Some 100 members of the LGBT community who grew up in religious homes, about 80 of whom are still living a religious lifestyle, have published a petition against a letter issued by rabbis last week in which they attacked members of the LGBT community, calling them an “organization of abominations” and “deviants.”
The letter was signed last week by senior rabbis in the religious Zionist community, including Rabbi Dov Lior, Rabbi Chaim Steiner and Rabbi Tzvi Tau, who sought to express support for Rabbi Aryeh Stern, the Rabbi of Jerusalem, following the criticism he received after saying that children of same-sex couples will grow up to be "miserable."
Rabbi Stern's comments came on the heels of the LGBT protest
against what they said was discrimination in the recently-passed Surrogacy Law,
which allows single mothers and heterosexual couples only who cannot have children to use the services of a surrogate mother to become parents.
The religious LGBT members wrote in response that "we are concerned about the tremendous damage that may be caused, especially to LGBT youth, as a result of the humiliating, degrading, and exclusionary treatment of the letter's signatories, including community heads and educators."
"We, the undersigned, who grew up in the Torah world—Ulpana graduates, yeshiva graduates, students of religious schools, Hesder yeshivas and IDF pre-military preparatory academies, the sons and daughters of religious Judaism, read with great pain and sorrow the letter of rabbis written against us—members of the LGBT community,” begins their missive.
"We, who grew up on the values of 'love your neighbor as yourself' and 'beloved is man who was created in the image (of God)', are hurt by the irresponsible disregard, exclusion and aggression of many of the leaders of the religious public, against us and against our brothers and sisters.
"We, who have coped with the complexity of life as LGBT members of religious society, who have built homes and established families that have been loved and supported, know and feel that even among the religious communities in which we grew up there are growing signs of acceptance and tolerance towards us and the LGBT community. There are indeed members of the religious public who believe that we too have a place among them as equals," the letter continued.
Warning that the messages in the rabbis' letter pose a danger to the youth in the country, the religious LGBT members offered assistance. "We read aloud to our brothers and sisters and their families—you are not alone! The past few years have proved that it is possible to live a life that combines religious and LGBT identity, and that there is room for all of us even in the world of Torah," it said.
The signatories concluded on an optimistic message they hoped would bring about unity on the matter. "We call on the members of the various communities, our families, our friends, our teachers and our rabbis to reject the dark and divisive spirit that emerges from the letter. Increase love, acceptance, tolerance, empathy and equality. Know that your words and actions have far-reaching consequences regarding the wellbeing of your loved ones, your students and members of your communities. Bear in mind that we are all responsible for one another," they wrote.
“We wish to deepen and expand the dialogue and discourse between us and the world in which we were raised and educated, and extend an inviting hand to all those who believe in a Torah of which 'its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths, peace.'"
The initiators of the letter, Ariel Aherman, Yehoshua Gortler, Zehorit Sorek, Aya Cnaan Hajbi, Itai Stern and Yonatan Feffer told Ynet that "in the face of the harsh words of the rabbis, we wanted to respond with gentle words of dialogue and openness, words aimed at both religious LGBT members and the religious community as a whole.
“We call upon the religious communities in which we grew up to open their hearts to us and allow us to raise our families among them, and God forbid, not to raise any more difficulties than those already present for religious LGBT members trying to hold on to their faith and religion."
The initiators added that they appeal to every LGBT youth to know that they have a place in the world and have the ability to live as proud observant people without giving up any part of their identity.
"We promise the national religious public, the LGBT public within it, and the rabbis who signed the letter that in the face of baseless hatred we will always choose to increase in ‘baseless’ love," they said.