Homosexual behavior and Judaism

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Homosexual behavior and Judaism
Halakhic texts relating to this article:
Torah: Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13.
Mishneh Torah: • For men: Issurei Bi'ah 1:14, 21:18.

• For women: Issurei Bi'ah 21:8.

* Not meant as a definitive ruling. Some observances may be rabbinical, custom or Torah-based.

The subject of homosexual behavior and Judaism dates back to the Torah. The book of Vayiqra (Leviticus) is traditionally regarded as classifying sexual intercourse between males as a to'eivah (something abhorred or detested) that can be subject to capital punishment under halakha (Jewish law).

Jewish marchers at San Francisco Pride 2014

The issue has been a subject of contention within modern Jewish denominations and has led to debate and division. Traditionally, Judaism has understood homosexual intercourse as contrary to Judaism, and this opinion is still maintained by Orthodox Judaism. On the other hand, Reconstructionist Judaism and Reform Judaism do not hold this view and allow homosexual intercourse. Conservative Judaism's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, which until December 2006 held the same position as Orthodoxy, recently issued multiple opinions under its philosophy of pluralism, with one opinion continuing to follow the Orthodox position and another opinion substantially liberalizing its view of homosexual sex and relationships while continuing to regard certain sexual acts as prohibited.

Homosexuality in the Torah[edit]

Further information: The Bible and homosexuality

The traditional viewpoint is that the Torah mentions homosexuality twice in the book of Leviticus (JPS):

וְאֶת-זָכָר—לֹא תִשְׁכַּב, מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה: תּוֹעֵבָה, הִוא.

Lev.18:22 "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is detestable."

וְאִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב אֶת-זָכָר מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה—תּוֹעֵבָה עָשׂוּ, שְׁנֵיהֶם; מוֹת יוּמָתוּ, דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם.

Lev.20:13 "And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed a detestable act: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Rabbinic Jewish application and interpretation of these verses[edit]

Applicability of Biblical death penalty[edit]

Like many similar commandments, the stated punishment for willful violation is the death penalty. However, even in Biblical times, it was very difficult to get a conviction that would lead to this prescribed punishment. The Jewish Oral Law states that capital punishment would only be applicable if two men were caught in the act of anal sex, if there were two witnesses to the act, if the two witnesses warned the men involved that they committed a capital offense, and the two men — or the willing party, in case of rape — subsequently acknowledged the warning but continued to engage in the prohibited act anyway. In fact, there is no account of capital punishment, in regards to this law, in Jewish history.

Rabbinic tradition understands the Torah's system of capital punishment to not be in effect for the past approximately 2,000 years, in the absence of a Sanhedrin and Temple.[1]

Lesbian sexual activity[edit]

Although there is no direct textual prohibition of homosexual acts between women (lesbianism) anywhere in the Torah, homosexual acts[vague] between women are widely viewed as forbidden by most rabbis. It is based on a Drash interpretation of the Biblical verse "Do not follow the ways of Egypt where you once lived, nor of Canaan, where I will be bringing you. Do not follow any of their customs." (Leviticus 18:3).

A midrash, Sifra Aharei Mot 8:8–9, states that this refers to sexual customs, and that one of those customs was the marriage of women to each other, as well as a man to a woman and to her daughter. Maimonides, in his Mishneh Torah, summarizes the matter as follows:[2]

For women to be mesollelot[vague] with one another is forbidden, as this is the practice of Egypt, which we were warned against: "Like the practice of the land of Egypt ... you shall not do" (Leviticus 18:3). The Sages said [in the midrash of Sifra Aharei Mot 8:8–9], "What did they do? A man married a man, and a woman married a woman, and a woman married two men." Even though this practice is forbidden, one is not lashed [as for a Torah prohibition] on account of it, since there is no specific prohibition against it, and there is no real intercourse. Therefore, [one who does this] is not forbidden to the priesthood because of harlotry, and a woman is not prohibited to her husband by this, since it is not harlotry. But it is appropriate to administer to them lashings of rebellion [i.e., those given for violation of rabbinic prohibitions], since they did something forbidden. And a man should be strict with his wife in this matter, and should prevent women known to do this from coming to her or from her going to them.

Classical rabbinic Jewish sources do not specifically mention that homosexual attraction is inherently sinful. However, someone who has had homosexual intercourse is considered to have violated a prohibition. If he does teshuva (repentance)—i.e., he ceases his forbidden actions, regrets what he has done, apologizes to God, and makes a binding resolution never to repeat those actions, he is seen to be forgiven by God.[3]

Same-sex marriage in the Midrash and the Talmud[edit]

The Midrash is one of the few ancient religious texts that makes reference to same-sex marriage. The following teaching can be found twice in the Midrash:

"Rabbi Huna said in the name of Rabbi Joseph, 'The generation of the Flood was not wiped out until they wrote גמומסיות (either sexual hymns or marriage documents) for the union of a man to a male or to an animal.'"[4]

