Articles Written by Rich Dweck
- "Internalized Homophobia, Tragedy, Spirituality and a Parent's Role" by Rich Dweck
- "Acceptance and Inclusion Can Only Bring Gay Jews Closer" by Rich Dweck
- "Nothing has Changed, but My Entire Life" by Rich Dweck
- "My Journey From Addiction to Sobriety" by Rich Dweck
- "Dear Community Member" by Rich Dweck
- "I Never Thought 'Baseless Hatred' was Inherent" by Rich Dweck
- "Hate Crimes connected to Religious and Political Leaders?" by Rich Dweck
- MY RESPONSE TO: "Just Because He Breathes: Learning to Truly Love Our Gay Son " by Linda Robertson
- "Life is a Journey, Not a Destination, 5773 (Hebrew Calendar Year)" by Rich Dweck
- "Homosexuality: Nature vs. Nurture"- My story and the video.. by Rich Dweck
SUPPORT for JEWISH PARENTS of LGBT CHILDREN.
Friday, September 16, 2016
"The Biggest Challenge to ’Emunah’ of Our Time" By Rabbi Ari Segal- Head of School, Shalhevet Orthodox High School
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
"Chief Rabbi: ‘Shuls must embrace gay Jews’"- Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis urges community to ‘open its heart’ in wake of Orlando massacre
|Britain's Chief Rabbi|
- In his most far-reaching statement to date on the issue, Mirvis said: “After Orlando, we must take a step beyond condemnation and open our hearts and our synagogues so that no Jew feels persecuted or excluded from the warm embrace of our communities.”
- “At a time of such anguish, it is difficult to adequately convey the depths of our moral revulsion for an individual who was so motivated by hatred that it led him to mass murder,” the Chief Rabbi said.
- “We must also be honest enough to recognise that there are places where the scourge of homophobia persists, even in our own communities, and that is totally unacceptable,” Where hate is religiously motivated, he wrote, faith leaders carry “a particular responsibility to act”.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
As Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach used to say, people left Orthodoxy not because it was too much but because it wasn’t enough. His maxim was verified by Nishma’s study, which reports that most OTDs felt “pushed” off the derech, disappointed by the Orthodox community, rather than “pulled” or seduced by the “outside” world."
Read more at http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/new-york/orthodox-dropouts-still-tethered-faith#6Q9q05G9Hyrf4d3r.99"
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
BY STUART WINER April 11, 2016, 1:05 pm
Dozens of Israeli Orthodox rabbis have signed a religious edict urging religious communities to accept gay members without prejudice and ruling that homosexuals can fulfill the same community duties as their heterosexual peers.
The Beit Hillel organization, a Modern Orthodox rabbinic group comprising 200 men and women that promotes inclusiveness in Orthodox Judaism, published the letter on Sunday night during a seminar in Ra’anana.
In the document the rabbis stressed that there is no reason in halacha — the Jewish code of regulations for daily life — to exclude homosexuals.“Even though the forbidden relations cannot be permitted, there’s room to be lenient in the approach to social inclusion and to accept them into the community,” the letter said, where they can “serve as prayer leaders in the synagogue and carry out all public functions.”
“The matter of single sex [relationships] has resulted in confusion among many members of our community,” began the letter, which declared that its aim was to “dispel doubts” and lay down “an integrated path between religious law and loving-kindness and peace.”
During the six months it took to compose the edict, the authors were in consultation with representatives of the gay community.
Monday, February 29, 2016
Click here for the full article in the Forward: "Coming Out as a Gay Orthodox Talmud Teacher"- by Pesia Soloveichik 2/28/16 The Forward
The following are excerpts from the article:
“What is it like to be a Soloveichik?” This question about my well-known rabbinic family name has accompanied me for much of my life. My grandfather was Ahron Soloveichik and my great-uncle was Joseph B. Soloveitchik. The questions about my identity became even more complex when, three years ago, I came out as gay in the Orthodox community — while I was a Talmud teacher at an Orthodox high school."
