Photo Credit: AdasIsrael.org
Rabbi Gil Steinlauf

Republished from JewishBusinessNews.com

“The Monday after Yom Kippur the Rabbi Came Out.”

Advertisement

Now, wouldn’t that be a thriller you would pick up at Amazon?

On the Monday after Yom Kippur, Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, senior rabbi at the Washington, D.C. Adas Israel Conservative synagogue, announced that he is gay.

In a letter sent to congregants, Steinlauf wrote:

Dear Friends,

I am writing to share with you that after twenty years of marriage, my wife Batya and I have decided to divorce. We have arrived at this heartbreaking decision because I have come to understand that I am gay. These are great upheavals in my personal life, as in Batya’s and that of our children. But it is plain to all of us that because of my position as Rabbi of Adas Israel, this private matter may also have a public aspect. We recognize that you may well need a period of reflection to absorb this sudden news. I am most grateful for the support Adas’ lay leaders and clergy have provided my family and me in the short time since I brought this matter to their attention. That support makes it possible for us to prepare for this new chapter in our lives, and for me in my ongoing service as Rabbi of Adas Israel Congregation.

While I struggled in my childhood and adolescence with a difference I recognized in myself, that feeling of difference did not then define my identity, much less the spouse I would seek. I sought to marry a woman because of a belief that this was the right thing for me. This conviction was reinforced by having grown up in a different era, when the attitudes and counsel of adult professionals and peers encouraged me to deny this uncertain aspect of myself. I met and fell in love with Batya, a wonderful woman who loved and accepted me exactly as I am. Together, we have shared a love so deep and real, and together we have built a loving home with our children–founded principally on the values and joys of Jewish life and tradition. But my inner struggle never did go away. Indeed, Batya herself has supported me through this very personal inner struggle that she knew to be the source of great pain and confusion in my life over decades.

A text I’ve sat with for years is from the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 72b) and states, “Rabbah said, any scholar whose inside does not match his outside is no scholar. Abaye, and some say Ravah bar Ulah, said [one whose inside does not match his outside] is called an abomination.” Ultimately, the dissonance between my inside and my outside became undeniable, then unwise, and finally intolerable. With much pain and tears, together with my beloved wife, I have come to understand that I could walk my path with the greatest strength, with the greatest peace in my heart, with the greatest healing and wholeness, when I finally acknowledged that I am a gay man. Sadly, for us this means that Batya and I can no longer remain married, despite our fidelity throughout our marriage and our abiding friendship and love. As our divorce is not born of rancor, we pray that together with our children we will remain bound by a brit mishpachah, a covenant of family.

Arnie Podgorsky, the congregation’s president, attached a letter of support to Rabbi Gil Steinlauf’s announcement:

Together with the other officers of Adas Israel, I stand with Rabbi Steinlauf. Our synagogue is strong, large, and inclusive–a big tent with room and respect for all. Rabbi Steinlauf, along with the rest of the clergy, will continue to advance new paths to Torah, making Judaism and its tools for a beautiful life more accessible for more Jews. We will continue our diverse approaches to worship, from the traditional to the innovative. At the same time, we understand that Rabbi Steinlauf will be undergoing a challenging personal transition in the coming months, and we extend to him patience and a generous spirit.

Steinlauf has been the senior rabbi at Adas Israel since 2008, and before that he was the rabbi at Temple Israel in Ridgewood, N.J., and Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus, Ohio. He graduated from Princeton, and studied at Pardes Institute in Jerusalem. He received his ordination in 1998 at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Adas Israel’s celebrated members include journalists Jeffrey Goldberg and Franklin Foer.

On Monday, Goldberg noted on The Atlantic website:

Rabbi Steinlauf fell into an odd liminal moment in history. If he were a 25-year-old rabbi, there would be no drama here, no nothing, in fact, because he would simply be a rabbi who happens to be gay. The Conservative movement of Judaism has changed over the past decade or two in unimaginable ways. I have trouble picturing a synagogue that wouldn’t hire a gay rabbi. On the other hand, if he were 60 years old now, with the same identity, he most likely would have been able to glide toward retirement, his secret intact.

