July 18, 2024
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Rabbi Kenneth Brander Calls for Increased Acceptance of Jews Who Identify as LGBT

(Courtesy of Ohr Torah Stone) In a call to action to Jewish communal leaders, educators and parents, President and Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone Rabbi Kenneth Brander addresses the religious need for increased tolerance and respect towards gay and lesbian Jews within the Orthodox community. A rabbi, educator and social activist with decades of communal leadership experience in both the United States and Israel, his article “Finding a Home in our Midst” provides a comprehensive survey of relevant traditional halachic sources while calling for a necessary change in attitude towards gay and lesbian Jews within Orthodox communal institutions.

“With each passing year, more and more gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews are voicing their desire to be part of the Orthodox Jewish community, and their peers and loved ones are standing by their sides,” Rabbi Brander writes. “If we are truly committed to the continuity of Jewish life for all our people, we are charged to ensure that every single gay and lesbian Orthodox Jew who wishes to remain amongst us feels welcome—for each of them is one of us.”

In a brief opening letter, rabbinic scholar Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter describes the article as a “roadmap for the ritual and social inclusion in the Orthodox community of Jewish who publicly identify as gay and lesbian,” and as a “learned and passionately presented article.”

Based on ancient and contemporary halachic sources, the article advocates that Jewish communities have a growing responsibility to promote respect, unity and understanding and to ensure opportunities for all Jews to connect with community and the divine in our synagogues, day schools and yeshivot.

By providing practical guidance for rabbis, teachers, heads of schools and synagogue leaders, Rabbi Brander addresses key areas such as synagogue membership, ritual honors, lifecycle events, funerary procedures, acceptance of children into schools and hiring decisions for day schools.

“There is no doubt that some readers of this article will argue that I have not gone far enough in calling for systemic changes to Modern Orthodoxy’s way of life,” writes Rabbi Brander. “Still others of a more conservative bent will peremptorily reject what I have written as beholden to a progressive agenda and out of the bounds of Torah. All I can say is that I have made my best efforts to be honest with the reader and with myself. I pray that I have walked the proper line to show commitment to all aspects of Jewish law.”

The full article can be found on the Ohr Torah Stone website at www.ots.org.il/finding-a-home-in-our-midst/ 

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