About six months ago, I received an email from Rabbi Nati Helfgot about a “Statement of Principles” that he was working to draft about how Orthodoxy should relate to homosexuality and people with homosexual tendency. I chose then not to get involved in the process, mostly because I’m not in the active rabbinate. The statement has been the topic of heated, respectful discussion on internal rabbinic email lists, but I must admit that I had not been following close attention. Then, yesterday, I received an email asking whether my name is, “intentionally missing”, and whether I wanted to sign on.

Statement of Principles: Why I Haven’t Signed

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Guest post by R. Reuven Spolter

About six months ago, I received an email from Rabbi Nati Helfgot about a “Statement of Principles” that he was working to draft about how Orthodoxy should relate to homosexuality and people with homosexual tendency. I chose then not to get involved in the process, mostly because I’m not in the active rabbinate. The statement has been the topic of heated, respectful discussion on internal rabbinic email lists, but I must admit that I had not been following close attention. Then, yesterday, I received an email asking whether my name is, “intentionally missing”, and whether I wanted to sign on.

Now I feel the need to respond to the statement, and why I did not – and do not plan on signing it.

First and foremost, I agree with the vast majority of the statement. I take issue with some of the language in the section about the children of openly gay couples which states that,

…communities should display sensitivity, acceptance and full embrace of the adopted or biological children of homosexually active Jews in the synagogue and school setting

Of course the children did not make their parents’ choices. But how does a shul “fully embrace” a child while at the same time rejecting that child’s parents’ relationship? What is the rabbi supposed to say at the Bat Mitzvah? Does he acknowledge the parents (and laud them for their chessed, kindness, activism, what have you – common rabbinic practice), and indirectly project an approval for their family structure? (You could argue with that assumption of indirect approval, but I feel it would be there. You could also argue that we do precisely the same thing for parents who are not Shomer Shabbat. Fair point, but I see a difference.) I am not comfortable with the language in the statement, and probably would not have signed it for that reason alone. Or maybe they would have softened it if I had asked. Who knows?

Yet, I won’t sign the statement for a more nuanced reason: I don’t want to single out homosexual people at all. We live in a culture where a person’s homosexuality is, by definition, a defining attribute of their identity. Every gay person, Western Culture says, should “Come out of the closet” and express their sexual identity with pride. Torah Judaism obviously sees things differently, and views homosexual tendencies as a spiritual challenge that one must struggle to overcome.That being the case, a paragraph like this troubles me.

Accordingly, Jews with homosexual orientations or same sex-attractions should be welcomed as full members of the synagogue and school community. As appropriate with regard to gender and lineage, they should participate and count ritually, be eligible for ritual synagogue honors, and generally be treated in the same fashion and under the same halakhic and hashkafic framework as any other member of the synagogue they join. Conversely, they must accept and fulfill all the responsibilities of such membership, including those generated by communal norms or broad Jewish principles that go beyond formal halakhah.

Mima Nafshach [either way]: If a Jew keeps his or her sexual orientation private, then she or he should of course be welcomed as a full member of the community. Who doesn’t struggle to overcome sinful inclinations, be they the desire to surf porn on the internet or cheat on one’s taxes? That’s why we come to shul. But if a Jew has declared that lifestyle to be part of their identity, then they also insist that the community embrace their unacceptable behavior as part of the communal norm. That I cannot accept.

The statement bothers me because the very notion of singling out people with homosexual tendencies and their place in the community highlights the very thing that I feel is no one’s business but their own. I (community member) don’t want to know. I should not know, and should ask the single man to daven for the amud, lein, give shiurim, and live a full and productive life. I don’t want to treat him as a “male with homosexual tendencies.” I want to relate to him like a fellow Jew. To do that requires that he keep his personal struggles, as strong as they are, private.

Note here: I am not speaking as his rabbi. If he seeks spiritual guidance, he should turn to the rabbi who can offer counsel, advice, and listen to his pain. He might tell his parents, so that they don’t nudge him about getting married. But the private should remain so, and must not become an aspect of a person’s public persona, especially in the context of a Torah community.

This is where we digress from today’s popular culture. It was once acceptable to promote a policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” (That’s pretty much what I’m advocating.) But gays in broader society wonder, justifiably so, why they should hide a core component of what they view as their identity. It’s a fair question.

But Judiasm cannot view homosexual tendencies in this way. It absolutely prohibits homosexual behavior, and demands that we fight to overcome those tendencies. It can never view these inclinations as a core aspect of one’s identity. So to release a statement of principles which seems to counter this attitude is, in my view, counterproductive.

There is another, more sinister element to the list. It will now create a split in the Orthodox community between those who signed, and those who will not, for whatever reason. “Why did Rabbi So-and-So sign? Why did Rabbi Such-and-Such not sign? What if I was still in the pulpit but did not want to sign the statement for the reasons I outlined above? What would a congregant struggling with homosexuality think of me? Am I now “against” him – despite the fact that I’ve been very public about how we should respect and admire people who struggle with homosexuality (link). The very appearance of this list, while well-meaning, will undoubtedly cause rifts between community members within communities and between rabbis and their congregants.

Is it worth it?

I really don’t know.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

100 comments

  1. “You could also argue that we do precisely the same thing for parents who are not Shomer Shabbat. Fair point, but I see a difference.”

    Can you please elaborate on what the difference is?

  2. Perhaps, there is no difference between a Mchallel Shabbos, Ochel Treifos UNevelos and a person who engages in behavior that is clearly contradicted by Halacha. Why should any such individual be singled out as exempt from the process of wrestling with the consequences of his or her behavior in any area of halacha as opposed to asking the Torah observant community to declare that they accept the same?

  3. MiMedinat HaYam

    1. i think the statement should be expanded to include unmmarried heterosexual couples.

    2. and while we discussed here shul relations, what about school / rest of parent body relations / objections? do we ignore the rest of the school?

    3. one of the aims of the homosexual movement today is not only acceptance of their relationship, but an in your face acceptance, despite other’s objections. and acceptance of the relationship in the jewish context, which we cannot allow. (i.e., “jewish homosexual club”, etc). in contradistinction, to say, mechallelei shabat (noah feldman notwithstanding), unmarried heterosexuals, abusers, cheaters (money and sexual, though i originally meant money), intermarried couples, etc. none of whom (to my knowledge) demand acceptance in a “jewish” context.

  4. How is don’t ask don’t tell supposed to work? Can you refer to your partner at all? Only by first name as your housemate? Can you have pictures of the two of you together at work? In the home? If you had a commitment cermony at all should it never be mentioned? Don’t ask don’t tell is a demand to conceal a significant fraction of your life from the community.

  5. ‎”We live in a culture where a person’s homosexuality is, by definition, a defining attribute of their identity…Torah Judaism obviously sees things differently, and views homosexual tendencies as a spiritual challenge that one must struggle to overcome.”

    Where does he get this from? Where does he imagine the Torah tells gays that their sexual orientation does not shape their identity, that is it rather something they should simply struggle to ignore?

    Further, the paragraph objected to does not, as R Spolter suggests, refer to practicing homosexuals. Nowhere does the statement “insist that the community embrace their unacceptable behavior as part of the communal norm.”

    Also, suppose that person is a practicing homosexual, but does not deny the Divine origin and authority of the commandments, as an open Sabbath desecrater might appear to. Why should a sinner, who has violated a moral and not a criminal injunction, by prohibited from active participation in the community and the synagogue?

    I must protest R Spolter’s objection to this participation and to the statement based on his desire “not to know.” The statement does not demand homosexuals expose their orientation, but rather affirms that those members of the community known or suspected to be homosexuals, by whatever means past or present, should not be discriminated against in the community or the synagogue. And that’s something that deserves his signature and his support.

    Shame on R Spolter for denying that support on the basis of his limited perception of the problem and the suffering of his fellow Jews.

