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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘homosexual’

Conservatives to Ordain Gay and Lesbian Rabbis in Israel

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

The Board of Trustees of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary voted Thursday night to accept gay and lesbian students for ordination beginning in the next academic year.

Affiliated with the “Masorti” movement in Israel and with the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Schechter trains educational and spiritual, non-Orthodox leaders for positions in Israel.

“The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary views the serious process leading to this decision as an example of confronting social dilemmas within the framework of tradition and halachah,” Hanan Alexander, chair of the seminary’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “This decision highlights the institution’s commitment to uphold halachah in a pluralist and changing world.”

Students are ordained by a rabbinical court, made up of three members of the Rabbinic Advisory Committee of the seminary, all of whom are members of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Masorti/Conservative movement. The court members are chosen by the candidate and subject to the approval of the seminary’s dean. They have different opinions regarding the ordination of gay and lesbian students, according to the seminary.

“This unique mechanism is an expression of halachic pluralism, one of the founding principles of SRS,” the seminary said in its statement. “The Seminary is a religious institution of the Masorti/Conservative Movement, bound by Halacha, whose inclusive approach allows for a variety of Halachic opinions.”

The Jewish Press Won’t Be Silenced

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

For more than 50 years The Jewish Press has been the voice of the Jewish people.

We have stood up for the Jewish people, for the nation and for individuals. We have stood up when everyone else has been silent. We have stood up when it was unpopular to do so. We have stood up to praise, protect, and even reprimand our people when needed.

For years, it was The Jewish Press which waved the banner on the plight of agunot (women who were refused divorce documents by their recalcitrant husbands) when the rest of the Jewish world had nothing to say about that awful situation in which Jewish women were being trapped.

And we will continue to be the voice of the Jewish people, no matter who threatens us.

Last week we ran an op-ed article by Chaim Levin, a young man who has identified himself as both religious and homosexual.

We did not run this article to promote homosexuality. We did not run this article to condone anti-halachic behavior. We did not run this article to intimate that homosexual behavior could be a Jewish life choice.

We ran this article because, whether one wants to admit it or not, there is a serious problem that some members of our religious community face – day in and day out. It could be your chavrusah (study partner) in yeshiva, the guy sitting next to you in shul, or your brother in your very own home. And this is true whether you wear a black hat, a streimel, or a knit yarmulke.

Pretending that there are no frum Jews with homosexual inclinations won’t make the truth go away. It won’t make the internal conflicts they fight with their yetzer hara (evil inclination) disappear.

We were asked to publish the article in question after being approached by a therapist from within the frum community who primarily treats religious youth with drug abuse problems.

A significant number of suicide attempts are committed by boys from not just religious but rabbinic homes — because they thought they were homosexual and had no place in the Orthodox world they grew up in, even if they had never acted on those impulses.

Until politics exits the science, it won’t be known if homosexuality is genetic, hormonal, neurological, psychological, or a choice. The Torah itself is very clear on where it stands on homosexual acts.

But the Torah is also very clear on how one should treat one’s fellow Jew, and certainly one who tries to be religious — whether he or she succeeds or not — should not be driven by fellow Jews to contemplate suicide.

A situation where religious Jews are provoking children and adults who are different to consider suicide is unthinkable and unacceptable.

Following the publication of this op-ed, a number of Jewish Press advertisers were approached and threatened. They were told to stop advertising with The Jewish Press.

The Jewish Press won’t give in to threats and we won’t be silenced.

We thank our advertisers who have notified us that they plan to continue with us despite the threatening letters and that they won’t give into threats either, particularly when an article like this one may have very well have saved a Jewish life.

People can do teshuvah (repent) for many acts against halacha, but what forgiveness can there be for pushing someone so far that he or she would commit suicide?

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 12/2/11

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Dear Rachel,

Why would I even think of arguing with my therapist who had a doctorate in psychology? So having been told I was bisexual, I spent a number of years believing that I would be an outcast in the community until my dying day. I tried to keep this a secret and wondered how I could live the rest of my life in peace.

