575 rabbis call on Israel to implement full equality for LGBTs

“The enshrining of discrimination into law, and harmful words spoken by religious leaders, sow the seeds of hatred and brutality in the land."

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August 7, 2018 18:04
2 minute read.
 Hundreds of members of LGBT community protest surrogacy law in Tel Aviv

Hundreds of members of LGBT community protest surrogacy law in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Some 575 rabbis from Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish communities across the US and Canada have signed an open letter calling on the government to change a new law, which excludes gay men from access to child surrogacy.

The letter was organized by A Wider Bridge, a North American Jewish LGBT advocacy and pro-Israel organization, and was also designed as a response to what it described as “a homophobic letter” signed by 200 conservative national-religious rabbis in Israel last month who called gays “perverts,” pro-LGBT groups “organizations of abomination,” and said children of gay families would lead “wretched lives.”

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Prominent signatories include Rabbi Steve Wernick, CEO of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism and Rabbi Debra Newman Kamin, president of the Rabbinical Assembly.

The recent law expanded access to child surrogacy for single women, who were until now, prohibited from surrogacy services but at the same time failed to give single men the same right, thereby precluding gay men this process.

The Wider Bridge letter said that the signatory rabbis “decry the rise of intolerance, discrimination and Sinat Chinam, baseless hatred, against the LGBTQ community in Israel,” and said they were “lifting their voices” out of love and concern for the entire Jewish people.

“Furthermore, in light of recent legislation barring gay men from surrogacy, we call on the Israeli leadership to reverse its discriminatory policy in favor of equal rights for all citizens,” the rabbis stated. “The enshrining of discrimination into law, and harmful words spoken by religious leaders, sow the seeds of hatred and brutality in the land, and put vulnerable members of Israeli society at risk of violence and worse.”

They also called on the 200 rabbis who signed the anti-LGBT letter to retract their comments, saying that their words could lead to violence against gays like the murder of Shira Banki at the Jerusalem Pride parade in 2015.

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“Three years ago at Jerusalem Pride, Shira Banki was brutally murdered by a man claiming to act in the name of Torah. While we all can agree that hatred, violence and murder are, in fact, nothing short of a Chilul Hashem, a desecration of God’s Name, we must similarly recognize that the recent rabbinic letter, as well as recent legislation, reflect a dehumanizing mindset that could, G-d forbid, lead to more tragedies like Shira’s murder in the future.”

The rabbis also called on Israel’s leaders to “reiterate the separation of religion and state as an ideal of democracy.”

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