Dear Rabbi Abadie +99 Rabbi's,
Friday, December 16, 2011
MY RESPONSE to the "Declaration" against Same-sex Marriage
Response to "100 Orthodox Rabbis Issue Same Sex Marriage Declaration"
Dear Rabbi Abadie +99 Rabbi's,
I was hoping to share my opinion on your recent article against Gay Marriage. I am writing to you as an “out”gay Jewish man that was raised in the Syrian Orthodox Community. My intention is not to debate halakhah and gay marriage, but instead to share with you my sense of the real human issues that are most urgent and need attention. I hope you will take what I write you to heart and consider the role, you as a leader might be able to play to ease the burden gay people carry daily.
I was saddened to read that you had signed the recent letter condemning gay marriage. While perhaps not your intention, this letter will surely lead an increase in homophobia. Students in yeshiva will read this and think gays should be beaten up or called names. It might take someone over the edge to self-destructive behavior and it will surely push many people away from Judaism.
While the letter claims to offer welcome and comfort, it does not. It states, “rabbis lovingly play a crucial role in helping Jews who may be facing great personal challenges to feel comfortable and welcome in our communities.” How is a welcoming message possible if your message rejects my desire for love and companionship? Am I welcome only if I am single? Am I only welcome if I am alone, ashamed and depressed? And If I am out of the closet, if I find a partner, does this mean I am not welcome? I would hope not.
Earlier, I compared the hundreds of names of rabbis that are on the “Statement of Principles” and the 100+ on this declaration. It was a bit shocking to see that most of, if not all the names on this declaration were not on the other. The “Statement of Principles” was a document created to push for tolerance and acceptance of homosexuals in the community. One of the quotes mentioned within the SOP is “The attitude of ‘all or nothing’ was not the traditional approach adopted by the majority of halakhic thinkers and poskim (learned rabbis) throughout the ages.” None of us are perfect, nor are we expected to be.
Rabbi Steve Greenberg (the first gay orthodox out rabbi) has saved many lives. If saving lives is one of the most important tenets in the torah (old testament), then he should be looked at a tzadik (righteous man). I am aware that you do not think what he did was right, but he has been there for so many of us. He gives hope, when some feel hopeless. He helps many to understand that one can be gay and Orthodox. His life is dedicated to saving lives. So many people have committed suicide or thought about it, but Rabbi Steve Greenberg gives us hope. Some rabbi’s have skills that others lack. We all have a purpose in this world. We must not waste what gifts G-d has given us. Not everyone is going to fit the mold, but G-d has different assignments for those. Again, Rabbi Steve Greenberg has saved so many lives and should be commended for his leadership in this area. I cannot stress enough to you what he has done for the gay orthodox Jews that others dismissed. He is someone that will be remembered for not doing what was popular, but what was courageous! A quote I would like to share with you by Harry Truman, “
Personally, I have received calls from others homosexuals that felt they could no longer live a double life and were attempting suicide. We have had many drug overdoses over the years and I would go to the funeral to hear the rabbi say that drugs is the biggest issue facing our communities today. There was no mention of the social torture that lead him to despair. The Orthodox world is allowing many to fall through the cracks, because it does not offer them what they need. It feels like if you do not fit the mold, then you have no place there. This leads many astray, destroys families and devalues the worth of a life.
The Orthodox world has to focus more on inclusion of any Jew, even if that person is different. Before we can talk about gay marriage, I think it is of utmost importance to let all Jews feel comfortable in their community. People do not want to feel threatened or be embarrassed by other that feel that the homosexuality is horrendous and how could they come to shul or get an aliyah and so on. I was embarrassed years ago on a holiday because I was doing kohanimin shul and a person embarrassed me in front of five hundred people. You might guess that I have never been back to that shul.
Many of us were subject to bullying while in yeshiva and as you see above in a synagogue. It would be great to see hundreds of rabbi’s sign a declaration against bullying. Rabbis and leaders can push for anti-bullying initiatives in yeshiva day schools. Dealing with how people treat one another should be at the top of the list. This means embracing all Jews, even if they are different.
Some think that homosexuality is a test, but I think not. I think it is genetic, but even if it is environmental it is just as strong. As someone that went through “conversion therapy”, I can tell you that it ended up with many thoughts of suicide. I was promised that I could be changed and it did not happen. I was angry and hurt that I spent two years of my life in this type of therapy. I was also angry at G-d and resented the fact that I was different. I was not just someone raised in the community, but someone that organized classes, was president of bikur cholim (organization to help the elderly and less fortunate), and learned Talmud on a daily basis. I went to many rabbis to figure out what I should do and got a lot of unhelpful advice. Some said just pray harder, some said marry a woman and do what you want on the side and another said you just have no choice. I was stuck having to deal with this all on my own. I was in so much pain and it would not stop. I went though a time of depression, drugs and heavy drinking because I felt so lost. No one taught me how to live outside of the Syrian Orthodox Jewish Community.
After a few years, I was lucky enough to go to rehab and start the healing process. I learned that G-d was a lot bigger than I was taught. I was enlightened to say the least and realized G-d is always with me. I thought hard about why G-d chose me to be gay. I soon realized that G-d had something special in store for me. Basically, I had to figure out what my purpose was in the world. Thank G-d I was able to see some of the hints G-d was showing me. Also, I realized that no one had a monopoly on G-d and everyone’s relationship is personal. My only conclusion was to get a new therapist that would help me with my self-image and how to go through the process of coming out.
Steve Jobs is quoted as saying “Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.” Everyone has a different path and I feel G-d made me just as I am, loves me and wants me to be happy. After so much self-hate and pain I could see how the dots were connected. I ask you to use your position to work very hard on inclusion and anti-bullying. I would like to be updated as these initiatives get rolled out. These initiatives would save lives, unlike gay marriage. This is just my opinion. I look forward to hearing back from you! Please pass this on to the 99+ if you deem it necessary.
- Rich Dweck: "Speak up or stay silent at the coffee shop?"
- "Acceptance and Inclusion Can Only Bring Gay Jews Closer" by Rich Dweck
- "Nothing has changed, but my entire life"
- "Disgraceful Portrayal of the 'First Gay Son' and Former President": Full Episode of Political Animals on the USA Network enclosed
- "Internalized Homophobia, Tragedy, Spirituality and a Parent's Role"
- Rabbi Shmuley Boteach vs Dan Savage, Misguided Blame!
- "THE PINK ELEPHANT" Use your voice and speak up!
- "Hate Crimes connected to Religious and Political Leaders?"
- "Homosexuality: Nature vs. Nurture"- My story and the video..
- Ignorance is accepted as an excuse in this world.- My Sexuality Classes
- "I Never Thought 'Baseless Hatred' was Inherent"
- Interfaith Leadership Institute Conference part 1
- "MY RESPONSE to 'DECLARATION' against Same-sex Marriage"
- "Ignorance or Plan? Special or Unaware? Preparation or Assumption?"
- COVER STORY: The unknown adventures of Harvey Milk in Dallas
- "ORIGINAL DECLARATION against Same-sex Marriage"