And then things changed. Not overnight — it took months. I switched to another therapist who had a very different approach to working with gay/bisexual clients. She homed in on the fact that for as far back as I could remember I hardly had any true friends and was often bullied by the other boys, which made me feel like I was some sort of outsider who didn’t belong.

I came to the realization that I was usually attracted to boys who were popular, well liked, and unafraid of others — in other words, everything that I was lacking. And when I say lacking, I refer to feeling empty and worthless inside. I hoped that whatever it was these boys had would rub off on me, and then maybe I would stand a chance at being a normal guy.

My father and I had a good relationship, but what I really needed all those years were real friends who would accept me for who I was. I never had those. My father couldn’t put a stop to the bullying, and I had a fear of going to school. To this day I wonder what would have happened if maybe I had switched schools or had a best friend who accepted me, or I hadn’t been told by my old therapist that I was bisexual and that there was nothing I could do to change that – maybe things would have been different.

Today I thank Hashem that I am happily married, and I daven for those who are still suffering, feeling alone and misunderstood. I know that pain too well, and I wish the community would understand that while gay and bisexual people struggle with a very difficult nisayon, they are still people. They didn’t ask to be this way.

Respectfully yours…

 

Dear Respectful,

Your sad story can serve as a valuable lesson to many a lost soul and corroborates the view that same sex attraction (SSA) can manifest itself as a result of adverse life situations a person may find himself in.

Lacking confidence in your own worth, you looked up to the strong and confident type whom you idolized and wished to model yourself after. In some cases, a boy estranged from or suffering the loss of his father craves that father/son relationship and may find what he seeks in another male he deeply admires — and then is led astray by mistakenly attributing this fondness to a penchant for SSA.

You were fortunate to have sought and obtained the opinion of another therapist who wisely pinpointed the root of your problem rather than ascribe it to the hype so widely and crudely disseminated in our day, much to the detriment of our misguided youth.

Those who suffer and struggle as you have should take a cue from your story and work on uncovering the true origin of their feelings. The recipe for success needs to incorporate a genuine desire to lead a Torah way of life and sincere prayers to Hashem for His guidance.

Thank you for sharing. Your empathy for others in pain is most praiseworthy.

An article of interest recently published in Ḥakirah, the Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought, comes to our attention just as this column is being readied for publication. Authored by Dr. Joseph Berger (a Toronto based noted psychiatrist with extensive practical and teaching experience), the piece addresses the complexities as pertain to a controversial statement on homosexuality released last summer by a select group of modern orthodox rabbis.

The following are brief quotes from the article that are relevant to this week’s column:

Scientifically it should be clear that what an adult says about his or her sexual thoughts and inclinations as a small child may be dubious and not scientifically valid…regarding the scientific aspects of homosexuality, a proper understanding of the literature demonstrates that there is no solid scientific basis for supporting a claim of a biological origin for homosexuality. Neither is there scientific support for any notion that anyone is born homosexual.

It is quite possible that tendencies may develop at an early age…claims of over-controlling mothers and under – or noninvolved fathers failing to set an adequate male role model, have been forwarded as major psychological contributing factors to the development of homosexual fantasies, needs, wishes and behaviors in men… there is also good clinical evidence based upon numerous published studies showing that significant numbers of people who have previously labeled themselves as homosexual can become comfortably heterosexual with good psychotherapy.

Doing What Comes Naturally?

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Many years ago, I was meeting relatives at the airport when I ran into someone I knew whom I hadn’t seen in a few years. Someone who was a very active homosexual. I asked him what he was doing at the airport and he told me he was there to pick up his wife and kids. “Oh,” I said and, as if on cue, his wife appeared with two little kids in tow.

As the saying goes, some of my best friends have been gay so when I heard of a therapist who has worked miracles in helping formerly gay men and women successfully transition into heterosexuality, I was intrigued.