Thursday, February 18, 2016
"The Gay Child in My Daughter’s First Grade Class" by Maharat Rachel Kohl Finegold posted on Morthodoxy.org - 2/18/16
My thoughts: What a breath of fresh air... So often too many in the Orthodox Jewish world don't express their authentic opinions for fear of being unpopular, creating waves, or being labeled as the "other".
Moreover, some shy away in the hopes that someone else will not (bystander effect). Some stay silent, because they feel they have no skin in the game. And some stay silent because it's simply not important to them.
Too often we lack the courage to speak up about difficult topics. Ignoring reality keeps us stuck in this "Don't Ask Don't Tell" construct. This has been proven to be hazardous to ones health. I may not be 6 years old, but I understand what denying a persons reality can do to a person. I understand what might seem as harmless words of a teacher at 6 years old can have an effect on that persons self esteem for years to come.
We may not remember everything about our childhoods, but we do remember the statements that become more relevant to our lives as time goes on.
One of my earliest and most salient memories I can recall is when my 1st grade teacher told us a story about the firing gates of hell. He spoke of the torture we will endure in the next world if we are not "good". That story never left me.
I hope more of us can and will find the courage to be as brave as the author Maharat Rachel Kohl Finegold.
Article begins: It was a parenting moment that came much sooner than I thought it would. My six year-old looked over at me at the dinner table and told me that her teacher had said that a boy “can’t marry a boy, and a girl can’t marry a girl.”
Friday, February 12, 2016
"How Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s Daughter, Adina Bar Shalom, Became Israel’s Leading Ultra-Orthodox Iconoclast" (Tablet Magazine 2/11/16- by Elhanan Miller)
|Shas spirtual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (L) |
and his daughter Adina Bar Shalom April 06, 2011.
Photo by Oren Nahshon/FLASH90
This article is absolutely astonishing. What an amazing and brave woman. She discusses her relationship with her father, her aspirations, Women's issues, LGBT issues, Rabbinic responsibility, and education in Israel. I've heard courage is contagious, but has to start with one. She is truly a role model and I hope and pray that her words are heard throughout the entire Jewish world and beyond.
The Israel Prize-winning educator, activist, and former seamstress seeks to integrate secular and religious lives for a new generation of Haredi men and women. By Elhanan Miller
Sunday, August 30, 2015
The horrifying stabbings and murder of Shira Banki at the recent Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem are in no way representative of the Orthodox Judaism I live and breathe. Yet, that horrifying incident should give all of us in the Modern Orthodox community pause, and cause, to rethink the stance we take, and the message we send about homosexuality and LGBT Jews. It calls for a fundamental change in the way we interact with these men and women of our community— our children, our siblings, our congregants. We must do it because it is right. And we must do it because the alternative to such a change has become too great to bear.
The Torah provides a blessed path for two Jews with heterosexual attraction who realize that they love each other and want to build a life together. It supports this special bond by setting forth rules about our sexual and relational conduct.
But what path is there for people who aren’t wired for heterosexual relationships? We've come to know that homosexuality is, most often, not a choice. Why would God create some people who can only find sexual fulfillment and companionship in a way that God's Torah prohibits? There are no easy answers. For many, especially our young people, the Torah's prohibition of male same-sex intercourse and its labeling it a toeva (generally translated as "abomination") is exceptionally challenging because it pits the Torah’s values against their modern sensibilities.
But my focus here is not on theological or religious questions, though these are certainly important. Rather, it is on the life issues that directly impact LGBT Jews. Many are in pain; feeling rejected by the Torah they would want to uphold, feeling excluded from the Orthodox community which has, in many ways, conveyed the message that there is no place for them within it.
But it is God, in the Torah, Who recognizes that to be alone in life is unbearable. God says of the human he has created: "Lo tov heyot haadam levado- it is not good for the human to be alone." And he responds by creating Eve. For LGBT Jews, loneliness persists. We need to acknowledge that and do our best to respond to the reality of their pain.
