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Gay Jews: Hatred Is Not Halacha

Others have always accused us of sinister plots to corrupt or control the broader society.
gay jews parading

By Jonathan Branfman

As Jews, we often stand angry and bewildered in the face of antisemitic lies, asking, “How can anyone possibly believe that about us?!” Today’s article by Alan Friedlander (Orthodox Jews Should Not March alongside the LGBT Sunday) leaves me with precisely such disbelief and sadness.

Alan Friedlander claims that LGBT Jews are pushing a sinister “hidden agenda” by marching in the Celebrate Israel Parade on June 2. As the largest pro-Israel event in the world, this parade draws massive crowds from every segment of the Jewish community—yet Friedlander thinks LGBT Jews have enrolled solely in “a brazen attempt to force Orthodox Jews to accept their way of life.” Accordingly, he calls on Orthodox Jews to boycott and/or protest the entire event.

First of all: how self-centered! LGBT Jews are marching to support Israel, not to push our “agenda” on the Orthodox community. Mr. Friedlander, our lives are not about you. We do not spend our time plotting against halachic law and those who adhere to it—which, by the way, includes many frum gay Jews. We spend our time going to synagogue, driving our kids to school, walking the dog, and cooking Shabbat dinner. When we do advocate for LGBT concerns, our “sinister agenda” involves protecting ourselves from violence, emotional abuse, and discrimination, so we can go about our lives in peace.

Second, this parade has always seen Orthodox Jews march alongside nonobservant Jews who eat pork (also toevah) and who are not shomrei Shabbat (punishable by death). Like these thousands of other Jews, LGBT groups have joined the Celebrate Israel Parade to place their voices and bodies on the line in the global struggle to protect the Jewish State. If the Orthodox can march alongside pork-eating Jews, then animosity toward LGBT Jews can only stem from prejudice, not halachic duty.

In fact, more than 100 prominent Orthodox rabbis and educators have issued a statement condemning antigay behavior as the very antithesis of halakhic values. Published in 2010, the “Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community” affirms that “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.” Mr. Friedlander engages precisely in demeaning and harassing LGBT Jews when he portrays us as sinister conspirators and calls on the Orthodox community to protest our participation in Celebrate Israel Day.

Further, Mr. Friedlander’s accusations and his call for harassment oddly echo antisemitic conspiracy theories. Even as Jews seek to go about our lives in peace, others have always accused us of sinister plots to corrupt or control the broader society. Precisely the same accusations commonly fall on the LGBT community. Every Jew who has encountered such ignorance shares a personal insight with the struggle of LGBT people—and I call on you to use that insight to critically examine all statements made against us.

Looking beyond Celebrate Israel Day, Mr. Friedlander’s slander illustrates the hostility and misunderstanding about LGBT people that still reign in some corners of the Jewish world. However, many Orthodox Jews, like much of the world in general, are awakening to the reality that gay people exist in all communities—realizing that they already know and love many gay people, and that these gay people are good and loving friends, teachers, parents, and Jews. Many are coming to understand that homophobia, like antisemitism, is a destructive force fueled only by ignorance, and that it has no place in our holy community.

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29 Responses to “Gay Jews: Hatred Is Not Halacha”

  1. I am posting here a opy of an Open Letter that I have circulated over the past few weeks. In the letter, I explain how the participation of an openly gay group is very different from the participation of Reform and Conservative groups.

    An Open Letter Regarding the Celebrate Israel Parade.

    By Avi Goldstein.

