Sunday, December 27, 2009

Letters/Reactions

So. Last week was busy and intense and a bit overwhelming for the Orthodox Gay community. and for me.
-The night of the event and the morning after a letter was being posted signed by five or six Roshei Yeshiva, but very unofficial looking. On Friday Morning, an official letter came out from the President of YU and the Menahel of the Yeshiva- R' Reiss.

The Rabbi's reaction/letter did not have the right to go up. Every sign on campus is approved by administration, and these weren't approved by anyone. Even if signed by the Rabbis, they didn't have the right to make a million copies and hang them up. This letter said homosexuality is wrong (duh) and anyone 'struggling' should be dealt with in the appropriate matter, in a discreet and sensitive manner. It just took away from the event attended by over 600 people with 200 turned away at the door. Anyone that may have felt a sense of comfort and security from the support shown that night- this letter reiterated to all those gay Yeshiva Program students (the ones that learn till 3)- YES THEY DO EXIST- that their Rabbis will not discuss this publicly and they still need to feel ashamed of their emotions and at discomfort with their own tendencies.

The second letter was more sensitive- but elaborated that some 'could' have taken the wrong idea away from the event, that homosexuality is Halachikally okay. And it's not- fine, but I ask Pres Joel and Rabbi Reiss, then why did you allow it in the first place? and further, why was Rabbi Blau- the Mashgiach Ruchani of YU- the MODERATOR. HE was there to ensure there was no discussion of Halacha! And there wasn't. Also it discussed that the issue must be dealt with with sensitivity in the broader community- BUT IT NEEDS TO BE DEALT WITH HERE, IN THE YU COMMUNITY! It made me feel like my own school (administration) didn't want me. And it hurt.

I know YU needs to make Halacha clear and worry about donors and alumni, but I think they are doing it in an insensitive manner, and allowing their PR to overshadow the mental health and well being of many of their students.

53 comments:

  1. With many, even those in the vast spectrum of frumkeit, might makes right. It might be sad, but it is something that is true. Because they get a sense that there are more alumni, donors, and members of the broad Orthodox world that jump to conclusions that are insane, allowing their own ignorant and hateful bias to trump what is truly best for klal Yisroel as a whole than there are potential donors and alumni who are gay, they go with the first (larger) group.

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  2. the videos and unofficial transcript were heart rendering and no matter what may come of it, the event was a resounding success and the FRUM, not the jewish but the frum world. the brooklyn community and all frum communities modern, ultra or any type of orthodox have realized and now know, but still won;t accept that we are here amongst in the community and the yeshivos!

    :'''''''''''(

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  3. Maybe you're expecting too much, Don Quixote.

    You set a goal that aims too high. Orthodox Judaism is about as fundamentalist as the Catholic church. The laity wants abortions, the priesthood was gay. The Church, le-havdil, hasn't changed. Big institutions only change from within. In this case, it's the rule of law, Torah, vs. a minority's feelings. How can you expect revolution overnight when the masses aren't enlightened?

    Getting YU to validate lesbianism, sadomasochism, fetishism etc. you must know is simply unrealistic. The Roshei Yeshiva relate to Lakewood and Boro Park, not the Five Towns and Teaneck.

    Nevertheless, you deserve credit for promoting toleration.

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  4. Ely YOU ARE 100% right..... YU is out to cover their own ass and make sure that they dont get a PR problem at the great expense of being completely insensitive to the needs of their current students. All one student needs to do is bring this to press and tell them how the actions of YU is creating for them a discriminatory environment and one that has given them suicidal tendencies.

    I can see how the event can be misconstrued to seem like an acceptance of homosexuality in a halachic sense, HOWEVER I strongly feel that most of the attendees and those who knew of all the details of the event and were not ignorant enough to judge without all the information, knew that it was not a halachic conversation or anything trying to convey the message that it is halachically ok, rather a conversation to help people be more sensitive to the struggles and exclusion that Jewish gay men face everyday of their difficult lives.

    I think the step that P Dick Joel and RR need to take is a movement to getting people to be accepting of those with homosexual tendencies and/or who are gay. They should at the very least create an environment where guys can feel comfortable showing who they really are and not feel like they will be stoned, excommunicated/shunned from the community where they are going to be for 3/4 years (the 3-4 most formative, important and significant) years of their adult lives. At other colleges people are allowed the freedom and space to explore and discover who they really are, YU suffocates all who pass through their doors who are not of the YP, learning first secular second, mindset.

