Gay Orthodox group emerges on Web

However, newly formed Internet community prefers to stay out of debate on same-sex adoption rights.

gay parade 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
gay parade 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A burgeoning, newly formed Internet community of male Orthodox homosexuals called Hod was keeping a low profile one day after recognition of same-sex couples as candidates for adoption sparked a wave of indignation among religious MKs. Established just two weeks ago, there is nothing on Hod's Web site about the revolutionary decision published Sunday by Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to allow the Welfare and Social Services Ministry to recognize same-sex couples as legitimate adoptive families; nor will there be in the near future. "We are being watched with a magnifying glass right now," said 'Rabbi Ron,' perhaps Israel's only outwardly gay Orthodox rabbi, who helped establish Hod. "We have to be careful not to ruin our relations with the Orthodox establishment. Besides, we are not at the stage where we can express our opinions about same-sex partnerships and families. Our battles are at a much more elementary level. We are trying to convince rabbis, educators, lay leaders and even the general public that homosexuality is not a mental sickness," he continued. The breadth of the ideological chasm separating Hod from mainstream Orthodoxy and the depth of the traditionalists' enmity for homosexuality was in bold relief against Sunday's flurry of caustic reactions by religious and haredi MKs to Mazuz's decision. Deputy Prime Minister and Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said that Mazuz's legal opinion was a "trampling of family values" and called it "repulsive and unnerving." "The ideal family will not be distorted as if this were Sodom and Gomorrah," he said, adding that he was "filled with disgust" over the decision. Meanwhile, Zevulun Orlev, chairman of the National Religious Party, attacked Mazuz's decision, calling it a "sin against the children up for adoption and against the Jewish faith." "As an educator I know that same-sex parents will traumatize and endanger the development of adopted children and hurt their ability to cope with tension." Rabbi Ron said that he was used to what he called the MKs' homophobia. "The fear and loathing are totally on their side. They lack a basic understanding of what it means to be both religious and homosexual. Most religious people think we are sick. They stereotype us, which makes dialogue impossible." Rabbi Ron said that one of the goals of the Internet site was to break down stereotypes and foster dialogue. "We want religious people to know that we want to adhere to Halacha. But we also want them to understand that a homosexual is born the way he is and has no choice." Rabbi Ron differentiates between the homosexual's identity and his or her actions. "Judaism's main emphasis is on actions. We understand that, and we are not asking rabbis to permit anal sex or to make any changes in Halacha. We just want basic understanding." The biblical prohibition against homosexual intercourse appears in the Book of Leviticus (18:22), "Thou shalt not lie down with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination." An Internet community of Orthodox lesbians called Bat Kol was established in 2005. Lesbian relations are not as controversial from a halachic perspective, since there is no biblical prohibition against lesbian sexual relations. Also, women are not commanded to "be fruitful and multiply" according to most opinions in Orthodoxy. On Sunday, Hod issued a 10-point letter to rabbis and educators in the Orthodox community asking for understanding and recognition of homosexuals' plight. Some of the points include refraining from forcing homosexuals to marry the opposite sex, instead permitting homosexuals to be "married to the community" by devoting themselves to social activism; and differentiating between the prohibited act of anal sex and the permitted feelings of love that one man has for his male partner. Rabbi Ron said that since the Web site was launched two weeks ago, it has received dozens of inquiries by Orthodox homosexuals.