    I write the following with a very heavy heart. I am a life-long Zionist. I believe that the State of Israel is part of the process of redemption. Along with many readers, I cry when misfortune befalls the Jewish State, and I rejoice when hearing good tidings. Indeed, these words are being written the day before Yom HaAtzmaut, when I will join untold numbers of Jews in joyously reciting Hallel. Yet I find myself in the uncomfortable but necessary position of calling upon fellow supporters of Israel to refrain from attending the upcoming Celebrate Israel Parade.
    For almost nine months, I have been involved in trying to resolve a critical matter regarding the parade (formerly the Salute to Israel Parade). This annual event is a centerpiece of support for Israel in New York. One television station covers the parade from start to finish. The parade is a moment for supporters of Israel to put their best foot forward, to showcase the broad support that Israel enjoys.
    Last year, however, a radical change took place that compromised the moral integrity of the parade. Jewish Queer Youth, a group of mostly Orthodox gay men and women, was permitted to march under its own banner. This alone would have been bad enough, but the group used its platform to glorify homosexuality and to declare that homosexual conduct is normal. One particularly offensive banner stated: “We are in every yeshiva.”.
    Upon hearing this, I contacted the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, which administers the parade. I expressed my concern that the parade was endorsing behavior that the Torah describes as an “abomination.” I noted that it would be no different if a group called “Shabbat Violators for Israel” or “Adulterers for Israel” were allowed to march. My plea, to a JCRC staff member, fell on deaf ears (a later email to JCRC head Michael Miller has gone unanswered as well).
    The JCRC staffer insisted that the parade lineup had been circulated ahead of time to the participating organizations; had they wanted to protest, they would have done so ex ante. Yet perusing that lineup, which was available on the JCRC website, it took three attempts for me to find Jewish Queer Youth, because it was listed simply by the initials JQY! Yes, its participation was disclosed, but not in a manner discernible to the other groups. Moreover, JQY was shunted to the back of the parade to minimize the chance that others would notice its participation. Indeed, my wife left the parade route a bit before the end of the march, and we found out about JQY’s attendance only because a friend who stayed later called us, disturbed at what she saw.

  2. continuation of Open Letter.

    Over the course of several months, I spent considerable time contacting dozens of principals and rabbeim at yeshivos that march in the parade. I expressed my belief that it is unacceptable for Orthodox groups to march in the same parade as a group that glorifies immorality. With a few exceptions, those to whom I spoke were sympathetic to my concerns. However, I could not find someone who would step up and, as I desired, author a letter to the JCRC that would declare unequivocally that yeshivos would not march in the 2013 parade unless Jewish Queer Youth were excluded.
    Nonetheless, some progress was made, and several weeks ago, JCRC was called to a meeting of leading Jewish educators. I did not attend the meeting, but someone who was present has told me that with the exception of one school, the others were willing to tolerate JQY’s participation in future parades.
    I found this news jarring, but I was not entirely surprised. Approximately two decades ago, a synagogue that caters to a mostly gay and lesbian clientele attempted to march with provocative language on its banner. At the time, the yeshivos objected and threatened to boycott the parade. The parade organizers backed down, and the synagogue was forced to march under a banner that simply stated its name.
    Why, then, was I not surprised that today no one would step up? What has changed since the earlier confrontation was successfully resolved? The answer is that in the ensuing two decades, an unrelenting campaign by gay activists has caused even those within our own camp to question whether homosexual conduct is immoral. It is said that a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth. This is precisely what has happened regarding homosexuality. We have been so worn down by the pro-gay campaign that we have begun to question our own stance; uncompromising opposition has given way to moral ambivalence.
    Why, however, should we care whether gays openly march alongside us? In truth, there are many devastating ramifications. Readers may not know, but the stated goal of gay activists is to make homosexuality “normal” in law and in practice. Here are some of their goals:
    1. Redefinition of marriage. Already implemented in New York, gay activists want full recognition of same-sex unions in all spheres of public life. For example, we can expect that advertising posters, publicly displayed for us and our children to see, will feature gay couples. We can expect the same in television, print, and online ads. If you don’t believe this, consider that one tv show, Modern Family, portrays a gay family as entirely normal. I have not seen the show, but I have read that this family is treated as just another nuclear unit; no mention is made of its different construction.
    2. Gay activists seek to equate their cause with the cause for black civil rights. In the not too distant future, it may become a hate crime to publicly speak against homosexuality. In case readers are unclear, let me rephrase this: If a rabbi, speaking about Jewish law, states that homosexual conduct is an abomination, he may be subject to a lawsuit or even to arrest!
    3. Home sellers and renters will not be allowed to exclude gay couples from buying or renting. You will advertise your second floor for rent. A gay couple will show up and you will not be allowed to refuse to rent to them based on their sexual preference. Your children will be exposed to this unnatural coupling and you will be unable to do anything about it.
    4. Gays have long been on a campaign to teach children that their lifestyle is just one of many “normal” choices. This is being taught in schools to children at the youngest ages. And while parochial schools are not forced to teach this, we should be concerned that public school youths are exposed to this blatant immorality. And let us not forget that many Orthodox boys and girls attend public schools.
    One of the big lies espoused by gay activists is that separation of church and state precludes the government from taking a moral stand against homosexuality. The implication is stunning. If one believes that the law cannot indicate a preference for heterosexuality, one is saying that almost every legislator who has served since the founding of our country until approximately five years ago is a racist. He or she, by refusing to endorse same-sex marriage, is as guilty of discrimination as were anti-civil rights legislators. Bill Clinton as President was no better in this regard than, say, segregation firebrand Stephen A. Douglas.
    Separation of church and state prohibits the government from incorporating a specific religion in law. It does not prohibit the state from taking moral positions. The state takes moral positions on many matters and ensconces those positions in law. For example, it is illegal to kill. The law prohibits murder not only because society could not function if murder were legal, but because the Judeo-Christian heritage looks upon murder as morally repugnant. This is readily seen in the fact that when a murder is particularly egregious, judges will denounce the defendant in very strong terms and impose an even greater sentence than might otherwise be incurred.