    YU needs to face that they are no longer in the 1950s when their systems worked perfectly for the YP student body that they had. They need to open their eyes and realize that there are other programs and variety of colors on their campus, not just black and white. They need to see that there are those who dont wear kippot, or even worse that i am not sure they completely are aware of, those who walk in with kippah and tzizit and walk out with nothing. They have been so suffocated at YU that they "throw away" all they Judaism that they have. They need to start catering and respecting all of us not just their zebra YP students who are close minded and ignorant at times, something that is only supported and concertized their leader.... R Reiss.

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  5. This is an extremely difficult issue because the lines between the emotional and rational are so intertwined. I don't think anyone is saying (including the Roshei Yeshiva) that this isn't issue and that this shouldn't be dealt with. No one is burying their head in the sand. I would even assume that the Roshei Yeshiva would even agree for a public event to address the issue. The problem is what type of public event.

    The issue with this (in my mind), is along with saying homosexuals aren't bad people (which is true, and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong), the panel (whether explicitly or not) is sending the message homosexuality isn't a bad thing. That is the wrong message. Homosexuality is bad. The ta'avah is bad. Just because it's beyond a persons control doesn't make it ok. It's not okay for a person to be a kleptomaniac EVEN IF HE DOESN'T STEAL! It's something he has to work on, not make peace with. It's a lifelong struggle, not something that could be rationalized away "well G-d made me this way."

    This event brought people to tears. Crying over the incredible nisyonos that homosexuals have to go through, but the event was also sending the message that it's not a nisyaon. It's not bad (as long as you don't act on it). Homosexuality is as much of a legitimate identity as heterosexuality. This last message is what the Roshei Yeshiva are fighting against.

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  6. Anonymous 12:40, what has led anyone to believe that someone with homosexual desires will be stoned or shunned? Has this blogger been stoned or shunned? If he has, I haven't heard of it (except for the insensitive MINORITY who did stupid stuff like writing stuff on his signs).

    And this is coming from a YP guy.

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  7. you two are on the same side! Anon 12:40 is jst saying we should be in a community where we feel like we won't be stoned. not that that has actaully happened, but just to create a safer environment.

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  8. FG:

    Anon 12:40 clearly implies that he feels that President Joel's and Rav Reiss' message somehow encourages an environment where people WOULD be stoned and shunned, or, at the very least, implies that the environment as it is now is one in which people would be stoned and shunned. My point is, you two are decrying the message because you think it runs counter to the necessary sensitivities, but seem to ignore the fact that it's possible to be sensitive about the travails people are going through without having to resort to extremely public events such as this one.

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  9. Another Orthodox StrugglerDecember 27, 2009 at 7:07 PM

    Anon 12:48:
    I couldn't have said it better. This mentality of the "out" gay jews will never agree with you though. There are alot of struggling jews out there - myself included - who look at this drama in YU thru the exact same glasses as you.

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  10. Honestly, I'm not surprised this happened, but it still feel like two steps back for one step forward. But all those people did come and the administration can't stop that feeling of hope.

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  11. Anon 1:15-

    I have not been stoned or shunned... but i would NEVER ever be able to come out in a community like the one YU is right now, especially after seeing from the sidelines and from a distance the struggles and pain that Ely goes through because of some of the ridiculous intolerance and ignorance that he has to face on this campus, i would feel like i would be shunned or even get comments about being stoned. (People have said them directly to me about the homosexual population as a whole.... :(

    Anon 1:36 you are wrong. I feel like Ely would agree with me when i say that there seems to be no other way to have people be sensitive to the struggles and the difficulties that the Jewish homosexual population goes through, other than to have public events... and for the record the event was not anticipated or planned to be so big. Anon 1:36 i dont know if you are someone who is hetero or homo, it doesn't really matter, the truth is most people cannot be sensitive about something until they hear about it. I fail to see another way through which people can be more sensitive to these struggles and challenges.

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  12. Dear Another Frum Gay Orthodox Jew,

    This past weeks events were truly amazing. From the announcement of the forum, to the Rabbi's condemnation, to the incredible turnout and show of support, to the moving and powerful speeches and finally Richard Joel's Letter to cap it all off. A roller coaster ride to say the least.