Adam Jessel, 45 and originally from Toronto, lives with his wife and four of his five children on Moshav Matityahu in Israel. He is a researcher, author and therapist with a private practice in Jerusalem. He specializes in marriage and relationship therapy as well as pornography, internet addiction and same sex attraction. He runs support and therapy groups for men who are struggling with homosexuality who want to (and many do) lead normal lives as married men according to Jewish values and law. He also consults for a support group of the wives of these men and is a member of NARTH (the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.) Homosexual behaviour is clearly and strictly forbidden according to the Torah, which creates much conflict for many men who struggle with homosexual attractions and wish to remain religious Jews. “I emerge from our weekly group meetings feeling inspired. I’m so impressed by these individuals who want to live a life that’s consistent with their values. It’s something I’m very passionate about.” Jessel has a great deal of respect for the struggle of these men. There are a large number of people struggling with same sex attractions. Part of the therapy is learning how to reduce the same sex attraction and increase opposite sex attraction. However the therapy becomes more than that, it’s about greater self-acceptance.

“The journey out of homosexuality is about understanding oneself, recognizing who one really is and embracing it.” According to Jessel, the therapy is only successful when the client first faces and accepts his unwanted feelings. The task is not to look away from the feelings, but to understand and learn from them.

Contrary to popular belief, homosexual tendencies affect only about 1-2% of the population. The 10% statistic that is generally quoted is misleading. Dr. Alfred Kinsey, who’s responsible for that statistic, conducted a study in the 1940s but his sample was drawn largely from a prison population, which is not representative of the general populace. “Nobody takes that figure seriously,” says Jessel.

Jessel says that homosexuality reflects problems with emotional intimacy more than sexual intimacy. He is passionate about championing the cause of these people who want to lead a normal life and giving a voice to men and women struggling with homosexuality.

“They are not to blame for having these attractions. And halachically, there is no prohibition on having a homosexual orientation.” It’s the action, not the attraction that is prohibited.

Jews struggling to overcome homosexuality often don’t get support from the gay world or the Orthodox world. In the religious world it’s a taboo subject, in the gay world they’re seen as “in denial” and an obstacle to gaining gay legitimacy. Even the medical world, bowing to political pressure to accept homosexuality as a lifestyle choice and not a deviant behaviour, has ceased labelling homosexuality as a disorder. As a result there has been a withdrawal of funding for therapy and research and many gay people who are seeking help have found themselves between a rock and a hard place. In the notoriously liberal world of psychology, the very notion of providing therapy for people who want to transition from homosexuality to heterosexuality is unacceptable, because it suggests that there is something “wrong” or “less” about being gay, transgendered, or transexual.

Jessel illustrates the way society views homosexuality:

“If Reuven has an infatuation with Shimon’s wife, I’m allowed to help him. Certainly if he’s attracted to Shimon’s 12 year old son. But if he’s attracted to Shimon himself, suddenly, society tells you, you shouldn’t be treating these people.”

Jessel studied at York, McGill and Queens Universities in Canada. He has a BSc and an MA in Clinical-Developmental psychology. He has also done internships and research in a number of hospitals in Israel and abroad. “And we never discussed homosexuality,” he says.

He read a book by the noted psychiatrist Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth where he looked at the science and politics involved in promoting a gay activist agenda interpretation of research in the media. “I’ve always been sensitive to misuse or misinterpretation of data and research especially with social and political bias,” says Jessel. “I get annoyed at how research and statistics can be abused for political agendas. About 12 years ago I attended a presentation given by Shmuel Rosenberg, a family therapist in Elizabeth NJ, on homosexuality. He had witnessed first-hand the benefits that can come from therapy, and encouraged me to get involved.”

For religious people especially, it’s not acceptable to live a gay life. They need to know there is something they can do. There is help and support in their struggle – behaviour and feelings can be changed. Jessel lets his clients set the therapy agenda and isn’t out to convert anybody.

“A major part of my work is about identity. It’s separating oneself from the issue of whom a person’s attracted to. The Torah doesn’t define people by whom they’re attracted to. There’s no word in the Torah for homosexual. It only talks about sexual behaviour. It never defines people by their sexual preferences. It’s about looking at the person. It’s how you deal with it that defines you.”