  3. end of open letter (looks like these may post in reverse order, so you may have to read last post first).

    As our law has evolved, the law and the courts generally have avoided taking positions on matters that do not have consensus among mainline religious groups. For example, there is no religious consensus on abortion. The Catholic view, for one, is much more restrictive than the Jewish view. But when it comes to homosexuality, our shared religious tradition has been unequivocal in viewing it as an abomination, as stated in the Torah. It is perfectly reasonable for law to reflect this unambiguous view. And while no one is suggesting that the government peek into people’s private lives, the law must not endorse this immoral conduct.
    Does it make a difference whether a behavior is simply tolerated or whether it is given the law’s stamp of approval? The Midrash (Berei**** Rabbah 26:5) teaches that the fate of the Generation of the Flood was sealed when it became legal for men to contract marriages with each other! The behavior was going on, tolerated by G-d, until it was given the imprimatur of law.
    My friends, do we risk becoming another flood generation, G-d forbid?
    The damage is even greater when we consider our beloved State of Israel. The Torah states that homosexual behavior can lead to the spitting out of Israel’s inhabitants (VaYikra 18:22-28). If we participate in a parade that endorses homosexuality, how are we contributing to Israel’s welfare? The Celebrate Israel Parade, by including Jewish Queer Youth, transforms from an event that benefits Israel to one that harms it. Dear readers, are you willing to be a party to such an event?
    Well-meaning disputants have countered that Orthodox groups do march alongside Conservative and Reform groups, notwithstanding their endorsement of non-halachic practices. This is true, but it is beside the point. Conservative and Reform temples and organizations do not state openly on their parade banners that they reject Jewish law. Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt’l, was quoted frequently to the effect that we can and must cooperate with heterodox groups on matters of communal import. The Rav wrote that all Jews share a “covenant of fate,” that our destiny is inextricably intertwined. However, it is unimaginable that he would have consented to walk in tandem with a group whose whole raison d’etre is to flout halachah.
    I had hoped to carry on this campaign to a successful conclusion without having to take my case public. However, the refusal of schools and organizations to challenge the Jewish Community Relations Council has left me no choice. If the Orthodox public takes a stand, collectively or individually, we may succeed in changing the composition of the parade. If we stand by and do nothing, we in effect are stating that the Torah’s moral code carries no weight.
    The Celebrate Israel Parade is scheduled for Sunday, June 2nd. There is still time for those of you who agree with my message to protest to your yeshivos, day schools, and organizations that the current composition of the parade is unacceptable, and that if JQY marches, you will not march or attend.
    I have set up an email address to handle communications regarding this cause. It is israelintegrity2@gmail.com. I welcome suggestions on how to bring this matter to a successful conclusion. I welcome messages of support as well; if you are willing to stay away from the parade, please tell me. With the blessing of G-d, we will succeed.