    When I attended YU there was a rumor of a secret under ground gay club. The topic was very taboo and no one was really sure if it even existed. I understand that the Tolerance Club is not exclusively a gay rights club, but the fact that such a club exists today in Yeshiva University is a major step in the right direction. Those responsible for founding the club should be proud of themselves for stepping up to the plate and making a difference.

    But here is what I don't get. Why do you want to be part of a group of people who are not open to the way you want to live your life? The Orthodox Rabbis, Richard Joel and many others have made it clear that "The Torah's mitzvos and judgments are eternally true and binding. Homosexual activity constitutes an abomination. As such, publicizing or seeking legitimization even for the homosexual orientation one feels, runs contrary to Torah." This is something that they are just never going to let go of... It's in the book and it is their right to uphold that law just as it is your right to live your life they way you want to.

    The Conservative and Reform communities would accept you with open arms. You can still follow the mitzvos the same way you are. You can put on teffilin, keep shabbos, go to shul contribute in all aspects of davening, be an aiyd at a wedding and be looked at as just a regular guy in shul. I'm sure there are orthodox gay shuls around too.

    The fact is that you are trying to fight the written word of the book.

    Why do you want to be part of a group of people who are not willing to accept you for who you are?

    Good luck on your quest!

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  13. Maybe because Ely believes the written word of The Book is the absolute truth, and that he's not fighting against it but with it. Maybe turning a blind eye to what's true will be a temporary solution, but will not solve anything in the long run. It's like when one's house is on fire, but thinking about the fire is scary, so you ignore it until it's too late. I believe very much in the truth, as hard as it is to swallow sometimes, but the truth is the truth is the truth. I wish Ely much hatzlachah on his fight towards emes and shleimus, and don't be blinded by rationalizations and quick fixes when the big picture is all that much more important.

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  14. There are no gay Orthodox shuls. That's silly. Do you know of any Orthodox shuls who serve pork chops at kiddush?

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  15. ooo Let's all decide Ely's future for him!

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  16. Who is turning a blind eye? I'm not sure I understand the goals of the forum?

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  17. Dear Quest,

    Thank you for reminding the world of the relevance of Reform and egalitarian Conservative Judaism.

    Homosexual desires are not abnormal; they exist in nature. The sphyncter is a pleasure zone. The desire is as normal as the human animal, what drives sex. Judaism raises the ante above aliyos and kiddush luncheons. Are a flaming gay personna, the color, indigo, displays of camp (musical theater, no surprises there!) accurate expressions of true spirit? If so, the world needs more gay institutions, and you will have played a part in creating a new movement and denomination, Gay Judaism until Mashiach arrives.

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  18. seriously anon 9 pm, u think gays dont exist in orthodox shuls? and are you really comparing it to serving pork chops at a kiddush? then why are you even writing on this blog, just to be provocative?

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  19. He wasn't saying there are no gays IN orthodox shuls, he was saying there are no gay orthodox shuls. Just like there are no orthodox shuls that promote eating non Kosher or violationg Shabbos, there are no shuls that promote homosexuality (though some of its members may be homosexual). There are officially gay conservatve and reform shuls that promote (or at least deny the violation of) homosexuality.

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  20. Assuming frum gays in long term relationships, formerly acting as roomates, are now exiting the closet, do you/they advocate supporting legislation sanctifying gay marriage?

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  21. Your facebook status today is "if ppl can't find a solution, they'd rather not discuss the problem."

    Just because you don't like their answer doesn't mean that they can't find a solution. "They" have made it clear. Their solution is not to accept your way of life.

    Just because you had people get up and speak about their hardships and their own internal struggles doesn't mean that "they" have to accept you.

    The people who support you always will and the people who want nothing to do with you will continue to denounce your actions.

    What do you want the leaders of the Modern Orthodox/ Orthodox community to say? They have to hold on to the laws.

    Thank god you were given this "nisayon" (as the idiots are calling it these days). Hopefully now you can see through all the bullshit and hypocrisy that comes with organized religion.

    You are always welcome in my home, you are not evil, you are great.

    Continue to preach and teach tolerance but you can't ask them to change their laws.