Jessel works on behaviours and goals. A person is a person separate from the problem. “We don’t deny the problem. Acceptance of the tendencies is an important part of accepting oneself with all one’s different pitfalls and behaviours. It’s not a reason to feel any less or different.”

A large portion of these men feel different from other men, a feeling of not belonging. “The work that we do is learning to accept and validate oneself as a man despite whatever particular attractions one might be experiencing.”

Homosexuality has many root causes and there are many different variations. An intellectual, non-athletic boy with an innate sense of aesthetics may have felt different from the other guys who may have teased and bullied him. He may have had a poor body image. His connection to his father may not have been strong or his father may not have been a role model he would have been comfortable emulating. His mother may not have been connecting too well with the father and turned to the son for emotional support.

“None of these factors guarantees that someone will become gay. A wide constellation of factors have to come into play to produce homosexuality. If any of these are missing the person may grow up with other challenges but homosexual attraction won’t be one of them. This is only one possibility.

Because they may have felt different from a very early age, some people feel very strongly that they were born with homosexuality. Since one can modify their thoughts and behaviour, it’s irrelevant whether they were born with the tendency or developed it early on. There’s no evidence that homosexuality is predominantly biological. It’s a result of a confluence of biological, psychological and social factors. Also men demonstrating very sensitive, artistic or introspective behaviour may come to see themselves, or be seen, as gay, because that is part of the societal stereotype even though it is a stereotype.”

Jessel works as a facilitator to help people make the transition. He works with both genders and is currently working with a woman who has been living as a lesbian for 25 years and now wants to get out of that lifestyle and get married. She believes she was born that way but that doesn’t preclude her wanting to change.

“There’s no gay gene. Human sexuality is a complex phenomenon that can’t be pinned down to any one cause. You can have identical twins where one turns out homosexual and one doesn’t.”

Jessel acknowledges the possibility that a person could be born gay, but after working with hundreds of people with SSA, he doubts he ever met one.

“Its like some people’s genes make it more likely they’ll become obese. Yet we all know genes alone don’t make someone obese. It depends on their upbringing, culture, actions and a host of psychological factors. And nobody would say it’s impossible to modify one’s eating, exercise habits and even appetite.

“The paradox is that for many men the path out of homosexuality requires a greater connection with men. The primary work is not working on their attraction to women but working on their connection with men. What they have is a great need to connect to men but they don’t know how to do it without the intensity and escapism of sexual fantasies or encounters which don’t really fulfill the need, which is why there is so much promiscuity in much of the gay culture. There’s a compulsive aspect to it.

“With women there isn’t the same emphasis on sex. It’s more diverse. Growing up they often learned it wasn’t safe to have a trusting relationship with the opposite gender.”

So, ironically both men and women can develop homosexual attractions because of something missing or unhealthy in their relationships with men.

“Men are able to have physical intimacy without emotional intimacy. A woman can’t easily do that. She needs trust. A woman’s sexuality is more fluid and can change spontaneously throughout her life. Studies show that most women who have lesbian relationships as adolescents become exclusively heterosexual when they’re older.”

Programs exist to help men achieve more bonded relationships with other men. Many men benefit from attending programs such as: Journey into Manhood, Call of the Shofar, New Warriors and special workshops run by JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality).

Some men attend these programs and for a few weeks afterwards feel they’re past their homosexual tendencies. This is because the connection they make with men is so powerful that they get a feeling of what it’s like to have their real need for male connection met. Some of these programs are partially staffed by people who used to identify themselves as homosexuals.

“If a young man goes to a warm yeshiva and for the first time in his life experiences positive male role models, who are sincere about working with him and genuinely care and he experiences a camaraderie and acceptance from the other guys, this can strengthen him though alone it will not be enough.”

Jessel is careful not to paint too rosy a picture. “Homosexuality is a very difficult struggle, one you can’t fully appreciate unless you’ve been there yourself.”

