The Jewish “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”


A friend recently sent me links to a newspaper article and a blog post about the need for greater acceptance and welcoming to homosexual Orthodox Jews within the Modern Orthodox community.

Rabbi Hyim Shafner wrote on Morethodoxy about the distinction between halachot that are moral, and halachot that are simply rules. We generally would not consider someone who doesn’t keep Kosher a bad person – they are simply a sinful person.

We need not worry that welcoming homosexual Jews into our community means we have no moral compass and tomorrow we will welcome adults who commit sexual acts with children (which is not actually one of the sexual sins in the torah) or brothers and sisters who want to marry.

An article published in the YU Commentator anonymously made three specific and reasonable requests from the Yeshiva University community:

  1. For the Rabbis to “recognize our existence, and to take a proactive role in organizing open discussion of the issue of homosexuality.”
  2. Break the taboo of homosexuality by cultivating an “atmosphere of acceptance and open discussion.”
  3. To form a Gay-Straight Alliance on campus to promote an environment that will be comfortable and accepting of gay students.

It’s been too long that homosexuality remains a taboo only within the Orthodox community. We need to stop denying the reality of a significant minority of our community, and strive to be accepting and open to these Jews.

The gay Jew is not living an immoral life. We as a community need to openly discuss how to find an understanding of the Torah’s attitude on homosexual intercourse, but the welcoming of openly gay individuals should not be delayed until that is achieved.

We need to make our synagogues and schools safe places for gay Jews to associate themselves, and exercise the beautiful values of community, unity and togetherness that we have otherwise valued so greatly.

Read Rabbi Shafner’s article here: Is the Torah Moral?

Read the Commentator article here: The Gay Question


5 thoughts on “The Jewish “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

  1. SW

    Not that I agree or disagree with the points of your post, but I do have a few points to add.

    First of all- I disagree with the title of your post. As you make clear from the content, you are not referring to the entire Jewish community, rather the Modern Orthodox community. The issue of homosexuality is treated differently in Conservative, Haredi, Reform, and other Jewish groups. Perhaps your title should be “The Modern Orthodox DADT.”

    Secondly, I disagree with a point made by R.Shafner. “tomorrow we will welcome adults who commit sexual acts with children (which is not actually one of the sexual sins in the torah)” In our society, sex with a child is considered rape. I do believe that rape falls into the category of a sexual sin in the Torah.

    But I do agree. We need to talk about the issue more in our community.

  2. Aaron

    There are varying levels of dysfunction when it comes to the Jewish approach to LGBT Jews across the denominations. That’s all I want to say about the title.

    The issue that needs to be addressed first is not the Torah’s statements about homosexual relations. That is a super important issue that our community is going to need to grapple with in the coming years.

    What IS URGENT is the welcoming and acceptance of Gay and Lesbian Jews in the Orthodox community. We need to create a culture of welcoming and safety in order to allow these Jews to be a part of the Orthodox community.

    This is the first of many steps that need to be taken. The entire Orthodox community should be an “LGBT Safe Zone.”

  3. chaim

    I cannot even fathom the pain and suffering of an LGBT Orthodox Jew, and I agree that the communal ignorance toward their lives needs to change, but at the same time I cant understand how we can, as Jews who believe in the validity of every pasuk in the Torah, accept the lives they live.

  4. Aaron

    If nothing more, we can accept them for who they are, and focus on their sexuality after we have fully embraced and welcomed then in every other facet of their lives. We orthodox Jews have a wonderul ability to ignore the sins of those whose names grace the sides of our buildings. Can we turn an equally blind eye to the sexuality of our fellow Jews and just welcome them as members of the community?

    Who knows, maybe the shul will be able to build a new wing because of it?

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