  6. When I say struggle to ignore, I mean the implication of R Spolter’s words that the Torah [not only prohibits homosexual behavior and instructs the homosexual to struggle to contain his or her desires, but also] instructs the homosexual to ignore the major impact of his or her desires on personal identity, treating the desire for a sexual/romantic life as a mere temptation to sin.

    The intensity of the struggle for a homosexual in a halachic lifestyle cannot be underestimated or falsely compared to other benign or even sinister temptations. The Torah provides a sexual outlet to nearly every personal situation, but provides no such outlet to a homosexual.

    This makes the struggle an undeniable part of the spiritual and personal identity of an otherwise healthy homosexual Jew.

  7. There is certainly a lot to say about R. Spolter’s piece, but the argument “What is the rabbi supposed to say at the Bat Mitzvah?” is a bogus one. If you are not comfortable by a parent’s lifestyle (which for consistency’s sake would include any overt non-halachic orientation), your don’t HAVE to attempt to laud them. Just focus on the kid’s accomplishments.

  8. R. Spolter, I think, makes two mistakes here:

    A) In his closing remarks, he brings up a concern that, personally, I had with Hurwitz’s “ordination”: the consequent split in the Orthodox community. However, the lack of women rabbis wasn’t directly driving women into depression and potentially suicide. The lack of an institutional response to this problem, the social stigma attached, and the consequent message that “you are broken” to Orthodox homosexuals, is in fact directly driving them into depression and potentially suicide. With all due respect, I think R. Spolter reallyyshould have signed and then guest-posted here saying “what I disagree with in the statement despite having signed,” because right now, there is a huge void of institutional support for people dealing with these issues that needs to be filled, and needs to be BROADCASTED*. When discussing something with such tremendous urgency, in fact, R. Spolter’s position of not signing brings to mind that of R. Zekharia ben Avkolus. Now, I’m not descending into hysterics; I don’t think that R. Spolter’s or anyone else’s not signing is going to bring another hurban. But (hopefully) my point is clear.

    The second mistake R. Spolter makes is here:

    “Mima Nafshach [either way]: If a Jew keeps his or her sexual orientation private, then she or he should of course be welcomed as a full member of the community. Who doesn’t struggle to overcome sinful inclinations, be they the desire to surf porn on the internet or cheat on one’s taxes? That’s why we come to shul. But if a Jew has declared that lifestyle to be part of their identity, then they also insist that the community embrace their unacceptable behavior as part of the communal norm. That I cannot accept.”

    Here, I have to say, R. Spolter begs the question: why not? What about asking for acknowledgment of their desire to perform unacceptable acts, is itself unacceptable? Where in the Torah are we told about that particular issur? Moreover, let’s say we amended the statement to be less a statement about homosexuals in “identity,” and more a statement about “fellow Jews,” who just happen to consistently relate to sexuality in a single-sex way. Would that REALLY change the thrust of the statement? Is this minor distinction worth it? Indeed, would the author’s of the statement really have held it against R. Spolter if he wanted to change that paragraph?

    Again, with all due respect, I think R. Spolter would have done a greater service to the Jewish people by signing rather than not. Even if he is basically writing his own, similarly helpful, “statement of principles” here, it will not have anywhere near the impact a single extra signature would have.

    *This, of course, brings us back to the gay panel. My view remains that in putting out that letter condemning the panel, the Roshei Yeshiva did harm several degrees of magnitude greater than any good they could have hoped to have accomplished with the letter.

  9. Agree with zach, and add that the last paragraph is also pretty shvach: since taking a principled stand in defense of a struggling minority in our community will make things inconvenient for those in the privileged majority who would rather do nothing (or, if it makes you feel better, take the “wait and see” approach), the principled stand is not worth it.

    Did Rabbi Spolter send a copy of this post to the Birmingham Jail?

    In fact, I think what Rabbi Spolter fears is actually a good thing. I hope there are rabbanim who realize that, due to their pastoral position, refusing to sign this statement would put them in a very awkward and precarious situation, and as a result, end up signing. Like it or not, this is usually the process by which people make the right decision.

  10. The reason why homosexuals need to be singled out is because, sadly, our community does that anyway. For whatever reasons homophobia IS a presence in our schools and shuls.

    DOES ANYBODY HERE DISAGREE WITH THAT?

  11. Yeah, I do, capitals notwithstanding. Why wasn’t this an issue fifty years ago? Why the need to make any statement? Purely social pressures, no more, no less. There *were* no “homosexuals” fifty or a hundred years ago. Oscar Wilde didn’t call himself a “homosexual.” Certainly there were people who practiced homosexuality, maybe even exclusively. I highly doubt the numbers (removing socially-caused cases) are any higher today than they were then. So even issuing the statement is already conceding a point to the gay lobby.

  12. There is something strange about R. Spolter’s rhetoric. At first he suggests that he is broadly in agreement with the statement and that he did not sign for personal reasons and because he felt that the statement did hit quite the right ballence on one key issue. From what I have heard, there are many rabbis and educators who did not sign who fit into this category.

    However, R. Spolter is clearly not one of them. He rejects the fundamental premises of the statement. That homosexuality is an issue that needs to be addressed publicly and directly and that in many cases, demanding that homosexuals remain closeted is a bad idea. R. Spolter appears to believe in reparative therapy and to reject the very notion of a “homosexual” psychological identity. Why not put your cards on the table from the get go?

    What disturbs me more, is that R. Spolter does give any evidence of having any actual experience with homosexuals with in the Orthodox community or much research on the matter. I would like to invite R. Spolter to discuss with us the personal experiences and/or research upon which his position is based.

  13. Shachar Ha'amim

    Moshe – this letter will become the big break between the two wings of Modern Orthodoxy. I have no doubt that within a decade the next “Noah Feldman” seeking “acceptance” of the Orthodox community for his choice to marry a non-Jew who didn’t convert, will point to this statement and demand his rights. Very modern orthodox day schools will inevitably accept children of inter-married couples. It’s only a matter of time when there will be two modern orthodox communities – one that accepts homsexuality and intermarriage and some form of the female rabbinate, and another that will not accept these but will still define itself as modern orthodox.
    The only question for me is why Rav Yosef Blau decided to align with the former. All the rest I can understand why they signed.

  14. Sexual identity is a core part of the way that modern people conceive of themselves. However, for heterosexuals the process is “normal” and mostly invisible while for homosexuals it is not. Telling homosexuals that they cannot be out and full participants within our community is tantamount to telling them: “see, you are not really a homosexual, you are just a heterosexual with deviant sexual tendencies.” And once that is the message then we are back to where we started with suppression, repression etc.

    An out homosexual couple in your shul is no more “in your face” about their sexual behavior than a married heterosexual couple. I don’t know what either does or does not do in their bedroom and I don’t want to know. There are plenty of activities in both categories that are categorically assur(did you keep tabs on who in Oak Park was going to the Mikvah regularly?) If it makes you feel better than imagine that they have roughly the same relationship as your average heterosexual couple in their 70s.

    You ask how a rabbi/shul/community is supposed to embrace children of a homosexual couple without displaying approval for their family structure. Well, first, since Orthodox Judaism has not defined the ideal family structure that it envisions for homosexual individuals it seems rather strange to want to avoid approval this this particular one. Perhaps if Orthodoxy had been more proactive in explaining its expectations then it wouldn’t have to be catching up to rapidly evolving social norms. But let’s assume that that lag was unavoidable. Please do go ahead and very clearly explain what you want from homosexuals? If the answer is stay in the closet and let people think that you are some random old bachelor or spinster then we are once again back where we started and no progress has been made in addressing the pain that we are inflicting on these people.

    But suppose you simply deny that there is any legitimate open social expression of homosexuality. Is said rabbi really in a worse position than addressing the bar/bat mitzvah of divorced parents, one of whom is now involved in a relationship that is not condoned by halacha. Or the divorced parents where the father left his wife to take up with his non-Jewish coworker who had a conveniently expedited conversion? Or the BT cohen who is married to a divorcee? Etc. None of these are ideal family structures but rabbis seem able, especially when the family is of means, to overlook these flaws and utter appropriately vague niceties.