Because they feel that the mental health profession has largely turned their back on them, the trend among strugglers is increasingly to rely on support from those who have faced similar challenges. There are grassroots movements of strugglers. Many of them are therapists who have made the journey out of homosexuality themselves or have a close family member who has had this struggle and feel they want to help others. Information isn’t out there and people suffer needlessly. Due to the dearth of therapists, Jessel also counsels people over the phone, even from different countries.

“The Jews who have successfully dealt with this don’t exactly advertise it. It’s like being a convert. It’s something to be proud of but people don’t announce it because there’s a stigma.”

Many men who’ve gone through counseling with Jessel have gone on to have good marriages. “I wouldn’t advise anyone to enter into marriage without guidance from therapists and rabbis experienced in these matters. A good marriage is possible but it has to be approached very cautiously.” I would say that’s true of any marriage. “Often people think that the only issue is sexual performance but the fact is that most homosexual men are capable of being physically intimate but because they’re emotionally not able to be present in the relationship [not only a problem with gay men], this creates a whole other set of problems that can sabotage the relationship.”

And that’s where the emphasis lies. Jessel is helping people tap their potential for healthy, fulfilling and quality relationships as people and as religious Jews.

(The first in a series of articles on this topic.)

To contact Adam Jessel: call 972(0)546720336 or e-mail him at szjessel@gmail.com

Homosexuality And Halacha: Five Critical Points

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

This short essay will develop five critical points for responding to the voices within the broader community that seek to accept and legitimize homosexual conduct, an activity that directly contradicts the dictates of halacha.

While we view such developments from an adversarial perspective, great thought must go into the process of developing an appropriate response. We must balance ideals and pragmatism while taking into consideration the nature of the halachic violation, the motivation behind it, and its cultural context. This remains particularly true with regard to counseling individual community members who struggle with or act upon homosexual inclinations. Each point remains crucial, as the appropriate response to this issue, as with so many others, requires a holistic, nuanced approach that appreciates the complexities of this phenomenon.

The Act: Halachic Judaism views same-sex activity, in all its forms, as sinful. Approaches that do not adopt this as their starting point must be dismissed within the Orthodox community. If we are to approach this topic with any intellectual honesty, we must loyally accept the dictates of Jewish law. The fact that halacha categorizes various homosexual acts with different degrees of severity does not reflect any sense that lesser acts are permitted. The overall legal prohibition remains, as does the moral condemnation found in aggadic and non-legal texts.

Further, we need to recognize that such activity is governed by the same free-will choices as all other sexual behavior. As such, it is unwise to put forward a halachic approach dependent on the “resolution” of the highly politicized question of the origins of homosexual orientation, colloquially known as “nature or nurture.” (We suspect there is some truth in both approaches, leaving the ultimate question as to how much control a person has in determining his or her sexual orientation.)

While this dispute absorbs much of the public dialogue – among religious and secularists alike – it remains irrelevant to the halachic discussion. Even if orientation is innate, every healthy person can choose whether or not to act on inclinations, no matter how strong those inclinations may be. Conversely, if this orientation develops, in one form or another, as a result of life experiences, it does not minimize the struggle of a halachically-committed Jew to choose not to act on such inclinations.

The Actors: Even as halacha clearly labels the act a sin, Judaism does not seek to label the actors as evildoers whom we must shun. The halachic tradition has a longstanding policy of diverse attitudes to transgressors, and only in the most rare of circumstances does it mandate excluding people from the community, especially for wrongdoing that does not explicitly harm others.

Some communities have expectations that all of their members maintain total Orthodox practice. Other communities maintain more open membership standards, sensing a need to create a place for all to come and worship, including those who drive to synagogue on Shabbat, do not observe taharahat hamishpacha (family purity restrictions), eat out in non-kosher restaurants, or even cheat in business.

