AMSTERDAM – The Orthodox Jewish community of Amsterdam suspended its US-born
chief rabbi on Tuesday for cosigning a declaration which said homosexuality was
a “treatable” inclination.
Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag told The Jerusalem Post
Wednesday that he found it “scandalous that a chief rabbi cannot state the Torah
viewpoint for his community without being penalized.”RELATED:
Tel Aviv named 'world's best gay city' for 2011
Openly gay orthodox Jews get their say, support
Ralbag, who was
made chief rabbi of Amsterdam in 2005, was temporarily relieved of his duties on
Tuesday by the board of the Orthodox Jewish community (NIHS) after he signed a
document describing homosexuality as an inclination which “can be modified and
The document, titled “Declaration On The Torah Approach To
) called on “authority figures” to “guide same-sex
strugglers towards a path of healing and overcoming their
“Rabbi Ralbag’s signature may give the impression the
Orthodox Jewish community of Amsterdam shares his view,” a press release by the
NIHS read. “This is absolutely untrue. Homosexuals are welcome at the Amsterdam
In an interview with the Post
, Ralbag said that what
he co-signed represented the “Torah viewpoint.” He added: “It’s really
irrelevant if homosexual inclination or attraction is hereditary or acquired
through the environment – there is a debate on this issue among
If one wants to live a Torah life, then one can change it.
That is what the declaration was about.”
He also said that the context in
which the declaration was made is the American elections and the same-sex issue
being debated in the US.
“Christian as well as Jewish religious leaders
have expressed their position on this issue. It is their task to do
The suspension, according to Ralbag, is “intolerant on the part of
the Jewish community – it is to deny the community’s rabbi the right to express
the halachic standpoint.
This is unheard of.” He added that the
declaration never explicitly called homosexuality a “disease,” as some Dutch
Ronnie Eisenmann, chairperson of the NIHS board, said:
“The community regrets that the chief rabbi co-signed this document and
distances itself from this view.” He also offered “heartfelt apologies to anyone
who may have been hurt by the rabbi’s signature.”
“The board has decided
to (temporarily) relieve the chief rabbi from his duties, in any case until he
travels to Amsterdam to discuss the issue.”
Esther Voet, former editor-in-chief of Dutch Jewish weekly Nieuw Israëlietisch Weekblad
, supported the
decision to relieve Ralbag of his duties.
“I think it’s the only right
position because the policies of Rabbi Ralbag have come repeatedly under
scrutiny for a while now.”
Voet, currently vice-director of CIDI - the
Dutch Jewish community’s watchdog on anti-Semitism – said there was a cultural
gap between the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Brooklyn and the relatively
liberal Dutch Orthodox community. Following Ralbag's co-signature, her
organization on Tuesday called on Ralbag to step down as chief
“The Dutch Jewish neshama [soul] is unique. We have special rules,
like waiting only one hour before eating meat and dairy. We need a chief rabbi
who is aware of our traditions and that’s something you cannot fly in two times
a year,” she said.
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!