Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Orthodox" Jews Cheer An "Orthodox" Jew Who "Came Out" As "Gay"

Still Think Toevah Doesn't Effect Us

This March, history was quietly made in a Saturday morning "Orthodox" minyan (prayer quorum) at Brandeis University. Avi, a 22-year-old then-college junior from the Boston area, was called up to the Torah for an "aliyah". While nothing was said outright, and he had been chosen for no particular reason, the unintentional message was clear: complete acceptance.eicha heysa kezonah, maybe we should give out aliyas to jews who decide to become michelel shabbos 

Two days before his aliyah, Avi (some names, including this one, have been altered for confidentiality) tacitly confirmed his sexuality in front of a weekly Jewish learning group for the Brandeis "Orthodox" Organization (BOO) known as Mishmar. For Avi, "coming out" was “a whole process,” that began with informing “a few close friends” during his sophomore year. Avi then told his family, who, despite being shocked, were “wonderful about it.”

Avi told friends who knew he was gay to let the rumor about his homosexuality spread through the community a few days before his speech in order to ensure a large attendance, and then spoke about the "importance" of accepting gay members of the Jewish community. this is the danger of this movement, If we are strong in this movement especially during election this tragedy never would have happenend After implicitly revealing his "true" sexual identity, Avi says, “[his speech] was well received, a lot of people came up to me and thanked me to make a rasha in to a tdadik is the worst avera possible, said it was long overdue.” News of his sexuality “spread through the Jewish world in a cool way.” On a trip to Israel, Avi was congratulated by a stranger who had heard of his coming out.

The conversation and attitudes around the acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Jews are not well-defined in Modern Orthodox Jewish society, though being gay may not carry as much of a stigma as one would think. According to Avi, most of the hesitation in the Jewish community is due to the tone of the conversations surrounding the topic. Avi feels that “growing up through the day school and yeshiva gap year system, I only heard about homosexuality in pejorative contexts. That conversation needs to change, and we must deal with this head-on.” and if we don't start fighting they will win with most formally Orthodox Jews.  every single Jew who supports pro toevah politicians is directly responsible for this mess!

The conversation largely started in 2001 with the release of Trembling Before G-d, Sandi Simcha Dubowski’s documentary detailing the hardships of being an ""observant but gay Jew. Other notable contributions to the discussion included Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition, the 2004 book by "Rabbi" Steven Greenberg, the first openly gay "Orthodox" rabbi, and the 2011 Declaration on the "Torah" Approach to Homosexuality, a document written by a group of 25 rabbis, mental health professionals and people who claim to have overcome their sexuality, and which rejects any integration of Torah observance and homosexuality. Where is our statement of principles against this? Even the torah deceleration cowed away from dealing with the chiyuv gamur to ostracize all members of the "toevah community". The "toevah community" means here those who identify themselves by their assur lifestyle, not those who are over on mishkav zachar who don't identify themselves by such behavior(or worse "proudly" identify themselves).  The later we have to miakrev, the Former are hopless because they turned an averah in to a mitzva! We (from Satmar to YU) should have put all those who advocate for "orthodox" acceptance of mishkav zachar itself in cherem (not just those who practice it) this especially includes the leaders of all "Jewish" toevah groups!

In 2010, a group of "Orthodox" rabbis and educators met to face the rising issue of LGBT Jews directly. They convened and published The Statement of Principles, an official statement as to where these rabbis stand on the LGBT movement and Judaism. The Statement contains the signatures of more than 200 "rabbis" and Jewish leaders, both male and female. many if not most of the "rabbis" are chovevei torah types One prominent name featured on the list is "Rabbi" Dr. Haskel Lookstein of the New York City-based Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (KJ) and the Jewish school Ramaz. his grandfather the Ramaz is rolling over in his grave

Lookstein says that his community is “non-judgmental,” and though he cannot speak for all of KJ, his institution’s stance is that:

“Homosexual sex is a serious sin, but is completely separate from the acceptance of a homosexual person as a Jew and as a human being, who merits respect, love, welcome and encouragement to be part of the community.”If a person identifies themselves by a forbidden behavior they are classified as a min. 