As in the case with Shabbat violators, many communities will find it more appropriate to welcome gays who remain discreet about their personal activity and who respect the Orthodox setting, with no aim of sparking denigration of Torah law. Provocateurs with anti-halachic agendas will find themselves less welcome, and rightly so. The larger point remains that accepting a gay individual within one’s shul does not reflect any less commitment to halacha than accepting public Shabbat violators.

One might argue that, given the larger cultural battles raging throughout America, any form of acceptance of homosexual individuals might weaken our moral stand to the outside world and our halachic position within our community. While this approach is certainly tempting, as it avoids dealing with difficult questions of individual sensitivities, it remains unpersuasive, as well as unwise on an individual level.

First, there is a clear distinction between recognition and sensitivity versus acceptance and legitimization. Moreover, no matter how fierce the cultural battle, we still must care for every Jew with respect and sensitivity, and refrain from pigeonholing them as part of a war in which they may likely not be engaged or have any desire to join.

Additionally, the fear that increased sensitivity will encourage a coming-out or movement of “homosexual Orthodoxy” seems misplaced, not only because of our public insistence on the grave sin of homosexual acts, but because the sociological nature of our community’s family structure strongly discourages it. How many openly and actively gay Orthodox Jews exist in the world? We think very few. Everyone understands the deep philosophical, halachic, and sociological contradiction of this identity, and, as is currently evidenced in the non-Orthodox denominations, only the blatant misinterpretation of halachic tradition would distort that reality.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, April 12th, 2006

Thoughtless Comment

I just want to recount a hurtful incident that occurred recently. I went to a supermarket in Boro Park for my Pesach shopping along with three Argentinean Jewish friends. They were wearing jeans but were appropriately covered. As we entered the store, a middle-aged man with a beard went up to the three women and in Spanish asked, “Are you Jewish?” When they replied that they were, he said, again in Spanish, “Well, if you are Jews then dress like Jews.”

If you are reading this, sir, just know you caused an incredible desecration of God’s name and nearly drove away three women looking to buy their only kosher for Pesach food for their homes. Are you happy now?

Tal Rapke, MD
(Via E-Mail)
 

Unacceptable Behavior

I watched the news last week with horror. Not because of the alleged mishandling of Mr. Arthur Schick by the police, but because of the inexcusable reaction by members of the Boro Park community. What a chillul Hashem! For Jews to behave in such a way… I almost have no words to describe how inappropriate this was.

Furthermore, I heard on the news the next day that many in Boro Park are upset about the “ongoing ticket blitz.” Well, guess what? You’re actually not allowed to talk on the cell phone or double-park (or triple-park, for that matter). So, yes, the police are going to give tickets. You live in New York, you’ve got to follow the laws. Speak to almost anyone from “out of town” and they will tell you that they hate driving in Boro Park. It seems that the mantra there is “bishvili nivra ha’olam.”

Why give people reason to judge us harshly? We are b’nai Hashem – let’s start acting like it.

Joyce Abramczyk
(Via E-Mail)
 
 
Lack Of Derech Eretz

While I was disturbed to hear the allegations that two policemen from the 66th precinct were unnecessarily rough on an elderly Jewish man when he was pulled over for driving while using his cell phone, what was even more disturbing was the behavior of teenage yeshiva students who took to the streets, setting off bonfires and burning a police car.

While I don’t expect them to be learning all day now that yeshiva is out for “bein hazmanim,” they should at least have the common sense to behave respectfully and not make a chillul Hashem. There is so much emphasis in our yeshivas on being careful with every single mitzvah we do on Peasch – on removing every crumb of chometz. Maybe a bit more emphasis should be placed on the spiritual chometz within.

Whatever happened to “Derech eretz kodma latorah”? (Maybe if it were mentioned somewhere that derech eretz is an important minhag it would have more credence.)

Shlomie Lederstein
Brooklyn, NY
 

Dayenu 5766

The Haggadah presciently admonishes us that “in every generation there are those who rise up to destroy us.” Today, we are plagued by genocidal Iranian leaders and Arab terrorists. Is it not therefore incumbent upon the Israeli government to cease the mad exodus from biblical lands?