  4. Great article!, thank you Jewish Press for Publishing something positive and loving. Also thank you for allowing this dialogue to take place in the Jewish Community. Any dialogue about gays in the Ortho community is great, because when people actually talk about this issue, they see how love and reason win out bigotry and inconsistency.

  5. Azi Graber says:

    avi, what do you do for a living? maybe spend more time doing that. Or caring for your children, or pursuing some hobbies, like painting, woodworking, etc….. You need to find some joy in life, something to occupy your time.

  6. Bentzy Rosengarten says:

    Hate to break it to you Avi, but your concern #3 is already true in NY. You cannot discriminate against gay people in housing, employment, or public accomodations. Also, if you actually watched Modern Family instead of decrying changes you dont care enough to even examine yourself, you may actually learn something.

  7. Karen Taylor says:

    Thank you, Jewish Press, for publishing this positive commentary about the inclusion of LGBT groups in the Salute to Israel Parade. As the Director of Jewish Outreach for Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth, it gladdens my heart to let our young people know that they have a part in Israel's future, and in the future of the Jewish community.

  8. Mel Kaplan says:

    These 'LGBT Jew' activists approach this entire issue as Christians, which divorced Judaism 1,700 years ago. Whether they are Christian-assimilated, Useful Idiots, brain-dead Liberals or worse, they pose a greater threat to Israel than Iran's Imanutjob. History records Israel's worst defeats followed her enemies' weakening her by succumbing to the temptation of sexual perversions and association with such perverts. If LGBT activists knew anything about Torah, they would know their lifestyle prevents them from being Jews. The haredi community is far more tolerant than any in history, but flaunting abomination in haredi faces by marching next to them goes far over the line. If they want to march, they should try marching in a Muslim parade, where they will learn what intolerance really means. Shame on them!

  9. הודיה גוטליב says:

    Avi is correct. They are marching as gays that are pushing a anti Torah agenda. Let them march simply as Jews. G-d says it is an abomination, that is good enough for me.

  10. Joseph Colen says:

    Gays should either repent so that the Almighty may bring them back if not they know that they are headed for destruction.

  11. Len Frankel says:

    Israeli Hospitals are leaders in the fields of emergency, trauma and mass-casualty preparedness.

    Home » InDepth » Letters To The Editor ».
    Gay Jews: Hatred Is Not Halacha.
    Others have always accused us of sinister plots to corrupt or control the broader society.
    By: Guest Author.
    Published: June 1st, 2013.
    print tell a friend.

    By Jonathan Branfman.

    As Jews, we often stand angry and bewildered in the face of antisemitic lies, asking, “How can anyone possibly believe that about us?” Today’s article by Alan Friedlander (Orthodox Jews Should Not March alongside the LGBT Sunday) leaves me with precisely such disbelief and sadness.

    Alan Friedlander claims that LGBT Jews are pushing a sinister “hidden agenda” by marching in the Celebrate Israel Parade on June 2. As the largest pro-Israel event in the world, this parade draws massive crowds from every segment of the Jewish community—yet Friedlander thinks LGBT Jews have enrolled solely in “a brazen attempt to force Orthodox Jews to accept their way of life.” Accordingly, he calls on Orthodox Jews to boycott and/or protest the entire event.