    And Finally, MBP’s comment is precisely correct. The need for such a statement, a statement that unfortunately cannot reconcile the very deep tension between fidelity to tradition and our current understanding of reality, is driven not by a desire to make waves or to create controversy, but simply to address the harms that stem from a communal disdain for homosexuals that goes well beyond an expression of halakhic commitments.

  15. I think that a better article on this topic remains the one in the Jewish Press by Rabbis Brody and Broyde.

    http://www.jewishpress.com/pageroute.do/42996

  16. From Rabbis Brody and Broyde:
    Halacha condemns homosexual acts, but the phenomenon of “Orthodox homosexuals” does not represent a major threat to the integrity of our community.
    =================================
    imho this is the nekudat hamachloket (perhaps in a way that mechitza was in the mid 20th century?).
    KT

  17. Shachar Ha'amim

    “Well, first, since Orthodox Judaism has not defined the ideal family structure that it envisions for homosexual individuals it seems rather strange to want to avoid approval this this particular one. ”

    that is simply not true. The Rambam EXPLICITLY states that same-gender and polyandrous marriages (and it’s obvious that he means households) are forbidden. Furthermore since the cherem d’r”g most communities no longer accept polygamous households either. I say “most” b/c there are still some Jews in Yemen who never came under the sway of the Israeli rabbinate’s expansion of the cherem d’r”g to all N.Afrian and Asian Jews as well.
    So Orthodox Judaism has said its piece with respect to homosexual households.
    but again – like I said before – this may be the indication of a split in the modern orthodox wing of orthodoxy.

  18. Gil,

    Spot on!

  19. As I said, no one has positively articulated what kind of family structure they expect from homosexuals. And if it really just comes down to being in the closet, then that is precisely back where we started.

    As for Rambam, I think it is clear that he is interpreting the Sifra to refer to intercourse. This is clear from the context in which he is attempting to find a source for prohibiting nashim ha’mesolelot. The Sifra only mentions women marrying as an “act of the land of Egypt,” not sexual contact. Rambam understands ‘marrying’ to mean sexual contact otherwise the Sifra would not offer any proof for the issur of misolelut.

  20. Michael Feldstein

    It’s only a matter of time when there will be two modern orthodox communities – one that accepts homsexuality and intermarriage and some form of the female rabbinate, and another that will not accept these but will still define itself as modern orthodox.
    The only question for me is why Rav Yosef Blau decided to align with the former.
    —————————-
    Rabbi Blau accepts homosexuality, intermarriage, and some form of the female rabbinate? That’s a very broad and unfair statement, and I think you owe Rabbi Blau an apology, Shachar ha’Amim.

    As to the article, it’s a thoughtful piece, and I do sympathize with the author in his feeling that by not signing the statement, he will be labeled unfairly as someone who is not sympathetic to the struggle of homosexuals attempting to live a halachic life.

    I think the big challenge for the Orthodox community is to find the balance between keeping an issue that many prefer to be kept private (as the author suggests), and sweeping the issue under the rug and making believe that it doesn’t exist.

  21. MJ: “since Orthodox Judaism has not defined the ideal family structure that it envisions for homosexual individuals”

    Of course it has: Stay single and celibate. That might not be the most pleasant message and R. Aharon Feldman’s letter is more sensitive and inspiring, but that is what it boils down to.

  22. Gil,

    Perhaps you can do a post on the question of “Do we believe that all Jews can be observant?” This and other posts on your blog give the strong impression that observance is really just for a small minority of Jews — that there is no expectation that all Jews should be observant. Some rabbis have the approach that all Jews in principle can be observant and halachah should be stretched as far as possible (within its bounds) to make that a reality, while others seem to think observance is simply out of reach of many and thus halachah should just focus on those who are ‘already in the fold’ so to speak. I always got the impression that are you part of the latter group, but maybe that was presumptuous of me. It would be interesting to hear how you feel.

  23. “Of course it has: Stay single and celibate. That might not be the most pleasant message and R. Aharon Feldman’s letter is more sensitive and inspiring, but that is what it boils down to.”

    Not at all. As far as I can tell it is “stay single, celibate, and in the closet.” But as I keep saying, that is exactly the attitude that has got us to the point where the SoP in question became necessary.

    If there were shuls that explicitly said that they want single G/L men and women to join as openly G/L members, or schools that explicitly stated that they were perfectly willing to have openly homosexual but celibate teachers and principals, and parents who were able to say “I am so proud of my son – he will never get married and have children but he is openly gay and celibate” then we could have a different conversation. Instead gay people are an anathema just by dint of their orientation. So until there is an actual in-place set of attitudes that reflects this ideal, suggesting that Orthodoxy has an actual set of realistic expectations is disingenuous.

    Must I mention the names of successful unmarried educators who were in the closet until they cracked? They followed R. Feldman’s advice to the T and look where it got them. And of course the Catholic Church has had a similar option available to their homosexual members. Need I mention that it has not exactly been successful by most accounts.

  24. MJ: Staying in the closet is not part of the family structure which is why I did not address it. But, yes, they should stay more or less in the closet. People crack under all sorts of pressures. Do you want me to list educators who ended up sleeping with their students?

  25. MJ: You asked about family structure which is why I didn’t mention staying in the closet. Yes, kevod Elokim hasteir davar. Don’t advertise your sexual preferences or discuss sex at all. People give in to all sorts of pressures. Do you want me to list the educators who slept with their students?

  26. If I read the statement correctly, the Rabbi Blau who signed on is Rabbi Yitzchok Blau, not Rabbi Yosef Blau.

  27. By the fact that i am married and have children I “advertise” my heterosexual preferences and practices daily. To lead healthy lives homosexuals need the ability to function as people who are homosexual even if they are celibate. Not as pretend heterosexuals. The internal dissonance and lack of recognition in maintaining that charade has too great a psychological cost.

    So imagine a world in which someone says to a single guy at a shobbos meal “I have a great girl I want to set you up with” and he says, “thank you for the consideration, but I’m actually homosexual.” Then everyone nods and moves on. If that at minimum is not acceptable, then there really is no place in the frum community for homosexuals. Demanding celibacy is one thing. Demanding celibacy + staying in the closet is not reasonable. Rabbi Blau and others have come to this conclusion from numerous personal dealings with people forced into living this charade.

    Rabbi Spolter is quibbling with the language of the SoP, but in reality he wants homosexuals in the closet. The SoP recognizes that this is untenable.

    Over and over I hear people say that they accept homosexuals but not a homosexual lifestyle. Then I ask if they would be OK with a guy who simply self-identifies as gay as in the above scenario and it soon becomes apparent that ‘lifestyle’ means any degree of openness about their orientation.

  28. MJ’s 8:28 comment is right on the money. Actually, R’ Spolter makes his views pretty much explicit in his “Mima Nafshach”, where he equates homosexual “sexual orientation” and “lifestyle”. For him, since the lifestyle is unacceptable, so must be the orientation.

  29. Shachar Ha'amim

    Yochanan – thank you for pointing that out. I’m sorry for misreading it and presuming that Rav Yosef Blau signed it. It was his son.

    Nope – all the signatories make sense now. MO is well on its way to splitting into two well defined camps. I have no doubt that within a decade the next “noah feldman” type of guy who graduated a liberal modern orthodox day school and married a non-jewess and wants to send in alumni updates about his halachically non-jewish children getting bar or bat mitzvahed at the local liberal modern orthodox synagogue without converting will be able to see their updates published in the almuni news and their photos printed in the reunion newsletter.

  30. Shachar Ha'amim

    “So imagine a world in which someone says to a single guy at a shobbos meal “I have a great girl I want to set you up with” and he says, “thank you for the consideration, but I’m actually homosexual.” Then everyone nods and moves on. If that at minimum is not acceptable, then there really is no place in the frum community for homosexuals. Demanding celibacy is one thing. Demanding celibacy + staying in the closet is not reasonable.”