Stop the craven concessions – dayenu, it would be enough for us.

Stop the immoral expulsion of Jewish pioneers – dayenu, it would be enough for us.

Stop the territorial withdrawals – dayenu, it would be enough for us.

Let us hope that at this year’s seder Israelis will comprehend and subsequently actualize the ultimate tenet of Passover – the miraculous return of the Jewish people to all sectors of the Promised Land.

In recognizing the meaning of such momentous events, Israelis will wisely pass over Quartet road-map enslavement for national freedom and “a new light will shine upon Zion.”

Next year may we celebrate the Festival of Freedom in an undivided Land of Israel and its indivisible eternal capital, Jerusalem.

Chaim ben Zvi
(Via E-Mail)
 

Troubling Prejudice

I am deeply troubled by Moshe Feiglin’s declaration that Arabs, to whom he ascribes Ishmaelite ancestry, are, like Ishmael, “wild men” who “live by their sword – by robbery” (column, “Terror Is Not the Enemy,” March 31).

I am disturbed on several levels. First of these is the supposition that today’s Arabs descend from Ishmael. This blanket assessment fails to account for the commingling of peoples over the centuries. Some Arabs probably descend from Ishmael, but they descend as well from other ancestors. Even within one Arab country, such as Egypt, the sources of descent vary widely among the citizens. Taking into account the vastness of the Arab world, its ancestral sources are certainly many and varied. (Some Arabs may even descend from Jews!)

Second, Feiglin assumes that because Ishmael had a particular trait, all his descendants share, and are primarily governed by, this trait. Even if we grant this assumption, should we likewise grant that a person cannot overcome his innate tendencies? If that is true, then the person cannot be faulted for his malevolent acts, whereas they stem from a trait over which he has no control.

Moreover, the Talmud teaches us that Ishmael, toward the end of his life, repented and died a righteous man. If Ishmael, the “wild man” himself, was able to win his inner struggle, then certainly his descendants have the ability to do so.

Most disturbing is Feiglin’s willingness to tar an entire group of people with a negative brush. Jews have suffered greatly from just this sort of prejudice. We must be equally wary about casting other groups in a broad, negative light.

Avi Goldstein
Far Rockaway, NY
 

‘Disgraceful’ Maneuvering

According to news reports, Degel HaTorah spiritual leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv instructed MKs Avraham Ravitz and Moshe Gafne to recommend to President Katsav that he ask Ehud Olmert and his Kadima Party to form Israel’s new government.

Since an Olmert-led government would likely hand over much of the Jewish heartland of Judea and Samaria to Israel’s genocidal enemies, one has to respectfully ask whether Rabbi Elyashiv is concerned with Hamas’s stated goal of destroying Israel. Degel HaTorah cannot feign ignorance. Hamas has openly and brazenly stated that the destruction of Israel is its ultimate goal.

It is clear that Degel HaTorah’s political maneuvering is dictated mainly by its interest in fattening the coffers of its religious institutions. That this political/religious movement calls itself “flag of the Torah” is beyond obscene. How can it be that a Torah-abiding party would have a hand in policies aimed at disassembling the heart of Eretz Yisrael – policies that will lead to great shedding of Jewish blood once Hamas gains hold of Judea and Samaria?

The word “disgraceful” does not even begin to describe Degel HaTorah’s treacherous behavior.

Adina Kutnicki
Elmwood Park, NJ
 
 

Coping With Simchas

Re Ziona Greenwald’s article “Reasons to Celebrate” (op-ed, March 31):

Agreed, the need for attending simchas or, Heaven forbid, levayos, has been established. When may one may leave such functions and what are the host’s responsibilities to the sensitivities of his guests?

At weddings, the time devoted to being mesameyach choson vekalah seems indeterminate, subject to the enthusiasm of friends. Other types of simchas are often un-programmed and become a drag. Aside from the halachic issues involved with bentching, the fact is that after four hours, many people have just had it. This creates a dilemma those who made the effort to share in the simcha but now must either suffer the embarrassment of leaving early or sneak out.

