May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

To the Editor:

Editor’s note: This letter from Rabbi Gil Student responds to three recent letters received by the Jewish Link in reaction to his article, “The Modern Orthodox Jew and Gay Marriage,” published July 2, 2015.

Thank you, Hale Perlmutter, for your wonderful thoughts. I’m not sure where in my article you saw a call for exclusion—either of learned women or LGBT Jews. We do not need to change Jewish law or custom to be open and to reach out to our fellow Jews; we need to change our attitudes. Thankfully, many of us are doing pretty well in friendliness and openness but we all have room for improvement. Non-Orthodox Jews, LGBT Jews, women, older singles, divorcees, converts—these are only some of the people who sometimes feel insecure and excluded in our communities. Both rabbis and laypeople need to be friendlier and more open so that no one feels excluded from our shuls, schools and communities. None of this requires changing halacha.

Dr. Stanley Shapiro argues that the government’s role in marriage is that of affirming a religious ceremony. Yet, he apparently wants the government to prevent liberal religious clergy from conducting gay marriages. As voices across the globe denounce circumcision and kosher slaughter, I see wisdom in the view that governments stay neutral on issues of religion, even though there are other concerns to consider.

Aryeh Grinberg wants to see no conflict between our instincts and the Torah’s guidance on gay marriage. I find that troubling. While we wish for everyone to find happiness in God’s embrace, real life isn’t always so simple. Many people live difficult lives. Personally, I wish for everyone emotional and physical comfort, menuchas ha-nefesh u-menuchas ha-guf. For gay Jews, as for many others, this is frequently out of reach in specific ways. In general, our task in life is to juggle many conflicting priorities and values. We have to balance our desire for our friends’ emotional satisfaction with our Torah worldview of right and wrong. When Rav Soloveitchik told a ba’al teshuvah, who had recently discovered he was a kohen, and his convert fiance that they could not marry, he did not tell them to be happy; he cried with them. We, too, can cry with our gay friends when necessary and rejoice with them when appropriate.

Gil Student

To the Editor:

It is with a heavy heart that I read last week’s Jewish Link (“The Rabbinical Council of America and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah: A Response to Rabbis Avi Weiss and Asher Lopatin,” by Dr. David Berger, July 9, 2015), particularly given that a discussion that highlights stances of division amongst Jews was printed during the three weeks. Isn’t that what got us into trouble in the first place?

Growing up, I had a visceral hatred of anything Orthodox (and this was an inclusive stance – Modern Orthodox, Ultra Orthodox, Chassidic) because of exclusive and judgmental messages similar to what was conveyed in an op-ed piece published last week.

After giving birth to our first child, my husband and I decided that we were searching for more meaning in our lives. We turned to Chabad, who welcomed us with open arms. Not once, did any of the rabbis with whom we interacted mention that the Rebbe was Mashiach. NOT ONCE. My husband attended the yearly Lubavitch convention with shlechim from all around the world. Not once was it mentioned that the Rebbe was Mashiach. NOT ONCE.

Fast-forward 16 years, because of the influence of Chabad, we are very active members of the Modern Orthodox community. Our children go to Modern Orthodox schools and we feel very blessed that we are able to contribute to these schools above and beyond the tuition requirements. We give our time and energy to enhance these schools. We belong to several Modern Orthodox shuls where my family davens with a minyan three times a day. We donate time and money to organizations that support those in the Jewish community who face adversity. We are engaged in chevrutas with other people who identify themselves as Modern Orthodox. On occasion, people have asked us if we are Lubavitch and we respond “We are Lubavish,” because much of what we have learned about going above and beyond, giving of oneself, and showing kindness came from our experience modeled by the Lubavitch community.

If an individual unfamiliar with Modern Orthodoxy were to zoom in on a particular segment of the Modern Orthodox community, they may wonder about and define us based on some of the choices made by esteemed members of the rabbinate, including sexual and financial misconduct. Yet, if this individual panned out, he would see that this is a small segment of a community that conducts itself with tremendous integrity. Sure, one can zoom in on the sometimes-vocal minority, who believe that the Rebbe was Mashiach, but if he were to zoom out, he would see that the majority of Lubavitch do not adhere to this belief.

If 16 years ago we came across opinions vocalized by last week’s Jewish Link op-ed editorial, we would have moved even further away from Judaism. Because of Chabad, the Dubitskys and many, many families like ours have become integral members of the Modern Orthodox community. We are proud of our roots.

Shera Dubitsky

Teaneck, NJ

 

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