More Debate On Gays And The Orthodox Community
Standing Up To Bullies I just wanted to tell Chaim Levin (“Surviving Bullying, Silencing and Torment for Being Gay in the Frum Community,” Family Issues section, Jan. 27) that I’m so sorry for everything he has gone through simply because he is gay. There is no excuse for bullying or for other people to judge him.
I was bullied as a child from the age of 6 until 13, and it was terrible. I thought about suicide as a child due to the bullying. No one deserves to go through that. My daughter is the “little Naama” from Beit Shemesh, who was bullied and harassed for allegedly being dressed immodestly. Because I was bullied as a child, I could not let anyone do that to my child.
Kol Hakavod to Chaim for standing his ground and not letting people trash him. I hope he won’t let any of the negativity get to him. Hadassa Margolese Beit Shemesh, Israel
Feels For Chaim But… Chaim Levin is a fellow Jew who is clearly in a very painful place. My inner being hurts for him simply because he is my brother and the Torah commands me to ache for him just as I would for my own wounds and sores.
If Chaim’s only message was to stop the harassment of LGBT youth, I and many others would be supportive. God did not grant us ordinary Jews the power to penalize or degrade anyone for not following halacha as we see fit. We can gently and lovingly express our concerns to the individual but we can never employ physical, emotional, or verbal abuse in the process.
But what comes through in his article, his video, and his interview last week on Zev Brenner’s show is deeply disturbing. Though Chaim claims not to be advocating for a change in halacha, he apparently wants halacha-abiding Jews to accept an idea the Torah does not. Yes, we should be accepting of Chaim as a human being and fellow Jew – but we cannot embrace homosexuality as the Torah does not embrace it.
Chaim also expresses anger toward the coalition of rabbis who put their names to the Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality. Chaim needs to understand that this was not a personal attack on him. Rabbis have an obligation to make the Torah’s position on homosexuality clear. Why is it that Chaim feels he should have the right to say what he wants but is bothered when rabbis say what the Torah wants?
Having said that, I wish Chaim inner peace, tranquility, happiness and fulfillment in all his endeavors in life. Malka Bergstein (Via E-Mail)
Emerge From The Dark Ages After reading Chaim Levin’s eloquent appeal for compassion and then hearing him plead his cause with obvious sincerity and good will on the Zev Brenner Show this past Saturday night, one cannot help being overcome with a deep sense of pain for his plight.
However, before the frum community is able to render people like Chaim the acceptance they so badly need and deserve, we need to emerge from the dark ages of thought reflected in a letter to the editor last week by reader Jacob Richman.
Mr. Richman implied that the Torah frowns on an individual with same-sex attraction even if he or she refrains from acting on it. But the Torah does not frown on people for the way they were created so long as they refrain from sinning. The challenge for individuals born with an attraction to the same sex is not that they attempt to change themselves into something they cannot be – but rather that they try to conform their behavior to what the Torah demands of all of us. Lawrence Kulak Brooklyn, NY
Evidence Of An Agenda Chaim Levin’s recent article and appearances on video and Jewish radio provide ample evidence of an agenda far more wide-ranging than merely opposing bullying and reparative therapy.
It’s an exact duplication of the militant homosexual activist playbook: Desensitize society through constant discussion of homosexuality, urges, etc. Create feelings of guilt in others by exaggerated, unsubstantiated claims of Jewish homosexual suicides due to “bullying,” discrimination, etc. Gain public sympathy by using the media, and then solidify gains by forming organizations like Jewish Queer Youth.
Rashi (Devarim 25:18) describes Hashem’s eternal enemy, Amalek, as practitioners of homosexuality. Rambam rules that one who is tempted to sin disguise himself, sin secretly and act the hypocrite in public so as not to desensitize society to sin. Urging youth to join in a group that identifies itself with Amalek-type behavior reinforces negative self-identification and more often than not results in sinful misbehavior.
Imagine a Jewish adulterers’ Shabbaton, an “intimacy for the under-aged” shul or an adult incest organization forming a minyan. How about articles by and organizations of mamzeirim who demand sympathy and change because Jews are halachically forbidden to marry them? These are all spiritual oxymorons and would constitute a fifth column in the Torah community.
I have tremendous sympathy for those challenged by temptations and unkosher desires. As you do with cancer, you never stop trying to find a better treatment to cure yourself. If all therapies fail, as a last resort you use chemicals to stop the urge to act in a forbidden manner. (This resolution is ordered by European courts for offenders and it works.) Unpleasant, surely; but better than committing adultery, homosexuality or incest. Rabbi Yehuda Levin Brooklyn, NY
Torah Declaration’s Stance As the press representative for the Committee for the Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality, I am writing to express the committee members’ combination of sadness and dismay at Chaim Levin’s article. Because at least half of the 25 members of the Committee who wrote the Torah Declaration have themselves undergone gender-affirming therapy for unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA), they know, first-hand, that healing is not easy. They therefore express regret at Mr. Levin’s personal unsuccessful experience in trying to overcome his SSA.
The Committee knows that individuals undergoing therapy for any issue will have varying results, but the Committee recognizes that SSA, like many other unwanted behaviors, such as alcoholism or even obesity, can be controlled, altered, and healed. They key word is “unwanted.” Contrary to Chaim Levin’s suggestion, no one is proposing that anyone be forced into any kind of therapy. Members of the Committee, however, are living proof that, through a combination of gender-affirming therapy and the process of teshuvah, it is possible to heal from the emotional wounds that caused SSA and live – with Torah-sanctioned love and intimacy – lives in harmony with their Orthodox Jewish beliefs and values.
Committee members who, before therapy, felt no attraction to women whatsoever, today report that they have been able to overcome or manage their inclinations to the degree that they are now very attracted to them. Those who have married have wives who knew about their struggles with SSA and were able to see past it, giving their husbands love and support as striving human beings and Jews.
The complete Declaration, with its list of more than 200 signators (leading Orthodox rabbis from across the religious and political spectrum, community leaders, and mental-health professionals), is available at www.TorahDec.org, along with the Committee’s full response to Chaim Levin. The rabbis – who represent members of the chassidish, yeshivish, Chabad, Sephardic, and Modern Orthodox/Yeshiva University communities – include R’ Yisroel Belsky, R’ Moshe Green, R’ Shmuel Kamenetsky, R’ Sam Kassin, R’ Avrohom Y. Nelkenbaum, R’ Yisroel Neuman, R’ Steven Pruzansky, R’ Yisroel Reisman, R’ Hershel Schachter, R’ Moshe Soloveichik, R’ Moshe Dovid Tendler, and R’Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
Many of them signed on because the Torah Declaration demands respect for all people and says those with SSA who yearn to live in consonance with the Torah must receive the loving, compassionate support of the Jewish community while they engage on the path toward healing. The message from the Committee and the Torah Declaration’s signators is that life-saving change is possible.
The Committee hopes that, after reading the full Declaration, other rabbis, community leaders, and mental-health professionals will consider signing as well, thereby making a significant difference in this important struggle to protect the Torah way of life.
Susan L. Rosenbluth
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