At levayos, kavod hameis has come to be associated with the number of eulogizers and the length of their eulogies. This presents an unfair situation to those who have taken time off from work or other responsibilities and as such are embarrassed at having to leave “early.” Further, such people are unable to accomplish the mitzvah of levayas hameis properly.

Not starting on time is another serious factor in the equation.

When are “Reasons to Celebrate” over?

M. Katz
Brooklyn, NY
 
 
Israeli Rabbinical Leaders
Must Fight Gay Agenda
 
The eyes of the Torah world and a fair amount of the secular world have been focused on the coalition negotiations in Israel. It seems that Olmert’s Kadima will be sitting with the left-wing Meretz party that plastered Israel with posters declaring love and support for homosexuals. The Israeli homosexual organizations, as reported on YNET, have insisted Meretz have pro-homosexual stipulations included in the Meretz coalition agreement with the Olmert government. Yet so far the religious parties have not inserted a strong anti-homosexual parade paragraph in the religious coalition agreement with Olmert. Is this possible?

Shas and United Torah Judaism will also join the coalition in part to provide desperately needed funds for the poor, yeshivas, etc. Will the leading rabbis and politicians insist that the homosexual parade in Yerushalayim and the international week-long homosexual extravaganza scheduled for this August be canceled?

For almost three decades, the Agudas Harabonim – Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the U.S. and Canada – has followed the lead of its revered late president, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, who vigorously and actively opposed the homosexual agenda, its social goals and legislative initiatives. Rabbi Feinstein declared it a sacred obligation for all Jews to do everything in their power to oppose pro-homosexual legislation.

It is clear to members of Agudas Harabonim that Rav Feinstein would have insisted that a strong ironclad stipulation be included in the coalition agreement to prevent any type of pro-homosexual parade in Yerushalayim or any other part of Eretz Yisrael.

Agudas Harabonim urges the political parties and their leadership to prioritize this issue of the sanctity of our People and Land. This is an issue of vital concern to worldwide Jewry.

We know the Torah warns us not to permit the maaseh kenani practices of the Canaanites – which our rabbis interpret as homosexuality – to reoccur in the Holy Land, Our question to the rabbis: Aren’t these verses applicable to the situation in Israel today – specifically the push there for homosexual benefits, adoption rights and, yes, homosexual marriage? What signal does it send to the rest of the world if the haredi parties do not fight to the last shekel to prevent this ongoing and ever-burgeoning scandal and blasphemy?

We respectfully yet firmly and urgently request that the assistants to the Torah leaders alert them to the ramifications of this issue and let them know that the anxious eyes of millions of Jews and billions of Christians and Muslims are monitoring this situation.

Rabbi Yehuda Levin
Spokesman
Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the U.S. and Canada

The Logic Of Rick Santorum

Friday, May 30th, 2003

Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s point about a pending Supreme Court case challenging state anti-sodomy laws seems hardly remarkable. The senator said: “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [homosexual] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery, you have the right to anything.” If the United States constitution is deemed to protect against general state laws prohibiting homosexual sex on the ground that it is consensual, then other consensual sex would also seem similarly protected, even if one could arguably reject out of hand the concept of consensual incest. Yet the crescendo of criticism from liberal quarters that followed Santorum’s comments, simply ignored the issue of their
reasonableness and focused rather on the supposed reactionary slight to an “alternative lifestyle,” to be lumped together with “really terrible activity.”

It is not de rigueur these days to take morally principled positions, and we suspect that the Supreme Court will reverse a 1986 decision upholding anti-sodomy statutes. But we predict that this brouhaha will be viewed years from now as yet another signpost in our descent from any notion of societal standards to anything and everything goes unless someone is directly and palpably harmed. That is, as Linda Chavez wrote in a recent article in the Washington Times, “Either the constitution protects the right of consenting adults to do whatever they desire in private or it does not.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/editorial/the-logic-of-rick-santorum/2003/05/30/

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