At the bris of my twin nephews, I had the great displeasure of coming face to face with true hatred and intolerance; I came face to face with a woman who shamelessly tried to publicly ridicule me at my own family event. I had greeted Molly Resnick, a woman I had known for years. When she realized who I was she laid into me. I didn’t initiate a conversation with her about my life nor her son’s scathing editorial about me and the work I had done to prevent LGBT teen suicides. I did not intend to create any commotion, and I’m deeply sorry for what happened. I did feel the need to respond though, and I hope my family and friends can understand this and appreciate how out of line and disrespectful Ms. Resnick was.
As a family member, I was talking to the many people who had come to celebrate this big event. I was chatting outside the main hall where people were gathered, when I came face to face with Molly Resnick. Her son, Elliot Resnick, had been a waiter at my childhood camp and a friend who I thought understood me because I was different. But, he became one of my harshest critics. He authored the June op-ed in the Jewish Press castigating me as self-indulgent and shameful for participating the “It Gets Better” project. In increasing awareness of bullying and suicide of LGBT teens, these videos are intended to give hope to LGBT teens. The Jewish Press allowed me to respond to Mr Resnick this past January; my honest and sincere account of growing up gay in the Orthodox community was made public.
I had known Ms Resnick as a kind, charming and friendly woman with a fine background in journalism. She is the founder and director of a group called Mothers Against Teaching Children to Kill and Hate (MATCKH) and is widely known as an activist against violence and hatred. However, I was disappointed to learn several months ago that the homophobic apple does not fall far from the hypocritically hateful tree. Nonetheless, I greeted and thanked her for sharing in my family’s joy and happiness, saying respectfully I hoped we could look past our differences as we celebrated my nephews’ happy moment.
“I think you’re atrocious and what you’re doing is disgusting and wrong,” her venom took me completely by surprise as she continued: “you’re self-indulgent, shameless, a disgrace to your family and to your community,” adding “you are causing great damage to many people and you are too careless to realize it.” She was lambasting me loudly in front of many other people and was not stepping down. After the initial shock and horror, I wondered if she had any sensitivity to the fact that I actually lived through the harsh reality that she would rather deny, that I spent almost two years trying to change myself and that I had attempted suicide. Overwhelmed, I was able to ask whether she cared about the teenagers and confused souls who might hear her hateful message and be pushed closer to suicide.
“No I don’t. It’s not my problem,” she deigned. I asked her how she could be so heartless and intolerant.
“I’m intolerant towards people like you just like I'm intolerant to Hitler, murderers and heroin addicts,” she spat, “and what you’re doing is just as bad as all those things.”
I couldn’t believe what was happening in front of so many people at my nephews’ bris. She was heinous, merciless and wholly inappropriate. A woman of her stature and an activist against violence and hatred should know how to behave in public. And, yet somehow, she was still able to condescend further from the dirt to add, “Listen, I know way more about this than you do and have been reporting about this since before you were born.” She is apparently unaware biased reporting hardly compares to actual experience and represents propaganda not journalism and that her behavior undermined any pretense to professionalism she might have. She must be aware that her son’s own newspaper backed my experience over his vitriolic propaganda. Five women who had heard what she said to me came over to see whether I was okay and to tell me about her extremist and radical rap sheet and not to take her seriously.
I am really lucky to have a mother like mine. After leaving Resnick in utter disbelief, I told my mother what Ms Resnick had said. My mother immediately went to Resnick, “With all due respect, this is my son. I love him and accept him unconditionally. You have no right to call him such things and try and embarrass him the way that you did.” Ms. Resnick said, “As far as I know, you were ashamed of your son. That’s what I heard, and for good reason. How can you not be ashamed of him for being gay?! I know you really are. You’re just saying that you aren’t”. Politely and eloquently, my mother told her that she is not ashamed one bit of me in any way and that she loves me and accepts me no matter what. My mother also told Ms Resnick that her son was way out of line writing such a disgusting article about me and not having even the basic decency to actually call me once over the past ten years.
My mother’s bravery and respectfulness despite the Ms Resnick’s rude behavior and hurtful words at my family’s celebration was truly impressive. I wish I could have been as graceful as my mother. I had found myself at loss for words. I could have responded better. In reaction to being called an angry rebel who’s trying to destroy the Jewish community, I had called Ms Resnick a homophobe. That was unnecessary of me. I trust that she and everyone else was already fully aware of her hatred, and her behavior only demonstrated how deeply intolerance is rooted in some people’s minds, no matter how inconsistent it is with Judaism or simple compassion and decency.
I have developed a pretty think skin and do not require an apology. However, I believe Ms Resnick should apologize to those she offended by her behavior, if she is indeed a leader and advocate within the Jewish community.
Some people over the past 24 hours have discouraged me from acknowledging this incident — to simply ignore Ms Resnick and not be dragged down by one person’s radical homophobic views. However, I don’t understand how such insensitive and despicable behavior could be ignored. It was wasn’t just directed at me, but at a community of people. While this incident honestly caused me much emotional strain, sitting silently would merely condone such people who believe that their views are in line with “Torah values” have the right to spew such hateful venom in public. This woman had audacity at my family’s celebration to try to shame and humiliate me and my mother who has come a long way to accept me. The words of people like Ms Resnick make their way to younger people and harm.
This morning, a 14 year old girl in Vancouver Washington committed suicide because she was bullied non stop for being gay. While she did not hear Ms Resnick’s words, I have no doubt that she heard similar ones and that similar attitudes contributed to and legitimated the bullying she experienced. This ultimately is the issue. It is not a matter of pride, honor or even having the last word. Unfortunately, there will always be radicals, and people like Ms Resnick will never have compassion for other human beings. We cannot however sit quietly and condone such tirades.