Rabbi Lau releases guide for religious LGBTQ+ Jews: Not good to be alone

The document is meant to provide guidance on relationships and families of members of the religious LGBTQ+ community which has been severely lacking from religious literature, explained Lau.

LGBT flag on Jerusalem's King George Street, July 31, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
LGBT flag on Jerusalem's King George Street, July 31, 2018
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
“Only on one thing, is it said in the Torah, [is that it’s] ‘not good’: ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’ (Bereshit 2:18)” wrote Rabbi Benny Lau in a post introducing a new document he has authored on advice and guidance for religious LGBTQ+ Jews.
The document is intended to provide guidance on relationships for families of members of the religious LGBTQ+ community which has been severely lacking from religious literature, explained Lau.
Lau wrote the document with guidance from additional rabbis and members of the LGBTQ+ community. He stressed that this is not a “book of Jewish Law” that needs to be taken as if written in stone, but it is a collection of recommendations that do not permit prohibitions or prohibit things that are permitted.
“It seeks to pave a possible way of life within the reality of life. It is an encounter between the world of ideas and the world of reality, between the eye that rises to the sky and the encounter with the person who lives in my environment,” wrote Lau.
“Our religious world is always built of these two levels: the ideal Torah level and the reality of the world as it is.”
“Those who want to worship God in the world in its entirety should get used to holding in his hands both the ideal Torah and reality and live with both,” added Lau.
“It is always more difficult, often leaving us unanswered, incomprehensible and sometimes frightened by the gap between heaven and earth.”
Lau added that he hoped that as more and more people read the document, their comments and thoughts would help fix and adjust it. The document is split into four parts, discussing coming out of the closet, relationships, marriage and family.
In the first part, Lau encouraged those who feel comfortable to come out in at least some way, as a positive step. But he stressed that this was a decision that must be left to each individual.
In the second part, Lau stressed that while the heterosexual family is definitely the ideal in the Torah, the world is not ideal and relationships need to fit each individual person.
Lau stressed that relationships cannot be based on deception and that even if someone with attraction to the same sex chooses to enter a heteronormative relationship, they must be honest with their partner.
If the person is repulsed by the opposite sex as a partner, they should not try and force it.
The rabbi said that “the need for a relationship with a person with a homosexual orientation is no different from the needs of all human beings.”
“This is a very personal choice and the accompanying environment should strive to avoid judgment and allow the personal process to grow according to the person’s ability and needs,” wrote Lau, encouraging parents to seek help from support groups to understand how to process this.
While Lau discouraged parents from sending their children to conversion therapy due to the risks and dangers, he added that an adult who chooses to go to conversion therapy should be allowed to do so.
In the third part, Lau said that “no acceptable solution” has been found for the questions concerning same-sex marriage in religious communities. Many people have the desire to announce to themselves and to the world that they have chosen to live in a marital covenant and it is “impossible and wrong to ignore or alienate this need,” wrote Lau.
He encouraged the creation of a proper alternate ceremony instead of simply imitating the traditional marriage ceremony.
In the fourth part, Lau stated that “halacha does not prohibit members of the LGBTQ+ community from raising children and building a family.”
There are, however, unique halachic questions that arise with LGBTQ+ families, such as concerning surrogacy, in-vitro fertilization and conversion.
Lau said that LGBTQ+ families should be equal members of the community and should be allowed to be an active part, including in religious roles, while also practicing the same modesty customs of their community. The children should be treated and respected like all other children in the community.
The rabbi added that the community should not “fear” that inclusion will cause people to “drift” or be confused with their identities, as “reality shows that no man or woman voluntarily chooses this tendency.”
“In any case,” concluded Lau, “we must not harm people who were created and live within their inclination. And the verse will be held by us that says “With You is the fountain of life; by Your light do we see light. (Tehillim 36:10)”
“First and foremost, we welcome Rabbi Lau’s choice to address an issue that is like breathing air for all of us – love, relationships and family,” said the coalition of religious Jewish LGBTQ+ organizations, including Bat Kol, Havruta and Shoval, in response to the publication.
“It is time for these issues to be discussed in public, even in the rabbinical-halachic discourse,” added the coalition. “A courageous, empathetic, scholarly and sensitive discourse on the subject can ensure many more homes that combine a complete and present LGBTQ+ identity, alongside a religious, faith and community life that revolves around the world of Torah.”
“God willing, we will continue to work for the existence of such a discourse even among rabbis, and just as we began the reading of the Torah in Bereshit, so we hope that Rabbi Lau and the blessed discourse he promotes will be the lead for healthier and better religious perceptions of light and acceptance, towards the LGBTQ+ religious community,” added the organizations.
Lau is a prominent religious Zionist rabbi and a nephew of former chief rabbi Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and first cousin of the current chief rabbi, David Lau. He served as rabbi of the Ramban Synagogue in Jerusalem for 18 years until 2019.