An Anti-Social Orthodox Jewry

Standard

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?

I’m Coming Out

Standard

Today is National Coming Out Day, and I’m coming out as an LGBT Ally.

In too many communities and sub-communities, cultures and sub-cultures, there is still a strong stigma against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender/transexual individuals. In some places as we have seen recently the result is violence and harassment. In others we can find isolation, exclusion and branding in a way that can and does drive people to depression and suicide. In a modern country like the one we live in, it is inconceivable that sexual identity is the basis for people to be openly discriminated against in the military, business places, houses of worship and private homes.

Unfortunately, I am part of one of those communities where the stigma is strong (nerds: please insert Star Wars reference here.) In the Modern Orthodox community, too many people refer to homosexuality as SSA (Same Sex Attraction) and imply that it is a disease or affliction. In too many congregations, the only homosexual congregants that are accepted with open arms are those seeking therapy in the slim hopes of somehow changing their sexual nature through dangerous practices and highly questionable procedures.

There are not enough Modern Orthodox communities where it is OK for LGBT members to simply live their lives without having to disguise their life partner or spouse as a roommate. Too many MO teens who struggle with their sexual identity because they feel there is no one to talk to if they are gay or lesbian. There are not enough LGBT safe places, and there are not enough straight people standing up and saying that they will not judge, but rather offer an open hand.

So today was designed to accomplish just this goal. National Coming Out Day is an opportunity to give an excuse and some encouragement to people who want to share an important part of who they are with friends and loved ones. But NCOD is also an opportunity and excuse for straight people to share publicly with the people they know that they will not discriminate or ignore someone in their community because of sexual identity, but will rather serve as an ally, friend and partner.

Statistically speaking, most of the people reading this post are not LGB or T. So to all of you out there, tell your coworkers, friends and relatives that you will not stand for hateful or hurtful comments about homosexuals. Talk to your bosses about making your company or organization more gay friendly. Make a commitment to be careful with your speech and not judge people you meet just because they might be a little different. Ask your school or university to create an anti-bullying or anti-harassment policy that explicitly mentions acts that are based on sexual identity. Take today to send a letter to your elected officials asking them to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, or to change the law in your state to recognize same-sex marriage.

And to my readers/friends who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transexual, queer, questioning, straight, and whatever, I have the following to say: You are my friends and I’m going to treat you all the same. You are all people I care about, and it doesn’t make a difference whether you are gay or straight. It is my mission to do my best with my limited abilities to fight for a more equal community that believes in full human and civil rights for all people.

Consider taking today, or any other day, as an opportunity to stand up for equality.