Melanie Nathan 7-28-10; Statement of principles issued by rabbis and educators = Torah calls for acceptance, reports the Israeli news H’aaretz.
Dozens of Orthodox rabbis and educators have signed what they call a “statement of principles” regarding the acceptance of gays and lesbians within the Orthodox community.
The Reform Jewish Movement does not view the religious Laws as referenced below in the same strict sense as the Orthodox Rabbis and hence are unlikely to share the precise viewpoint as expressed in the Statement below. Its is most important for me as a Jewish lesbian, raised in the Orthodox tradition and now practicing according to the Reform tradition to note that with my depth of understanding of the Jewish religion and tradition, I am overwhelmed with joy with much of the conclusions reached in this statement. I am proud of these Rabbis who have have had the courage to come forward and make these statements. (For those who cannot understanding how meaningful this is, a good analogy would be the US Catholic Bishops coming out with a statement similar to this.
The statement, initially drafted by Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot, was prepared over the last months:-
Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community
We, the undersigned Orthodox rabbis, rashei yeshiva, ramim, Jewish educators and communal leaders affirm the following principles with regard to the place of Jews with a homosexual orientation in our community:
1. All human beings are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (kevod haberiyot). Every Jew is obligated to fulfill the entire range of mitzvot between person and person in relation to persons who are homosexual or have feelings of same sex attraction. Embarrassing, harassing or demeaning someone with a homosexual orientation or same-sex attraction is a violation of Torah prohibitions that embody the deepest values of Judaism.
2. The question of whether sexual orientation is primarily genetic, or rather environmentally generated, is irrelevant to our obligation to treat human beings with same-sex attractions and orientations with dignity and respect.
3. Halakhah (meaning Jewish Law from Torah) sees heterosexual marriage as the ideal model and sole legitimate outlet for human sexual expression. The sensitivity and understanding we properly express for human beings with other sexual orientations does not diminish our commitment to that principle.
4. Halakhic Judaism views all male and female same-sex sexual interactions as prohibited. The question of whether sexual orientation is primarily genetic, or rather environmentally generated, is irrelevant to this prohibition. While halakha categorizes various homosexual acts with different degrees of severity and opprobrium, including toeivah, this does not in any way imply that lesser acts are permitted. But it is critical to emphasize that halakha only prohibits homosexual acts; it does not prohibit orientation or feelings of same-sex attraction, and nothing in the Torah devalues the human beings who struggle with them. (We do not here address the issue of hirhurei aveirah, a halakhic category that goes beyond mere feelings and applies to all forms of sexuality and requires precise halakhic definition.)
5. Whatever the origin or cause of homosexual orientation, many individuals believe that for most people this orientation cannot be changed. Others believe that for most people it is a matter of free will. Similarly, while some mental health professionals and rabbis in the community strongly believe in the efficacy of “change therapies”, 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 for many patients.
We affirm the religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject
therapeutic approaches they reasonably see as useless or dangerous.
6. Jews with a homosexual orientation who live in the Orthodox community confront serious emotional, communal and psychological challenges that cause them and their families great pain and suffering. For example, homosexual orientation may greatly increase the risk of suicide among teenagers in our community. Rabbis and communities need to be sensitive and empathetic to that reality. Rabbis and mental health professionals must provide responsible and ethical assistance to congregants and clients dealing with those human challenges.
7. Jews struggling to live their lives in accordance with halakhic values need and deserve our support. Accordingly, we believe that the decision as to whether to be open about one’s sexual orientation should be left to such individuals, who should consider their own needs and those of the community. We are opposed on ethical and moral grounds to both the “outing” of individuals who want to remain private and to coercing those who desire to be open about their orientation to keep it hidden.
8. 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.
We do not here address what synagogues should do about accepting members
who are openly practicing homosexuals and/or living with a same-sex partner.
Each synagogue together with its rabbi must establish its own standard with
regard to membership for open violators of halakha.
Those standards should be applied fairly and objectively.
9. Halakha articulates very exacting criteria and standards of eligibility for particular religious offices, such as officially appointed cantor during the year or baal tefillah on the High Holidays. Among the most important of those criteria is that the entire congregation must be fully comfortable with having that person serve as its representative. This legitimately prevents even the most admirable individuals, who are otherwise perfectly fit halakhically, from serving in those roles. It is the responsibility of the lay and rabbinic leadership in each individual community to determine eligibility for those offices in line with those principles, the importance of maintaining communal harmony, and the unique context of its community culture.
10. Jews with a homosexual orientation or same sex attraction, even if they engage in same sex interactions, should be encouraged to fulfill mitzvot to the best of their ability. All Jews are challenged to fulfill mitzvot to the best of their ability, and the attitude of “all or nothing” was not the traditional approach adopted by the majority of halakhic thinkers and poskim throughout the ages.
11. Halakhic Judaism cannot give its blessing and imprimatur to Jewish religious
same-sex commitment ceremonies and weddings, and halakhic values proscribe individuals and communities from encouraging practices that grant religious legitimacy to gay marriage and couple-hood. But communities should display sensitivity, acceptance and full embrace of the adopted or biological children of homosexually active Jews in the synagogue and school setting, and we encourage parents and family of homosexually partnered Jews to make every effort to maintain harmonious family relations and connections.
