After my boyfriend Avidan and I got engaged at the end of October, our friends and family — both our given and chosen families — congratulated and applauded this milestone. They were celebrating our happiness and how much this means to us. We had a small engagement party and we were wished a mazal tov by all who came. As with most lifecycle events, a note was sent to Avidan’s parents’ synagogue for the bulletin so that our community could celebrate in the happy news, too. The word “engagement” was used, as we were going to take the next step to be legally married, but the words “kiddushin” or “erusin” (concepts of halachic marriage) were never mentioned. Nothing felt out of the ordinary; in fact, even those who disagreed with our “lifestyle” were polite enough to offer congratulations for our happiness.
The happiness didn’t last. Ten days later, in response to the synagogue’s printed well-wishes, came an online post by someone named CB Frommer on Matzav.com (an ultra-Orthodox website). In order to bring attention to the synagogue’s action, the website targeted me and my fiancé. My first reaction was to laugh. The post, entitled “Open Orthodox Congregation Wishes Mazel Tov On “Marriage” of Two Men,” was placed under the “Breaking News” category. It was neither “breaking” or “newsworthy.”
Even worse, the post included a photo of me and my fiancé along with our names, which put my fiancé, myself and our families right in the line of fire. This is the kind of personal targeting that is common in homophobic newspapers, hoping to turn a community against specific LGBTQ individuals and their families. How sad that this tactic is now used in the Orthodox world.
The comments to the post, perhaps not surprisingly, were mostly anonymous, given their hatefulness. And there were dozens of them.
“Sick people” with “psychological issues” who “won’t be able to celebrate their 50th anniversary with their kids”: You get the picture. While I didn’t expect to have solely positive reactions when I got engaged, I didn’t expect the reactions to be that cruel. I’m having a hard time comprehending the animosity from so many people who don’t know the first thing about me, other than the fact that I’m a gay Jew. I’m having an even harder time understanding why larger Orthodox institutions, rather than publicly coming to our defense, seem to be fanning this hatred.
When the Orthodox Union (OU) got wind of the mazal tov, HIR (an OU-affiliated synagogue) apparently was pressured to no longer announce the weddings of its LGBT members in its newsletters, in accordance with OU policy. (The synagogue had been announcing same-sex marriages in the shul bulletin since earlier in 2016, according to JTA.) Showing “support for, or celebration of, halachically proscribed conduct is fundamentally inappropriate,” the policy states. Reading into that, it appears that support for the families of LGBT people is prohibited too, because the synagogue’s bulletin didn’t wish either of us a “mazal tov,” it wished Avidan’s parents and grandmother congratulations.
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