Another reference is found in the Babylonian Talmud:

"'Ula said: Non-Jews [litt. Bnei Noach, the progeny of Noah] accepted upon themselves thirty mitzvot [divinely ordered laws] but they only abide by three of them: the first one is that they do not write marriage documents for male couples, the second one is that they don't sell dead [human] meat by the pound in stores and the third one is that they respect the Torah.'" [5]

Orthodox Jewish views[edit]

While a variety of views regarding homosexuality as an inclination or status exist within the Orthodox Jewish community, Orthodox Judaism generally prohibits homosexual conduct. While there is disagreement about which acts come under core prohibitions, all of Orthodox Judaism puts certain core homosexual acts, including male-male anal sex in the category of yehareg ve'al ya'avor, "die rather than transgress", the small category of Biblically-prohibited acts (also including murder, idolatry, adultery, and incest) which an Orthodox Jew is obligated under the laws of Self-sacrifice under Jewish Law to die rather than do.[citation needed] According to the Talmud, homosexuality is forbidden between non-Jews as well, and is included among the sexual restrictions of the Noachide laws.[6]

In a speech given in 1986, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, discussed "individuals who express an inclination towards a particular form of physical relationship in which the libidinal gratification is sought with members of one's own gender". He wrote that "society and government must be to offer a helping hand to those who are afflicted with this problem".[7]

Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Jakobovits, in his entry Homosexuality in the Encyclopedia Judaica (Keter Publishing), describes the traditional opinion on homosexuality in this way:

Jewish law [...] rejects the view that homosexuality is to be regarded merely as a disease or as morally neutral.... Jewish law holds that no hedonistic ethic, even if called "love", can justify the morality of homosexuality any more than it can legitimize adultery or incest, however genuinely such acts may be performed out of love and by mutual consent.

Rabbi Norman Lamm (the Chancellor, Rosh Yeshiva ["head of the yeshiva"], and former president of Yeshiva University, a major Modern Orthodox Jewish institution) advocated[8] that some (although not all) homosexuals should be viewed as diseased and in need of compassion and treatment, rather than willful rebels who should be ostracized. He distinguishes between six varieties of homosexuals, including "genuine homosexuals" who have "strong preferential erotic feelings for members of the same sex", "transitory" and "situational" homosexuals who would prefer heterosexual intercourse but are denied it or seek gain in homosexuality, and heterosexuals who are merely curious.

When Steven Greenberg, who received Orthodox rabbinic ordination, publicly announced in 1999 that he was homosexual, there was a significant response from rabbis of all denominations reported in the Jewish newspapers. Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a leading rabbi at Yeshiva University, stated "It is very sad that an individual who attended our yeshiva sunk to the depths of what we consider a depraved society,"

Tendler said that Rabbi Greenberg's announcement is "the exact same as if he said, 'I'm an Orthodox Rabbi and I eat ham sandwiches on Yom Kippur.' What you are is a Reform Rabbi."[9]

Sandi Simcha Dubowski's movie Trembling Before G-d (2001) documented the experiences of several homosexual Modern Orthodox and Haredi Jews. The spokesperson for Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Avi Shafran, attacked the film with an article "Dissembling Before G-d", maintaining that gay people can be cured through therapy, and that the movie is meant to promote homosexuality:

Unfortunately, though, "Trembling" seems to have other intents as well. While it never baldly advocates the case for broader societal acceptance of homosexuality or for the abandonment of elements of the Jewish religious tradition, those causes are subtly evident in the stark, simplistic picture the film presents of sincere, conflicted and victimized men and women confronted by a largely stern and stubborn cadre of rabbis.
That picture is both incomplete and distorted. For starters, the film refuses to even allow for the possibility that men and women with homosexual predilections might—with great effort, to be sure—achieve successful and happy marriages to members of the opposite sex.[10]

The orthodox Israeli rabbi, Ron Yosef, became in 2009, the first Israeli orthodox Rabbi to come out, by appearing in Uvda ("Fact"), Israel's leading investigative television program, in a episode regarding conversion therapies in Israel.[11] Yosef remains in his position as a pulpit Rabbi.[12] Yosef testified that his Yemenite congregation didn't accept him being a homosexual very easily and it took them a while to accept it. He stated that the younger generation strengthened and supported him, while the older generation had a more difficult experience Yosef received death threats in the year leading up to the 2009 Tel Aviv gay centre shooting.[13]

In 2013, he stated he is in a relationship with a man.[14]

Yosef has stated his approach to the issue of homosexuality in Judaism as follows:

"It is clear to me that lying with another man is forbidden, and our starting point is commitment to halacha and Torah. The goal is not to seek permission. But you need to give us a shoulder and support.".[12]

2008 Israeli Document of Principles (Hod)[edit]

In an open letter distributed to Orthodox community leaders,[15] the Hod organization appealed to the Orthodox community to recognize them as part of the religious society. This was sent to over 100 rabbis in 2008, and eventually was known as the "Document of Principles". In part, the document states:

