Wednesday, December 7, 2011

News & Community Updates

Orthodox Ordained Rabbi, who is gay, performs Orthodox ceremony for two men:

Rabbi’s respond this past week:

-As my readers know, I do not believe that Orthodoxy can have a gay marriage. There are no Halachic guidelines for it set by the Rabbis who codified Jewish law so many years ago. That being said, I respect R’ Greenberg and his right to perform a gay marriage in Orthodox tradition. I am frustrated that these 100 Rabbis felt the need to sign a document saying that the marriage was not Orthodox. Anyone within the community has the right to choose for themselves how they feel about the union and ceremony. A signed article won’t change the mind of those that perceive this wedding as Orthodox.
Rabbi’s attempt to denounce homosexuality in the Orthodox community, saying the only option is for Teshuva and change. No mental health sources were cited, only biblical.

Orthodox mental health conference, JQ Youth represented, JONAH declines invitation:

JONAH director Arthur Goldberg acknowledges therapy conducted (without license) asking patients to take their clothes off.
- I am proud that JQ Youth, an organization I am very involved with (link has been in the sidebar for about a year), had representatives of being Orthodox and gay at this conference. Although for technical reasons it wasn’t the organization that was represented, it’s important that the community was represented.

- I have written many times about reparative therapy. I respect and admire individuals who choose to go through this process of changing their sexuality. I also respect some of the therapy and the process, which can have some positive effects. However, I do not respect “naked” therapy. I do not respect working on such an important issue with a “life coach” (non-licensed therapist). I think this can be very damaging. And while I acknowledge that sexuality is fluid and the possibility of a shift from those with a tendency of homosexuality to a tendency of heterosexuality, I know that for most individuals (like myself) who have strong homosexual feelings, the shift is not possible, and can cause severe mental health problems as numerous studies have reported. 

In 2009, the American Psychological Association (APA) urged therapists not to support reparative therapy, or, more specifically, not claim that when a person comes to them that their sexuality can and will be changed. I found this quote particularly important- “The religious psychotherapists have to open up their eyes to the potential positive aspects of being gay or lesbian. Secular therapists have to recognize that some people will choose their faith over their sexuality.”


  1. I still don't understand how you can support Gay marriage if G-d doesn't support Gay marriage. If G-d supported Gay marriage, then it would exist. Stop picking and choosing which issues you agree with G-d and which issues you don't. If you admit that G-d is perfect and infallible, then you cannot support Gay marriage. If you do not admit that G-d is perfect and infallible, then don't call yourself a practicing Orthodox Jew.

  2. When I say Gay marriage doesn't exist I mean it is not recognized by the Torah and Halachah.

  3. I don't know how, after reading your blog all this time, I didn't have a clue that you didn't believe in Jewish orthodox gay marriage. I guess it just didn't register. But I personally have always had trouble meshing the two concepts of orthodox marriage and gay marriage together in my mind, and I've always been frustrated by my lack of a solution to the issue. Good to know I'm not the only one who doesn't believe in it. (Although I do have the utmost respect for those who do.)

  4. Anon 12:37- DId you not even read the post?? "As my readers know, I do not believe that Orthodoxy can have a gay marriage. There are no Halachic guidelines for it set by the Rabbis who codified Jewish law so many years ago." what part of that says I support Orthodox gay marriage?

  5. So when you do not believe in Orthodox gay marriage, do you not believe that it is right, or do you not believe it can exist? Because if it is the former, then I have a hard time understanding how you can respect a "gay Rabbi" for doing something that is not right.

  6. Gay marriage in general. Even secular gay marriage (definitely for Jews- even for Goyim). Your attitude seems to be "I know we technically can't have Orthodox Gay marriage, but if two male Jews want to have a secular Gay marriage, then more power to them." How can you support Gay marriage when G-d doesn't? Saying things like "That being said, I respect R’ Greenberg and his right to perform a gay marriage in Orthodox tradition. I am frustrated that these 100 Rabbis felt the need to sign a document saying that the marriage was not Orthodox" is antithetical to Torah. If G-d wanted people to have the option of Gay marriage, He would have created it in the halachic sense. The fact that Gay marriage doesn't exist proves that G-d doesn't want it to exist anywhere (in the same way G-d would not support a secular marriage between a mother and son).

  7. Note: anon 2:12 is the same as anon 12:37

  8. Anonymous, isn't part of being a Torah and G-d loving Jew to ask questions and be frustrated? I think "antiethical" is a little unfair. G-d gives us the right to free will and the right to seek answers in our own ways. If we weren't allowed to be a little uncomfortable or a little unsettled with the words of our Rabbis and, in turn, the words of G-d, what kind of dialogue would that lead to amongst Jews?
    And also just a purely factual response to your comment,"The fact that Gay marriage doesn't exist proves that G-d doesn't want it to exist anywhere," same-sex marriage is legal in the following countries: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, and Sweden. Let's also not forget the six states where it is legal in the United States (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont). Maybe G-d wants in to exist somewhere :-) but who are we to decide on G-d's wants and needs, anyway?
    I hope that G-d give you the gift of open-mindedness and acceptance of your fellow Jews, struggling with the nitty-gritty of everyday Judaism like the rest of us.