Yet, the Orthodox community, by and large, is not engaging compassionately with these Jews. It is more focused on prohibited acts, the Supreme Court same-sex marriage decision, and the dangerous impact homosexuality is said to have on society. I believe this focus is misguided and imbalanced. We dwell on same-sex prohibitions more than issues of a sexually active single heterosexual population, or immorality in business -- also called a toeva in the Torah. (Point of information: though the Torah calls male same-sex intercourse a toeva, Bar Kapparah in Tractate Nedarim tells us the correct translation here is "toeh atah bah- you are going astray with it", greatly neutralizing the implications of "abomination").
Instead of playing the role here as protectors of the Torah (which we must surely do at times), we should be engaging LGBT Jews as the good people they are; we should be working to keep them connected to the Torah instead of taking positions that are driving them away from it.
How can Orthodox institutions (synagogues, schools, camps, youth groups) do better?
Firstly, we must be vigilant about the derogatory, often flippant way we sometimes speak about LGBT Jews. It is insidious and damaging. If we allow it, we become complicit in the harm it causes.
Beyond that, we should commit to getting to know LGBT Jews, to hearing their stories and struggles, to engaging with them as we would with any other Jews in our community.
Orthodox Rabbis must make clear to LGBT Jews, especially to those from traditional backgrounds, that there is no sin in being who they are. Though a rabbi cannot permit what the Torah has forbidden, he can affirm just how difficult this is. We must convey a belief that God, who made us all as we are, can only expect us to do what we are capable of doing. (If asked, we should offer halachic guidance in limiting behaviors. Other than that, what they do in their bedrooms is not for us to know.). And we must help them love themselves, and their families to support them.
At the same time, we should encourage LGBT Jews to live a vibrant religious life. We should make clear that they (and their spouse/partner if they should have one) have a place in our congregations, that their Jewish children are welcome as any other children are.
Some believe that shunning LGBT Jews might change their behavior (or somehow prevent others from joining their ranks) but the opposite is more likely to be true. Distancing ourselves from our LGBT friends and children drives them, and, ultimately, those who love them, away from God. Is that really what we want?
Five years ago, many of us signed onto a "Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community" (http://statementofprinciplesnya.blogspot.com). That document is just a starting point. There is the “tachlis” work still to be done. For example, the Modern Orthodox community should work closely with organizations that are developing support networks for LGBT Jews and their families. We should rethink institutional policies, from who may receive honors in Shul to school admission for the Jewish children of same-sex parents. We should host opportunities for LGBT Jews to share their stories with us.
Some who argue for compassionate understanding and embrace of LGBT Jews have been accused of condoning that which the Torah condemns. That is not what is being advocated here. We are not encouraging or giving our blessings to people's actions. What we are doing is offering our fellow Jews—our friends, our siblings, our children-- blessings towards a good life, as an integral part of our community.
Only then are we living up to what we as Jews and a Jewish community are meant to be.
Chaim Marder is the rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of White Plains, in White Plains, NY.
Click here to write a letter to the editor of The Jewish Week. Read http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/opinion/orthodox-community-must-embrace-its-gay-children#wMdKs3LUOamrefWb.99
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Friday, July 31, 2015
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Thoughts on Children of Jewish Same Sex Couples: A blog by Rabbi Marc D. Angel | Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals
This essay is not about whether the United States Supreme Court should have legalized same-sex marriage, or whether such marriages should or should not be performed by civil magistrates.
We are confronted with a reality, whether we approve or do not approve.
The reality is that same-sex marriage is legal in the United States; that “Gay rights” activists have convinced much of the public that their cause is a “human rights” issue and that those who oppose same-sex marriage are “on the wrong side of history.”
We are also confronted with a reality, whether we approve or do not approve, that among the vocal advocates on behalf of same-sex marriages were major American Jewish organizations that foster civil rights.
Indeed, it has been reported that some Christian religious leaders are faulting the Jews (what else is new?) for destroying the Christian values of American society by forcing society to adopt same-sex marriages.