This concurs with The Statement of Principles, which states that:

“All human beings are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (kevod haberiyot). Every Jew is obligated to fulfill the entire range of mitzvoth between person and person in relation to persons who are homosexual or have feelings of same sex attraction. Embarrassing, harassing or demeaning someone with a homosexual orientation or same-sex attraction is a violation of Torah prohibitions that embody the deepest values of Judaism.” the Torah agrees with this statement provided  those people are trying to keep the Torah but sometimes fail,  Unfortunately due to the current moral climate in the world today most people who have the desire for mishkav zachar today want to change the torah!

To Lookstein and his community, someone who is gay is like someone who does not fully uphold the laws of Shabbat or kashrut. Lookstein assures that he would not throw out someone who did not follow those rules from his community, and believes the same should be applied to LGBT Jews. He says that in some ways he has “greater empathy” for those who are gay than for those who break Shabbat, because for the former group, it is not a choice. And DR Lookstein also can't understand that by a person identifying themselves by their forbidden sexual behavior they are now transformed into a mumer lehachis.

The "observant" Jewish LGBT organization Eshel, founded in 2010 and based in New York City, does not believe that the Statement is a finished product, but, rather, a “great first step,”the last step involves spitting on the Torah or Worse according to Miryam Kabakov, Eshel’s director and co-founder. Eshel hosts retreats, weekends, speakers, education initiatives and support groups for family members of out Jews who want to learn more about guiding their loved one and themselves through the challenges ahead. Kabakov is inspired by the newest crop of Modern Orthodox leaders, and believes that there is a good chance for them to become even more accepting than the current ones due to the fact that there are “so many positive images of gay people in media now, in TV and in the news—as long as Orthodox communities are there with the world, they will have a better chance of being more accepting.”and the more we help those rishaiempush toevah the worse this problem will get.

For Kabakov, the most difficult part about being an LGBT Jew in the Modern "Orthodox" world is the feeling of “knowing that you can’t go back to place you grew up in. There are very few places I feel comfortable in an Orthodox shul. Going back there you have to hide who you are, who you want, what they want, but [they] look at you like you have a disease or something’s wrong with you.” Despite these feelings of alienation, Kabakov says that she started Eshel to try and reconcile her sexuality and her Jewish background, which she enjoyed and considers it to be the “greatest gift my parents gave me.” For Kabakov, Eshel is the one place she can feel these two separate entities of hers are “in sync,” and uses the organization to reach out to other "observant" Jews who are gay or are questioning their sexuality.

Although the Brandeis community immediately embraced Avi and his homosexuality, members of his home synagogue were not as quick to accept. According to Avi, “it’s a generational thing,”we don't even know how destorctive this movement and the effects of it's laws will be on our children and he received lots of stares and some cold receptions from various adult and rabbinical figures both in and out of his community.

Recently, a rabbi from Avi’s home shul gave a Saturday morning sermon condemning the Boy Scouts of America for accepting gay members, and giving into public pressure why can't the Moetzes or a "rebbes" come out with a simaler statement. This speech was given shortly after Avi’s coming-out, and on a Shabbat when Avi was in attendance at the shul. Despite moments like these, many members of Avi’s community have come to support him and his sexual orientation.

Even Jews who consider themselves to be from “the more "observant" end of the spectrum” are altering their attitudes on frum (observant) LGBT Jews. JL, an Orthodox young adult from the New York area, says he would accept an LGBT Jew as part of the community if he or she “realizes it’s not an ideal situation and takes appropriate steps.” For JL and other members of his community, it’s not about whether they are gay, it’s about how gay Jews display their sexuality. JL is stringent in observing commandments and tradition, taking on more than most Jews, such as wearing a black hat and kippah the fact that they can think a person is more observant based on a yamulka shows we have another serious problem, besides mishkav zachar, and eating only strictly kosher food. JL and his compatriots view being gay as akin to being “an alcoholic” or an “adulterer,” an alcoholic” or an “adulterer doesn't publicly identify themselves as a member of those communities.  Also an alcoholic not chayuv misah and believe that there should be attempts to “reform” their homosexuality in the same way that an adulterer or alcoholic would seek help and try to make amends for their behavior. Despite the disconnect between chosen and not-chosen behavior, JL’s ideas are niche in that in some ways they are still accepting, but still have far to go to be considered within the secular American mainstream.

