The use of the word in this context minimizes its impact and saturates its meaning. Juxtaposing the Leviticus and Deuteronomy passage reveals that the bible would equate homosexuality with a woman wearing pants (considered a male garment), something most female Jews are allowed to do today. Still, prominent religious figures cite Leviticus 20:13 almost every time they are forced to defend their anti-queer positions.
He called the Rabbi of the synagogue in attempt to change his views, explaining that “people who are gay and lesbian who want to remain true to the Torah are in a great deal of pain…many have just left the community…some young gay people become so desperate they attempt suicide”. The Rabbi’s reply: “‘maybe it’s a mitzvah for them to do so’” (mitzvah is defined as a good deed done from religious duty). The malevolence and cruelty of these words by a leader in the Orthodox movement reveals a deep-rooted mindset ingrained in the minds of many of their forerunners.
This is not to say that this is the stance of every Orthodox Rabbi; however, whether they acknowledge it or not, their words have the power to take an individual’s life. If Jews cannot feel comfortable in public environments such as the synagogue because of their sexuality, how can they be expected to be happy in their personal lives? Based on this evidence, a movement to create inclusive communities for Jews, regardless of religious denomination, must clearly be undertaken.
JONAH International, which stands for Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, is a controversial organization that attempts to cure its members of their evil homosexual behaviors. Establishments such as JONAH, supplemented by religious discourse, are damaging the patients they aim to cure.
Ex-gay therapy is an alarming example of how Orthodox leaders are further ostracizing Jewish queers from their communities. But more importantly, as a self-identified Jewish queer, I find myself further drawn away from Judaism as a whole when learning of establishments such as JONAH.
Inside, I gave up on Judaism as a religious identity (though I still kept a strong cultural tie) and embraced my queerness. But everything changed in college. I began volunteering at Hillel, a Jewish club and religious center on campus, while simultaneously interning at UCSB Associated Students, Queer Commission. Without even recognizing it, I was beginning to tie together my ostensibly opposing identities.