"Anal intercourse between men (Isur Mishkav Zachar) is what is forbidden in the Torah, and not the homosexual orientation.
...One can advise a person who is interested in doing so, to consult a certified professional mental health worker, on condition that complete information is provided about the type of treatment, its chances of success and its risks. No treatment should be seen as either ultimate or exclusive.
A homosexual man may not be coerced into marriage, since marriage provides no inherent solution to a person struggling with his sexuality...One’s capacity to marry does not only include a readiness to fulfill the commandment of "Be fruitful and multiply" but also the suitability to manage a healthy and moral relationship with one’s spouse.
On the condition that he does not publicize his actions, a person who has transgressed the prohibition of homosexual intercourse should not be cast out from the religious community. Homosexual activity (as opposed to the homosexual orientation itself) is prohibited absolutely by the Torah...
...A homosexual should be acknowledged as a full member of the religious community, be it in making up a minyan (prayer quorum), delivering the Priestly Blessing, being called up for a blessing on the Torah or being recognized as a valid witness – in these and in any other matter he should not be treated differently to any other person.
...It is of great importance to set up support groups for homosexuals, and such organizations are to be considered charity organizations...An ‘all or nothing’ policy is opposed to the way of Halakha. Every Jewish person should try to keep all the commandments and should do everything he or she can to be as observant of the Torah as possible".

Up to 2013, 163 Orthodox rabbis from Israel and abroad have signed this statement, among them: rabbi Yuval Cherlow, rabbi Binyamin Lau, rabbi Haim Navon, rabbi Daniel Sperber, rabbi Eliezer Melamed, rabbi Shai Piron and rabbi Yehuda Gilad.

Statement by Rabbis Schachter, Willig, Rosensweig, and Twersky (2010)[edit]

In 2010, TorahWeb.org published a brief position statement entitled "Torah View on Homosexuality".[16] It was co-authored by Rav Hershel Schachter, Rav Mordechai Willig, Rav Michael Rosensweig, and Rav Mayer Twersky. These four are all roshei yeshiva (i.e., rabbinic leaders) at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University, the largest and most influential Modern Orthodox rabbinic program in America. In part, the statement reads:

... Prohibited homosexual activity includes any non-platonic physical contact; even yichud (seclusion) with someone of the same gender is forbidden for homosexually active individuals. ...
... today's galus [exile] seeks to legitimize and mainstream the abominable practice (toeiva) of homosexuality. Frighteningly, we who live here are not only practically affected, but also axiologically and ideationally infected. Not only our behavior but our very Weltanschauung has been compromised and contaminated.
... Homosexual behavior is absolutely prohibited and constitutes an abomination. Discreet, unconditionally halachically committed Jews who do not practice homosexuality but feel same sex attraction (ssa) should be sympathetically and wholeheartedly supported. They can be wonderful Jews, fully deserving of our love, respect, and support. They should be encouraged to seek professional guidance. Moreover, in an uninfected Torah society, appropriate sympathy for discreet shomrei Torah u'mitzvos who experience but do not act upon ssa is clearly distinguished from brazen public identification of their yetzer hara [temptation] for forbidden behavior. ...
How painful, sad and sobering is the sharp contrast between the clear attitude that should prevail in a pure Torah community and the confusion that exists among well-intentioned individuals within our communities. ... ssa is not viewed as a challenge of kevishas hayetzer (overcoming and taming impulses for forbidden behavior), but rather as a troubling halacha lacking in compassion, rachmanah litzlan [God forbid].
... Inevitably, with respect to homosexuality, Talmud Torah [Torah study] will place us at odds with political correctness and the temper of the times. Nevertheless, we must be honest with ourselves, and with Hakadosh Baruch Hu [God], regardless of political correctness, considerations or consequences.

July 2010 public statement by some leaders[edit]

On July 22, 2010, a "Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community" was released.[17] It was written primarily by Nathaniel Helfgot, Aryeh Klapper, and Yitzchak Blau. Signatories include more than a hundred rabbis and laypeople. Some of the statement's more notable supporters are Rabbi Marc Angel, co-founder of The Rabbinic Fellowship; Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder of Lincoln Square Synagogue, Efrat, and Ohr Torah Stone Institutions; and Rabbi Avi Weiss, head of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Yeshivat Maharat, and co-founder of The Rabbinic Fellowship. Rabbi Weiss is also notable for his ordination of Sara Hurwitz, which was strongly condemned by the Haredi Agudath Yisrael (which called it non-Orthodox), and also firmly rejected by the Modern Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America.[18]

The statement makes it clear that homosexual activity is still prohibited, saying inter alia that "Halakhah sees heterosexual marriage as the ideal model and sole legitimate outlet for human sexual expression"; "Halakhic Judaism views all male and female same-sex sexual interactions as prohibited"; and "halakhic values proscribe individuals and communities from encouraging practices that grant religious legitimacy to gay marriage and couplehood". However, it emphasizes that homosexuals need to be treated with compassion and respect. Some of the statement's points that diverge from other common Orthodox positions are:

  • We affirm the religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject therapeutic approaches they reasonably see as useless or dangerous.
  • 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.
  • Communities should display sensitivity, acceptance and full embrace of the adopted or biological children of homosexually active Jews in the synagogue and school setting.
  • Jews who have an exclusively homosexual orientation should, under most circumstances, not be encouraged to marry someone of the other gender.