    A number of years ago when former Aguda MK Yisrael Eichler was a regular panelist on the “popolitika” talk show (Tommy Lapid and others were too…..) Lapid brought out a homosexual guest and sat him next to Eichler. Eichler ripped off his microphone and stromed off the set on live TV stating he wouldn’t sit next to him. Clearly there is no room in his frum community for homosexuals. That being said I don’t think one can say that his community is “unreasonable” and that community represented by the rabbis who signed this SOP is the only “reasonable” community. It is clear that this represents a split. Once frum community will still figuratively stone homosexuals. Another will figuratively say “dress in black and go to another town” (i.e move to Tel Aviv or downtown Manahattan and live a productive life and down come to our shul in our town holding your partner’s hand or bring them to family bar mitzvahs). Another will adopt this SOP (and perhaps more down the road). I don’t think that one can say that ONLY the latter represents a “reasonable” solution that represents the “normative” orthodox Jewish position. Any Rabbi who claims such is simply not being objective and is exclusionary to the overwhleming majority of the religious Jewish world

  31. The SoP more or less is the only reasonable stance if you want to have homosexuals who can live reasonably healthy and productive lives and continue to be a part of the community.

    I’m sure that Eichler believes that there are no homosexuals in his community – the same way that Ahmadinejad thinks there are no homosexuals in Iran. But they are there and they are suffering. Is that unreasonable? Only if you care about inflicting needless pain and suffering on people.

  32. Hi, I really am upset with many things you said, I posted my response here-
    http://anotherfrumgayjew.blogspot.com/2010/07/frustration.html

  33. Judaism without PC

    Yasher koach to R. Spolter for not signing.

    It seems that the toeivah lobby has come out in force here to protest this fairly mild piece of opposition to the SOP. Their typical pressure tactics should be resisted and treated with disdain, as their claiming that not giving into them can endanger people’s lives. Hey, practicing toeivah can also endanger people’s lives, to a much greater degree.

    Enough already with this nonsense and PC liberalism.

    Kudos to the RIETS faculty for boycotting this nonsense.

  34. Dont assume that every rabbi who didnt sign, did so because they agree with R. Mayer Twersky et al. This is not a left wing endeavor. I think this statement reflects the thoughts of a very large swath of the MO community, people who in no way shape or form identify with YCT and the like.

  35. Judaism without PC

    Moshe – I am not surprised by your defending it, since you seem to be one of the signatories.

    The fact that one hundred thirty or so names appear on it is as significant as Lubavitch getting one hundred thirty of their clergy to sign a document proclaiming their deceased Rebbe as Messiah. Just because a quantity of names appear on something doesn’t mean it suddenly becomes ‘halachah’.

    Careful study of the names on it seems to show that it is overwhelmingly a left wing thing. Many academicians are on it, but the glaring absence, the gaping hole where RIETS Rabbis should be, speaks exceedingly loudly.

  36. ” The Rambam EXPLICITLY states that same-gender and polyandrous marriages (and it’s obvious that he means households) are forbidden.”

    Shachar-

    Did you actually read the document? It makes clear that such households are explicitly forbidden as well, unless you know of another definition of the phrase “open violators of halacha.”

    The document essentially makes the following points:
    1) Don’t be nasty towards homosexuals and their blood relatives.
    2) Homosexual acts are assur.
    3) Homosexuality can’t be changed, so don’t try to force them into marriages.
    4) As long as they’re not engaging in homosexual acts, treat them like any other frum Jew.
    5) Even if they are engaging in homosexual acts, being observant in other ways is laudable and should be promoted.

    It leaves how shuls deal with openly gay couples up to the shuls, just as how shuls deal with open shabbat violators and open kashrut violators varies based on the shul.

    Can you actually cite a single objectionable point in the document? Or is your problem with it that you’re convinced of the unfitness of those who have signed and wish to project motives that cannot be drawn from the evidence at hand?

  37. >He might tell his parents, so that they don’t nudge him about getting married.

    Might he tell the rest of the community, so they don’t nudge him about getting married?

  38. > Might he tell the rest of the community, so they
    > don’t nudge him about getting married?

    Privately, not publicly.

  39. >There *were* no “homosexuals” fifty or a hundred years ago.

    Well, so what? There are today. We’re responsive to the issues of the day, not of 100 years ago and not of 100 years into the future.

  40. >Privately, not publicly.

    He should privately tell the dozens of people who don’t leave 40 year old bachelors alone that he’s homosoexual. No one will talk about it, of course. It will be dozens of private conversations.

  41. He can and should be discreet. Some people he can just tell he isn’t interested or say he’s given up or make up a good lie. It isn’t hard to get all but the most annoying/persistent off your back.

  42. news flash – there is indeed already a split in the O community and it is over more fundamental – and widespread – issues than just this one. The chareidi world is perceived by the MO world as irrelevant to them, and a perversion of Torah as well. MO is perceived by the chareidi as little better than C or R. This is more pronounced in Israel due to the factors of political power, but we are well on the road to this in the USA.
    given this, I’m glad to see MO standing up and determining its principles, and overcomingthe fear of alienating the right wing.

  43. >If the answer is stay in the closet and let people think that you are some random old bachelor or spinster then we are once again back where we started and no progress has been made in addressing the pain that we are inflicting on these people.

    A good point, too. People assume that old bachelors and spinsters are nebachs, or lacking in social skills or various other things.

    True, some people will inevitably think “pervert” about anyone who admits to homosexual attraction which may be worse than to have a reputation as stam a nebach, but others will not think that. Perhaps they’ll realize that random old bachelor or spinsters did not miss any boat, will not suspect that they have personality flaws which prevent them from marrying, and some may even regard them as somewhat heroic or at least admirable for not ensnaring an unsuspecting young lady or man and trying to make a life based on a lie, with inevitable results.

  44. >It isn’t hard to get all but the most annoying/persistent off your back.

    I think only people in that situation can say if this is so or not.

  45. cyberdov: The point is that this is another example of a split within the MO community. Look at the names and you will see that many of the “big names” are missing, not by accident.

    S: You’re worried that people consider older singles to be nebachs? That’s ridiculous. Yes, some people think like that. Who cares? That is certainly not a sufficient reason to make big communal changes.

  46. >I think only people in that situation can say if this is so or not.

    Oh, please. We are talking about minor inconveniences. Life is full of them. The real issue is that homosexuals need more self-confidence in their life of being single. You can get that from counseling.

  47. I think you’re way too easy on the community. We’re nice guys, but not always so nice.

  48. Gil – I think (and hope) that you are incorrect about a split within MO. Sure, there is disagreement. However the type of split that would concern me is the delegitimization of the other side. This has already occurred as I noted between LW and RW within O. However I would like to believe that the hallmark of LWMO is its insistence that one can – indeed should – support a multiplicity of positions within the Torah camp.

  49. LWMO is on one side, RWMO on the other and no one quite knows where the center will end up. On this issue, the center is not well represented on these principles but that could just be my view of who is in the center (I don’t see R. Norman Lamm there).

  50. I side with the assessments of R Gil and R Spolter and unfortunately view the statement, despite its good intentions, as the logical conclusion of a segue from private acceptance to legitimacy within MO that began with the film “Trembling Before God”, which I saw when it was released, and reached a logical crescendo in the forum last year at YU and in similar discussions elsewhere. (I remain convinced that the film in question was a piece of agit prop designed to promote the agenda of those portrayed therein, that opposing POVs’ comments were left on the cuttng room floor and that it was quite one sided in presentation.)

    The Talmud in Chagigah states that if one has an uncontrollable urge, then one can act upon the same in privacy, but certainly not in a manner where and one demands legitimacy and acceptance for one’s behavior.I don’t believe that either public condemnations or demands for acceptance are proper avenues in this area of Halacha or Hashkafa. That is why Tefilas Zakah,especially the very long and explicit version that is in every Machzor for YK, is a fundamentally private Teflah between anyone and God.

