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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
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DEAR EDITOR

Gay Jews: Talk to Us

I know that some people in heterosexual families see themselves as underdog victims harassed by threatening gays.
The Purim Superhero

I wonder if the Jewish Press staff personally know many gay and lesbian Jews. Today’s article about us (“LGBT Jews Excited About Kids’ Purim Book With Two Dads“) implicitly presents gay people as sly outsiders seeking to corrupt Jewish culture and families. Anyone who knows us, of course, realizes that gay people are born into all social groups, including the most traditional Jewish communities of Israel and the US. Why would we want to destroy the communities we love? When you talk to gay Jews (instead of about us), you’ll learn that many of us seek to participate meaningfully in the Jewish communities, culture, and religion that is so central to our lives.

Further, knowing us personally makes it harder to pretend that, as Gil Rosen claims, gay relationships are somehow “unnatural” or “unhealthy.” On the contrary, it is unnatural and unhealthy to condemn people for falling in love or to attempt to force people to “change” their romantic orientation.

Finally, meeting and talking to gay Jews breaks the illusion that gayness is antithetical to good (and specifically, good Jewish) parenting. I have personally met Jewish gay and lesbian parents, and their kids, in both Israel and the US. As America and Israel are both coming to realize, the children of same-sex couples are just as happy and healthy as anyone else’s kids—and they can also be just as Jewish, if the Jewish community extends its welcome to them and their parents.

I know that some people in heterosexual families see themselves as underdog victims harassed by threatening gays. However, this perception seems bizarre to me: In reality, it is gay people who have historically faced violence, exclusion, and harassment. When we speak out and make ourselves visible, it is not with the goal of hurting someone else’s family: It is about affirming our existence and our right to lead the lives we are called to lead. If we don’t speak up, we will never be allowed to live our lives at all.

I hope that in the future, the Jewish Press will commit to speaking with gay and lesbian (and bisexual and transgender) Jews, rather than about us. This dialogue is the only way forward.

Jonathan Branfman

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4 Responses to “Gay Jews: Talk to Us”

  1. Stephanie Lowitt says:

    Exactly! It is essential to include the voices of those who are perceived to be 'other,' who have been on the margins, or who have often been on the 'outside' when engaging in these conversations. Honest, thoughtful dialogue with each other is something I highly value about Judaism.

    As Jews, it should be especially striking that those in the LGBTQ community have also historically faced violence, exclusion, and harassment. We have a tremendous opportunity to move away from such destruction and create inclusive, loving, diverse Jewish communities and institutions by taking the time to really listen to each other. Kudos to Jonathan for articulating this, to Keshet for giving Jewish families and institutions the tools for such inclusion, and to the Jewish Press for printing this letter to the editor.

  2. Idit Klein says:

    Proud of Keshet Bay Area intern Jonathan Branfman for this excellent letter to the editor of the Jewish Press in response to their attack on the newly published "The Purim Superhero," the first Jewish children's book to feature gay parents.

  3. Idit Klein says:

    Proud of Keshet Bay Area intern Jonathan Branfman for this excellent letter to the editor of the Jewish Press in response to their attack on the newly published "The Purim Superhero," the first Jewish children's book to feature gay parents.

  4. Ben Plonie says:

    OK, let's have a dialogue. Orthodox Jews consider the Torah to be a direct communication from the creator of us all, which generally conforms to the natural order, requires effort and discipline, is beneficial to one and all and does not demand the impossible from anyone. With regard to natural and healthy relationships, in one sense it is irrelevant. There is plenty of time for discussions of intent and feelings and natural tendencies and appetites, but we have our answer in the halacha. Homosexual relationships are forbidden; we may work our way backwards from there. Jewish identity is clearly defined as much communal as personal. There is no coercion in Judaism to belong to the community or to behave in any particular way. There is only a behavioral requirement for those who do wish to belong to the community.

    In that sense, there are no gay people, only gay behavior, which does threaten and undermine the Jewish community and family structure. But let's be explicit: your statements merely assume that nature or even God created you as a gay person, which trumps the Torah. Just like Flip Wilson used to say 'the devil made me do it', you would say 'God made me gay and God doesn't make mistakes'. But if God doesn't make mistakes, then God wouldn't tell you to avoid homosexual behavior. And with regard to forcing people to change their romantic orientation, it makes far more sense to assume that homosexuals are naturally straight deep down than that there are straight people who are gay deep down. Is it not a crime to plant self-doubt in people who may be insecure or vulnerable to external influences? Particularly children and adolescents who are not hormonally or emotionally stable? Homosexuals like child-abusers are not created by God but by older homosexuals. 'As the good book says', "He does not clear [those who do not repent], but keeps in mind the sins of the fathers for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren." This also accounts for the epigenetic effect of homosexual behavior on one's progeny. It is possible that you had a recent ancestor who indulged in non-halachic sexual relationships, if yo get my drift.

    I am told that krill oil is very healthy because it is loaded with omega-3 antioxidants, but krill is not kosher so I will have to get my antioxidants somewhere else. Homosexuality s not kosher either, so you may have to satisfy our romantic urges with Torah-true ones.

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I know that some people in heterosexual families see themselves as underdog victims harassed by threatening gays.

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