Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Rabbi, Dr. Elad Dukov, used the experience of victims of the Holocaust to condemn LGBTQ+ students at the university late last month, shortly before Holocaust Remembrance Day, according to screenshots of a WhatsApp conversation shared by an LGBTQ+ group on the campus.
"Holocaust Remembrance Day, [is] when we remember the terrible Holocaust in which the people of Israel gave up their lives and fought against those trying to destroy and erase the image of God in man. The boorishness and the callousness of the party that was organized on Tuesday is exactly the opposite spirit of this," wrote Dukov in a WhatsApp message, referring to a party organized by the LGBTQ+ student group TechnoQueers.
"The steadfastness on the Jewish spirit in these subjects is not easy and thank God throughout the years, we have merited to protect the campus as much as possible," added the rabbi. "Unfortunately, they are acting very violently, which is causing the silencing of matter-of-fact criticism, but I am sure that most of the non-religious campus is not comfortable with the callous party of these 50 to 80 people and especially on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day."
Homosexuals were one of the groups targeted by the Nazi regime. Between 5,000 to 15,000 men were sent to concentration camps as "homosexual offenders" and tens of thousands of others were imprisoned elsewhere, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Those sent to camps were forced to wear a pink triangle to identify them, with many survivor accounts saying that pink triangle prisoners were among the most abused groups in the camps. It is unknown how many homosexuals were murdered in the Holocaust.
The student group that organized the party stressed in a Facebook post that the party did not take place on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day and that there were 300, not 50 to 80, participants.
"Anyone who takes a part in promoting and taking responsibility on campus will receive the blessing of God," wrote Dukov in the WhatsApp message, welcoming an initiative by an unnamed student to open a "practical group" on the matter.
A separate screenshot showed a message by an unnamed student saying that they were opening a group that will "act together with the goal of promoting Jewish family values, against the attempt (and sadly also the success) of the [LGBTQ+ student group] at the Technion while changing the existing status-quo on the subject." The student invited anyone interested to join the group in order to "act as a large and significant body."
In response to Dukov's messages, the TechnoQueer student group stressed that "While there are factors that are trying to incite and separate, we will continue to work to bring hearts together. While others try to act against us in the name of religion, we will continue to cooperate with religious and non-religious organizations."
The TechnoQueer group is calling on students to wear pink at a job fair being held at the university on Wednesday, May 11 in order to show support for LGBTQ+ students.
'A new glass ceiling of insolence'
Havruta, an organization for LGBTQ+ religious Jewish men, condemned Dukov's statements, saying "The contrast between a party of the proud community and the heroism of the Jews in the Holocaust with the addition of the tale that LGBTQ+ people are violent is a new glass ceiling of insolence from the publishing house of Dukov."
"We encourage Dukov to return to what he is good at, being a gabbai at the synagogue, and not to illegally take advantage of the stage given to him to incite and divide," added Havruta. "We call on the Technion to put an end to this sad joke and to stop the 'counter-army' that Dukov is forming, for the benefit of the life and well-being of the LGBTQ+ people at the Technion."
Havruta also filed a complaint to the administration of the Technion.
The Agudah - The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel - also condemned the incident, stressing that Dukov signed a statement in 2018 in which he called LGBTQ+ people "perverts."
"This is how a university employee chose and chooses to take advantage of his status and incite violence time and time again against members of the LGBTQ+ community who study at the institution," said the Agudah. "The only answer to that LGBTQ-phobia is to keep Dukov away from any university position and it would be better [if it happens] before the next case of violence. Technion administration, condemnation is not enough - ensure the safety of members of the LGBTQ+ community at the university now."
The Agudah is examining legal avenues for action on the matter.
Some 2,971 cases of LGBTQ-phobic hate and violence were reported in Israel in 2021, the highest number reported since the first report was issued for data collected in 2013, according to the ninth annual report on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-phobia by the Nir Katz Center of the Aguda.