    I think that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is a far better modus operandi than essentially legitimizing the forbidden and assuming that someone who transgresses any Torah or Rabbinic prohibition is seemingly exempt from wresting with the halachic and/or hashkafic consequences of one’s actions.

    Skeptic-noone has answered your query- I think that one can find many sources, that view it incumbent upon all Jews to recognize the role of God as spelled out in Malchiyos, Zicronos and Shofaros, to ultimately live a life dedicated to Torah observance, and Teshuvah as a Mitzvah that is incumbent for all Jews, regardless of their level of observance and hashkafic orientation. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I detect in your query what I perceive as a lack of awareness of the power of the Mitzvah of Teshuvah in its many dimensions, and the role of Kiruv and Chizuk within the contemporary MO and Charedi worlds. I will add that on more than occasion, I and others have detected an anti BT tendency in some comments on this blog, the reasons for which I think that we have discussed many times here, and which are otherwise tangential to the issue under discussionm unless others deem the same appropriate.

  51. @Gil

    I’m inclined to let R’ Helfgot and others explain why this needs to be made public, but I think that it’s indeed hard to justify without talking about homophobia in the Orthodox community. I’m not just talking about the discomfort and pain that comes from not feeling if you’re part of the community or not. I’m talking about the demonization of homosexuals in the Orthodox world.

    “Why is this a particular issue for the Orthodox community? True, homophobia is a problem, but why particularly in Orthodoxy?” Part of the answer is: I’m not sure, but it’s there. See the response to the forum on homosexuality at YU last year. Talk to Orthodox homosexuals about their experiences. Everybody has a teacher who has said something mean or cruel about homosexuals, completely failing to understand and appreciate the struggle these human beings go through daily if they choose to remain in the community that they love. The second part of the answer is that the Torah condemns the homosexual act. As Orthodox Jews we believe in the Torah’s laws, and we affirm that there is something halachically wrong with the homosexual act. But this can lead us to mistake an issur for a justification to rail against other struggling human beings. And this isn’t just a theoretical–it’s an actual, and evidence is not hard to come by. Our adherence to halacha poses a particular challenge for our community to avoid homophobia, and it’s not a challenge that we have altogether passed recently.

    That’s why it’s crucial for there to be a public statement. Because too many teens in pain have to deal with the particular homophobia that’s present in the Orthodox community. Because children of homosexual couples are not welcomed in the community the same way that children of Shabbos-breakers are welcomed. The problem is not the rabbinate–the rabbinate is usually compassionate and sensitive. Rather, the problem is a social one within our communities, and until we address homosexuality in a public forum this lack of compassion in our shuls and schools will persist.

    Fortunately, much of the work of spreading understanding in the MO world has been done simply by opening up a public discussion on the issue. This will undoubtedly lead to a more nuanced understanding of homosexuality in our communities, and a greater understanding will lead to more compassion. However, every rabbi that signs on to this statement opens up the conversation to his congregants about homosexuality. That’s really what’s amazing about this statement.

    So–any rabbi that does not feel comfortable signing this statement is completely justified in not signing it. But I think that homosexuality is still due for a conversation in your communities, because that can STILL do a lot of good. So if you don’t want to sign this statement, please STILL talk to your congregation about homosexuality in public. Partly so that the teens in your community know that they can come to you, but also so that your congregants KNOW that THEY need to match your compassion and sensitivity.

    Thanks,

    Michael

  52. Michael Rogovin

    I must be either hopelessly liberal or reading challenged. I read the statement through from top to bottom. It says: gay marriage and homosexual acts are wrong and cannot be accepted in any way in orthodoxy but kavod habriot requires us to treat people respectfully. It also says or implies that gays should not be treated differently than other people, all of whom face personal halachic challenges. As I read it, if a person is closeted, suspected of being gay or known to have a gay orientation, they still get an aliyah, daven from the amud (if male), etc, just like someone who desires any illicit relationship (or participates in the same without publicizing it). If, however, a person is openly advocating non-halachic behaviors or recognition of gay marriage, etc, then just like someone who is a public advocate for eating pork or polygamy would probably not be honored, so too such a person. It is really common sense, not a bright line rule.

    I do not understand the fuss being made about this statement in the comments or the original article, other than people not wanting to deal with this issue. The statement strikes me as benign. The statement is actually reminiscent of the RCA statement on women rabbis in a certain sense – reaffirming halachic principles while leaving the specifics to congregations. I am actually struck by the number of rabbis from the center and left who did not (yet?) sign it.

  53. Michael Rogovin-All of us committ transgressions of one form or another. I think that our views on this issue are not that far apart. The expression that noone knows what goes on beyond closed doors IMO should be the modus operandi, as opposed to legitimizing the prohibited under a misguided notion of Kavod HaBriyos which cannot and should not be confused with either kiruv or chizuk.

    Michael-I don’t believe that the response to the forum at YU was homophobic unless you define the term as demanding total and unconditional acceptance of the legitimacy of homosexuality as somehow compatible with a life based on Torah observance and study.

  54. Michael Rogovin

    I should clarify my last comment. The statement does not say that anyone would not or should not be honored, gay or straight. I just think it implies that gays should be treated like everyone else. We don’t go around asking if a person in engaged in adulterous relationships, even though we know it happens in our community. But if we KNOW someone is doing so, and is open about it and prides himself on it, we would PROBABLY not give him honors or elect him or her to the board of the shul. Knowing someone is gay (ie their orientation) is different from that person being in an open, halachically problematic relationship. Even so, such a person should be treated no differently, imho, than a known mechalel shabbat or a person who is suspected of not fully observing taharat hamishpacha, so long as the person is not actively advocating for orthodoxy to change to accommodate his or her illicit relationship (at a certain point, people who advocate non-halachic behavior do so at their own peril within the structures of the community and risk losing certain honors).

    Even for those in relationships, one should not assume too much. I really do not know or want to know what goes in anyone else’s bedroom. Without witnesses, we should not be so quick to assume what aveirot are being committed.

  55. Michael Rogovin

    Steve: It almost sounds like we agree (scary). The SoP is very clear about not legitimizing halachically prohibited actions. I don’t know how it could be made more explicit. That is why I am puzzled by the controversy over it. The Kavod Habriyot is limited to treating individuals with dignity, respect and compassion. I would have thought even you would have signed this. OK, not really, but I just do not see what all the fuss is about (other than it is about sex, which actually it isn’t).

  56. The post clearly explains what the problem is: the idea of encouraging people who want to “come out” to do so is not a Jewish concept; we do not “come out” about our taavos. It’s so simple that I can’t understand why anyone would dispute that.

  57. Michael Rogovin

    Bystander, WADR you should re-read the statement. It does not encourage anyone to out themselves. It says only that we should not coerce them to stay in the closet, that is, it is a personal decision. And reading Rabbi Spolter’s post, I do not believe that this is his main argument. Frankly, I do not care whether he signs it or not. I do find his excuses and attempt at justifying why one might not sign it troubling.

    People in our community DO openly, if not brazenly, violate shabbat and other important mitzvot with no consequence and Rabbi Spolter has no problems with their children. Being “out” as a person with same sex attraction is not the same thing as violating issurim. There is nothing morally wrong with having an innate sexual attraction to someone of the same gender and the Torah does not prohibit or condemn it. How one deals with this is what is at issue and the statement was explicitly clear on the prohibitions involved.

  58. Michael, WADR you should re-read MY statement. I said “encourage people WHO WANT TO” come out – meaning, exactly what the statement means when it says it’s OK for those who want to to “come out of the closet.” “Encourage” doesn’t have to mean “convince an otherwise reluctant individual”; it can also mean “be supportive of a decision.” So, “encouraging” someone who wants to come out to do so is most certainly one of the things in the SoP, and that is a problem.

