US, Israeli Orthodox rabbis sign statement of principles.
By JONAH MANDEL
Dozens of Orthodox rabbis and educators have signed a statement of principles on the “place of Jews with a homosexual orientation in our community” that seeks to emphasize the dignity and respect such individuals are due as human beings and as Jews.The original draft was prepared by Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York, and over the past six months has been garnering the signatures of rabbis and educators in the US, including members of the Rabbinical Council of America and Yeshiva University.Signatories from Israel include Efrat’s Rabbi Shlomo Riskin; Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, head of Petah Tikvah’s Hesder Yeshiva; Rabbi David Bigman, head of Yeshivat Hakibbutz Hadati; and Rabbi Seth Farber of the NGO ITIM.Stressing from the outset that “demeaning someone with a homosexual orientation or same-sex attraction is a violation of Torah prohibitions,” the 12-clause document, available at statementofprinciplesnya.blogs pot.com, proceeds to address potential run-in points between homosexuality and halachic adherence.It says, for example, that heterosexual marriage is “the ideal model and sole legitimate outlet for human sexual expression,” without the “sensitivity and understanding we properly express for human beings with other sexual orientations” diminishing from that principle.The document also declares the “religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject therapeutic approaches [encouraging a change in orientation] they reasonably see as useless or dangerous,” and later emphasizes that “Jews with homosexual orientations or same sex-attractions should be welcomed as full members of the synagogue and school community.”For signatory Rabbi Benny Lau, head of the Ramban Synagogue in Jerusalem, the statement of principles is perhaps no less important to the religious parents and siblings of people with homosexual orientations than to the individuals themselves. At times, he said, the discovery of such inclinations can be shocking and perplexing to families.“There are families that don’t know how to deal with such situations, and face huge embarrassment, perplexity and difficulty,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “There are huge differences between the liberal and religious sectors, and it is our role as rabbis to provide the spiritual support in all parts of life.”Lau, who has firsthand experience of many such family ordeals, stressed the need to highlight the “menschheit” of homosexual individuals. “There is no community that doesn’t face this issue,” he said. “It is our duty to see the humanity of these people, first and foremost, and thus help the families cope.”
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