, especially on a busy road, and right now, Contemporary Orthodoxy is very, very busy trying to cope. These dramatic changes are evidenced by the myriad programs and seminars offered by the dozens of shuls in the area, each one of them with a take that reflects the views of their chosen rabbi and fellow congregants. These points of view cover the gamut—whether the issue is technology in schools, special needs; whether or not women can wear talitot and tefillin, or if agunot can be freed—along with learning what to do if one’s child is gay or has fallen off the Derech.

As a newspaper, it is our duty to report these stories. We do not cause events or design programs. We do not stage news stories. We report them. Some stories may be controversial. A perfect case in point was the story of the girls at SAR who were given permission to wear tefillin in school.  In last issue, we simply reported the story and were soon accused by those who disagreed with that decision of not telling both sides of the story, even though there was only one side of the story when we went to press and Rav Herschel Schachter of YU hadn’t yet issued his response.

We know that over the years, there have been outspoken people who have been intimidated and eventually cowed into silence or who were judged harshly by their peers for being activists on issues that made people uncomfortable. It’s happened to us too, and as a newspaper, we don’t like it much. But if you object or support something we’ve written about, we want to hear from you. We offer a forum where you should feel safe to express yourself. And we need all of you to help us do that in a responsible and respectful way.

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