The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and two Jewish leaders no longer will buy baked goods from the West Orange Bake Shop. That’s in response to the kosher bakery’s cancellation of two LGBTQ+ pride-themed orders for a local synagogue.
“There was an incident at the West Orange Bake Shop recently that we believe did not align with the value of B’tzelem Elohim, that each one of us is created in the Divine Image and deserves to be treated as such,” Dov Ben-Shimon, executive vice president and CEO of the Greater MetroWest Federation, wrote in an email circulated to staff and colleagues on June 20.
“While it is their right to refuse service, it is also our prerogative not to support their establishment,” the email continued. “Therefore, Federation will no longer be purchasing baked goods from the West Orange Bake Shop.”
A call to the bakery in West Orange on June 22 elicited the response that their lawyer would return the call, but that return call never happened. A day later, a Bake Shop employee declined to comment by phone, saying “it’s really not something to discuss.”
On June 27, Mr. Ben-Shimon emailed another statement.
“Federation prides itself on fostering an inclusive environment,” he wrote. “When we learned this was not supported by a local vendor, we chose to pause our relationship with them until we could further understand the situation. We are looking forward to future conversations with the vendor with the goal of finding a resolution. We look forward to sharing additional information about our plans in the welcoming and inclusion space in the coming weeks. We sincerely regret that our actions have caused divisiveness in our community as our aim is to bring the variety and richness of our many constituents together.”
The Conservative synagogue that ordered a pride-themed cake and 10 pounds of cookies for the June 2 weekend was Congregation B’nai Israel in Millburn.
The synagogue annually recognizes Pride Month, which is dedicated to the celebration and commemoration of pride among the LGBTQ+ community and their families.
Rabbi Julie Schwarzwald, the director of congregational learning at B’nai Israel, had agreed to pick up the order because the West Orange Bake Shop is near her house. She learned from the congregant in charge of ordering for a kiddush that the West Orange Bake Shop had canceled a rainbow pride cake. A few hours later, she found out that the bakery also had canceled an order of similarly frosted cupcakes for a USY event.
“When I went in and asked the woman at West Orange Bake Shop if they were canceled because of Pride [Month], the answer that I got was that I would need to speak with her husband, who makes those decisions,” Rabbi Schwarzwald said.
“I was comfortable drawing conclusions that meant that I was going to take my purchasing elsewhere. It seems clear that the bakery has made the decision that Pride is not something they want to support. It’s their choice, it’s their legal right, and I can choose to spend my dollars wherever I want.”
Supreme Bakery in West Orange was able to fill the kosher orders, Rabbi Schwarzwald said.
Rabbi Robert Tobin of Congregation B’nai Shalom in West Orange received the Federation’s email and spoke recently about the order cancellation from the bimah. “It speaks to our core beliefs about God’s creation of all people in the Divine Image and the celebration of our inherent dignity,” the Conservative rabbi wrote in an email.
Rabbi Tobin also blogged on June 22 about the refusal to make pride-themed desserts at West Orange Bake Shop. “The Orthodox proprietors chose to invoke their rights determined by the Supreme Court that, as Orthodox Jews, they are not compelled to actively create a message on their products that contradicts their own religious beliefs and values,” Rabbi Tobin posted online. “In this case they determined that celebrating LGBTQ+ pride matches that definition.”
Rabbi Tobin was referring to a 7-2 decision by the Supreme Court in 2018 that backed a Colorado baker’s refusal to make a cake for a gay wedding. The justices, in a narrow ruling, cited hostility to the baker’s religious views but left open the possibility of future challenges.
“For my part, and with the full support of the Rabbinical Assembly of America and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, I believe that humans are created in the image of God with a variety of potential gender identities and with the possibility of gender fluidity,” Rabbi Tobin’s post continued. “Given the gross historical oppression of the LGBTQ+ communities by our religious and our social authorities over time, the embrace of ‘Pride’ is a reasonable over-correction to assert the positive value of each human being.
“I also recognize that I too have a choice where to shop, and where not to shop. As a result of this choice, I will not frequent the West Orange Bake Shop in West Orange NJ in the future. I leave it to you to make your own choice. Their food is still kosher — and certified as such. If families in our community choose to patronize them, that is also their choice.”