  59. Michael Rogovin

    I’m in a feisty mood this afternoon. What is interesting (especially given the Ethicist article 2 weeks ago in the NY Times) is that the statement does not deal with transgender individuals and how they should be treated. Aside from issues of homosexuality that may or may not be involved, how to deal with them when it comes to honors (aliyot, shaliach tzibur), where they sit (on which side of the mechitza), issues of yichud and tzniut, etc. The number is much smaller, but if the Times article is any indication, we should not assume that our communities are somehow exempt from this. It is not as big an issue as homosexuality, but in the secular world, it is becoming a big issue in terms of accommodations in schools and the workplace.

  60. People in our community DO openly, if not brazenly, violate shabbat and other important mitzvot with no consequence…

    Maybe in small, out-of-town communities or outreach synagogues but that is certainly not the norm.

  61. “Well, so what? There are today. We’re responsive to the issues of the day, not of 100 years ago and not of 100 years into the future.”

    Not if we want to have a situation where that is the case once more. We went from a society without homosexuals and without agonizing over these matters, whether on a public or private basis, in less than two generations. We can certainly go back to that situation, unless we keep trumpeting what a big deal we “have” to make out of it and unless we keep pounding into the head of every teenager with issues or who isn’t ready to start “dating” that he must be gay.

    Steve’s line about acceptance and tolerance and legitimacy remind me of the old joke: “We’re lucky they’re not making it compulsory!”

  62. ” as the logical conclusion of a segue from private acceptance to legitimacy within MO that began with the film “Trembling Before God”, which I saw when it was released,”

    I have a hard time imagining that to be the case, since Greenberg has a partner and this document pretty strongly pushes celibacy as the only option.

    “The Talmud in Chagigah states that if one has an uncontrollable urge, then one can act upon the same in privacy, but certainly not in a manner where and one demands legitimacy and acceptance for one’s behavior.”

    You do realize that you are taking a more liberal position than this document, in advocating either shichvat zera levatala or homosexual sexual activity, right? This document suggests unequivocal halachic (but not personal) condemnation of things that are assur.

    ” essentially legitimizing the forbidden ”

    Again, how do this legitimize the forbidden? You’ve put this forward, Shachar put something similar forward above, but the document explicitly says that homosexual acts are assur.

    “The expression that noone knows what goes on beyond closed doors IMO should be the modus operandi,”

    That’s fine, and to some extent I agree. But here’s my question- if you overheard someone making nasty comments about a gay person (let’s even say that they’re not sexually active), would you go up to them and tell them that’s unacceptable? How about people speculating on a bachelor of 40? Unfortunately, we live in a time of both lashon hara and motzi shem ra. The only way your position (that we shouldn’t talk about this in public) makes sense is if you’re willing to recognize such conversations as either lashon hara or motzi shem ra, refrain from being involved in them yourself, and being willing to privately confront individuals who conduct themselves in such a fashion.

  63. Jlan-let me suggest both some comments and an approach , as opposed to an answer to your questions :

    1)I stand by my comments re Trembling Before God . You can disagree, but the film left me with a sense of having been subjected to a propaganda piece.

    2)I am not advocating anything, but merely restating a view in the Talmud. I do think that such a person would be far better discussing such issues with a competent mental health professional in private, as opposed to a public discussion anywhere.

    3) No one knows what goes on behind closed doors. I think that one can ask why a bachelor of 40 is not married in a manner that does not transgress halacha.

    4)What is a “nasty comment” ? I would no more give Musar to a person who is a gay person or any other transgressor of any other Halacha. If such a person was genuinely interested in learning about and becoming educated as to the relevant Halachic and hashkafic issues , I would certainly think that any educated Torah observant Jew cculd engage in such a discussion.

  64. “we do not “come out” about our taavos.”

    On the contrary, I think we are all perfectly fine about “coming out” about any taavah except this one.

    We wouldn’t object to a recovering alcoholic explaining why they can’t drink the kiddush wine.

    We have no problem with a charismatic male kiruv rabbi telling young girls “Men are all pigs, we think about you all day long, we just want to physically use you and then abandon you, so it’s in your interest to be shomer negiah!”

    We no longer try to pretend that mental illness doesn’t exist and ostracize anyone who admits to having it (and their families).

    What do you think, “bystander” and Steve Brizel and Gil and R’ Spolter, should we tell depressed people not to “come out” about their suicidal impulses? After all, telling people about your taavos is not a Jewish concept. They should just deal with their desire to hurt themselves, and in the meantime stay away from the rest of us because we find the desire distasteful and anti-halachic. Right?

    (in case anyone didn’t realize: the last paragraph was sarcastic.)

  65. Judaism without PC

    The trembling before G-d movie was a big scam. Sandi Dubowski, the guy behind it, is actually Conservative, not Orthodox. They played around and cut and distorted things. Rav Aharon Feldman from NIRC complained about being a victim of that, IIRC.

  66. Steve-

    1) Sorry, I agree that Trembling Before God was a propaganda piece. I just don’t think that it was promoting acceptance of gays with condemnation of homosexual acts and relationships, which is what the statement of principles seems to be promoting. I have a hard time seeing the statement as being the fulfillment of the movie, because it doesn’t actually agree with the movie.

    2) You can certainly ask about why a bachelor of 40 is not married in a halachically acceptable fashion, but it would presumably have to be asked either of the person or of someone they’ve authorized to talk about it. I was specifically referring to speculation or gossip- “I’ve heard he’s socially awkward…I’ve heard that he’s not really interested in women, if you know what I mean…I’ve heard he makes people feel uncomfortable,” etc.

    3) I wasn’t clear at the end; what I really meant is whether you would be willing to give mussar to someone committing lashon hara (about a gay person) or committing motzi shem ra (claiming that someone must be gay or claiming they must be doing assur things behind closed doors, even if it’s not true). If the preference is to handle all of this in private, rather than through a public statement of principles, then presumably people must be willing handle it in private.

  67. Shlomo: Clearly you missed our point. You can discreetly tell people who need to know, but you don’t announce it, and, separately, you don’t make it part of your identity.

  68. And by “need to know” I mean “need to know” and “can help you with it.”

    I’ve had different people I know struggle with depression and alcoholism – the people close to them and in a position to help knew about it, and nobody else did.

  69. R’Spolter writes: “Every gay person, Western Culture says, should ‘Come out of the closet’…”

    If there is a single entity named “Western Culture,” it isn’t homogeneous or monolithic, but includes many voices that say every gay person should stay in or get into the closet — or endure ostracism or violence, or be discharged from the military, or undergo therapy, or go to jail (the 2003 Lawrence v Texas Supreme Court decision that had the effect of voiding sodomy laws countrywide was dissented from by three justices, all in good standing in Western Culture.) IOW, Western Culture, while more gay-friendly than in previous centuries, includes plenty of homophobia, but maybe not as much as some want.

  70. Shlomoh-I believe that anyone who has any sort of suicidal impulse R”L should be seeing and or under the care of a competent mental health professional who has the training to deal with these issues in a professional and confidential manner.

  71. >“we do not “come out” about our taavos.”

    אמר רבי אלעזר בן עזריה מנין שלא יאמר אדם אי אפשי לאכול בשר חזיר אי אפשי ללבוש כלאים אי אפשי לבא על הערוה אלא אפשי אבל מה אעשה ואבי שבשמים גזר עלי

  72. Guest at 9:10, that issue has been dealt with over and over: that gemara doesn’t apply to something labeled by the Torah as “to’eivah.”

  73. Additionally, the gemara clearly doesn’t mean “announce that you want to eat pork” – that is obviously and most certainly not the point of that statement. It’s telling us what our approach to mitzvos should be. “He should say” in this kind of context means “he should say to himself” or “he should think” – that’s pretty clear.

  74. >Guest at 9:10, that issue has been dealt with over and over: that gemara doesn’t apply to something labeled by the Torah as “to’eivah.”

    Where has it been dealt with “over and over”?

    You can draw fine distinctions between anything. The Torah says that it was “to’eivah” for the Mitzrim to eat at the same table as Ivrim. Toevah is applied to food too. See Devarim 14:3. Chazir is called sheketz. Who decided that it’s fine to desire sheketz but not to’evah, and how do we know this?

