Friday, December 19, 2014

Another Challenge to Being the Inclusive and Caring Jews and People of Faith we are


Response to “Warning: Hollywood’s Coming For Your Home and Children!” by: Robert C. Avrech

I, as a Halachically observant Jewish parent, am somewhat at a loss after having read the article “Warning: Hollywood’s Coming For Your Home and Children” by Robert C. Avrech [This can be found at ]. While I am acutely aware that individual authors do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the entire Orthodox Union in this magazine; even within the wide range of Orthodox thinking, this article does not reflect well on the organization, either in content or tone.

The repeated diatribe against LGBTQ members of our larger general and more specific Jewish community by Mr. Avrech is insulting, offensive and against more than a few Jewish standards, including not to judge another, respecting all whom G-d has created, and to not embarrass another, just to name a few. Our medical community has made it quite clear that homosexuality is a function of who one basically is and should and cannot be placed in the same category as “social and psychological cults,” political positions, families that are held “together [by] murder, rape and plunder.” While I agree on the importance of the family that is stressed by Mr. Avrech, for me this type of thinking on the part of family is reprehensible.

I would make the same point of his error in collapsing too many dynamics into one category for his attack on Feminism and all other elements that he collectively demonizes in his virulent and offensive attack on everything with which he disagrees while protecting and whitewashing so much else. I do believe in moral standards and living by an ethical system. In that spirit, since when did Fonzie and his very permissive behavior represent good ole’ family values?

The subtitle of this article is “Postmodern Hollywood is a landscape of shifting morality where the traditional family is seen as a hateful, antiquated institution comparable to Jim Crow.” Among many other things the author laments the gay couple in “Modern Family” and the fact that “homosexual radicals” have pressured A&E to cancel Duck Dynasty because “the far left has demonized Phil Robertson, the family patriarch as a homophobe because he supports traditional marriage.” We need to remember that the “patriarch” was called “homophobic” NOT because he “supports traditional marriage” but because he compared homosexuality to bestiality and other vile stereotypes.

Media often reflects the reality of our lives and should rightfully include those members of our society who are single parents, gay couples, medically impaired children, divorced, widowed, blended families, working mothers, and so many other dynamics Mr. Avrech does not consider as part of his understanding of family values.

He states as follows: “Today it is militant homosexuals who drive the agenda. Tomorrow it will be sharia-yearning Islamists demanding sitcoms about happy-go-lucky polygamists.” To call this overtly and supremely offensive does not even begin to address the problem with such flawed reasoning. In fact, there are shows about polygamist and plural marriages that represent people living a different way and one may find these to be respectful and informative, though not part of one’s landscape.

The problem of most concern is that this magazine is specifically circulated to a segment of the Orthodox Jewish population that generally considers itself educated and enlightened. Within our Orthodox community we have LGBTQ individuals who are working hard enough to reconcile their religious belief with the reality of how Ribbonu shel Olam created them. We are parents, siblings, friends, and relatives of these children and adults; and we strenuously object to having our beautiful children and family members told that they are sexual perverts not unlike pedophiles and those who practice bestiality. This is exactly the type of speech about which our texts teach “life and death are at the mercy of what we say.”

I, along with many others, feel that this article is irresponsible and does not in any way reflect the foundational Jewish values and teachings that inform how we address challenging issues in our lives. Clearly, there are many for us as observant Jews -- adopted kids, hearing impaired members of our community, "lefties" about whom the Talmud has what to say, and so many others. We as Jews learn to address these issues that may challenge our sensibilities and sensitivities with responsibility and remembering that we are all made BeTzelem Elokim and that G-d makes us the way G-d makes us for reasons that G-d has. Maybe, just maybe, this is intended to challenge all of us to check our prejudices at the door and truly see and appreciate and value each other. This is true whether we are raised by single parents, if we are LGBTQ, if we have various medical limitations, if we are divorced, and so forth.... that is not about American Hollywood and the Religion of Television and Sitcoms... its about life!

Dr. Sunnie Epstein and a group of anonymous ESHEL Parents

Please note that this letter reflects the thoughtful processing and input of no less than eight different ESHEL parents and families

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