Ex-gay organizations[edit]

Further information: Ex-gay movement, Atzat Nefesh, JONAH, and Kamoha

Atzat Nefesh is an Orthodox organization based in Israel; it addresses people with a variety of sexual "problems." It operates a hotline and several support groups in Israel, and aims to change people's sexual behavior and sexual orientation.[19]

Kamoha promotes conversion therapy,[20] and offers subsidies to finance it, declaring that some gay men might yet be able to develop opposite sex attraction and live a fulfilling normative heterosexual lifestyle. Yet it states that success is not guaranteed and that these treatments cannot be a sufficient solution for all gay men.

JONAH is a Jewish ex-gay organization that focuses on "prevention, intervention, and healing of the underlying issues causing same-sex attractions."[21] It is a world-wide organization, with the majority of its membership in the United States, Israel, Canada and Europe.[22] It uses a variety of psycho-educational methods, including live support group meetings, E-mail list-serv groups, networking, therapy referrals, experiential weekend programs.[23]

In 2012, four former clients of JONAH sued the organization for fraud, claiming that it sold them therapies that were ineffective and counterproductive.[24] Soon after in that same year, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), a professional association of more than 1,000 Orthodox rabbis around the world, sent an open email to its members that it no longer supported reparative therapy generally, or JONAH specifically.[24]

In 2014 Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso ruled that JONAH and its co-defendants could have to pay three times the cost paid by the participants for therapy they said they needed because of JONAH's conversion therapy. [25]

Other viewpoints[edit]

UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote the foreword to Rabbi Chaim Rapoport's book Judaism and Homosexuality: An Authentic Orthodox View.[26] In the foreword, Rabbi Sacks has written: "Compassion, sympathy, empathy, understanding - these are essential elements of Judaism. They are what homosexual Jews who care about Judaism need from us today."

Modern Orthodox leader Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein is reported to have said that the intensity of Orthodox community's condemnation of homosexuality goes beyond what its status as a religious transgression warrants and that he feels toward homosexual people "criticism, disapproval, but tempered with an element of sympathy".[27]

In both the United States and in Israel several groups have sprung up in the last few years that seek to support those who identify as both Orthodox and homosexual; support Orthodox parents of LGBT children;[28] and promote understanding of homosexuality within Orthodox communities and among Orthodox rabbis. These include an umbrella organization called Eshel,[29] the Gay and Lesbian Yeshiva Day School Alumni Association,[30] the women's group OrthoDykes,[31] the youth group JQYouth,[32] the American-Israeli group headquartered in Jerusalem Bat Kol[33] and the Israeli group Hod ("Majesty").[34][35] In 2012, Hod held an advertising campaign against conversion therapies and for self-acceptance of the religious homosexual community in Israel.[36] Online blogs and support groups have enabled many to find other Orthodox LGBT people with whom to share the conflict between Orthodox religious and social norms and LGBT self-identification.[37]

Orthodox rabbis Shmuley Boteach and Zev Farber have publicly questioned the opposition of Orthodox groups to government recognition of same-sex civil marriages, arguing that although Judaism as they understand it does not condone homosexuality, governments should not enforce any particular religion's view of marriage, and that conferring civil benefits to committed homosexual couples should be viewed as promoting family values.[38][39] Modern Orthodox Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz declared that the Jewish values of justice, equality, and dignity lead him to support the cause of gay rights and advocate for same-sex civil marriage.[40]

Conservative/Masorti Judaism[edit]

As a matter of both Jewish law and institutional policy, Conservative Judaism has wrestled with homosexuality issues since the 1980s.

In Conservative Judaism, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) of the Rabbinical Assembly makes the movement's decisions concerning Jewish law. In 1992, the CJLS action affirmed its traditional prohibition on homosexual conduct, blessing same-sex unions, and ordaining openly gay/lesbian/bisexual clergy. However, these prohibitions grew increasingly controversial within the Conservative movement.

In 2006, the CJLS shifted its position and paved the way for significant changes regarding the Conservative movement's policies toward homosexuality. On December 6, 2006, The CJLS adopted three distinct responsa reflecting very different approaches to the subject. One responsum substantially liberalized Conservative Judaism's approach including lifting most (but not all) classical prohibitions on homosexual conduct and permitted the blessing of homosexual unions and the ordination of openly gay/lesbian/bisexual clergy. Two others completely retained traditional prohibitions. Under the rules of the Conservative movement, the adoption of multiple opinions permits individual Conservative rabbis, congregations, and rabbinical schools to select which opinion to accept, and hence to choose individually whether to maintain a traditional prohibition on homosexual conduct, or to permit openly gay/lesbian/bisexual unions and clergy.