As Orthodox Jews, committed to Torah values and law, we will continue to live according to Torah and halakha. But it surely will be impossible to ignore the prevailing laws and attitudes of American society.
I want to focus on one aspect of the current reality: children of same-sex couples.
Until fairly recently, same-sex couples generally did not have children. Technology had not been developed for in vitro fertilization. Surrogate motherhood wasn’t available. Adoption agencies were loath to give children to same-sex couples. So gay couples lived their lives on a more or less private level, without having a significant impact on society at large.
But today, the situation has changed radically. It is far more common for same sex couples to have their own children. Through in vitro fertilization and through use of surrogate mothers, many gay couples are now also parents. Gay couples are also considered valid candidates for adopting children.
Whether we approve or don’t approve, we have an increasing number of children growing up with Jewish same-sex parents.
Should these children be converted to Judaism if their surrogate mother and/or egg donor were not Jewish? Will an Orthodox beth din undertake such conversions? Will children of same-sex parents be accepted in our day schools? Will we want our children and grandchildren to have play dates with them in their homes? Will these children be able to grow up “normally,” without being stigmatized?
While these kinds of questions have increased during the past several decades, they are going to become even more prevalent in the years ahead. It is easy to close our eyes and simply say: we do not condone same-sex marriages and we want nothing to do with children of such marriages.
It is a spontaneous reflex to tell such families to go elsewhere for their Jewish lives, and not expect to find a home in Orthodox communities, synagogues, and schools.
And yet, I think we all need to think more carefully about what is at stake here. Should children of same-sex couples be excluded from our Orthodox Jewish communities? Do we have some moral responsibility to help them grow as good and faithful Jews?
Do we have a religious responsibility to ensure that such children—as well as all other children—are not discriminated against or stigmatized? Should sincere, religiously observant same-sex couples, be prevented from having their children converted to Judaism?
As we are in the midst of a serious transition in the social/religious life of our society, quick yes or no answers are seldom helpful. While we do not yet have all the answers, we at least need to recognize what the questions are.
Over the years, I have found that my own views on these issues have been impacted by direct contact with same-sex couples who have come to me with their children. It is easy enough to dismiss stereotypes: it is altogether different to look into someone’s eyes, feel their pain and anxiety; see their genuine love of their children and their desire to raise their children within an Orthodox Jewish community.
I, along with so many other Orthodox Jews, strive to maintain Torah values while facing the realities of the society in which we live. It is not always easy to balance conflicting imperatives.
We need to think very carefully and very calmly before we can reach absolute clarity in a confusing world. But if we are to err, we should err on the side of love and compassion.
"The Rise and Fall of JONAH"- How a "gay conversion" program using nudity, cuddling, became Orthodox Rabbis' go-to answer for LGBTQ Jews
On a warm day in June, a Jersey City jury heard Jonathan Hoffman, an Orthodox Jew, describe an exhilarating weekend he spent sponsored by JONAH, an organization that claims to “heal” same sex attraction.
He described a “wild party” where a group of men danced in the woods, threw cake at each other and rolled in the mud before washing off in a group shower. Hoffman told the court that JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing) had helped him in his effort to change his sexual orientation.
Hoffman was deemed as “success story” by JONAH — someone with a history of sexual relations with other men who has married a woman and started a family. In a videotaped deposition played for the court, Hoffman credited JONAH’s program as “the stuff that has helped me and the stuff that I hold dear to my heart.”
But others claim they were harmed by the organization. Last week, in a landmark verdict, a jury agreed. The five plaintiffs alleged that JONAH defrauded them by saying the program’s methods were scientific. The jury found JONAH liable for $72,400 in damages for consumer fraud and “unconscionable business practices.”
The verdict, however, leaves the Orthodox community with more questions than answers. Like how a young Orthodox Jewish man struggling with homosexual desires was guided by well-known rabbis to spend weekends in the woods like the one Hoffman described. All under the watchful eye of a self-styled “life coach” who is also a Mormon high priest.
