An Anti-Social Orthodox Jewry

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This week, the RCA, OU, NCYI, Agudah, and a few other organizations claiming to represent North American Orthodox Jews issued a short statement on Same Sex Marriage:

On the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage, the Orthodox Jewish world speaks with one voice, loud and clear: We oppose the redefinition of the bedrock relationship of the human family. The Torah, which forbids homosexual activity, sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony. While we do not seek to impose our religious principles on others, we believe the institution of marriage is central to the formation of a healthy society and the raising of children. It is our sincere conviction that discarding the historical definition of marriage would be detrimental to society. Moreover, we are deeply concerned that, should any such redefinition occur, members of traditional communities like ours will incur moral opprobrium and may risk legal sanction if they refuse to transgress their beliefs. That prospect is chilling, and should be unacceptable to all people of good will on both sides of this debate. The integrity of marriage in its traditional form must be preserved.

  • AGUDATH ISRAEL OF AMERICA
  • CENTRAL RABBINICAL CONGRESS OF THE U.S.A. AND CANADA
  • NATIONAL COUNCIL OF YOUNG ISRAEL
  • RABBINICAL ALLIANCE OF AMERICA
  • RABBINICAL COUNCIL OF AMERICA
  • UNION OF ORTHODOX JEWISH CONGREGATIONS OF AMERICA

Of all the things I disagree with this statement on, one line stands out as particularly egregious: “It is our sincere conviction that discarding the historical definition of marriage would be detrimental to society.” Really? The Rabbis aren’t trying to impose Jewish values on a secular society – they are simply concerned for the perpetuity of that secular society.

Is anyone else puzzled by a group of Orthodox Rabbis making suggestions for what would help maintain a healthy American secular society?

Halacha was designed to keep Jews separate from the larger society. There are numerous laws developed over the ages to prevent Jews from intermingling with non-Jews. We have to eat special food, participate in communal prayers multiple times each day, and separate ourselves for Shabbat and holidays. It goes so far that if a non-Jew (even a heterosexual one!) pours a a glass of kosher non-mevushal wine, we cannot drink it! Many wear special clothing, live in clustered neighborhoods, and send our children to exclusive schools.

If there is anything that is antithetical to American society, it should be Orthodox Judaism.

But of course that’s not true. America is a country where people are respected regardless of their differences. A country where we tolerate people who look different, act different, believe differently and were born different. Diversity is what makes this country so amazing, and what strengthens our social fabric.

If these six organizations want to oppose Same-Sex Marriage, they have that right. But they should not hide behind a false excuse. Admit that the motivation is religious, and be prepared for the repercussions of pushing a religious agenda in a secular arena.

And for the record, if these organizations cared about “the formation of a healthy society and the raising of children,” then maybe they would be advocating for the tens of thousands of orphaned children waiting for adoption in states that deny gays and lesbians (both single and coupled) from adopting. Florida alone has 19,000 kids in their foster system, but does not allow gay couples or singles to adopt.

Can someone explain to those children in Florida foster homes that the OU is looking out for their best interests by denying homosexuals equal rights?

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6 thoughts on “An Anti-Social Orthodox Jewry

  1. Adina Steinberg

    Aaron, I agree with your blog 100 percent. I don’t understand why they think same sex marriage would take away from having a “HEALTHY society”, and I don’t see why the “integrity of marriage” is at stake here. Your point about adoption is spot on. Same sex couples are just as capable of rasing a healthy family as any heterosexual couple. I support your post and I think the word needs to be spread that there are Orthodox Jews who support same sex relationships.

  2. The only disagreements I have with their statement are:
    Neither the the Five Books of Moses nor the Whole of the Tanach define marriage in any form. However, Leviticus 18 is very specific in the kind of relationships a man may have according to The G-D of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There it is fully define as to ethical and moral issues. However, I am aware that in this day and age, many people have turned their backs not only upon The G-D of Israel but upon religion in general. Let us try history. Find anytime in all of the reported history where relationships between men have continued any society at all. Every society destroyed itself shortly after that became the acceptable. On the other hand, thousands of years of history have found the moral values in Leviticus 18 not only a continuation of family and country and society as enhancing and stabilizing for the good of all.

    P.s. History also shows that those supporting Social Justice and Open relationships (which were used to undermine society) where the first to find out personally whether or not G-D meant what HE SAID. By the very people brought in to power by those supporters. I better they did not tell you that either, but you can look it up for yourself.

  3. Smarter Than You

    As usual, you claim to know more about the moral fabric of society than a collection of esteemed rabbinic institutions. Your arrogance is on display again.

    Firstly, no one is claiming that orphans are better or worse off in foster care. That is not the issue. That is unfortunate, but rewriting the definition of marriage is not the solution.

    There is the flip side. Would a son necessarily want to be raised by two mothers? Are we justified of choosing this for him?

    More directly, you state that Orthodox Judaism is the antithesis of American Society. This bold statement is not only a false one, but also shows that it is your misunderstood view of Orthodox Judaism that fuels your views. The vast majority of Orthodox Jews take an active role in society, serving as professionals across all fields.

    The fact that you choose to focus on our private schools and dietary laws instead is puzzling. There are plenty of Christian public schools, are they also removing themselves from society? How about health conscious individuals, who don’t take part in such American institutions like McDonals and Pizza Hut? Are they un-American.

    Your entire tirade neglects to answer one simple question in an honest manner: Will our society be better or worse of with same-sex marriages? You evoke sympathy from the reader by stating that thousands of children are in foster care in Florida. I’m not sure they would appreciate your using their unfortunate situation to prove your point.

  4. Thanks for not reading the post!

    These organizations misrepresented a religiously-inspired attitude towards Same Sex Marriage as something aimed towards benefitting the general society. This disingenuous statement was what offended me.

    Orthodox Jews are engaged in the general society, but Rabbis want that to happen through the lens and influence of Torah inspired values.

    I wish these rabbis would spend their time focusing on orphans instead of railing against same sex marriage. Instead of trying to keep gays from marrying one another, I with the OU/RCA would focus on getting those kids adopted (by gay and straight people).

    Thanks again for not reading the post, and for signing with your name.

    -Aaron

  5. Concerned

    You write:
    Orthodox Jews are engaged in the general society, but Rabbis want that to happen through the lens and influence of Torah inspired values.

    Should Jews not strive to engage in general society through the lens and influence of Torah inspired values?

    That sounds like THE definition of true modern Orthodoxy. How do you propose observant Jews interact with society? Not through the lens of Torah?

  6. My complaint was that I felt the Rabbis were being disingenuous when they said “we do not seek to impose our religious principles on others.” If they admitted they are transmitting Jewish values into a communal debate that would be one thing. Instead, they claimed to be bringing universal values. That was the problem I had.

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