    First of all: how self-centered! LGBT Jews are marching to support Israel, not to push our “agenda” on the Orthodox community. Mr. Friedlander, our lives are not about you. We do not spend our time plotting against halachic law and those who adhere to it—which, by the way, includes many frum gay Jews. We spend our time going to synagogue, driving our kids to school, walking the dog, and cooking Shabbat dinner. When we do advocate for LGBT concerns, our “sinister agenda” involves protecting ourselves from violence, emotional abuse, and discrimination, so we can go about our lives in peace.

    Second, this parade has always seen Orthodox Jews march alongside nonobservant Jews who eat pork (also toevah) and who are not shomrei Shabbat (punishable by death). Like these thousands of other Jews, LGBT groups have joined the Celebrate Israel Parade to place their voices and bodies on the line in the global struggle to protect the Jewish State. If the Orthodox can march alongside pork-eating Jews, then animosity toward LGBT Jews can only stem from prejudice, not halachic duty.

    In fact, more than 100 prominent Orthodox rabbis and educators have issued a statement condemning antigay behavior as the very antithesis of halakhic values."

  12. Len Frankel says:

    Sorry, the above comment is an error caused by the JP's clumsy commenting system.

  13. Azi Graber says:

    they're "pushing" an agenda? does that mean they want to turn you gay too? and where does god say anything abt PEOPLE being an abomination? seems like you wrote your own book

  14. Ingeborg Oppenheimer says:

    here's a message for the alan friedlanders, avi goldsteins, and others of their ilk: if they want to sprout their form of hatred they should watch out for logic loopholes. in this instance their claim that allowing gay folks to march in the parade is contra-hallachic is shot down by their not objecting to the inclusion of jews who eat tref, do not observe the sabbath, etc. – i.e., non-orthodox jews – as jonathan bronfman brings out clearly in his article.

  15. Ingeborg Oppenheimer says:

    here's a message for the alan friedlanders, avi goldsteins, and others of their ilk: if they want to sprout their form of hatred they should watch out for logic loopholes. in this instance their claim that allowing gay folks to march in the parade is contra-hallachic is shot down by their not objecting to the inclusion of jews who eat tref, do not observe the sabbath, etc. – i.e., non-orthodox jews – as jonathan bronfman brings out clearly in his article.

  16. Shmuel Ross says:

    Oh, Avi.

    We have this much in common: we both think today's parade explicitly advanced an agenda that's immoral—indeed, an abomination—and contrary to HaShem's desires. In your case, it appears that the agenda you object to consists of homosexual anal sex; in my case, the agenda I object to is support for the modern state of Israel. (I do not attend such things, but if I had, it would have been to stand with Neturei Karta.) What we don't have in common is that my objection is to something that actually WAS the focus of support in today's parade, while you're objecting to something that was not.

    Over and over in your letter, you make the claim that one's identification as a homosexual is the same as one's "endorsing behavior that that Torah describes an an 'abomination'"—which, to reiterate, means homosexual anal sex. You provide no support for this claim. It is an absurd one. JQY itself makes no such endorsement. That said, that specific absurd belief—that anybody who is sexually attracted to those of his or her own sex is necessarily a sinner who needs to be drummed out of town—is endemic in yeshivas. That's why JQY is so important.

    I could go on further, but all else is commentary, and I don't expect you to listen anyway.

  17. Sima Glass says:

    How can you find the truth offensive? You take particular offense to the statement 'We are in every yeshiva.' Are you offended that some people are short? Isnt it awkward when you have to talk to someone so much shorter than you…god those horrible short people…

  18. Charlie Hall says:

    " But when it comes to homosexuality, our shared religious tradition has been unequivocal in viewing it as an abomination, as stated in the Torah."

    This is a lie. There are numerous Protestant Christian groups that have no problem with homosexuality.

  19. Sima Glass says:

    Call me when your son comes out of the closet, I'm sure you'll have all the answers then

  20. So if the Jewish people do not adhere to the Torah, where it is forbidden for man to lie with mankind as with womankind it is an abomination" Then why was Israel.
    G-d's chosen nation? Was it not to be a light to other nations? Also gay marriage is not a right, but trying to make their perverted sex legal.

