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Shattering Norms

Making changes (illustration) Photo: Yoav Friedman
Making changes (illustration) Photo: Yoav Friedman
 
 

US rabbis: Accept homosexuals

Dozens of Orthodox leaders publish statement saying that although Judaism 'cannot give its blessing and imprimatur to Jewish religious same-sex commitment ceremonies and weddings,' community must still accept 'practicing' gay couples and their children into synagogues, schools

Kobi Nahshoni
Published: 07.28.10, 18:08 / Israel Jewish Scene

Dozens of Orthodox rabbis have signed a statement of principles saying that religious communities must accept those of its members who are "active homosexuals" and their biological or adopted children, and that they must not be encouraged to undergo "change therapies" or marry someone of the opposite sex.

 

The statement was formulated following a panel held by the "rashei yeshiva ramim" six months ago in New York. The panel included three homosexual graduates of the Yeshiva University, and was hosted by its spiritual supervisor, Rabbi Yosef Blau.

 

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The occasion opened the largely controversial subject to a public debate, which caused a stir in the modern-Orthodox faith with which the yeshiva is affiliated.

 

The statement was drafted over the months that followed the panel, with the help of mental health professionals and many debates. The final outcome was signed by the first vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, and Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, who heads Manhattan's Jeshurun community.

 

The statement of principle states that Jewish Halacha prohibits only homosexual acts, and not orientation or attraction to members of the same sex.

 

It adds that homosexuals are free to seek "change therapy" if they feel that they are worthless or dangerous, but that mental health professionals have found these treatments ineffective at best, and at times harmful.

 

The rabbis also state that homosexuals must be accepted as full-fledged members into synagogues and schools, and treated as any other member. However, as such, they must fulfill the obligations and mitzvahs of the community, including such norms or Jewish principles practiced by the community which are not officially dictated by formal Halacha.

 

The rabbis are also opposed to "outing" any gay community members who have not openly declared their sexual tendencies.

 

Though Judaism "cannot give its blessing and imprimatur to Jewish religious same-sex commitment ceremonies and weddings", the rabbis add, the community must still accept "practicing" homosexual couples, as well as their biological or adopted children.

 

The statement also says that forcing those with homosexual orientation to marry members of the opposite sex could lead to "great tragedy, unrequited love, shame, dishonesty and ruined lives", so instead these people "should be directed to contribute to Jewish and general society in other meaningful ways".

 

Founder and director of ITIM, Rabbi Seth Farber, also signed the statement. He told Ynet Wednesday that the panel had dealt with a "phenomenon that has challenged many Halacha thinkers, instead of turning a blind eye or pretending it doesn't exist".

 

"Modern-Orthodoxy doesn't sweep things under the rug but rather holds serious, basic, and transparent debates," he said.

 

"Of course we are not saying there is no halachic problem with homosexuality, but there is a lot of understanding and good will to help these people. The same empathy must be shown for them as for anyone struggling with a mitzvah, and whom no one thinks to banish from the community."

 

Another signatory, Rabbi Yuval Sherlo, stressed that the questions answered by the statement are not only related to homosexuality, but rather constitute the "current hot topic" of a large public asking to understand the Torah's regard for people struggling with a conflict between their sexual orientation and their commitment to Halacha.

 

 

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