    I understand that R. Elazar isn’t saying to announce it (it’s a Yalkut on Parshas Kedoshim Tihyu) but he’s saying that it is not disgusting to have ta’avos. On the contrary, one shouldn’t think that it is more proper to not have such ta’avos. People in our community also stigmatize gays who do not “tell,” by speculating and gossiping about them, making fun of the way they speak, carry themselves, etc.

  75. Just one point – that statement is signed by a bunch of YU/MO Rabbis. No right wing, yeshiva rabbi would sign it. This is because every little acknowledgement or inch you give to their lifestyle gives such lifestyle more legitimacy. And no matter how you slice it or try to rationalize it, homosexuality is FORBIDDEN. Now so are a lot of things, and many Yeshiva people commit many sins – but unlike the homosexual agenda, nobody is trying to pretend that we should accept the sins of the Yeshiva people. Ultimately, this will be another one of the subjects that split YU (the academics of Judaism) and the real Yeshiva world.

    While I am not advocating for the hating or the shunning of these people, the little gestures they seek are simply incremental steps to full on acceptance. They know that if they simply demand recognition and full acceptance they will get no where – so instead they take small steps seeking sympathy for their “plight” and will keep seeking small bits of acceptance until they gain the orthodox world’s agreement with their lifestyle, Torah be damned.
    This is exactly how Roe v. Wade ultimately got decided. The courts kept granting small incremental rights to privacy until the big one.

  76. Guest:

    I’ve heard more than one shiur by distinguished rabbanim on the topic; it’s not a made-up thing. I’ll try to find you some audio.

    Additionally, you’re being disingenuous when you pretend that I ever said anything about the desire itself being to’eivah. Read my comments again: the idea is when an ACT is labeled to’eivah by Hashem, it has certain facets that do not apply to other aveiros. One of those facets is that the gemara you quoted does not apply to things labeled by the Torah as to’eivah. Again, I’m not making this up; this is Torah.

    Anon 99:

    Nice try using this as a reason to badmouth YU, but not one rabbi signed on that letter, as far as I can tell, is Yeshiva hanhala.

    And of course “many Yeshiva people” (who exactly are these people, by the way; I’ve never heard of them) “commit many sins”, and no “right wing, yeshiva” people do, right? Let’s count the recent very public, chillul-Hashem-filled scandals – how many of them were my people, and how many of them were yours?

    To paraphrase the gemara: “fix your own problems before criticizing others.”

  77. Judaism without PC

    Anon 99, you are very correct about the salami tactics used by the homosexual lobby and their dupes among our people.

    Even politically, years ago, it was domestic partnerships that they demanded, now if a politician advocates that and doesn’t endorse homosexual marriage for them, they unleash their fury, call him a bigot..Simiilarly, in the past they were okay with don’t ask don’t tell, now they attack it strongly.

    Where you are wrong is by lumping all MO together. As stated above, the faculty of RIETS, the gedolim of MO, are very conspicuously absent from the bleeding heart PC enterprise. It is the work of a bunch of lefties, the way-out Yeshivat Chovevei Liberalism aka Yeshivat Chovevei Torah of R. Avi Weiss’ crowd (R. Helfgott is a leading faculty member there).

  78. Judaism without PC, we should be friends. 🙂

  79. Judaism without PC

    It is not new that YCT is pushing this issue by the way. Already in Nov. ’06 they had a special lecture on it, given by the prominent UK Lubavitcher Rabbi Chaim Rapoport (http://www.yctorah.org/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=165). They had Q & A afterward, where questions were asked limaaseh about actual toeivah acts.

    More recently, this past January, Rapoport again visited YCT and gave special attention to this issue, as seen on the website of YCT’s Rosh Yeshiva (http://rabbidovlinzer.blogspot.com/2010/01/happenings-at-yeshiva.html and
    http://rabbidovlinzer.blogspot.com/2010/01/torah-from-our-beit-midrash.html)
    So it is clear that they are focusing especially on this issue and using it to show how liberal and ‘open-minded’ they are in their ‘open orthodoxy’.

    So the work of R. Helfgott just didn’t suddenly arise out of a vacuum. He is coming from the YCT milieu which has for years been pushing such an attitude, aided and abetted by R. Chaim Rapoport. It’s just that he took it a bit further and made it into an official statement and collected signatures.

    Thank you YCT!

  80. bystander – to be clear, when I say Yeshiva people I am not referring to YU (whom I refer to as YU). Although the letter is not directly signed by Hanhallah of YU, many of the signatories of the letter received their education and ordination from YU. YU deserves some credit or blame, depending on your view, for the position of their talmidim, which clearly reflect back on the educators, including the Hanhallah. My point was that no right wing Yeshiva (Lakewood type trained) would sign such a letter.

    The group of lefties that signed the letter and generally, modern orthodoxy all stem from YU. It is actually interesting in that exactly why the Yeshiva world (and if it is still not clear I mean the right wing Yeshiva world) shuns YU and MO for the same reasoning as what I wrote above. Modern orthodoxy relaxed some of what was seen as strict rules. Today, in many (not all but certainly center to left) MO communities not covering hair, wearing pants or shomer negiah is not necessarily such a bad thing. Where has the relaxation led too? None other than a more extreme group of left wing Rabbis (like the one’s who signed this letter). This is essentially the same argument I made above. Once you start down a road of relaxation or acceptance, there will always be somebody that is willing to push the line a little more until you are much further than originally intended.

  81. There are three objections, lulei demistafina, that I can see Rabbonim—including YU’s 34 Roshei Yeshiva, none of whom signed it—having to this statement of principles.

    One, Nothing happens in a vacuum. I think that most rabbonim from all stripes of the Orthodox world would agree with the content of most of this formal declaration. That does not mean they would agree that it should be formally declared.

    By underscoring “our obligation to treat human beings with same-sex attractions and orientations with dignity and respect,” the signatories go beyond dignity and respect, and enter the grey zone toward legitimization. Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, the inherent nature of a public pronouncement is to overemphasize the facts it pronounces. This is what the activist agenda of the gay community thrives on. The reason for gay pride parades is not simply to announce but to publicize and promote.

    Two, communal needs must not only be balanced with, but often take precedence over individual needs. Again, nothing happens in a vacuum. Publicly announcing oneself to be gay is unlike publicly announcing oneself to be a Yankees fan; it requires a response. It is a declaration waiting to be welcomed or rejected by the community. In a community that lives by a Torah which clearly states that homosexual behavior is an “abomination” punishable by death, such a statement cannot simply be overlooked.

    Furthermore, a public revelation also unmasks the intentions of the homosexual. Would a heterosexual Orthodox Jew stand up and admit he likes to watch pornography (even if he claims to control himself)? A person who views his inclinations and behavior as non-halachic and immoral would keep it between himself, his rabbi, and God.

    Three, in affirming “the religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject therapeutic approaches they reasonably see as useless or dangerous,” on the grounds that most of the mental health community, many rabbis, and most people with a homosexual orientation feel that some of these therapies are either ineffective or potentially damaging psychologically,” they essentially take a position against “change” therapies.

    It is interesting that “most” of the mental health community and “most” homosexuals are opposed to these therapies while only “many” rabbis are. One can only wonder how much of this is based on bias. If having homosexual feelings was the halachic equivalent of having cancer, I should think that most would want to try anything and everything possible to eradicate that inclination. But there’s the rub: the question becomes, do you equate homosexuality with cancer?

    It was not that long ago that homosexuality was considered a deviancy by the mental health community. Now that the mental health community has accepted homosexuality as a “lifestyle preference” they have a disincentive to acknowledge the efficacy of therapies geared toward changing that behavior. Ditto, most homosexuals themselves. Rabbis on the other hand would continue to be inclined toward using any means necessary to encourage change.

    In sum, this statement, despite its caveats and disclaimers, goes beyond “loving the sinner; hating the sin.” It’s more along the lines of “love the sinner; accept the sin for what it is.”

    The slippery slope awaits.