The liberalizing responsum, adopted as a majority opinion by 13 of 25 votes, was authored by Rabbis Elliot N. Dorff, Daniel Nevins, and Avram Reisner. It lifted most restrictions on homosexual conduct and opened the way to the ordination of openly gay/lesbian/bisexual rabbis and cantors and acceptance of homosexual unions, but stopped short of religiously recognizing same-sex marriage. The responsum invoked the Talmudic principle of kavod habriyot, which the authors translated as "human dignity", as authority for this approach. The responsum maintained a prohibition on male-male anal sex, which it described as the sole Biblically prohibited homosexual act. This act remains a yehareg ve'al ya'avor ("die rather than transgress" offense) under the decision.[41]

Two traditionalist responsa were adopted. A responsum by Rabbi Joel Roth,[42] adopted as a majority opinion by 13 votes, reaffirmed a general complete prohibition on homosexual conduct. A second responsum by Rabbi Leonard Levy, adopted as a minority opinion by 6 votes, delineated ways in which to ensure that gays and lesbians would be accorded human dignity and a respected place in Conservative communities and institutions while maintaining the authority of the traditional prohibitions against same sex sexual activity.

The Committee rejected a fourth paper by Gordon Tucker which would have lifted all restrictions on homosexual sexual practices.

The consequences of the decision have been mixed. On the one hand, four members of the Committee, Rabbis Joel Roth, Leonard Levy, Mayer Rabinowitz, and Joseph Prouser, resigned from the CJLS following adoption of the change.[43][44] On the other hand, the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of the University of Judaism (now the American Jewish University) in Los Angeles had previously stated that it will immediately begin admitting gay/lesbian/bisexual students as soon as the law committee passes a policy that sanctions such ordination.[45] On March 26, 2007, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York followed suit and began accepting openly gay/lesbian/bisexual candidates for admission for their Rabbinical program.[46]

On June 2012, the American branch of Conservative Judaism formally approved same-sex marriage ceremonies in a 13–0 vote.[47]

Meanwhile, Masorti synagogues in Europe and Israel, which have historically been somewhat more traditional than the American movement, continue to maintain a complete ban on homosexual and bisexual conduct, clergy, and unions. As such, most Conservative rabbis outside the USA are exercising their authority as local rabbinic authorities (mara d'atra) to reject the more liberal responsa. The head of the Israeli Masorti movement's Vaad Halakha (equivalent to the CJLS), Rabbi David Golinkin, wrote the CJLS protesting its reconsideration of the traditional ban on homosexual conduct.[48] The Masorti movements in Argentina, Hungary, and the United Kingdom have indicated that they will not admit or ordain openly gay/lesbian/bisexual rabbinical students.[49] The Masorti Movement's Israeli seminar also rejected a change in its view of the status of homosexual conduct, stating that "Jewish law has traditionally prohibited homosexuality."[50]

Rabbi Bradley Artson, Dean of the Rabbinic School at American Jewish University, claims to have studied every reference he could find to homosexual activity mentioned in ancient Greek and Latin writers. Every citation he found described an encounter between males where one party, the master, physically abused another, the slave. Rabbi Artson could not find a single example where one partner was not subservient to the other. "Homosexual relationships today," Rabbi Artson says, "should not be compared to the ancient world. I know too many homosexual individuals, including close friends and relatives, who are committed to one another in loving long-term monogamous relationships. I know too many same-sex couples that are loving parents raising good descent [sic] ethical children. Who's to say their family relationships are less sanctified in the eyes of God than mine is with my wife and our children?"[51]

Reform Judaism[edit]

The Reform Judaism movement, the largest branch of Judaism in North America, has rejected the traditional view of Jewish Law on homosexuality and bisexuality. As such, they do not prohibit ordination of openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual people as rabbis and cantors. They view Levitical laws as sometimes seen to be referring to prostitution, making it a stand against Jews adopting the idolatrous fertility cults and practices of the neighbouring Canaanite nations rather than a blanket condemnation of same-sex intercourse, homosexuality, or bisexuality. Reform authorities consider that, in light of what is seen as current scientific evidence about the nature of homosexuality and bisexuality as inborn sexual orientations, a new interpretation of the law is required.

In 1972 Beth Chayim Chadashim, the world's first explicitly-gay-and-lesbian-centered synagogue recognized by the Reform Jewish community, was established in West Los Angeles, resulting in a slew of non-Orthodox congregations being established along similar lines. Beth Chayim Chadashim now focuses on the entire LGBT community, rather than just gays and lesbians.