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  22. It made me feel like my own school (administration) didn't want me.

    Of course they don't want you. I understand that's hurtful, and I sympathize, but you deserve a community who does want you.

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  23. The Atheists want you.

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  24. Anon 5:19, thank you for correctly defending my point against those who clearly don't know English so good and wanna learn how to do other stuff good too.

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  25. What'd you think of R' Twersky's and R' Reiss's remarks?

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  26. The shevil ha-zahav requires balance. It's one thing to trumpet kedoshim tihyu for an ideal nation and to live life b'shiflus adam.

    Does saving frum gay Jews from leaving Yahadut entirely justify "hora'at sha'ah, justifying recognition of issurei karet?" Most Halachak authorities would probably agree, no. Any hiddushim there?

    Those who are already out, what are they supposed to do? Run away? Disappear? Do teshuvah b'rabim? Declare: I used to be out and proud; now, kick me?

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  27. YU is a yeshiva first a university second (note the name, regardless of what you think of the Yeshiva aspect of YU it will never be just a university, and thus everything that goes on under the rubric of YU needs to conform to the standards of YU), the panel should have ( and i dont know if they did or did not) discussed having such an event with the Roshei Yeshiva first before holding such a public event, just because r blau was the moderator does not mean the roshei yeshiva as a whole agreed to have such a public display of such a sensitive issue. if the frum gay community truly wanted to end the silence over the struggles they face, i imagine having the roshei yeshiva present shiurim on the issue in shiur etc first and then hold the panel afterward with the support of the yeshiva, then none of the controversy that has occurred over the last few days would have happened.

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  28. The Roshei Yeshiva would never have agreed to give such a shiur. They're not proactive, but retro. They respond, but like the gedoylim everywhere aren't really in control. How much do they really care?

    The controversy, the world will say, does say, did say, is saying, is a chillul Hashem. Sorry if that hurts, but it's the truth. In this, the Rashei Yeshiva aren't/weren't wrong. There's no going back. The damage is done. A petition with signatures won't impress anyone in Flatbush, Boro Park, or Lakewood. Straight, Orthodox alumni in Great Neck aren't saying, let's give more to aid the students' struggle.

    YU already suffers from a bad reputation as tolerating promiscuity. RIETS is an affiliate, not the university. The author of this blog means well, but now we all share the blame and the pain.

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  29. The Roshei Yeshiva pressured the Shiur. The administration did not want it to happen, R' Twersky insisted on giving the lecture.
    I really don't see how the controversy is a Chillul Hashem.
    And do me a favor, when you comment on MY blog- don't tell me I'm causing pain. And dont you DARE tell me you share my pain. You cannot even begin to imagine my pain.

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  30. I apologize if my comments hurt you. Too many have done that to you already.

    I'm sincerely sorry.

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  31. One of my favorite quotes from another person who suffered for his faith, Thomas Latimer.

    Be of good cheer and play the Man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England that shall never be put out!

    Take comfort because you are a good person and things will get better. Somehow, good does have a habit of winning against evil.

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  32. I am trying to formulate this with as much sensitivty as I possibly can, though I am finding difficulty. If I sound harsh, please forgive me, I mean this with the utmost respect and admiration of someone fighting a battle that I cannot possibly relate to.

    If a person is ill, and doesn't know what to do, he goes to an expert, a doctor and asks him what to do. If a person has legal issues, and doesn't know what to do, he goes to an expert, a lawyer, and asks him what to do. If a person has a halachic issue or a hashkafic issue, he goes to an expert, a knowlegebale Rav, and asks him what to do.

    You had an idea for an event to promote tolerance, and you wanted to do it in a halachic and hashkafic acceptable fashion. The Roshei Yeshiva are coming out and saying it was the exact opposite, it was a chilul Hashem. You may be uncomfortable with that, maybe even feel a little guilty, but under what authority can you say that "you don't see why it was a chilul Hashem?" If a person goes to a doctor and the doctor say he has cancer, and the patient says "but I don't see the tumor" and leaves, you would react with shock. So as difficult as the reality is that the event was not as haskafically acceptable as you thought, that this may not be what Hashem wanted, how could you honestly argue with an expert? Under what authority?

