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Rabbis Address Wedding Notice Dispute

Rabbis Address Wedding Notice Dispute

A meeting of about 35 rabbis and Jewish community leaders with The Jewish Standard's editor and publisher "was a good first step" in addressing the controversy over the New Jersey paper's decision to cease publishing same-sex wedding announcements, according to Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner (pictured), although whether the paper will resume carrying the notices remains to be seen.

"No one was coming in with an ultimatum that it had to be a certain way," Kirshner told The Record of Bergen County, N.J., of the meeting, held Thursday. "It was about compassion and understanding and tolerance and about listening. ... We definitely had a lot of emotion, but also reason and compassion."

The Standard, New Jersey's oldest Jewish weekly, announced this week that it would stop carrying same-sex wedding notices after a group of Orthodox rabbis objected to the paper's first publication of such a notice the previous week.

However, while Orthodox Judaism opposes homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the other major branches of Judaism -- Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist -- are more accepting of gays and allow rabbis to conduct same-sex union ceremonies, and some have called for extending civil marriage rights to gay couples. The Standard's decision to cease publishing the announcements led to "attacks from people who criticized the paper for caving to the Orthodox rabbis" and more than 400 negative comments on the paper's website,The Record reported.

Standard publisher James Janoff would not say if the paper would resume carrying same-sex wedding announcements, but told The Record that executives would continue meeting with clergy and other Jewish leaders to determine how the paper "can best serve the diverse interests of a varied constituency while remaining true to its editorial mission."

Kirshner, a Conservative rabbi, said the rabbis and community leaders would continue to meet whether or not the newspaper was involved, as all the branches of Judaism need to figure out a way to celebrate their commonalities while respecting one another's differences. "This is a bigger issue than just the paper and the marriage notices," he said.

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