An Open letter:

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Update 3/13/2011: I was instructed by my previous employer that I could not remain an employee of the University if I did not remove this post. I have restored the post below along with the message I wrote when it was taken down.

 

I owe anyone who reads this blog an apology. it is with extreme humiliation that I removed the text of this post a few minutes ago.

my opinions have not changed. I am sorry.

Update: Reinstated letter.

President Joel,

I want to share with you my support for the event Tuesday night, and the pride I felt in being associated with Yeshiva University that night.

One of my close friends was on the panel, and I experienced the depression he lived through without understanding its cause. I had suspected for a while he might be gay, but I was not sure of anything. In the last year I became much closer to him, and he shared with me what he went through and what life was like now. While he still struggles with halacha and how it relates to his sexuality, his depression disappeared when he came out to his friends, and realized that nobody cared. He didn’t need a Rabbi to tell him whether sex with another man was assur or not – he needed his friends to continue being his friend after they knew about his sexuality.

I know you have received a lot of flak for allowing the event to take place, but I think you know the importance of having a publicized and open program about being homosexual in the Orthodox community. There are many closeted homosexuals on campus and in other places throughout the Orthodox community, and YU took a bold stand by saying “there are safe places for you to be open about who you are.” If you saw the movie “Trembling Before God” you may know that the people who were part of the silhouetted dancing in the beginning and end of the film were people who did not feel comfortable coming out when the video was made. This event allowed people to realize that they don’t need to hide in the Modern Orthodox community.

I know that you are in a very tough situation, and I know that you have a very difficult balancing act to make it through this as President of the University. I just wanted to tell you that I support you in allowing events like this to take place, Adina supports this as well, and most of our friends and peers are in favor of events like this.

There may be many donors and board members who are not in favor of something like this happen, but the next generation of lay-leaders and financial supporters recognize that homosexuality should not be taboo, and should not be something the Orthodox community sweeps under the rug and hopes just goes away.

Thank you,

Aaron Steinberg

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6 thoughts on “An Open letter:

  1. Are You Serious

    Aaron, while your intensions are well, what you fail to realize is that only harm comes from an event like this in an open forum, for both the gay students and the university.

    Halacha aside for a minute, these students have done nothing but harm to themselves. Before they came out, they had the privacy to deal with their homosexuality. If they were working on it, they had that freedom. If they weren’t then at least they had no stigma within the community. Their coming out is such a bold embrace of their ways, that it will be impossible for them to ever deal with their Judaism and orientation in any way.

    Imagine if we held public forums where we all shared the many ways we sin. What would that accomplish? Balancing Jewish imperfection is a task for the individual and his close friends and family, not the public.

    For the university overall, we are now seen in a negative light from both the right and the left. Every institution to our right and every yeshiva in Israel is now speaking about how YU embraces homosexuality. On the flip side, the secular and more left institutions will see the backlash that this has caused as our own closemindedness. A “damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation”.

    While I do sympathize that the plight of these individuals is nothing less than traumatic, I don’t think that the open forum for expressing their homosexuality does anyone any good; especially the individuals themselves.

  2. Yes, I'm pretty sure he was

    Since when does doing the right thing depend on what other people will think? From the fact that all of the panelists discussed depression and suicidal thoughts, I don’t think the “freedom” they had while keeping their feelings and challenges bottled up and hidden from their peers was doing them much good.

    You don’t seem to have been at the panel, because at no point was it a forum to “share the ways in which they sin”. Rather, it was an honest and open discussion about the panelists’ feelings, inclinations and internal challenges.

    Unfortunately, you, like so many people, seem to have missed the whole point of the event. It was in no way a public therapy session for the four panelists. I don’t think it was for the panelists at all. it was for the people in the audience and that’s why it HAD to be public.

    It was for the YU community to be able to put a face to homosexuality in the Orthodox community. It in no way condoned any homosexual behaivior. The point was to see that the gay people in our community are just as well adjusted, nice, and normal as anyone else. The point was to prevent people from speaking out of ignorance. It’s a lot easier to be insensitive and bigoted toward a group of people whom you have never met and never seen. Dealing with these issues “discreetly” and behind closed doors would not accomplish this crucial objective.

  3. ben recca

    Being gay is not like other biblical prohibitions that are solved when someone “works on them”.

    Take alcoholics anonymous for instance. That is an addiction that can be solved through peer support, encouraging counseling and long-term commitment to a plan. It cures people.

    Being gay cannot be cured anymore than the disposition to liking fatty foods can, as far as I know, anyway. There is no advice that can alter a persons physical and material preferences.

  4. Are You Serious

    Hmmm…

    I’m thinking about starting a few more panels actually. I’m looking for about four people who are not careful with heterosexual sexual behavior, kashrus, secretly doubt God, don’t believe everything they learned in school or don’t believe in Shabbos.

    If you fall in any of these categories, you are an eligible candidate, but we’re looking for people who struggle preferrably with at least 2 area.

    Even though everyone most likely already knows your name, we’ll call you names like Jon and Dave while you serve on the panel. Other names with be considered for review upon submission.

    The purpose of this panel is to give a face to people who suffer from bigotry and hatered as a result of these thoughts. Now, instead of the critical and hurtful thoughts that people feel toward these individuals will be much better directed.

    If you are struggling to be a part of the community, coming forward will surely help. Everyone will forever associate you with various, controvercial lifestyles, making any chance of reconciling yourself in the community all the more likely.

    Accepting applications for the wonderful opportunity at the non-kosher chinese food store next to Golan or in the 1-Train this Shabbos afternoon.

  5. While I doubt any of the men on that panel want the first thing that people thing about them is that they’re gay, they do want to have that be a part of their identity that everyone knows and accepts.

    There is an inherent difference between being homosexual and the other issues you metioned, and you know it. Sexuality is something very inherent to people’s identities, and lives in the core of who we are as individuals. It’s not an issue of simple preference, desire or indifference. This was an event with people expressing feelings about who they are an human beings.

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