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  33. The Rambam considers Jews merely knowing of a devar aveira done by other Jews a chillul Hashem. But, to be fair to the intelligent people whose pain we cannot know, who can speak to these issues more pointedly than any guest, as was made clear, the purpose of the forum wasn't to justify aveiros, but acknowledgement of reality, and an attempt to battle homophobia.

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  34. To December 29, 2009 5:59PM
    "this may not be what Hashem wanted?" You know what God wants? Please.

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  35. quest

    that's exactly my point. It's hard to know what G-d wants. I don't. When I am unsure, I go to people who know more Torah than me. Who know more of G-d's word than I do. The Roshei Yeshiva know more about what G-d wants than any student in YU. Can they be wrong? Can they make mistakes? of course! Everyone makes mistakes, including the Roshei Yeshiva. But if a Rosh Yeshiva says this is not what G-d wants, and I say it is what G-d wants, I'm gonna go with the odds and say the Rosh Yeshiva probably has a more accurate assessment than I do or you do.

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  36. They are not only concerned about what G-d wants. PR, public image, concerns them as much or more.

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  37. First of all, I have a much higher regard for the Roshei Yeshiva than that, and those who argue are trying to rationalize the fact that their views don't sit well with them additionally. Additionally, YU has no positive image at all in the yeshivish velt, and nothing they can do will fix that. They just alieneted the left wing. If they were worried about pr, this was the absolute worst thing they could do.

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  38. Additionally, if you heard the Rebbeim speak, the passion in their voice, it was truly coming from their hearts. This was not a facade, this was not for PR. They were being absolutely genuine.

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  39. The PR was the letter from the PRESIDENT. the Roshei Yeshiva, and I have discussed this with over 5 administrators at YU are talking just from their own views. Not from or for the Yeshiva.

    And anon 5:59, "what right do i have to say that it's not a chilul hashem?" How about the right that this is MY blog? How about the right that I have as an INDIVIDUAL to have my own thoughts and opinions, and state them? I respect their opinions but I am entitled to my own and to queston theirs.

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  40. I love Ely Winkler ;)

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  41. Yet another fum gay jewDecember 30, 2009 at 2:02 AM

    At first I thought that this event was a watershed, that really demonstrated the support for the struggle that frum gays were enduring. In retrospect now, I think that it may have been a mistake. The people that attended were already supporters of those in struggle and didnt need the event to convince them. Those whose minds should've been affected, didnt bother to attend. But it did galvanize the opposition. It promoted hate speech in the Beit Medrash and who knows how many students the Roshei Yeshiva have now affected with such intolerance.
    I find it curiously disenheartening that the Roshei Yeshiva invoked chilul hashem and a pgam on the keshuda of the yeshiva for publicly discussing sex, yet no sex was discussed at the event. My days learning in the yeshiva about bi'ya explicitly in the gemara and how many time a man is chayav for penetrating himself goes way beyond any unsniut talk of sexuality that may have occurred at the event. The dishonesty on display with such invocations is utterly heart-rending.
    In a brisker institution that will argue away the most minute points of halacha to just paint homosexuality and homosexual relationships with broad brush strokes is yet another example of the Roshei Yeshiva's disingenuous prejudice. Do all "homosexual acts" fall under the rubric of mischav zachar? What exactly is a "homosexual relationship?" If they were truly interested in maintaining the dignity and kedusha of the yeshiva and of Torah, such open and honestly exploratory conversations would be welcomed, not shunned.

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  42. This controversy has grown to humongous proportions. We all have to take a step back. This is what I think the basic arguments are. The Roshei Yeshivah are saying that the event was inappropriate because it sent the message (whether implicitly or explicitly) that we are legitimizing an inappropriate identity. It sent a message that we are legitimizing the identification of a person who has a homosexual orientation as a "gay jew". The tolerance club is either arguing that the event did not do that, or that even if the event did that, the positives outweighed the negatives, or that the legitimization is a wonderful thing.

    everyone agrees that homosexuality is an issue at yu, and that the issue needs to be addressed. Everyone agrees that we need compassion, sympathy, and due tolerance. No one is preaching bigotry, hate, and intolerance.

    We have to reach a compromise. We need representatives of the tolerance club to meet with R' Reiss, and talk and talk and talk until something can be worked, that will fix as much of the damage that can possibly be fixed, and to promote all the positive ideals that need to be promoted in an appropriate, halachick, and haskafick fashion. If we keep on fighting and pointing fingers this will lead to a huge schism between the right and left of the modern (or centrist or whatever you wanna call it) orthodox world that will be good for no one.

