(photo credit: REUTERS)
A group of leaders from the liberal religious-Zionist community have issued a public video that calls on religious Jews to show greater respect to the LGBT community, and to ask for forgiveness for how they have treated them in the past.
The video comes ahead of Yom Kippur, when it is traditional to ask for forgiveness from those one may have hurt, and has been hailed by LGBT groups as a new breakthrough in efforts to promote greater tolerance towards homosexuals, particularly those who are religious.
The video is a flowing monologue, read without interruption by different leaders who follow one another in a continuous delivery of the message. They include: Rabbi Dr. Benny Lau of the Ramban community in Jerusalem; Rabbanit Dr. Hannah Friedman of the Yachad community in Tel Aviv; Rabbi Meir Nehorai, head of the Beit Hillel rabbinical association; Rabbi Benny Perel, dean of the Bar Ilan Yeshiva high school in Tel Aviv; Malka Puterkovsky, an expert in Jewish law; Dr. Hannah Kehat, founder of the women’s rights group Kolech; and Rabbi Ilai Ofran, an educator and rabbi of the Yavne cooperative town.
“Ahead of Yom Kippur, you look at yourself and ask yourself ‘did you see, did you see everyone who’s around you, did you see the people who aren’t you?’ Lau says at the beginning of the video.
“God can forgive us for our sins committed against Him, but He cannot conceal the pain and injuries and sins that we sinned against other people. It doesn’t even help if we did these sins and injuries in the name of God,” continues Friedman.
Next, Puterkovsky says, “Our starting point needs to be a lack of judgment, for people who have a homosexual inclination, for LGBTs, for gays and lesbians.”
“In the past year, some of our rabbis have unfortunately deviated from the straight path and from the path of the Torah,” Kehat continues, using the same Hebrew word for deviated as used by Rabbi Yigal Levenstein, a prominent national-religious educator and leader when he described homosexuals as perverts earlier this year.
“They have hurt and offended people just for who they are, especially the LGBT community,” adds Kehat.
“I pray that in the coming year, we will be inclusive people and open our ranks,” Lau next says.
“I very much hope and wish that in the coming year, we will all remember that the most important principle in the Torah is ‘to love one’s fellow as one loves oneself, this is the whole Torah and the rest is commentary,’” Kehat continues.
Ofran concludes, “Our most important challenge is the understanding that the mission of our lives is to build a community where there is space, space for those similar and space for those different. And if there are entire groups that cannot find a place, it’s not just that we are sinning towards our fellow man but that we are sinning also to God.”
The video was the initiative of Shoval, an educational organization of LGBT activists promoting tolerance, Bat-Kol religious lesbians, and Havruta religious gays, who approached the various religious and communal leaders who appeared in the video to ask for their participation.
Following the video’s release, Daniel Jonas, chairman of Havruta, said leaders who have spoken out publicly in support of religious gays do not need to apologize, only those who have not, or those who have attacked them and their lifestyles.
“This is a call to the religious public from their leaders to begin to speak as their leaders have done, and we need more leaders to speak like this and to see us as an indivisible part of the religious community,” said Jonas.