Dutch rabbi reinstated after homosexuality row

Ralbag was suspended for co-signing statement which said homosexuality could be healed.

By CNAAN LIPSHIZ, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
February 2, 2012 23:53
2 minute read.
Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag

Aryeh Ralbag_150 . (photo credit: nihs.nl)

 
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THE HAGUE – The Orthodox Jewish community of Amsterdam reinstated its chief rabbi, Aryeh Ralbag, on Thursday after briefly suspending him last month for having co-signed a statement in which homosexuality was described as an inclination from which one can be “healed.”

According to the board of the community, NIHS, Ralbag’s reinstatement came after he “acknowledged both verbally and in writing” that he “should not have signed the statement using his title as chief rabbi of Amsterdam.”

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Ralbag, a US-born rabbi who was made chief rabbi of Amsterdam in 2005, was temporarily relieved of his duties by the board of the NIHS after signing the “Declaration On The Torah Approach To Homosexuality” which called on “authority figures” to “guide same-sex strugglers towards a path of healing and overcoming their inclinations.”

The online document was signed by 180 other US rabbis. Ralbag signed the online petition as “Av Beth Din Agudas Harabonim (Union of Orthodox Rabbis) Rav of Congregation Ahavath Israel, the Young Israel of Avenue K. Brooklyn, NY.” He travels back and forth from Amsterdam to the US.

Contacted by The Jerusalem Post after his reinstatement, Ralbag sent a declaration saying: “I do not believe that I have to apologize to anyone for my Torah-based beliefs; nevertheless, I sincerely regret and apologize to anyone pained by the inaccurate portrayal of my views.”

He added: If a person wishes to live a Torah lifestyle, then that person must refrain from this form of sexual conduct. I am not here to excommunicate anyone from the community of Torah believers. Nor did I ever say that homosexuality is a disease or a sickness...when I use the word ‘healing,’ I am referring to a ‘healing-of-the-soul,’ a ‘spiritual-healing’.... My message was one of inclusion not rejection.”

In its declaration, the NIHS board spoke about the need to reexamine the current long-distance system, in which Amsterdam’s chief rabbi does not live there.

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According to one person from the Jewish community involved in reconciliation talks between the parties, who spoke on condition of anonymity, “the message was that Rabbi Ralbag won’t be Amsterdam’s chief rabbi for long.”

The person added: “What happened is that both parties found a formulation that allowed them to climb down from their positions.”

In an interview with the Post following his suspension, Ralbag said that “it was scandalous that the Jewish community is preventing its rabbi from speaking the halachic standpoint.”

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