Sunday, January 16, 2022

Having read your article “A First Step: LGBTQ+ and the Frum Community” by Rabbi Yisrael Motzen (September 27, 2021), and the subsequent letter by Dr. Tzvi Small, “More Is Needed for LGBTQ+ Community” (October 14, 2021), I would like to submit my two cents on this matter. I would say that this is a very complicated issue.

First of all, I would say that no gay, transgender or pansexual individual should be expelled from a synagogue. Unfortunately, on several occasions that has happened. Modern Orthodox, Open Orthodox and Chabad shuls have never made a requirement of compliance with halacha as a condition of membership. We do not require Shabbat observance in order to eat in a sukkah.

Why should a person who is gay, lesbian, transgender or pansexual be barred from an Orthodox synagogue if we are not going to bar people who do not keep kosher, Shabbat etc.?

Secondly, while we should welcome people who are gay, lesbian, transgender, pansexual etc., there also should be a limit on that welcome. While a synagogue should welcome everyone with exceptions I will later state, the synagogue and the rabbi must be committed to halacha. While the above-stated groups should be welcomed into the synagogue, they should be welcomed as individuals, not as couples. In a nearby synagogue, that issue came up when a lesbian couple wanted to join as a married couple. Further, YCT was 100% correct in refusing to ordain a non-celibate gay man.

In addition, Orthodox Judaism has restrictions on how to handle transgender transitions. Where that person should sit is a matter to be determined by the rav of the shul.

Thirdly, the situation differs from intermarriage in that where you have a situation where the couple has not committed to a Jewish identity, you will have a watering down and over the generations a disappearance in Jewish identity. This differs from the aforementioned individuals in that diminution of Jewish identity is simply not present here and the problem of dual-faith couples entering an Orthodox synagogue is probably not going to happen.

Lastly, there should be a ban on disrespectful language on both sides. Referring to individuals who are gay, lesbian, transgender or pansexual as abominations is simply wrong, just as trashing Orthodox Judaism and Orthodox Jewish individuals is wrong. And the former Chasid, who is transgender, who wrote a book and now has a Twitter feed trashing her former community is also wrong. In short, can we not disagree in a respectful tone?

Alan Levin
Fair Lawn
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