  9. LM- there has to be a balance between open mindedness and rationalism. Assuming G-d is perfect, G-d gave us the Torah, and that the Torah includes both Shebichsav and Beal Peh (which was transmitted to us through Chazal), then we have countless sources that G-d does not apporve of Gay marriage. From the fact that Gay sex is forbidden to the Chazal that says that one of the reasons for the flood was because they legalized gay marriage, the most rational conclusion is that G-d disapproves of Gay marriage. Open mindedness does not mean we ignore the rational because it is uncomfortbale for us to accept it.
    The fact that a person can distort the words of the Torah and Chazal in order to support gay marriage is in fact closed minded. You want gay marriage to be accepted, nothing will convince you otherwise, and therefore you ignore any proof that contradicts you. This is clearly closed-mindedness. I, on the other hand, have no reason to reject or accept Gay marriage. I am open minded. My open mindedness allows me to look at the Torah without bias, which clearly is against Gay marriage, and come to my conclusion based on fact and not opinion or emotion.
    I struggle with the nitty-gritty of everyday Judaism as much as anyone else, but that doesn't give me or anyone else the right to redefine what G-d wants to lessen this struggle. I accept the struggle, I don't accept those who try and lessen the struggle by legalizing the prohibition, or convincing themselves that it isn't wrong.

    Anon 12:37/2:12

  10. Hi Anonymous
    It is impressive that you have such a direct connection to what G-d wants, and that you are so certain of what G-d would and would not support.

    I would like to firstly suggest that Judaism celebrates a humility that has no room for the kind of assumptions you are making. If your claim is that anything that is in Halacha is G-ds direct will, then let me raise a simple example that might at least turn your thoughts a different way, even if you don't end up budging an inch.

    It says quite clearly in Leviticus that Jewish men may not shave the hair on their face. You may not trim the edges of your beard. That is G-ds will. But when it became socially necessary to find a way around it, Halcha, the root of which means to walk or go or change, adapted. The solution sounds like something that the class clown would say - since using a blade on your face is not allowed, let's use an electric shaver because it has *more* than one blade. And that is now perfectly acceptable among all mainstream Orthodox Jews. So what part of that is G-d's will? The changing? Or are we going against G-d's will? Does this render G-d as imperfect? (I hope you don't have an answer to the imperfect question. Humans probably shouldn't take onto themselves the quantification and assessment of G-d's perfection)

    Ely was not saying that he thinks that gay marriages are legitimate in the eyes of Halacha. He was saying, among other things, that the reaction of these rabbis was unnecessary and perhaps even a telltale sign. Gathering 100 signatures, sending out press releases, getting as much attention as they possibly could, just because of one rabbi who did one thing. Every day, ordained Orthodox Rabbis do terrible things - bad dealings with money, taking advantage of women or kids who trust them, dirty political tactics, or even Lashon Hara or not keeping Niddah. Or, you know, selling human body parts.

    In none of the above cases, even when those rabbis were caught, called out publicly and had clearly done those these deeds (most are not caught), was there such a communal gathering of signatures or a media-based condemnation of their actions from other Rabbis. Instead those offending rabbis are allowed to continue to pollute Judaism for those they come into contact with. This reaction to Rabbi Greenberg's act of performing a marriage shows fear - fear of change, fear of no longer being able to hide the fact that there are orthodox gay jews, and fear of the world perceiving Orthodoxy as flexible and accepting (!). Instead of taking the time to reflect upon Halacha's history of adaptation and reaction, and the Torah's constant demands to accept those different from us, these rabbis chose the most aggressive and negative reaction they could come up with. G-d's will? None of us, not even Anonymous, can know.

    Eli Kaplan Wildmann

  11. Anon:

    One thing I have found to be the truth in frum dialogue is that there seems to be a very SLOW advance of logic over ignorant denial. Twenty years ago, there was no such phenomenon as "off the derech." It didn't exist. The overwhelming evidence that it DID exist fazed no-one. Finally, the frum world had to acknowledge it for the simple reason that it was too prevalent to be ignored.

    One is not ALLOWED to violate Shabbas, but suddenly there were yeshivos springing up to absorb the many lost young Jews who did. It wasn't condoned, nor was it celebrated, but it was, finally, acknowledged.

    Premarital sex used to likewise "never happen" amongst frum Jews...until there were simply too many unexplained pregnancies of girls too naive to understand where babies come from and too many hushed-up shotgun weddings to explain away. Suddenly, rabbis sprung out of the woodwork to advocate some form of sex-ed and to propose that single girls be permitted to use the mikvah so that at least SOME of the aveira could be mitigated.

    Finally, nowadays, we have gay Jews. They face a challenge far more difficult than discomfort with religious life or a towering libido. They face a future of loneliness and ostracization, surrounded by the "normal" Jews who aren't "messed up."