In the late 1980s the primary seminary of the Reform movement, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, changed its admission requirements to allow openly gay and lesbian people to join the student body. In 1990 the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) officially endorsed a report of their committee on homosexuality and rabbis. They concluded that "all rabbis, regardless of sexual orientation, be accorded the opportunity to fulfill the sacred vocation that they have chosen" and that "all Jews are religiously equal regardless of their sexual orientation."

In 1996 CCAR passed a resolution approving same-sex civil marriage. However, this same resolution made a distinction between civil marriages and religious marriages; this resolution thus stated:

However we may understand homosexuality, whether as an illness, as a genetically based dysfunction or as a sexual preference and lifestyle—we cannot accommodate the relationship of two homosexuals as a "marriage" within the context of Judaism, for none of the elements of qiddushin (sanctification) normally associated with marriage can be invoked for this relationship.[52]
The Central Conference of American Rabbis support the right of gay and lesbian couples to share fully and equally in the rights of civil marriage, and
That the CCAR oppose governmental efforts to ban gay and lesbian marriage.
That this is a matter of civil law, and is separate from the question of rabbinic officiation at such marriages.

In 1998, an ad hoc CCAR committee on Human Sexuality issued its majority report (11 to 1, 1 abstention) which stated that the holiness within a Jewish marriage "may be present in committed same gender relationships between two Jews and that these relationships can serve as the foundation of stable Jewish families, thus adding strength to the Jewish community." The report called for CCAR to support rabbis in officiating at same-sex marriages. Also in 1998, the Responsa Committee of the CCAR issued a lengthy teshuvah (rabbinical opinion)[53] that offered detailed argumentation in support of both sides of the question whether a rabbi may officiate at a commitment ceremony for a same-sex couple.

In March 2000 CCAR issued a new resolution stating that "We do hereby resolve that the relationship of a Jewish, same gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual, and further resolve, that we recognize the diversity of opinions within our ranks on this issue. We support the decision of those who choose to officiate at rituals of union for same-sex couples, and we support the decision of those who do not."

Also in 2000, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion established the Institute for Judaism, Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity to "educate HUC-JIR students on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues to help them challenge and eliminate homophobia and heterosexism; and to learn tools to be able to transform the communities they encounter into ones that are inclusive and welcoming of LGBT Jews."[54] It is the first and only institute of its kind in the Jewish world.[55]

In 2003, the Union for Reform Judaism retroactively applied its pro-rights policy on gays and lesbians to the bisexual and transgender communities, issuing a resolution titled, "SUPPORT FOR THE INCLUSION AND ACCEPTANCE OF THE TRANSGENDER AND BISEXUAL COMMUNITIES."[56]

Also in 2003, Women of Reform Judaism issued a statement describing their support for human and civil rights and the struggles of the bisexual and transgender communities, and saying, "Women of Reform Judaism accordingly: Calls for civil rights protections from all forms of discrimination against bisexual and transgender individuals; Urges that such legislation allows transgender individuals to be seen under the law as the gender by which they identify; and Calls upon sisterhoods to hold informative programs about the transgender and bisexual communities."[57]

In 2014 CCAR joined a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage, which is America’s first faith-based challenge to same-sex marriage bans. [58] [59]

Reconstructionist Judaism[edit]

The Reconstructionist movement sees homosexuality and bisexuality as normal expressions of sexuality and welcomes gays, bisexuals, and lesbians into Reconstructionist communities to participate fully in every aspect of community life. Since 1985, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College has admitted openly gay, bisexual, and lesbian candidates to their rabbinical and cantorial programs. In 1993, a movement Commission issued: Homosexuality and Judaism: The Reconstructionist Position.[60] The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) encourages its members to officiate at same-sex marriages/commitment ceremonies, though the RRA does not require its members to officiate at them. In 2007, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association elected as president Rabbi Toba Spitzer, the first openly LGBT person chosen to head a rabbinical association in the United States. In 2013, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association elected as president Rabbi Jason Klein, the first openly gay man chosen to head a national rabbinical association of one of the major Jewish denominations in the United States.[61] Also in 2013, Rabbi Deborah Waxman was elected as the president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.[62][63] As the President, she is believed to be the first woman and first lesbian to lead a Jewish congregational union, and the first female rabbi and first lesbian to lead a Jewish seminary; the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College is both a congregational union and a seminary.[62][64]

Jewish Renewal[edit]

Jewish Renewal is a recent movement in Judaism which endeavors to reinvigorate modern Judaism with Kabbalistic, Hasidic, musical and meditative practices; it describes itself as "a worldwide, transdenominational movement grounded in Judaism’s prophetic and mystical traditions." [65] The Jewish Renewal movement ordains people of all sexual orientations as rabbis and cantors. In 2005, Eli Cohen became the first openly gay rabbi ordained by the Jewish Renewal Movement, followed by Chaya Gusfield and Rabbi Lori Klein in 2006, who became the two first openly lesbian rabbis ordained by the Jewish Renewal movement. In 2007, Jalda Rebling, born in Amsterdam and now living in Germany, became the first openly lesbian cantor ordained by the Jewish Renewal movement.[66] In 2011, the bisexual rights activist Debra Kolodny was ordained as a rabbi by the Jewish Renewal movement and hired as the rabbi for congregation P’nai Or of Portland.[67][68] The Statement of Principles of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal (and OHALAH and the Rabbinic Pastors Association) states in part, "We welcome and recognize the sanctity of every individual regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We recognize respectful and mutual expressions of adult human sexuality as potentially sacred expressions of love and therefore we strive to welcome a variety of constellations of intimate relationships and family forms including gay, lesbian, and heterosexual relationships as well as people choosing to be single." [69]