Much of the answer lies in the brilliant salesmanship of JONAH’s director, convicted fraudster Arthur Goldberg, and his less colorful co-director Elaine Berk. But it also includes the fact that recommendations of JONAH came from a number of respected Orthodox rabbis and mental health professionals.
In the late 1990s, Berk’s son came out to her as gay, she testified. She was troubled by this and “wrote letters to rabbis and different Jewish organizations and didn’t receive answers.” Frustrated, she did her own research and found psychologists positing there were ways to “heal” homosexuality.
She met Goldberg, whose son had come out to him as gay, at a conference about homosexuality and healing in 1997. The next year they founded JONAH.
Described by Goldberg and Berk as a referral service, JONAH espouses treatment that includes one-on-one counseling, group therapy, and weekends in the woods. JONAH asserts that “wounds” incurred in childhood cause homosexuality, and once those wounds are “healed,” men will have healthy, non-sexual relationships with other men and become straight.
In 2000, JONAH received an endorsement from Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, dean of the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia and a member of Agudath Israel’s Council of Torah Sages. The endorsement remains on JONAH’s website today.
Around the same time, the award-winning documentary “Trembling Before God,” depicting the struggle of Orthodox gays and lesbians for acceptance in their religious communities, was released. Suddenly, gay Orthodox Jews became visible — and vocal — in a way they never had before.
Jonathan Hoffman noted that he found JONAH in 2006 through an online comment critiquing the film.
“There weren’t any other resources in the Jewish community that [were] providing Jewish men with the help that I was looking for,” Hoffman said.
Moishie Rabinowitz, now treasurer of Jewish Queer Youth, was referred to JONAH by Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, known as the Novominsker Rebbe. Raised in a charedi home, Rabinowitz, 22, was well into the process of shidduch dating. The only problem: he knew he was gay. At the time, “there was no gay Jewish world,” he told The Jewish Week.
Rabbi Perlow referred Rabinowitz to JONAH. But knowing that the organization used unscientific methods of conversion therapy, he decided not to go.
In 2004, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the largest Orthodox rabbinic association, issued an endorsement of JONAH, suggesting “rabbis might refer congregants to them for reparative therapy.”
But the biggest endorsement for JONAH came with “The Torah Declaration” in 2011, signed by over 200 rabbis. The document, apparently drafted by about two dozen men, attributed homosexuality to “childhood emotional wounds” and declared that attempting change was the only Torah-consistent way to deal with the problem. And JONAH was the only Jewish organization offering the possibility of such change.
Just when JONAH had reached the height of rabbinic backing, it came under attack. In November 2012, four former clients and two mothers filed a fraud suit.
In court papers and later at trial, witnesses said that Alan Downing, JONAH’s Mormon “life coach” who claimed to have subdued his own homosexual attractions, routinely “invited” young men he was counseling to strip in his office and then “physically feel” their masculinity. Downing also led others to believe the behaviors of their parents had turned them gay.
Immediately after the complaint became public, the RCA rescinded its support and asked JONAH to remove the endorsement from its website, where it remains today.
Last week’s verdict against JONAH did not come as a surprise to Rabbi Samuel Rosenberg, the Orthodox rabbi and licensed clinical social worker who was co-director of JONAH from 1999 until around 2002, when he left due to “theological and professional differences,” particularly regarding the weekend retreats’ nudity and cuddling. “I would not approve the methods,” Rosenberg told The Jewish Week.
Rabbi Rosenberg and Goldberg clashed over the boldness of Goldberg’s claims.
“Mr. Goldberg insisted that he wanted to publicize the claim that he can assure anyone who comes through his doors that he can ‘cure’ them, quote unquote,” Rosenberg said. “My position was that it’s totally unethical to guarantee it, as with any psychotherapy. And also, that the term ‘cure’ is totally inappropriate in this context, because I would not call it an illness.”
