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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘gay Jews’

Winnipeg Rabbis Split on Bill Favoring Gay-Straight Clubs

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Two leading Orthodox rabbis in Winnipeg are split over part of a bill, proposed last December, which would require any school that receives provincial funding to allow students to create a gay-straight alliance club.

Fearing that Christian schools will be forced to accept such clubs, many Christian leaders in Manitoba have opposed the bill. But in the case of the province’s Jewish community, the two leading Orthodox rabbis have landed on opposite sides of the debate.

“The Torah rejects homosexuality,” Rabbi Avraham Altein, the longtime head of Chabad Lubavitch in Winnipeg, told the Canadian Jewish News. “Religious schools should not be forced to accept a gay rights group.”

But while Altein has written a letter to Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger protesting the bill and taken to the airwaves to make his views heard, Winnipeg’s other prominent Orthodox rabbi has taken a much different approach.

Rabbi Ari Ellis, who leads Winnipeg’s largest Orthodox congregation, told the news agency that he originally planned not to get involved in the debate on the bill until he heard Altein claiming that the bill stood in opposition to Orthodox Judaism.

“As an Orthodox rabbi and a Jewish educator, it is my belief that a gay-straight alliance could be a welcome institution in our schools and communities,” Ellis told the newspaper.

Gray Academy of Jewish Education, the only K-12 Jewish private school in Winnipeg, has had a gay-straight alliance for several years, according to head of school Rory Paul.

Gay Jews: Talk to Us

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

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

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/gay-jews-talk-to-us/2013/02/03/

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