Some rabbis and Jewish communities are not as "tolerant" as Lookstein and Eshel. Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, of the popular Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey, keeps a prolific blog, infamous for the anti-Obama post “The Decline and Fall of the American Empire.” Though he declined to comment for this article, his statements on gay rights are littered throughout the website. On his blog, Pruzansky questions the moral and societal implications of legalizing gay marriage, wondering if it will lead to “polygamy? Polyandry? Polyamory? Poly-want-a-crackery?” Rabbi Pruzansky cites Talmudic and other textual sources for his views.

In another blog post on the topic, from last December, Pruzansky attacked "Rabbi" Akiva Herzfeld of "chovevei torah" Portland, Maine, an "Orthodox" rabbi who came out in support of gay "marriage", stating that Rabbi Herzfeld “renounced (your) heritage, abandoned the Torah, and embraced the political correctness of the age – just as the Hellenist Jews did in ancient times.” Essentially, Pruzansky told Herzfeld that he’s no longer a Orthodox Jew due to his stance on LGBT members in society. From these writings, it appears unlikely that Rabbi Pruzansky would accommodate an LGBT member in his synagogue that is a mumer lichachis.
Some Orthodox rabbis have suggested that their gay congregants undergo reparative therapy. Reparative (also known as conversion) therapy is dangerous according to homosexuals because it implies that there is something wrong with homosexuality. According to statistics from the Human Rights Campaign (a gay rights advocacy organization), based on a study conducted by San Francisco State University most studies are predetermined by who foots the bill, those who undergo reparative therapy have increased risks of suicide, depression, sexually transmitted infections and narcotics abuse. The American Medical Association (AMA) “opposes the use of ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.” Other organizations, such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA), have also voiced their concerns over conversion therapy and its damaging effects on its victims. The use of the practice on minors was banned in the state of California in 2012.

Why The APA Says repetitive Therapy is harmful

Although the practice of conversion therapy has come under attack, Arthur Goldberg, co-director and co-founder of the organization Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH), a group specializing in reparative therapy, maintains their position on the process. According to Goldberg, numerous studies have been conducted that “clearly indicate that change [of sexual orientation] is possible” through therapy. Goldberg contends that the therapy methods that JONAH supports see the sexuality as just a “by-product,” and seek to treat what they see as the individual’s issues with “self-esteem and self-worth,” as they believe these are the true underlying issues. Goldberg stated that “the jury is out” on the position of the APA and AMA; furthermore, the JONAH website cites Dr. Robert Spitzer’s study on the effects of reparative therapy for its main defenses of the practice. In 2001, Spitzer conducted a study entitled “Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation?” and concluded that it was possible, despite numerous controversies surrounding the study and the manner in which it was conducted. A little more than a year ago, Spitzer retracted his findings and admitted that he was “wrong” about the conclusions he drew from the data and about the study in general. Goldberg maintains that Spitzer “didn’t retract his claims; he apologized for any harm he may have caused.” Despite Goldberg’s beliefs, there are rabbis who have changed their views on reparative therapy. Rabbi Fred Nebel, from Midwest Torah, a Judaic learning group in Indiana, says that after reading more about conversion therapy, he’s “not going to advise people to do it,” despite initially supporting the practice and signing the Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality.

 The former head of the APA Nicholas Cummings, who is led the fight to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness, has admitted gays can change!

