I spent years and years trying to de-gay
myself through ex-gay ministries and gay reparative therapy and even
endured three exorcism. I finally came to my senses and accepted myself
as gay. In this video I look at the several reasons why I tried to
straighten myself out.
“People are going to find their way back to whatever they’re going to find their way back to.”
Rabbi Mordechai Rackover, the Jewish chaplain of Brown University and the rabbi at Brown-RISD Hillel (which serves both Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design), doesn’t quite fit the popular conception of Orthodox Jews as out of touch with the modern world. He’s rarely found without his iPhone (except on Shabbat, of course), maintains a Kosherfoodblog, and is an almost alarmingly prolific tweeter. By any measure, he is as deeply involved in both modern American and Orthodox life as anyone can be. So what led him to strongly decry a recent statement by a group of Orthodox rabbis that condemned gay marriage, though he agrees with them that it is “halachically impossible”?
On the evening of Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011 two Orthodox Jews stood under a chuppah (Jewish wedding canopy) in Washington, D.C. Their names were Yoni Bock and Ron Kaplan, and they were entering into what has been described as the first Orthodox gay wedding. Almost a year and a half before, 199 Orthodox rabbis, educators and mental health workers slogged through a months-long consensus process to produce a document titled “StatementofPrinciples.” While they maintained that “homosexual acts” like gay marriage are contrary to Orthodox halachic interpretation, the rabbis articulated in no uncertain terms that Orthodox Jews with “a homosexual orientation” were to be accepted, treated with the same respect and dignity afforded to others and made a part of their communities to the greatest extent possible. They also decried the forced application of “reparative therapy” or “change therapy” and the forced entrance of gay Orthodox Jews into heterosexual marriages.
Unsurprisingly, many Orthodox Jews felt that the ceremony misrepresented Orthodox beliefs, and a new group of Orthodox rabbis issued another statement, this one titled “OrthodoxRabbisStandOnPrinciple.” They argued that since same-sex marriage “is not sanctioned by Torah law,” the ceremony was “not an Orthodox wedding.” They even went a step further, arguing that “by definition a person who conducts such a ceremony is not an Orthodox rabbi.”
Yet Rackover, who agrees that gay marriage is not halachically acceptable, takes issue with these rabbis. He wrote a column in response to “Orthodox Rabbis Stand on Principle,” noting that the Orthodox community spends a disproportionate amount of time attacking this particular issue, while many others (he names child sex abuse, serious gender discrimination and poverty as examples) are left alone. In it, he is is outwardly exasperated with the eagerness of the “Orthodox Rabbis Stand On Principle” signers, writing “Big News! The Torah and Orthodox understanding of Halacha prohibit gay marriage. Who knew?” But he continues, “An Orthodox rabbi myself, I happen to agree that this was not an Orthodox wedding. But I think these rabbis’ response is a much bigger problem than two Orthodox gay men seeking a way to dignify their relationship through marriage.” What Rackover wants to know is why the rabbis should criticize this “abomination” and not others?
This question is emblematic of the line that Orthodox Jews walk today, especially ones like Rackover. He is the religious leader of a campus community that in many ways does not follow Orthodox halacha, but he’s quick to note that he doesn’t believe in one single truth and that there are multiple valid interpretations of Jewish law. Amid the problems of Jewish assimilation and secularism — and on the front lines of both of these issues — he seeks to carve out a relevant place for Orthodoxy in the modern world.
Rackover readily acknowledges that the world today is different than it was when the sources Orthodox Jews now look to for guidance were formed. “We’re all going to act like Moshe Rabbeinu?” he asks mockingly. He doesn’t necessarily want to return to that world. As an Orthodox rabbi who serves as the university chaplain to an overwhelmingly non-Orthodox population and the rabbi to a definitively pluralistic Hillel (there’s even a LGBT group within Hillel called Queer Hillel) Rackover doesn’t want to impose his own halachic stance on others – including the many students who come to him for guidance. “If you love someone, you’re going to try to fix them. I have a different understanding of how to fix someone,” he concluded. “People are going to find their way back to whatever they’re going to find their way back to.”
Harpo Jaeger is the New Voices Magazine Web Editor.
"People are going to find their way back to whatever they're going to find their way back to."
Rabbi Mordechai Rackover, the Jewish chaplain of Brown University and the rabbi at Brown-RISD Hillel (which serves both Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design), doesn't quite fit the popular conception of Orthodox Jews as out of touch with the modern world. He's rarely found without his iPhone (except on Shabbat, of course), maintains aKosherfoodblog, and is an almost alarmingly prolific tweeter. By any measure, he is as deeply involved in both modern American and Orthodox life as anyone can be. So what led him to strongly decry a recent statement by a group of Orthodox rabbis that condemned gay marriage, though he agrees with them that it is "halachically impossible"?
Our Stance on Homosexuality – Forward.com A Torah-loyal Jew with homosexual inclinations could opt to live a celibate life. Were that the only option, he would be a truly righteous Jew to do so. But if there are in fact avenues to explore that might lead to the fulfillment (both emotional fulfillment and fulfillment of the mitzvot) of marriage and to normal procreation, doing the exploring is a worthy choice, if not a moral mandate.
I thought this important to make sure I posted and commented on it...
watching Obama's speech made this morning at the AIPAC 2012 conference
on YouTube now! He is definitely working hard to get the Jewish vote! I
will say that as president, the rhetoric is way different than his
actions toward Israel. He has done more behind the scenes for the STATE
OF ISRAEL than other president has. He understands how vital the
relationship between Israel and the U.S is! I applaud him for going public with what he has done.
Unfortunately, the "Arab Spring" did not end up the way we
expected. It only overthrew one terrible regime for another. It's hard
to believe that people fought and lost their lives to allow for
democracy in these countries to end up with a so-called democratic vote
that only brought in more extreme regimes. These regimes will only
further persecute their people and ruin any bonds made with past
governments and their neighbors including Israel and the United States.
A 2 state solution will benefit Israel and has been backed
up by the United States, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Shimon Perez.
Quotes from Obama's speech:
1) "Speak softly and carry a big stick" President Obama quoted Theodore
Roosevelt to explain what the United States role should be now. As Harry Truman understood, Israel's story is one of hope!
2) "In the past I have shared in this forum just why those bonds are so
personal for me. Stories of an uncle that helped liberate Buchenwald to
my memories of returning their with Elie Wiesel. From sharing books
with Shimon Perez to sharing seders with my young staff with the
tradition that started out on the campaign trail that continues in the
White House." 3) "The concept of TIKKUN OLAM that has guided and enriched my life"
4) "Their is no shortage of speeches on the friendship of the United
States and Israel. Look no further than the Proverb " A man is judged by
his deeds, not his words" explaining that Obama's words are a lot
different than the actions he has taken!