Friday, December 28, 2012

"Orthodox Rabbi Steven Greenberg talks to Pasadena shul about homosexuality, welcoming the stranger" by Roberto Loiederman

Rabbi Steve Greenberg
First Openly Gay Orthodox Rabbi
Jewish Journal: 11/20/12 by Roberto Loiederman
When Rabbi Steve Greenberg was a young rabbinical student at an Orthodox Yeshiva near Jerusalem in the mid-1970s, he was attracted to a fellow (male) student. He wanted to talk about his feelings of homosexual desire to a respected old rabbi — but was afraid to. 

So Greenberg fudged by telling the rabbi he was “attracted to both men and women.” The venerated old rabbi shrugged: “So you have twice the power of love. Use it carefully.”

"Gay and Orthodox: And Cleaving Strongly to Both: An Often Hidden Community Goes Beyond the Trembling" by Jay Michaelson

The Forward: 2/8/11 by Jay Michaelson 
In January, I went to a shabbaton with 140 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Orthodox Jews. Yes, Virginia, there are gay Orthodox Jews. There always have been. And while I have been working in the LGBT Jewish community for many years, I saw more courage, endurance and strength that weekend than I ever have before.

To many — religious and nonreligious alike — the phrase “gay Orthodox Jew” may seem like an oxymoron. To be Orthodox is to commit to obeying all of the mitzvot, and one or two mitzvot appear to forbid homosexuality. How is it possible, then, to be a gay Orthodox Jew?

"Jewish and Gay: Legal obstacles still plague gay couples"

Detroit: The Jewish News- 11/15/12
They say that our relationships are what truly make life special. So, what if you couldn’t stand under a chuppah to marry the one you love in your own hometown? What if there was a law that kept you from having children with your soul mate?

"Will Orthodox Throw JONAH Overboard?"- Jewish Week

Jewish Week: 12/26/12 by Helen Chernikoff 
Member of JQY (Jewish Queer Youth)
group in NYC. Support & Social Group
for Religious Gay Jews. 
Lawsuit on reparative therapy shines spotlight on tensions within community over homosexuality.

When Mordechai Levovitz learned that a civil rights organization had announced a lawsuit against a Jewish counseling center in New Jersey that claims to “cure” homosexuality, he felt mainly rage. This was despite the fact that he  is co-director of an organization, JQY, that tries to be a haven for Jews who say they are traumatized by the kind of treatment the counseling center offers.

The rabbis who promote this so-called reparative therapy are as guilty as the center itself for ruining the lives of religious gay people, and even driving some to suicide, he said. But they won’t be brought to justice in this lifetime, he added.

“It is not the Torah that makes people suicidal, for there are many commandments that Jews struggle with,” said Levovitz, who was raised and still identifies as Orthodox. “It is the shame created by the community. Rabbis … who reinforce this shame make life unbearable. The blood is on their hands.”

Friday, December 21, 2012

*VERY IMPORTANT EVENT: LINCOLN SQUARE SYNAGOGUE (1/9/13, 8pm) ‎"Orthodox and Gay" With Rabbi Chaim Rapoport

Orthodox & Gay: At School, at Shul and at Home
Rabbi Chaim Rapoport
‎"Orthodox and Gay: A Special Evening with YCT and Lincoln Square Synagogue"

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School and Lincoln Square Synagogue
invite you to a panel discussion between: Rabbi Chaim Rapoport and Dr. Michelle Friedman, with Rabbi Shaul Robinson as Moderator.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013, 8:00 pm, at Lincoln Square Synagogue, 200 Amsterdam Avenue, Manhattan

Program includes presentations, case studies and a Q&A session.

For more information contact or (212)-666-0036.

"Same-Sex Marriage May Have Mental Health Benefits, Study Finds" ABC News

Reported by Dr. Jennifer Austin:
As the Supreme Court gears up to hear arguments on the legality of same-sex marriage, a new study suggests such unions may boost mental health.
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who are married have significantly lower levels of psychological distress when compared to their non-married counterparts, according to a study published today in the American Journal of Public Health.
“One one level, it’s not surprising,” said study author Allen LeBlanc, a professor of sociology at San Francisco State University. “We know that heterosexual marriage provides a higher perception of social integration and support. It makes sense that same-sex marriages would carry some of the same benefits.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Gay Orthodoxy Revisited: The Constrained Halakhic Solutions" by Rabbi Steve Greenberg

Tikkun Magazine, October 2004 by Steve Greenberg                                                                          

In the fall of 1993, an article entitled, "Gayness and God: Wrestlings of a Gay Orthodox Rabbi," appeared in TIKKUN under the pseudonym, "Rabbi Yaakov Levado." I plucked that name out of the biblical account of Jacob's return to Canaan.

Jacob is returning from Ur to face his brother Esau. He crosses back over the Yabbok river and there, alone and defenseless, encounters a stranger who wrestles with him until the morning light. At the end of this dark confrontation Jacob pins his attacker and makes an unusual demand: I will not let you go until you bless me! 

The blessing that Jacob receives at the break of dawn is one of paradoxical power. His mysterious assailant calls him by the name Israel, which he says means "he who has wrestled with God and men and has survived." Since my early venture out of the closet under the cloak of a pseudonym, I have been "wrestling with God and men." Ten years later, a book by that name is finally finished. Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition was published by the University of Wisconsin Press this past spring.

"Efrat's rabbi: Same-sex couple can raise a family" Rabbi Shlomo Riskin

Speaking at conference on Jewish learning in UK, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin says that although he cannot advocate gay marriage, religious establishment must accept homosexual Jews who wish to stay part of their congregations Elad Tene 01/01/09 Ynet News

WARWICK – "I don't object to gay-lesbian parents or single mothers bringing a child into the world, as long as they do so responsibly," said Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the rabbi of the Efrat settlement, during a discussion on the subject of Orthodox Judaism and homosexuality Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Same Sex Marriage in America: What Does Orthodox Judaism Say?" by RABBI SHMUEL HERZFELD (Ohev Sholom D.C.)

12/15/12 The holiday of Chanukah is a holiday that celebrates the triumph of our holy ancestors over religious persecution.  In 167/66 B.C.E. Antiochus IV Epiphanies initiated a series of horrible religious persecutions.

These persecutions included:
1) A rescinding of the rights of extensive religious freedom that were enacted by Antiochus III.
2) In December of 167 foreign idols were brought into the Beit Hamikdash (The Holy Temple).
3) Shabbat and Festivals were not permitted to be observed.
4) Altars were built so that unclean animals could be offered upon them in violation of Jewish law.
5) Circumcision was outlawed.
6) Dietary laws were outlawed.
7) Torah scrolls were burned.
Anyone who disobeyed these laws was punished with execution.  (See the article by Lawrence Schiffman in YU To Go, 5773, 44.)
This idea that Chanukah is primarily a festival that celebrates the triumph of our ancestors over religious persecution has actual relevance in Jewish law.  The classic code of Jewish Law, the Shulchan Aruch, records that the days of Chanukah were not established for mishteh ve-simcha, for parties and celebration (670:2).  The Mishnah Berurah explains that there is a crucial difference between Chanukah when we are not legally required to have a festive meal and the holiday of Purim, when we are required to do so:
For on Purim there was a decree to destroy and kill our bodies, which is in effect the nullification of drinking and happiness, but not our souls.  For on Purim even if we changed our religion they still would have killed us.  Thus, when God saved us on Purim they established the practice of praising God through the physical celebration of our bodies by drinking and celebrating.  This is not the case with respect to Antiochus.  For Antiochus did not desire to kill them.  He only persecuted them in order to cause them to change their religion.  As it states, "to cause them to forget Your Torah, and to bring them away from Your laws."  And if the Jews had changed their religious ways then Antiochus would have accepted them....  For this reason these days were established only as days of praise and gratitude to God and not as days of physical celebration.  (Mishnah Berurah 670:6)
For our rabbis the message of Chanukah was always a message of religious persecution and the right for religious freedom.  The rabbis chose to emphasize the miracle of the oil because it represents the religious element of the revolt: the right to light a pure candle in the Beit Hamikdash.
The message of Chanukah that we should focus on in our own lives today is this idea of religious persecution.  The same way in which our ancestors stood up against religious persecution, we too, must stand up for those who are persecuted in the name of religion. Because of our ancestors in the time of Antiochus, because of our ancestors who faced so many persecutions in Jewish history, we too have a responsibility to speak out against persecution in the name of religion. 
While this is true of all Jews it is especially true of Jews in America.
In America we Jews have been the great beneficiaries of those who have spoken out against persecution.
One of the greatest Chanukah stories of all time is the story of what happened in Billings, Montana in 1993.
Here is an editorial from the Billings Gazette in December of 1993:
"On December 2, 1993, someone twisted by hate threw a brick through the window of the home of one of our neighbors: a Jewish family who chose to celebrate the holiday season by displaying a symbol of faith-a menorah-for all to see. Today, members of religious faiths throughout Billings are joining together to ask residents to display the menorah as a symbol of something else: our determination to live together in harmony, and our dedication to the principle of religious liberty embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. We urge all citizens to share in this message by displaying this menorah on a door or a window from now until Christmas. Let all the world know that the national hatred of a few cannot destroy what all of us in Billings, and in America, have worked together so long to build."
That year nearly every window in Billings, Montana had a paper Menorah. 
In Montana, we Jews were once again the beneficiaries of brave and kind people who stood up and spoke out against twisted persecution.
This Chanukah I want to share my views on homosexuality and same sex marriage -- an area that I believe relates to the concern I have about religious persecution.