(The New American)
For Avi, the Brandeis student, his “world shifted for the better” after coming out. He is currently looking to date other men, and is looking at the Jewish community, but not specifically the Orthodox one. aycha haysa kizonah

College is a time in which many gay young adults come out to their friends and family. For "Orthodox" LGBT teens, the decision to come out is even more difficult because of the "perceived taboos", and due to the fact that they generally live in their respective Jewish communities, where the attitudes toward gays is still unclearand this is the problem it should be very clear it's assur. For "frum" teens who identify as LGBT, there is a mix of hope and trepidation in their future paths. as the expression goes you can't dance at 2 chassunas, or as happened it says in milachim (18-23) ad masey atem poschiem al shitai hasifiem: how long will you dance between 2 opinions

Gidon Feen has just graduated from a yeshiva high school in Memphis, Tennessee. At a graduation party, he gets up in front of the kids he’s gone to school with for years. In mere seconds, after Gidon reveals that he is gay, the room erupts into applause.

Two years before he came out, Gidon “accepted” that he was gay. It took time to tell everyone, but Gidon says the reason for his coming out was due to the fact that “over the past two years, I just realized more and more this is who I am, this is me and I got sick of not being myself with my friends and people I interacted with. This is who I am and I want people to know that.”

According to some of the frum LGBT Jews I spoke to, there is worry about being able to attend shul and keep friends, and about how people will look at them when they walk down the hallways. There were also mentions of fears of physical harm against them and/or their friends and family. According to Gidon, however, the reception after his reveal “was unbelievably amazing, and beyond anything I would have imagined would happen.”

Gidon’s next stop is college—in the fall will attend The George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, DC, a school known for its political activism, as well as its significant Jewish and gay populations. Gidon is looking forward to college and “living an open gay lifestyle.” so they want as Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveichik said to sin and feel good about it He wishes to “stay "Jewish"” and date men. It hasn’t all been easy, however, and for years he experienced crises of faith whilst reconciling his identity. He is still searching for the answers to many more questions, such as how to have sex without committing a sin.notice he doesn't  look to abstain from having sex

In researching the article, many of those interviewed asked to remain anonymous due to possible repercussions. However, if the anecdotal evidence here is to be believed, though there are differences of opinion, there is a consensus of tolerance and support for LGBT Jews. Ben Schneider, an openly gay "Orthodox" graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, says that Orthodox Jews now recognize that “they have gay friends.” The conversation could go many ways from here, but it seems to be looking up for those who have lived in fear for a very long time.

There’s a phrase used by many different communities, which does describe the situation accurately: “It gets better.” only if your a sonei hashem


  1. איזהו חכם? הרואה את הנולדAugust 26, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    The Modern Orthodox camp is especially falling for the toeivah propaganda. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, a leader in the MO camp, in an appearance on the Talkline with Zev Brenner program on August 18 (early Sunday AM, on the Motzei Shabbos program), actually invoked the principle of אונס רחמנא פטריה with regard to them. That is outrageous and מגלה פנים בתורה שלא כהלכה. That is what happens, when people accept the propaganda of the toeivah bullies. First they ask for tolerance and then they want a hechsher, a stamp of approval as well. עבירה גוררת עבירה. Far sighted people realize that seemingly 'minor' concessions, such as accepting the propaganda that that is their nature, lead to, and resist them at the outset.

    ה' ירחם

  2. Closing thought above got garbled.

    Clear version ---> Far sighted people realize seemingly 'minor' concessions, such as accepting the propaganda that that is their nature, lead to worse and more advanced ones, and resist them at the outset.

  3. it's not just modern Orthodox, rumor has it that that aroniem are going to be voting for Quinn this year. In Rockland County Satmar, Vishnetz and Skver all voted for a lesbian for "family" court judge, even though most of the rabbaniem in Monsey assured it.

    PS 2 YU Roshai Yeshiva signed the psak saying your michyuv to vote for for Erick Salgado

  4. The big chusid Ezra Friedlander was on Zev Brenner's Talkline this past Motzei Shabbos talking up Quinn again.