Goldberg quoted Foer’s note on the coming out, that “Rabbi Steinlauf has just discovered the most dramatic possible way to break the Yom Kippur fast.”

Advertisement

40 COMMENTS

  1. What? Breaking Yom Kippur fast? People can break up rules, but they can not motivate others to break up Judaism. It is like when we follow the traffic rules, we can not say to others that it is ok to pass the right light, only for convenience. If he wants to do it, go ahead. Just I hope he does not “kill” others.

  2. Let me see if I understand this story correctly.

    The Rabbi is in a deep and loving relationship with his wife and she loves and accepts him wholeheartedly in return.

    The problem?
    Despite all their deep love and friendship, she simply doesn't satisfy him sexually.

    His solution?
    Divorce his wife.
    But instead of leaving the reason as a private matter between the two of them like everyone else does, he feels the need to tell everyone else about the sexual frustrations he experienced in his marriage.

    I read his letter and see boundary issues, narcissism and immaturity.

  3. This "guy" is a fool who deserves to be removed from the rabbinate. Unless we see it as a joke – as do Reform Jews who stand up for everybody else – even our enemies – but Jews.

  4. What's the big deal? He's gay. Fine by me. The letter is correct because he is explaining his situation to his congregation. They deserve it. Gays are everywhere, and in every religion. Why not a rabbi? Believing in God doesn't mean that you have to be straight. From a rabbi I expect to be a good person, to have knowledge and heart. I don't care with whom he sleeps.

  5. [Surak] Two problems with his letter – the words "gay" and "abomination". Gay means happy, not homosexual. If he is attracted to men that is another issue. Speaking of which – quoting the Talmud on abomination is itself an abomination, when defending behavior that the Torah calls an abomination.

  6. A very sad example for Reformed Judaism. NO PERSON living in direct open sin against GOD'S WORD should be allowed in leadership of any synagogue, church or assembly…PERIOD!!! How could anything they say be trusted?????? Fool me once, shame on you….fool me twice shame on me.

  7. Bravo Ana, totally agree ! What's the big deal ? and some very straight rabbi are immoral in other issues like money…. Morality starts where you place the limit…. we are in the 21st century…. come on ! We shouldn't be more religious than the pope…. lets look back in our own lives if we should be so judgmental ….

  8. Hold up. Hashem does not define people by our labels. The rabbi is not gay. Hashem defines people by righteousness. He is righteous or unrighteous in G-d's sight. The Torah teaches us that lusts acted upon require repentance. It is clear that man is tempted, different men in different ways. It is clear that this man is a victim of temptation as we all are. We are deceived. This is why we need Torah. G-d speaks plainly of what is right or wrong behaviour and we are fixed in our thinking if not in our power to do right. I am sad that he actually missed the main point of Yom Kippur.

  9. We all have temptations that break god's law, but acting on these temptations is when temptation becomes sin. Everyman has to battle against sexual desires and sins that are inappropriate, be they straight or gay. The point is that when somebody says they are gay they're saying that their temptation is who they are. A man might say I have feelings of lust for a women who is not his wife. Submitting to God's authority and seeking God's help, this temptation can be resisted. A man in this situation doesn't say I'm lust to make an excuse to satisfy sin. Not saying that this is easy, but there is a point where God does help people and give them interior changes in their desires and personality. I have found this to be true.

  10. His struggle is a real struggle. It's very unfortunate. sometimes a challenge can be very difficult and people struggle with it for years, but over time, feel they can't anymore. IMO, he could use an observant therapist who can help him sort things out, emotionally. It's not impossible, people can overcome with good support, and prayer to G-d to help. They might always have the feeling, but at least don't do the action.

Comments are closed.

Loading Facebook Comments ...