  21. yes well those are dietary laws this is an act of sinfullness against the flesh, as when one eats it passes on, but homosexuality is lusting after strange flesh. and in the Christian faith Christ suffered a great deal for these sins of the flesh and the sins outside the flesh, to bring us back into favour with the Lord G-d of Israel. Why do you want to provoke the Lord G-d to anger, when He has blessed Israel, and now wanting to go back to disobeying His voice and falling into idolatry?

  22. I am sure that if non-observant Jews marchedunder a banner of "Jews against keeping Shabbats"

  23. That observant Jews will react the same.

  24. Y-LOVE says:

    "Prevents them from being Jews"? From BEING Jews? And you call yourself "tolerant".

  25. Charlie, the Christian groups who have rejected the clear marndate of the Old Testament are mostly of recent vintage. Our shared traditions (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) have been very clear on this issue.

  26. Ingeborg Oppenheimer says:

    breaking dietary laws is not considered sinful? it certainly was sinful according to the judaism with which i was raised.

  27. Roy Neal Grissom says:

    Not a Theonomic positivist, are you, Chuckie?

  28. Roy Neal Grissom says:

    All these conflicts would be avoided if Jews returned to the original, pre-“enlightenment” understanding of Torah and of “religion”: that the Torah is the Ultimate Truth from the Ultimate Authority (HaShem), that no “right” exists that was not given by Him, and that HaShem and His Laws are the ultimate criteria of what constitutes law/morals/ethics. There is no non-theistic legal/moral/ethical system in existence, much less one competent to sit in judgment on HaShem. This remains so even with all the dishonest invocations of derekh 'eretz, dina' demalkhuta' dina', or the fact that Abraham himself argued with G-d (as do we all).

    Law/ethics/morality has only two possible sources: either they were given us by HaShem, or else they are mere social constructs of our own creation and which we may alter or abolish at will. It is truly astonishing to see people, some of whom reject the idea of any ultimate reality, invoking some non-existent objective moral standard against “homophobia” or even “hatred” (which is sometimes required by the Torah, as with the mesit). If science has discovered a gigantic granite tablet floating out in space with the words “thou shalt not be a homophobe” carved on it in Esperanto, then no announcement has been forthcoming.

    It is ironic that so many modern Jews, having made dissent from Xianity their very definition of Yahadut, are actually becoming more like the Xians who have no statutory system from HaShem but merely an “offering of salvation” (the acceptance of which is entirely voluntary). The “eighteenth century” European “enlightenment” and the secularism that followed are actually the spawn of Xianity, from “separation of religion and state” (a concept non-existent in Judaism) to Martin Luther's “two kingdoms,” to Augustine's “two cities” and ultimately from Yushqa's “render unto Caesar.” The “enlightenment” was in no sense Jewish; its leaders were anti-Semites, with Voltaire being the very worst. There is no “separation of religion and state” in Judaism and never was. There is no “freedom of religion” apart from the freedom to observe Torah. The events leading up to the institution of Chanukkah, so often misinterpreted as a celebration of modern “enlightenment”-style religious freedom, began when Mattityahu killed a fellow Jew who was “exercising his right” to conduct a qorban in his own way. Some three hundred years ago almost every Jew on earth lived in a self-governing, Theocratic community under the civil authority of the Rabbinate and the Battei-Din. This arrangement was the authentic Torah system of governance in the Exile. The “official Jewish leadership” now claimed by secular philanthropists and phony “rabbis” of heretical sects is entirely fraudulent.

    It is indeed distressing to see so many self-identified Orthodox Jews judging the justice of HaShem's decrees by some other moral standard (especially since no such thing actually exists). The “enlightened” have always been at war with the “tyrant” of Heaven, but rely on a multitude of tyrants on earth to create their standards for them. And they call this "freedom!"

  29. Roy Neal Grissom says:

    Yasher koach, Rev 'Avi!

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