    What Ely is doing is respecting the MOTIVATION of the rabbi who wanted to create a moment of happiness for two gay Jews who would have never experienced it otherwise. He did not write a kesuba, nor did he declare gay penetration permissible. What he DID do is throw the issue of a large demographic of forgotten Jews into an uncomfortable spotlight. The rest of the frum world will no doubt line up to condemn and denounce, but one would hope they no longer IGNORE.

    One would hope they'll finally pay attention.

  12. Eli-

    I love it when people sarcastically remark “it’s amazing that you are so sure what G-d wants” to discredit the truth. I am not a prophet. I only know what G-d wants based on what he tells us in His Torah. I know that G-d wants me to respect my parents because that’s what it says in His Torah. I know that G-d wants me to keep Kosher because that’s what it says in His Torah. I know that G-d is against murder because that’s what it says in His Torah. I also know that G-d is against homosexuality (sex and marriage) because that’s what it says in his Torah. Granted, there are some times where G-d’s will is ambiguous which leads to machlokes but this is not one of those times. This is as clear as the fact that G-d is against bestiality and incense (which is also said in His Torah).

    With regard to the issue about shaving, one has to understand that G-d gave us two Torahs: the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. There are some cases where the Written Torah seems to say one thing and the Oral Torah clarifies what is meant. Shaving is one example. Chazal did not change what G-d said in the Written Torah, they were explaining what He meant. This was not based on social necessity. G-d’s will did not change. G-d’s will was always how Chazal explained it based on the Oral Torah. However, with regard to homosexuality, not only is the Written Torah clear, but we have no record of the Oral Torah explaining that law in a different way then what is stated in the Written Torah. The fact that the Written Torah (which was given to us by G-d) and the Oral Torah (which was given to us by G-d) both agree that homosexuality is wrong (and the fact that this has never been challenged by Chazal, the Rishonim, the Achronim, or any competent halachic authority) makes it clear that this G-d’s will. To argue (incorrectly) that it is impossible to know G-d’s will and therefore we can define the Torah as we see fit is very intellectually dishonest.

    There was never a communal response to the Rabbis who did those horrible crimes that you described because it was unnecessary. These Rabbis were lone wolves, driven by their desires and abused their positions of power. They never claimed publicly that this is okay in the eyes of Judaism. There was never a concern that Orthodox Jews will start to believe that Orthodox Judaism supports sexual abuse. There was never an attempt to redefine Orthodox Judaism on a communal level. Greenberg however was taking a pro-homosexual marriage stance in public under the guise of Orthodoxy. You are right, the statement of the Rabbis was driven by fear. The fear that actions of people like Greenberg will create a new stream of pseudo-Judaism that is not devoted to G-d’s law and will (even though they may think they are), similar to Conservative and Reform Judaism. They were afraid that people like Greenberg will convince Orthodox Jews (and others) something that is a lie. They felt, that as Rabbis of authentic Judaism, they needed to defend G-d’s will. They needed to stand up against those claiming to be Rabbis who are perverting G-d’s will. And they are right.

    Anon 12:37

  13. David-

    Overlooking a sin is one thing. Rabbis can work with “not yet frum Jews” at the level that they are without demanding perfect adherence to the Torah from the very beginning. This is with the hope that one day these “not yet Frum Jews” will recognize all that the Torah demands of them and they will embrace it lovingly. However, to actively assist one to sin is completely inappropriate. You made it seem that most Rabbis will give permission for a girl who cannot control her carnal desires to go to the mikvah. I argue that this is very rare. Most Rabbis will not assist in someone sinning. And even those who do, one can argue that the benefits outweigh the negatives because at least the sin is less severe, but this is extremely controversial. What Greenberg did however is way off the charts. Not only did he actively assist in sin, but he in no way mitigated it. I’m not sure if I understand what you mean that the rationale is to “create a moment of happiness for two gay Jews.” Since they’re going to sin anyways, let’s make them feel good about it? Let’s pretend that there is nothing wrong with this? Let’s celebrate sin?

    I agree that the Orthodox community needs to recognize this population of Jews with homosexual desires, needs to accept them, and needs to love them as they would any other Jew. But to twist the words of G-d and His Torah in order to make them feel good about the sins they want to commit (or are already committing) in the name of acceptance is unacceptable.

    Anon 12:37

  14. I'm going to quickly and simply clear all this up for you guys. The torah was written by man. This being you call 'god' has nothing to do with it and you all need to get you heads out of the sand. There is nothing wrong with homosexuality or gay marriage. The only thing that is flawed here is this fairy tale called religion. Seriously, grow up and let people live their lives in peace.

  15. Same-gender marriage is an oxymoron by any standard. This has nothing to do with hate – it has to do with the birds and the bees and how babies are made. A quick purview of the Bible yields a clear understanding of the Torah’s viewpoint of same-gender unions. “Therefore, a man shall abandon his father and mother and cling to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen 3:24) This has been the definition of marriage since time immemorial, and that this standard even requires a defense is a sad statement as to how low our society has sunk in this matter. The so-called “same-gender marriage” redefines and denigrates the holiest of societal institutions to meet the bias and proclivity of an aberrant minority.


It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews