No apologies for accepting same-sex couples in the Jewish Community


by Halley Cohen, new director of the Stuart S. Kurlander Program for GLBT Outreach & Engagement (GLOE)

The New Jersey Jewish Standard released a statement on Monday apologizing for the “pain and consternation” caused by a same-sex couple’s wedding announcement they had published last week. They have promised not to run any more such same-sex announcements in the future, saying that, “The Jewish Standard has always striven to draw the community together, rather than drive its many segments apart.” Well, all except the gays, of course. Apparently, this “community” they want to bring together does not include same-sex couples. Perhaps gay people individually, just as long as they aren’t too loud about it or want to draw any attention to themselves or their families or their lives.

This is why our children kill themselves.

In this ongoing spate of publicized suicides by young queer (or perceived queer) people, we grasp at any explanation to try to understand the tragedies. Is it because technology makes bullying and exploitation easier now? Maybe all of society is more polarized to the extremes in politics and actions. Or perhaps kids are just meaner to each other these days? I call “bullshit.” It’s too convenient to blame the kids. The kids aren’t without culpability, but if we’re going to trace the blame back to its source, then it has to rest on our own adult shoulders.

Every time we, as adults, decide that it’s fine to say something negative against people of different genders or sexualities, our children see that. They also see when we don’t speak up against other people who say anything to the effect of, “Gay isn’t okay.” And they see that everywhere – from politicians who win votes by preaching hate as a family value, to those who want LGBT teachers out of their schools. More broadly, every child has something within herself or himself or hirself that will separate that child from whatever is more common. If we don’t embrace big-D Difference, that child grows up fearing or hating her/his/hir own, both within and in others.

And we’re making it worse.

When papers like the New Jersey Jewish Standard cave to the interests of the “deep sensitivities within the traditional/Orthodox community,” they aren’t doing anyone any favors. Their actions fracture the Jewish community further because they make it seem like all traditional/Orthodox Jews are hostile to the LGBT community. Luckily, there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary. The DCJCC is proud to host DC Minyan, which identifies itself as, “fully traditional and fully egalitarian,” and invites people to celebrate the aufruf of two female members this coming Shabbat morning, among other inclusive events. Plus, there has been movement in national Orthodox groups, as well.

On October 20, GLOE will be welcoming Miryam Kabakov and her book, Keep Your Wives Away From Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires, to the DCJCC through the Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival. The element that struck me most was the sheer variety of experiences within an Orthodox or traditional setting:  women who are out of the closet and in; married, “married,” single, dating; in the happy aftermath and in the ongoing negotiations with family. Being queer is only incompatible with an Orthodox life if individuals decide it is. Often, they don’t.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised. I might have had a blind spot about the Orthodox because I figured, “I’m Jewish; I know what they believe.” It seems so many Jews have different rules for whoever they think of as “the Orthodox,” treat them differently (positively and negatively), even if only in their thoughts. The newspaper went so far as to change their editorial policies because a portion of that population was upset, even though the paper also mentioned letters of support for same-sex marriage announcements.

Keep Your Wives Away From Them gives images of lives that are often invisible or purposely ignored on multiple levels. It works against this trend that says to queer youth, you don’t exist here and are not welcome. By creating visible Jewish community, it says the opposite. The book says, “community” means same-sex couples, too.

More talk, more publicity, more ink in newspapers is what the issue needs. Not statements of apology for acknowledging the lives of queer Jews.

16 Responses

  1. We are going to pay for this as a people.

    G-ds word do not change;

    Leviticus Chapter 18 וַיִּקְרָא
    כב וְאֶת-זָכָר–לֹא תִשְׁכַּב, מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה: תּוֹעֵבָה, הִוא. 22
    Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is abomination.

    It is not bullying, for if people think that, then they must hate G-ds gutts.

    It is not this world that we will have to ‘apologize’ to.
    No amount of “You are intolerent. bigot, racist, bully, xeno-phobe’ etc is going to change what G-d has written.

  2. This is truly discusting. An abomanation. You can’t call yourself orthodox if you A. Marry Gays as a Rabbi or B. Are Gay

  3. Abandonment of the mitzvah; what a tragedy. Spitting in the face of HaShem. For shame.

  4. I’m not Jewish, but I was raised to be a Muslim, with the Quran as the word of G-d. I also am gay. Me, my family, and the larger Muslim community would have benefited a lot if Muslims had more of the types of gay-accepting programs that are described in this article.

    Instead, I went through a lot of unnecessary alienation from my family and made some very poor decisions when what I really needed was helpful guidance.

    The more traditional view seems to hold that the purpose of religion is to satisfy G-d’s voracious ego and keep him from blowing his top. I agree that such a G-d must hate those defiant homosexual teens.

    That idea of G-d caused my own family to disown me. But with time, they took me back and decided to either overlook the gay thing or accept it. They are all still good Muslims–they do the five pillars, wear the scarf (mom and sisters), contribute to the Muslim and general community, don’t drink or fornicate… seriously upright Muslims.

    And their relationship with G-d is no weaker due to their acceptance that homosexuality is a natural part of the human variety.

    I think they made this gay-accepting shift because they’ve looked at the second, admittedly more recent, idea about the role of religion: Religion is to give people a place. It isn’t just about groveling before a temperamental G-d. Religion is a gift from G-d to help people feel loved and connected.

    Muslims in general and gays like me both lose out because of the fundamentalist/orthodox idea of G-d’s temper and wrath. I’ve lost a community, a sense of belonging, and they’ve lost… me, and several other young Muslims who go through the same inner and family suffering that I went through, and most of them aren’t as lucky as I’ve been.

    Of course the world is a rough place. It might not be bearable or living without faith in a kind and loving G-d. (Which might explain the high suicide rate among gay teens in particularly religious societies.) People need to hear that G-d loves us all, even us queers: that’s the message these gay orthodox groups are pushing, and it’s something that human beings need to hear. Gay people need G-d’s love and attention as much as straight people do. When religion tells people that G-d rejects their existence, that they’re abominations, then the interpretation of that religion is doing more harm than good. And voices are needed, voices of acceptance like those mentioned in this article.

    A few weeks ago, my fundamentalist sister recently paraphrased some Islamic scholar and what she said stood out to me because it didn’t sound like the Islam I grew up with:

    ‘The purpose of religion is to give people a sense of place in the world. Suicide is one of the most upsetting things to people in a religious society because it means that the faith community is failing. Religious communities are failing whenever people don’t feel they have a place.’

    Perhaps my sister is going to rot in Hell for deciding that Islam is about this sweet bleeding-heart business. Of course Allah is capable of unkindness. But I think Muslims will be lucky if this scholar my sister paraphrased is expressing a shift in attitude about the role of religion within Muslim thought (ie., religion is a gift to make life better for human beings, not a tool for G-d to express his rage and demand grateful slaves.)

    Of course the ‘grateful slaves’ thing is a very Islamic idea of the human/G-d relationship. I suspect there’s a better, less distasteful Orthodox Jewish way to phrase what I’m saying about the two views on the role of religion.

    Of course I might be wrong and religion might be just a helpful tip sheet of how to placate and how not to enrage G-d. But I think Muslims and Jews and human beings in general will make better use of the natural need for G-d if we use our faiths to make life less painful and isolated.

    Of course, I understand that if one takes the most literal perspective, then my precious thoughts on what we should “use” religion for are extremely blasphemous.

  5. Wasn’t it Hillel who said that ‘Judaism…could be defined as treating others as you would be treated. Everything else is commentary.’? G-d wouldn’t hate/abominate anyone made in G-d’s image. G-d gave each of us a mind, a will, the freedom to choose who and what we are. Wasn’t there a Jewish philosopher who said, “If I’m like you, who will be like me?”
    Shame on the New Jersey Jewish Standard for bending to a splinter group’s hate and propaganda. Where is it’s integrity?

  6. Halley…so very proud to be related to you, tho tenuous.I want to see judaism as a large tent with place for everyone. My late brother was gay, and was the wittiest, warmest , most intelligent of men. Same sex weddings should not even be an issue..As Jews, we should welcome and celebrate love in every shape, form, and manifestation…..Doris

  7. As Jews, we should welcome and celebrate love in every shape, form, and manifestation…..Doris

    –As Jews, we are supposed to represent G-ds WORDS.

    Nobody ever said that we are not allowed to LOVE people, but we have standards to live by.

    Then we cry “ANTI SEMITISM” over something like this, when we break law.

    When you get called bad names for endorsing this type behavior and even marrying it together, you get what you deserve, and people have EVERY right to criticize you.

    Over and over, time and again HaShem warned us what happens when we get away from his commands and law.
    This post is a perfect example of how and why we bring G-ds wrath on the earth.

  8. I see 7 thumbs down on me, that is 7 thumbs that HATE HaShem.

    • 8 now.

      • 8 now.

        Good Bradley, at least you are honest in your hatred of g-d.
        Thank you, thats more than we usually get from left wing fascism.

        • Not in my hatred of G-d, just in my hatred of your personal views. I am agnostic, but I don’t hate any religion or their g-d.

          However, I find your views deplorable and fundamentalist. You seem to put aside humanity for a blinkered literal interpretation of religious text. I think your views towards gay people run contrary to what religion should be about, and I love this article for highlighting the humanity and compassion which I think should be integral in religion.

          The writers of this article are testament to religion being used for good. I think you need to bear in mind that people with differing views to you are not necessarily g-d-haters, and it’s arrogant for you to suggest that only your views are correct.

          I think that we shouldn’t read everything literally in all religious texts, and must remember that the time in which they were written had an impact upon the content of the book.

          I assure you I am not a fascist. I support your right to worship as you wish, but if you try to reduce the rights of other people do live their personal lives as they wish – such as condemning gay people – I will challenge you.

  9. just in my hatred of your personal views

    Its not personal, it is G-ds Business:
    Lev. 18:

    כב וְאֶת-זָכָר–לֹא תִשְׁכַּב, מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה: תּוֹעֵבָה, הִוא. 22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is abomination.

    YOUR problem is NOT with me, it is with HaShem.

    I dont give a damn how people live their lives in private, but marrying in a synagogue is a Chillul HaShem and you know this.

    • Your argument works on the assumption that what you quote is definitely, 100% certainly the word of G-d. I am not arrogant enough to presume I know there certainly isn’t a g-d, and I don’t like you being arrogant enough to presume that your interpretation of G-d is 100% pure fact and the text you quote couldn’t possibly have been influenced by personal views at the time it was written, and has no potential whatsoever to be incorrect.

      It’s actually absurd that you think anyone who believes something different from you is a G-d hater. For you to presume your view of G-d and His word is the only correct one is not correct. To dismiss anyone who disagrees with your views as being a “G-d-hater” is petty, and is made even more so by the fact that this article serves as evidence that there are other Jews who take a modern, compassionate view of the subject, and wish for their faith to have a positive impact as opposed to a dogmatic one.

      Furthermore, how can you use quote which condemns sex between two men as your evidence, but then only say it bothers you if two gay people marry in a Synagogue? If you are going to follow the quote in its literal sense, you surely must think gay Jewish men are abominations. Do you? And if not, doesn’t that make you just as much of a “G-d hater” as me?

      I’ll quote you something from another website which sums up my opinion: “More progressive movements of Judaism believe homosexuality today was not understood when the Bible was written so the Biblical prohibition of homosexual acts needs to be adapted.”

      It’s also clear that not all Jews agree with you:
      “The Reconstructionist movement expressed its support for the full inclusion of gay men and lesbians in all aspects of Jewish life in its 1992 Report of the Reconstructionist Commission on Homosexuality. The report affirmed the holiness of homosexual relationships and the need to affirm them in a Jewish context: “As we celebrate the love between heterosexual couples, so too we celebrate the love between gay or lesbian Jews.” The Reconstructionist movement today also fully endorses efforts to legalize civil same-sex marriages and grant homosexual couples equal benefits.”

      And regarding the Reform movement:
      “Three years later, a different conclusion was reached by a much larger body. In March 2000, the CCAR voted overwhelmingly to support colleagues who choose to perform same-sex ceremonies. Their “Resolution on Same Gender Officiation” states, “that the relationship of a Jewish, same gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual.” However, the final text of the resolution allowed for individual rabbis to choose not to perform such ceremonies. In addition, it avoided the term kiddushin, leaving open the question of the exact form or Jewish status of the ceremonies. It also called for the development of sample ceremonies to be used as a resource for those rabbis who plan to perform same-sex Jewish weddings.”

      It’s clear that this is a contentious issue amongst Jews, and yours is not the only opinion. Do you consider those Rabbis who perform gay marriages as “G-d hating” as me?

      I also want to point out that on your blog you reference Obama as a Muslim multiple times, which, aside from being false right-wing nonsense, you use it in an insulting way, as if being a Muslim makes someone evil and inferior, suggesting his is unfit to be President. I find this view deplorable, especially given that you have categorised everyone who disagrees with your view on this subject as a “fascist”.

  10. I find this view deplorable, especially given that you have categorised everyone who disagrees with your view on this subject as a “fascist”.

    —————–I feel that people who are PUSHING something that I do NOT believe in as a Jew in MY synagogue or ANY synagogue is FASCISTIC.

    Obama is a Muslim, his father was, he is, that is how Islam is. As was his stepfather.
    I dont know why this bothers left wing fascists, considering you all love the Muslims more than Americans.

  11. [...] by qjew in San Francisco by Halley Cohen, the new director of the Stuart S. Kurlander Program for Gay & Lesbian Outreach and Engagement (GLOE) The New Jersey Jewish Standard released a statement on Monday apologizing for the “pain and consternation” caused by a same-sex couple’s wedding announcement they had published last week. They have promised not to run any more such same-sex announcements in the future, saying that, “The Jewish Standard has always striven to dr … Read More [...]

  12. [...] by qjew in Jewish Tags: Gay, Gay Lesbian and Bisexual, Gloe, Jewish, Jewish Standard, Jews, Judaism, LGBT, New Jersey, queer, Religion and Spirituality, Same-sex marriage, Same-sex relationship, United States by Halley Cohen, the new director of the Stuart S. Kurlander Program for Gay & Lesbian Outreach and Engagement (GLOE)  The New Jersey Jewish Standard released a statement on Monday apologizing for the “pain and consternation” caused by a same-sex couple’s wedding announcement they had published last week. They have promised not to run any more such same-sex announcements in the future, saying that, “The Jewish Standard has always striven to dr … Read More [...]

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