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  43. Rav Twersky, speaking for kavod shemaya, said that what is appropriate is for gay Jews to talk to their Rov. How many gay Jews will feel comfortable talking to him?

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  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  45. Anon 11:02:

    Ayein Pesachim daf 3, and try not to question roshei yeshiva until you know what you're talking about.

    And "hate speech"? Please.

    [I made a mistake with the marei makom, so I re-posted.]

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  46. To the author -

    I dont know how closely you follow the orthodox jewish media but its very realistic to say that a huge chillul Hashem was caused in the orthodox community when word got out that YU hosted a panel on homosexulaity in the orthodox world. As Rav Twersky so eloquently put it, regardless of the greatest intentions the organizers and those involved might have had, the reality remains that the larger orthodox world took it to mean that YESHIVA university supported the event and possibly the homosexual lifestyle. Given this fact which can be seen on various websites and comments found there (regardless if bigoted or not, these types of events only stoke the flames)something had to be done in order to send a very strong message that the institution does not support the event that took place and that issues like these should be dealt with in a different fashion.

    and yes... it seems as the yeshiva has turned its back on you because of public relations pressure, but the reality is that no matter the positive that came out of the panel event, it could have been done differently with the guidance of the roshei yeshiva and had a very similar if not the same affect.

    and if you claim it wouldnt... then either people came to be voyeuristic, for the hock, or just dont care about the torah aspect of this issue which doesnt belong on campus when issues like these are discussed.

    keep blogging... as you see your doing a fantastic job and giving people a small glimpse into your very real struggle!

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  47. Again I agree with Jewish Atheist - you are correct, the Yeshiva probably indeed does NOT want you or any other "troublemakers." I really feel for you, it is incredibly hard to feel like you want to belong to the group but that at the same time you will always be outside it, and in this case for a reason that is beyond your control. But the facts are the facts - the torah does prohibit gay sex (though I never saw any prohibition of a gay relationship without that...) and so the Yeshiva for some reason will continue to see (incorrectly) any homosexuality as promoting something that the torah expressly forbids...Such a shame that this has to be this way...It still amazes me that people really believe this stuff...Things like homosexuality being abnormal or pereverse...But the sad truth is that the majority orthodox opinion is unlikely to change. Hence you are still faced with the same decision that you raised a few posts ago: To live contrary to the demands of a medeival book, or to give in and go along with it and hope for the best...I don't envy you..

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  48. Don't be so discouraging. It doesn't have to be all or nothing and it isn't.

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  49. It seems as though Carmela and YU have the same feelings:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyRPmMi1Mio

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  50. Point by point, critique, response and rebuttal of Rav Twersky's speech. (by one of the YU panel members)

    go to link:

    http://www.facebook.com/notes/zac-mordechai-levovitz/point-by-point-critique-response-and-rebuttal-of-rav-twerskys-speech-by-one-of-t/251912628922

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  51. With that epic 50th comment, I declare this Blog conversation over. and Mordechai- AMAZING.

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  52. Some people, believe it or not, don't have Facebook...

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  53. This event is definitely something that YU Administration should be concerned about. It creates awareness. It tells the frum world all over: "There are gay students in YU and we're tolerant and open to it."

    I truly believe that any frum Jew- Modern or yeshivish- will not hesitate to send their children to this institution because of its' openness and acceptance to the gay community.

    I think that it was very appropriate to have this event. I have friends in the community whom are gay and this event truly helped me understand the struggle that they have to go through day in and day out.

    Ely, I don't get why you're so annoyed at the administration/ authorities for their reaction. They are trying to keep a positive name for themselves in the frum community. They don't want to lose their clientele. Why's that something that's so difficult for you to understand? It's called "damage control" and as a respectable institution YU must constantly maintain their good name and Orthodox reputation.

    Look at Chovevei Torah. They are so open-minded and liberal that the chareidi wold opened up against them labeling them "NOT Orthodox" and trashing Rabbi Avi Weiss for his open-mindedness and hugging the kallah's mother under the chuppah, etc. YU I believe is scared of losing it's frum name. That's all.

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It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews