JTNews takes cheap shot at Seattle Orthodox Community
The JTNews’ bills itself as the “Voice of Jewish Washington”. The paper takes pride in their “big tent” definition of community and the wide array of perspectives offered in their pages.
Back in 2011, when a longtime columnist showed insensitivity in a critique of what he saw as marginally affiliated Jews, he was unceremoniously dismissed. The editor penned an angst-filled mea culpa “We – apologize to our readers and the community for violating the trust you’ve placed in JTNews to be accurate and fair in everything we publish. We should not have let you down”.
Remaining true to that pledge, the paper is indeed inclusive, always respectful of the varied and diverse lifestyles that make up our community. Well almost always.
Today the JTNews published an article titled “The struggles of a holier-than-thou husband”. The author of the article, Leonard Felson, writes of his experiences as someone who had gradually embraced a more spiritual, Torah observant lifestyle. He relates; “As I became more observant over the
span of several years — keeping kosher and eventually joining an Orthodox shul — I longed for a circle that could enthusiastically participate in weekly Shabbat meals, Passover seders, and my religious journey”.
Nice, right? Wrong.
Embracing traditional Judaism was inconvenient to Leonard’s non-observant wife Julia he laments, especially “when service schedules clashed with social invitations or Julia’s desire just to take in a movie on a Saturday night, even if Shabbat’s end had yet to arrive”.
Things came to a head when the family received an invitation to a cousin’s wedding, an intermarriage it so happens, to be held on Shabbat. Julia expected her husband to be at the wedding. Leonard struggles but finally has an epiphany. In his attempt to be true to himself and his faith he has been a selfish, husband and father. “I came to realize that for at least the past 15 years I had been acting holier than thou — to Julia, our kids, and to our friends.”
He recalls “That Saturday afternoon, we sat on folding chairs in the hot Florida summer sun. A minister and rabbi officiated. I held Julia’s hand. I sipped champagne and toasted the new couple. In short, I allowed myself to have a ball. “I like the new flexible you,” Julia said over the band’s music, a smile on her face”.
He finally finds his bliss by rejecting Orthodoxy. Happy ending.
How lovely, how tolerant, how inclusive of the JTNews to publish this paean to the abandonment of one’s convictions. The message? Orthodoxy is stifling and intolerant. Give it up and “have a ball”.
Why would the JTNews publish this full barreled attack on the Orthodox community?
Perhaps the article was submitted by a member of the local community and thus worthy of inclusion for that reason. Alas, the writer, Leonard Felson is of Hartford Connecticut and the article was culled from the JTA world news service. Mr. Felson has no ties to our community (he is not even from Tacoma).
The article was handpicked by the JTNews from hundreds if not thousands of available wire service articles. Again; this article was not submitted to the JTNews for publication, it was deliberately and specifically selected by the editorial staff for inclusion.
I have diligently searched through the JTNews online archive and have found no similarly themed article lamenting the harm done by other branches of Judaism or the selfishness of others who live a non-mainstream lifestyle (and for that I am pleased). For the JTNews editor, only the observant Jew is fair game, only the halachic lifestyle worthy of being demeaned and belittled.
We have no quarrel with the author of the article, nor do we doubt the authenticity of his personal experience. We do have an issue with the judgment of the JTNews editorial staff and the gross insensitivity that inspired this literary assault on an important segment of the Seattle Jewish community.
In spite of the whirlwind of social and societal changes in recent years, Seattle’s Orthodox community has remained steadfastly invested in the Jewish community at large and her associated institutions. This becomes increasingly difficult when those same communal organizations (JTNews is owned by The Jewish Federation) respond by belittling an important segment of the Jewish community with juvenile epithets of being “holier than thou”.
Two years ago the JTNews editor dismissed a longtime columnist for violating “the trust you’ve placed in JTNews”. He apologized to his readership and pledged from that day forward to be “fair” in what he published. Where is the apology to the Orthodox community for this offensive article, who will be dismissed for violating their trust?