"Rabbi: Bans gay teachers, says they are ‘perverts’" by Joseph Patrick McCormick

12/18/12- A prominent Rabbi has said that people seeking private lessons, especially for their children, are not allowed to employ “perverted” gay teachers, “evil” atheists.

Rabbi Ya’akov Yosef, rabbi and former politician, made a halachic ruling which prohibits taking private lessons with any teacher who is gay, reported Arutz Sheva. He said: “If the teacher lives a perverted lifestyle, what is vernacularly called a homosexual, one must be very careful when studying with such a person.”

The ruling was made in response to a question asked to him by a website representing “religious Orthodox homosexuals,” regarding taking piano lessons from a gay teacher.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Good or Bad? Westboro Baptist Church blames the Sandy Hook tragic murders on HOMOSEXUALITY" by Rich Dweck

I read the following headline in "The Westboro Baptist Church, that affectionately dub themselves the ‘God Hates Fags Church’ has announced that the cause of the shootings in a Connecticut primary school was homosexuality."  

So is this bad that they are blaming the Gays? Is it bad that they look like heartless devils from hell? Well, I say BRING IT ON Phelps! It could sound strange to you, but I will try to make a point that is rarely spoken of. I believe this point is what has lead and continues to lead them to their demise. 

The Westboro Baptist Church has protested at the funerals of our fallen soldiers with signs saying "God Hates Fags", "Thank God for 911", "Pray for more Dead Soldiers"  and more. Are they winning? Has American embraced these messages? Have they built a so-called "army of God"? The answer is no!

Equal Rights are coming step by step. The majority of Americans now believe Gay should have the right to marry. Laws are being passed in favor of Gay marriage and Gay rights. The evidence shows that they are clearly not winning with the messages they are spreading. 

It's 2012, we have the LGBT community, the Democrats, most major cities, many of our families, co-workers, friends and more. How do we get to all of those people that we never come across? Well, thank God for Westboro Baptist Church. The more they go out and protest funerals of the innocent, the more people get disgusted with their message. Even if people believe the message, they certainly are appalled by how they are delivering it. Who would want to be a part of a church or religion that acts in this fashion? People want their religion back! 

No one should be looking to gain from a tragedy and that is certainly not my point. My point is for the Westboro Baptist Church to wake up and see that all they are doing is increasing the grief of these poor families. These families do not deserve this treatment. So Phelps family, stay home and give hate a day off! 
Rich Dweck 

Video: The sick film that Westboro Baptist Church made to blame gay rights for Newtown school masacre

Friday, December 14, 2012

Official Trailer: "Undressing Israel: Gay Men in the Promise Land"

"Student Claims of Abuse Not Reported by Yeshiva U." by Paul Berger

The Jewish Forward- 12/13/12 by Paul Berger
PART 1: A Forward investigation into allegations that two staff members at Yeshiva University High School for Boys’ Manhattan campus sexually abused students during the late 1970s and early ’80s has led to a startling admission by the university’s chancellor: The school dealt with allegations of “improper sexual activity” against staff members by quietly allowing them to leave and find jobs elsewhere.

For years, former students have asked Y.U., the premier educational institution of Modern Orthodox Judaism, to investigate their claims that a former principal had repeatedly abused students in the all-male high school that is part of the university. Another former high school student said Y.U. covered up for a staff member who sodomized him.

Y.U. President Richard Joel said in a statement issued on December 3 that the school was “looking with concern into the questions” the Forward had raised.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"New Organization For LGBT Jews and their families offers support" by Simone Ellin

Baltimore Jewish Times- 12/13/13 When her son came out in the early 1990s, the world was a different place for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people and their families, said Rona Zukerberg of Pikesville, a Chizuk Amuno Congregation member. “It was a hard time. We had absolutely no clue where to turn. We didn’t know anything about being gay.
“You know, they say that when kids come out of the closet, parents go into the closet. By the time a kid comes out, he has known he’s gay for a long time and has had a lot of time to process it. But parents are just starting the process. It takes time.”
In those days, Zukerberg recalled, there were no Jewish organizations in Baltimore that offered programs or support for gay or lesbian people and their parents. Zukerberg and her husband sought help and became active with the local chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays), a national organization founded 40 years ago.

"Orthosexuality" by Elli Fischer

12/19/11 Jewish Ideas Daily Publication
The Talmud tells a story about one Rabbi Kahana who hid under the bed of his master, Rabbi Abba (better known as Rav), as the latter was having sex with his wife. Kahana, shocked at the type of frivolous language used by his mentor, commented that Rav was behaving ravenously. Rav exclaimed, "Kahana, you're here? Get out! It's not proper!" Kahana replied, "It is Torah—and study it I must."

It is not easy to discern who gets the last word in this jarring little aggadah (indeed, it appears in several places in the Babylonian Talmud—sometimes with and sometimes without Kahana's ultimate proclamation). There is a clear tension between propriety and modesty on one hand, and the religious requirement to understand sexuality on the other.

The balance between these two values has varied from community to community and era to era, and there have certainly been Jewish communities far more prudish than the Talmud's. Yet in contemporary society, characterized by unprecedented sexual casualness, shifts within the Jewish community toward greater openness go unnoticed.  Public perception has tended to relate to several controversies that recently erupted within the American Modern Orthodox community—one relating to an Orthodox college student's article about a one-night stand and another pertaining to an Orthodox-style homosexual commitment ceremony in Washington, D.C.—as evidence of cloistering and repression within this community. In truth, however, there has been a subtle but dramatic shift toward greater openness about sexuality in the Modern Orthodox world over the past decade or so.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Finals time- brb by the 18th or sooner!

In the meanwhile, please take a look at the 400+ articles posted. Lots of amazing content. Happy Hanukkah!
Rich Dweck

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"OBSERVANT JEW, AND GAY" by Yanir Dekel (Daniel Jonas in english)

A Wider Bridge- December 4th, 2012: My name is Daniel Jonas. I’m 30 years old, born and raised in Jerusalem, Masters-degree student in the History of the Israeli People at the Hebrew University. I’m an observant Jew, and gay.

Since the fourth grade, kids at school shouted at me, in class and in the halls, this word: ‘Homo.’ I don’t think I quite understood what it meant back than, and I’m not sure they understood it, but it was pretty clear for everyone that “homo” was a word of denigration.

"Reparative Therapy is Quackery, Rabbis Agree—But that Doesn’t Mean it’s Okay to Be Gay" by Jay Michaelson

Religion Dispatches- December 2, 2012: Three things happened in the gay Jewish Orthodox world this past week: one was reported on CBS and CNN, and the other two passed relatively unnoticed. But to really understand the former, you need to know about the latter two.
The big development was the lawsuit filed by four former clients of JONAH (“Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing”), the leading Jewish “reparative therapy” organization. The clients, and two of their parents, have sued JONAH for fraud, claiming that the organization peddled quack therapies that were ineffective and counterproductive. 
This is big news, and, if successful, the suit would represent the second major blow against “reparative therapy” this year—the first being California’s banning of it entirely.
What went unnoticed outside the Orthodox world, however, were two very different statements on Judaism and homosexuality.
First, the Rabbinical Council of America (the umbrella organization of Orthodox rabbis) fully withdrew their support of JONAH, claiming, in fact, that they’d never supported it to begin with. This step strongly suggests that the organization has lost credibility in the modern Orthodox world.

Second, and from the somewhat-moderate wing of the ultra-Orthodox community, last week saw yet another rabbinic decree stating that homosexual behavior of any kind is against Jewish law. The opinion, by Rabbi Aharon Feldman, is by far the most up-to-date anti-gay statement from any religious authority. 

"Orthodox Rabbis Say Gay ‘Cure’ Therapy Doesn’t Work" and the Dr. Oz show by Jay Michaelson

Daily Beast-December 1, 2012:  Following a lawsuit against ‘reparative therapy’ for gays, Orthodox rabbis come out against the therapy, even as mainstream media outlets continue to give the unlicensed therapists a platform. Jay Michaelson reports.

You know it’s a weird week when a group of Orthodox rabbis comes off understanding homosexuality better than mainstream TV personalities.

But that’s what happened: at the same time as the Rabbinical Council of America, the largest professional association of Orthodox rabbis in the world, was disavowing any connection with a leading provider of “reparative therapy” for gays in the wake of a new lawsuit, not one but two television doctors gave the therapy’s practitioners a sympathetic national spotlight.

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