Religious homosexuals are continuing their struggle for recognition within the Religious Zionist movement. On Yom Kippur, the organization Havruta began distributing a Torah-study leaflet entitled "Bireish Galay" that highlights the distress of mitzvoth-observing Jews torn between their homosexual identity and their religious beliefs.
The first publication of the pamphlet dealt with the historic process the religious homosexual community is undergoing. The article "Hashem is God" discussed what the editors called "the challenging meeting between halachic language and the GLBT lifestyle and the insistence to stick to Orthodox halacha."
A rabbinical guest column featured the only rabbi who agreed to send his words of blessing – Avia Hacohen from the Tekoa Yeshiva.
Havruta said that they initially intended to publish a once-off pamphlet, but the increasing interest and positive responses they have received have spurred them to publish a new pamphlet on each Jewish holiday.
The organization emphasized that "Bireish Galay" will not be sent to every synagogue as other pamphlets are, but only to the Orthodox communities who ask for it. They noted that they have already received such requests from some synagogues.
"At the end of the day, we are people of the written word, which also needs to come out of the closet and march with pride, like the voice of the ram's horn," explained those behind the decision to publish a homosexually-themed synagogue pamphlet.
"We hope the religious society does not reject it, but will know how to take this opportunity to take home a pamphlet of words of Torah and read comfortably about the world of religious homosexuals, which perhaps puts some people off, but also intrigues many."
Havruta said that the timing of the pamphlet was incidental and was not planned specifically for Yom Kippur. However, once it became clear that this would be the date of distribution, relevant content was created accordingly.
"The articles address issues of forgiveness and atonement, as well as to the reference to the prohibition against lying with a man during the fast day's afternoon prayers," said the publishers.
"It is known that Yom Kippur revolves around mitzvoth between man and God, but that mitzvoth between man and his fellow man are atoned for only if he asked forgiveness. Homophobia within religious society is a serious personal affront to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders. Treating them like 'sick people,' 'perverts', or 'having a choice' is the complete opposite of the commandment to 'love your neighbor as yourself.' Yom Kippur does not atone for these sins," explained a Havruta source.
The Havruta publishers expressed their hope that publication of such a leaflet will help mitigate homophobia and strengthen understanding that gays and lesbians are just like anyone else. "They have the same beliefs and aspirations. They also get hungry immediately after the pre-fast meal."
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