Humanistic Judaism[edit]

Humanistic Judaism is a movement in Judaism that offers a nontheistic alternative in contemporary Jewish life. In 2004 the Society for Humanistic Judaism issued a resolution supporting "the legal recognition of marriage and divorce between adults of the same sex," and affirming " the value of marriage between any two committed adults with the sense of obligations, responsibilities, and consequences thereof."[70] In 2010 they pledged to speak out against homophobic bullying.[71] The Association of Humanistic Rabbis has also issued a pro-LGBT statement titled "In Support of Diverse Sexualities and Gender Identities." [72] It was adopted in 2003 and issued in 2004.[72]

LGBT-affirmative activities[edit]

An egalitarian orthodox Pride minyan held in Tel Aviv on the second Shabat of Hanukkah.

Jewish LGBT rights advocates and sympathetic clergy have created various institutions within Jewish life to accommodate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parishioners. Beth Chayim Chadashim, established in 1972 in West Los Angeles, was the world's first explicitly-gay-and-lesbian-centered synagogue recognized by the Reform Jewish community, resulting in a slew of non-Orthodox congregations being established along similar lines, including Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City, Bet Mishpachah in Washington, D.C. and Congregation Or Chadash in Chicago. Beth Chayim Chadashim now focuses on the entire LGBT community, rather than just gays and lesbians.

LGBT-inclusive services and ceremonies specific to Jewish religious culture have also been created, ranging from LGBT-affirmative haggadot for Passover[73] to so-called "Stonewall Sederim".[74][75]

In October 2012 Rainbow Jews, an oral history project showcasing the lives of Jewish bisexual, lesbian, gay, and transgender people in the United Kingdom from the 1950s until the present, was launched.[76] It is the United Kingdom's first archive of Jewish bisexual, lesbian, gay, and transgender history.[77]

The ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives has, among other things, the Twice Blessed Collection, circa 1966-2000; this collection "consists of materials documenting the Jewish lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender experience, circa 1966-2000, collected by the Jewish Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Archives, founded and operated by Johnny Abush." [78]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Samuel J. Levine (1997–1998). "Capital Punishment in Jewish Law and its Application to the American Legal System: A Conceptual Overview". St. Mary's Law Journal 29: 1037–1051. 
  2. ^ Issurei Bi'ah 21:8–9
  3. ^ Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance, Chapter 2
  4. ^ Genesis Rabbah 26:5; Leviticus Rabbah 23:9
  5. ^ Chullin 92ab
  6. ^ http://www.jonahweb.org/cms/e/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=78&Itemid=42
  7. ^ http://www.jonahweb.org/sections.php?secId=128
  8. ^ "Judaism and the Modern Attitude to Homosexuality"
  9. ^ Rabbi Ordained by Yeshiva University Announces He is Gay. Israel Wire, May 18, 1999 21:01. israelwire.com
  10. ^ Dissembling Before G_d, editorial, Avi Shafran http://www.tremblingbeforeg-d.com/react/agudath.html
  11. ^ http://www.vjmovement.com/truth/537
  12. ^ a b Gay with perfect faith
  13. ^ Rabbis condemn anti-gay shooting
  14. ^ minute 00:39 in a radio interview with Razi Barkay here)
  15. ^ "Religious homosexuals seek acceptance". ynet. 10.02.08. 
  16. ^ Torah View on Homosexuality
  17. ^ Statement of Principles
  18. ^ "RCA: No Female Rabbis". Israel National News. 2010-04-27. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  19. ^ Atzat Nefesh. Retrieved April 6, 2006.
  20. ^ "Religious gays offered 'conversion therapy'". Ynetnews. 
  21. ^ JONAH'S Mission Statement. Retrieved April 6, 2007.
  22. ^ News from JONAH
  23. ^ Pathinfo.org Retrieved April 6, 2006
  24. ^ a b Jay Michaelson (2012-08-02). "Orthodox Rabbis Say Gay ‘Cure’ Therapy Doesn’t Work". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  25. ^ http://www.nj.com/jjournal-news/index.ssf/2014/06/hudson_judge_allows_gay_conver.html
  26. ^ Rapoport, Rabbi Chaim (2004). Judaism and Homosexuality: An Authentic Orthodox View. London; Portland, OR: Vallentine Mitchell. ISBN 0853034524. 
  27. ^ Kobi Nahshoni (January 1, 2013). "Top rabbi: Soften attitude towards gays". Ynet. 
  28. ^ Maayan Jaffe (January 27, 2014). "Orthodox and out of the closet". JNS. 
  29. ^ Eshel
  30. ^ Members.aol.com
  31. ^ Orthodykes.org
  32. ^ JQyouth.org
  33. ^ Bat-kol.org
  34. ^ HOD.org
  35. ^ "Orthodox gays in Israel find support in Web site". Reuters. February 14, 2008. 
  36. ^ http://www.buzzfeed.com/skarlan/guerilla-anti-conversion-campaign-launched-in-orthodox-jewis
  37. ^ "For LGBT Orthodox Jews, Growth of Social Media Creates a Safe Space Online". Tablet. June 26, 2013. 
  38. ^ Shmuley Boteach (May 14, 2013). "What If Government Recognized Only Civil Unions and Left Marriage to Religion?". Huffington Post. 
  39. ^ Zev Farber (May 22, 2013). "Obama's Advocacy of Gay Marriage: An Alternative Orthodox Response – by Rabbi Zev Farber". Morethodoxy. 
  40. ^ Shmuly Yanklowitz (December 19, 2013). "5 Reasons Being an Orthodox Rabbi Compelled Me to Support Gay Marriage". Huffington Post. 
  41. ^ Elliott N. Dorff, Daniel Nevins, and Avram Reisner. Homosexuality, Human Dignity, and Halakha. Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, Rabbinical Assembly, December 6, 2006
  42. ^ "Joel Roth, Homosexuality Revisited, Rabbinical Assembly, December 6, 2006" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-01-23. 
  43. ^ Ben Harris (2006-12-06). "Conflicting Conservative opinions expected to open the way for gays". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2006-12-07. 
  44. ^ Rabbi Joel Roth, "Op-Ed: Law committee in its gay ruling stepped outside halachic framework", JTS News, December 10, 2006
  45. ^ "Conservative Panel Votes To Permit Gay Rabbis", The Jewish Daily Forward", December 7, 2006
  46. ^ "Chancellor-elect Eisen's Letter to the Community," The Jewish Theological Seminary, 26 March 2007.
  47. ^ Conservative Jews approve gay wedding guidelines
  48. ^ Rabbi Joseph Prouser, "The Conservative Movement and Homosexuality: Settled Law in Unsettling Times"
  49. ^ "Overseas Seminaries Set To Reject Gay Ordination: Canadian Rabbis Mull Forming Separate Wing of Movement" The Jewish Daily Forward, December 15, 2006
  50. ^ "No gay ordinations in conservative seminar", Y-net News, March 28, 2007
  51. ^ Jewishjournal.com
  52. ^ MLjewish.org
  53. ^ CCARnet.org
  54. ^ http://huc.edu/ijso/
  55. ^ http://www.huc.edu/ijso/
  56. ^ "Support for the Inclusion and Acceptance of the Transgender and Bisexual Communities". 
  57. ^ http://www.wrj.org/Advocacy/ResolutionsStatements/Resolutions2003/2003TransgenderandBisexualRights.aspx
  58. ^ http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/06/03/4952335/rabbis-group-joins-nc-same-sex.html#.U5MxjShCySo
  59. ^ http://www.advocate.com/politics/religion/2014/06/06/rabbis-join-marriage-equality-fight
  60. ^ "Becoming a "Kehillah Mekabelet": The Struggles of Transformation" by Roberta Israeloff
  61. ^ http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/gay-man-chosen-to-lead-u-s-reconstructionist-rabbis-1.508883
  62. ^ a b http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/national-news/reconstructionists-pick-first-woman-lesbian-denominational-leader
  63. ^ http://forward.com/articles/185252/trailblazing-reconstructionist-deborah-waxman-reli/?p=all
  64. ^ http://www.rrc.edu/sites/default/files/ORPHAN_PDFs/RRC_WaxmanPresidentElect-ForPress3.pdf?hero=1615
  65. ^ About Jewish Renewal
  66. ^ Axelrod, Toby (1999-11-30). "New Renewal cantor looks ahead". JTA. Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  67. ^ http://www.jewishreview.org/special/Pnai-Or-hires-new-rabbi
  68. ^ http://www.lgbtran.org/Profile.aspx?ID=48
  69. ^ http://ohalah.org/about-us/principles/
  70. ^ http://www.shj.org/MarriageEquality.htm
  71. ^ http://www.shj.org/Homophobic%20Bullying.html
  72. ^ a b http://www.humanisticrabbis.org/sexualities-identities/
  73. ^ "GLBT Passover Haggadah". JQ International. 
  74. ^ Stonewall Seder
  75. ^ Nick Street. "An old story finds new life in LGBT haggadah". Jewish Journal. 
  76. ^ http://www.rainbowjews.com/about-us/
  77. ^ http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-features/.premium-1.573723
  78. ^ http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt6z09s281/?query=jewish+GLBT

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]