12. Jews who have an exclusively homosexual orientation should, under most circumstances, not be encouraged to marry someone of the other gender, as
this can lead to great tragedy, unrequited love, shame, dishonesty and ruined
lives. They should be directed to contribute to Jewish and general society in
other meaningful ways. Any such person who is planning to marry someone of
the opposite gender is halakhically (legally) and ethically required to fully inform their
potential spouse of their sexual orientation.
We hope and pray that by sharing these thoughts we will help the Orthodox community to fully live out its commitment to the principles and values of Torah and Halakha as practiced and cherished by the children of Abraham, who our sages teach us are recognized by the qualities of being rahamanim (merciful), bayshanim (modest), and gomelei hasadim
engaging in acts of loving-kindness).
(as of 7/26/10)
Rabbi Yosef Adler Rabbi Howard Alpert Rabbi Joshua Amaru Rabbi Elisha Anscelovits Rabbi Hayyim Angel, Rabbi Marc Angel, Rabbi Maurice Appelbaum, Mrs. Nechama Goldman Barash
Rabbi Avi Baumol, Rabbi Benjamin Berger, Rabbi Dr. Shalom Berger, Rabbi Dr. Joshua Berman
Rabbi Scot Berman, Rabbi Todd Berman, Rabbi Yonah Berman, Rabbi Kenneth Birnbaum
Dr. David Bernstein, Rabbi David Bigman,Rabbi Yitzchak Blau, Rabbi Nasanayl Braun,Dr. Erica Brown, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Rabbi Dr. Michael Chernick,Dr. Aubie Diamond, Ms. Yael Diamond, Rabbi Mark Dratch, Rabbi Ira Ebbin, Rabbi Rafi Eis,Mrs. Atara Eis,Mrs. Elana Sober Elzufon Rabbi Yitzhak Etshalom Rabbi Dr. Shaul (Seth) Farber Ms. Rachel Feingold Rabbi Yoel Finkelman Rabbi Elli Fischer Rabbi Mordy Friedman Rabbi Jeffrey Fox Rabbi Aaron Frank
Rabbi Aharon Frazier Rabbi Avidan Freedman Rabbi Barry Gelman Rabbi Shmuel Goldin
Ms. Anne Gordon Rabbi Mark Gottlieb Rabbi Uri Goldstein Rabbi Benjamin Greenberg Mrs. Sharon Weiss-Greenberg Rabbi Zvi Grumet Rabbi Dr. Charles Grysman Mrs. Lori Grysman
Rabbi Alan Haber Dr. Aviad Hacohen Rabbi Tully Harcsztark Rabbi Benjamin Hecht Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot Rabbi Jason Herman Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld Rabbi Josh Hess Rabbi Fred Hyman Rabbi Eytan Kadden Dr. Daniel Kahn Rabbi Moshe Kahn Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky Rabbi Elliot Kaplowitz Rabbi Jay Kellman Rabbi Aryeh KlapperDr. Yosef Kleiner Mrs. Judy Klitsner Rabbi Shmuel Klitsner Rabbi Jeff KobrinDr. Aaron Koller Rabbi Barry Kornblau Dr. Meesh Hammer Kossoy Rabbi Binny Krauss Mrs. Esther Krauss Rabbi Dr. Benny Lau Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz Rabbi Zvi Leshem Rabbi Daniel Levitt Rabbi Norman Linzer Rabbi Dr. Martin Lockshin Rabbi Dr. Haskel Lookstein Rabbi Asher Lopatin Ms. Adina Lubar Rabbi Chaim Marder Rabbi Joshua MaroofRabbi Dr. Adam Mintz Rabbi Jonathan Morgenstern
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Nagen (Genack) Mrs. C.B. Neugroschl Rabbi Itiel Oron Rabbi Ephraim Osgood Rabbi Yossi Pollak Ms. Ellisa Prince Dr. Caroline Pyser Rabbi Daniel Reifman
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Rabbi Avi Robinson Rabbi Chaim Sacknovitz Rabbi Noam Shapiro
Rabbi Yehuda Seif Rabbi Murray Schaum Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger Rabbi Adam Schier
Ms. Lisa Schlaff Rabbi Yehuda Septimus Dr. Shai Secunda Dr. Moshe (Simon)Shoshan Rabbi Yair Silverman Rabbi Sydney Slivko Rabbi Jeremy Stavitsky Rabbi Adam Starr Rabbi Chaim Strauchler Rabbi Yehuda Sussman Dr. Harvey Taub Dr. Mark Teplitsky Rabbi Joel Tessler
Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner Rabbi Jacob Traub Rabbi Zach Truboff Mrs. Dara Unterberg
Rabbi Michael Unterberg Rabbi Dr. Avie Walfish Dr. Dina Weiner Rabbi Ezra Weiner
Ms. Sara Weinerman Rabbi Ari Weiss Rabbi David Wolkenfeld Rabbi Elie Weinstock Rabbi Neil Winkler Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz Rabbi Alan Yuter Rabbi Josh Yuter Dr. Yael Ziegler Rabbi Dr. Stuart Zweite
And while Jewish law cannot “give its blessing and imprimatur to Jewish religious same-sex commitment ceremonies and weddings,” their communities should “display sensitivity, acceptance and full embrace of the adopted or biological children of homosexually active Jews in the synagogue and school setting,” the statement said.
By Melanie Nathan © Photo 2, and 3.