  82. Judaism without PC-“Even politically, years ago, it was domestic partnerships that they demanded, now if a politician advocates that and doesn’t endorse homosexual marriage for them, they unleash their fury, call him a bigot..Simiilarly, in the past they were okay with don’t ask don’t tell, now they attack it strongly.”

    When a group of people are lacking equality, the only way to fight it is to take one step at a time. Of course the homosexual movement is asking for more and more over the years. They want equality, and trying to reach attainable goals and then asking for more is nothing new, and has been used by different movements over the course of history.

    Regardless of whether or not you support gay marriage, that tactic is not evil, or even original, and to deem it as such is false.

  83. “Would a heterosexual Orthodox Jew stand up and admit he likes to watch pornography (even if he claims to control himself)?”

    The entire charedi community says “We refuse to get internet access because we enjoy watching pornography and might be tempted to do so.” They don’t take the approach of “if you refuse to talk about a problem then it will go away” that seems to be popular in this thread.

  84. Shlomo (and others), there’s a big difference between acknowledging and thereby trying to stem off a common, pretty natural taavah (where, obviously, committing the action would still be a sin) and announcing one’s “deviant” (for lack of a better word) taavah for something G-d considers “to’eivah.” There’s also a big difference in the sense that the issue you bring up is an “action-required” issue: “listen everyone, we have to ban the internet because it’s dangerous.” The action required by an “I’m gay” announcement is required by one’s close friends, and by the community at large to have a general sense of sensitivity to the fact that the issue exists – neither of those things requires a public acknowledgement of any one individual’s proclivities.

    And where do you get the impression that this is an “if you refuse to talk about a problem then it will go away” thing? Last time I checked, we’re freaking talking about it! We’re saying you talk about it with a small group of people who can help you, and not with the entire community.

  85. See the most recent audioroundup:
    Rabbi Glatt -Homosexuality, Compassion, Halacha- Are They at Odds (TIM)
    Mishkav Zachor is definitely prohibited! How deal with them – Rachmanim, bayshanim, gomlei chossodim (merciful, demure, kind). As long as they are bayshanim we need to be rachmanim and gomlei chossodim. Some interesting practical Q&A at the end.

    KT

  86. Anon99-do you agree that there are differences between you yourself called center to LW MO and RW MO or are you indulging in urban mythology and stereotypes? Please clarify.

  87. I am wondering where is Rabbi Chaim Rapoport on this matter? What is his position? I do not see his name as one of the signatories.

    As the author of a book dealing with this issue, which has gotten a good deal of publicity, who has lectured more than once at YCT on the topic, his absence raises questions. It seems that the statement is generally in accordance with his POV, so I am left to wonder.

    Does he not agree with the statement? It would not be rash to assume that R. Helfgott was influenced by him, since they both have taught at YCT over the past few years.

    Anybody know?

  88. “He might tell his parents, so that they don’t nudge him about getting married.”

    His PARENTS? How about every single Jew he meets, anywhere?!

  89. “How about every single Jew he meets, anywhere?!”

    Come on, Steg. There are ways to easily get rid of such people. “I’m not looking right now.” “I have to deal with some issues first.” “Give me your number and I’ll call you when I’m ready.” There are many, many more ways.

  90. Then people think “He’s evasive. He’s unfriendly. He’s hiding something. He doesn’t like me.” All this can be avoided with one all-purpose answer: “Ah, I see. He is not interested, ever,” and then everyone can move on.

  91. Charles B. Hall

    CJ wrote:

    “Now that the mental health community has accepted homosexuality as a “lifestyle preference” they have a disincentive to acknowledge the efficacy of therapies geared toward changing that behavior.”

    Nevertheless there is no real evidence for the efficacy of any such therapy, and no real attempt to conduct the kind of study that would prove (or disprove) efficacy.

  92. To the comment saying that there is no rabbi who signed the statement who is right-wing trained, that is false. There are many rabbis on the list who were not ordained at YU, including R. David Bigman and R. Moshe Simkovich. It is probably true that there are no charedi rabbis on the list, but if you’re going to blame educational institutions, R. Gustman will have to go down along with RIETS.

  93. Charlie,

    Agreed. I’m just not sure it’s possible for a disinterested study on the efficacy of change therapy, being that this is a topic in which nearly everyone has a bias and/or an agenda.

    CJ

  94. there's no such thing as "equal rights" when liberals will prevent anyone from voicing a different opinion or showing opposing evidence....

    Regarding the original statement by the rabbis AND “Now that the mental health community has accepted homosexuality as a “lifestyle preference” they have a disincentive to acknowledge the efficacy of therapies geared toward changing that behavior.” AND the assertion that “no effective studies showing efficacy of change therapy”:

    The problem with the PC movement pushing agendas and preventing evidence to the contrary within the psychology community (and stemming from the Board itself) is dealt with in detail in:
    “Eleven Blunders that Cripple Psychotherapy in America: A remedial unblundering”
    By Nicholas A. Cummings (past president of the American Psychological Assn) and William T. O’Donohue
    Routledge Pub, 2008.

    check it out, you may be surprised by what you read.

  95. Gil,
    I think that you are naive in the extreme regarding what it is like to be a celibate homosexual in the Orthodox community. You got married young and dont even know what its like to be a 30 something heterosexual single in our community. I urge you, as like it or not, a public figure in the Orthodox community, to educate yourself on this matter and seek out such people and get first hand knowledge of the situation. If you would like help making contacts, I can try and help.

  96. Moshe, You understand that this was a guest post, right?

  97. I grew up Orthodox, and have felt the strongest homosexual tendencies my entire life. I am not married, and have no intention of getting married. How could that be fair to a woman? As for whether there is a necessity for the Statement of Principles, I think there is. Your view that a private matter should remain private is an admirable one, and I have tried to live by it. How, though, do you expect me to keep this information private when every time I attend my parents shul, I am literally besieged by family friends with the familiar question: “Nu, so why aren’t you married”? I, quite literally, feel sick every time I go to their shul. Perhaps this statement will make people a bit more sensitive about those in my unenviable position (unenviable in that i believe in G-d, believe in most of what i learned growing up, but feel undeniable homosexual urges, and zero attraction towards women). I make excuses when people in the community bring up marriage, but it gets more and more difficult to do that. I do not want to “come out”, and I do not expect acceptance of my circumstances by the Orthodox community. I would, though, appreciate the ability to daven in shul, participate in my community without the constant questions and pressure. I am a fully functioning adult over 30, but let me assure you that when you read about children having suicidal thoughts because they are dealing with strong homosexual inclinations, the issue is not being overstated. I had such thoughts myself and, literally, had no outlet for talking about them.

  98. Every gay person, Western Culture says, should “Come out of the closet” and express their sexual identity with pride.

    False.

    Could you be less of an idiot please? I mean why must you attack something by lying about it.

  99. Having read, reread and commented at least once about what I consider the flaws in the SOP, I think that the authors and those endorsed the same should have considered the comments and views of RYBS as expressed in no uncertain terms inn the Machzor Mesoras HaRav for YK at Page 688, where RYBs rejected the view of Rambam ( Tefilah 13:11) for the reading of the Parsha of Arayos at Mincha at YK merely because of the severe nature of the transgressions involved, but to help us internalize the distinction between Israel and the nations, such as Egypt and Canaan in their behavior. RYBS emphasized that this portion is to remind the Jewish People that we must live a separate and distinct life in terms of our behavior and that under no circumstances are we to consider assimilation, As RYBS pointed out, Egypt and Canaan were mentioned because these nations represented the two poles of secular civilization in Biblical times, with Egypt being the most urbanized and tehnologically advanced civilization , while Canaan was partoral and primitive. RYBD pointed out that the Torah is emphasizing as different as these societies were from each other, neither of these fundamentally immoral societies should serve as role models.

    How the esteemed authors of the SOP could overlook this critical aspect of RYBS’s perspective and instead present a message rooted in PC concepts of tolerance and diversity requires explanation ,at a minimum.

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