Goldberg and his attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Rabbi Rosenberg said he was also troubled by Goldberg’s efforts to marshal Orthodox rabbinic support for JONAH through adopting calculated, Torah-friendly language while concealing the fact that he is not personally Orthodox.
Despite Goldberg’s lack of formal Jewish education — he left yeshiva after grammar school — and his personal non-observance, he was instrumental in the formation of right-wing Orthodoxy’s approach toward gay Jews. It was Goldberg’s name that was on the 2011 article in the Orthodox journal “Hakirah,” featuring a discussion between Rabbi Kamenetsky and him about the necessity of “setting forth Torah values” and touting JONAH’s services.
Within months, language from that article appeared in the Torah Declaration.
Some rabbis have successfully had their signatures removed from the document, like Rabbi Dr. Martin Schloss, director of the Jewish Education Project’s day school division. Others have hit a brick wall.
Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, a licensed clinical social worker and president of Nefesh, the International Network of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals, said he initially signed the declaration because he thought it “was merely a stance on the idea that sexual orientation is not absolute” and that some motivated clients could “find a healthy way to manage heterosexual relationships.” However, he later took issue with the document’s “unequivocal language that all homosexuals can be treated with today’s available clinical expertise.” Despite asking to be removed several times, he said, his name remains on the website.
According to plaintiff Chaim Levin, however, even Rabbi Kamenetsky has privately expressed doubts about the Torah Declaration.
Levin said he met the rabbi two years ago and “saw the pain in his eyes as I recounted my experiences in conversion therapy and JONAH. He asked me for forgiveness and said that the document ‘needs to be changed.’ To date, nothing has, and Rabbi Kamenetsky has remained silent.”
Rabbi Kamenetsky declined to comment.
Although JONAH’s bizarre methods were exposed over the course of the trial, some Orthodox rabbis stand by it.
Asked about the recent verdict, Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst, a signatory to the Torah Declaration, said he wasn’t aware of it but was content to have his name on the document.
But the details that emerged shocked others.
“Although there are reputable therapists who use and have had successes with conventional counseling methods to help people wishing to control their same-sex attraction,” said Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, “the sort of ‘therapy’ that Mr. Downing says he employed is utterly outrageous and would never be sanctioned by any reputable Orthodox rabbi.”
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
So, after multiple people recounted to me how a particular well known common acquaintence has been speaking negatively about me after learning that I'm gay -- not having once talked to me about the issue, so I've decided to make a little response to him, because I don't think I could stand to look at him now, unless he truly and sincerely apologizes and asks for forgiveness.
As I hung up the phone, I didn’t feel very good, so I could only imagine how she and her son felt. This was just months after a string of high-profile LGBTQ teen suicides, and the It Gets Better Project had been launched to give LGBTQ youth a message of hope for the future. JQY even created its own "It Gets Better" video for Orthodox gay youth. While the project was well-intentioned, the It Gets Better message tells a drowning child that a raft is coming. Some teens simply cannot stay afloat. It was time to build more rafts.
continue reading: LGBTQ Orthodox Teens, Forging a Derech- NY Jewish Week
Monday, February 9, 2015
The author discusses the words of R' Willig (a Rosh Yeshiva) of Yeshiva University
on treatment of LGBT Jews. This article seems to be very pertinent and one
which holds our leaders accountable. Moreover, he discusses how being in
an environment that is NOT respectful or supportive can have strong negative
consequences on an LGBT individual. In addition, he discusses the danger of
leaders using "they" as if they are not present or a part of the community.
Please take a read and share.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach- "The story behind an ad condemning the treatment by Hamas and Iran of the LGBT community" JPost
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Make America Civil Again by Rabbi Hyim Shafner - One of my congregants watched the presidential debates with their 9 year old child. After a few minutes the child stood up and said, “we are not allowed to...3 weeks ago
"The Biggest Challenge to ’Emunah’ of Our Time" By Rabbi Ari Segal- Head of School, Shalhevet Orthodox High School - In the wake of last summer’s horrific massacre at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, I wrote to the Shalhevet community about our responsibility to take a...2 months ago