Culture, Identity, Israel, Religion, Sex & Gender

Gay Tehillim Rally Brings Orthodox Jews Together

Isn’t it funny how the most unexpected things bring Orthodox Jews together?  Last month, YCT and YU Rabbinical students went on a Christian-Jewish interfaith mission together, and last night (8/10), the senior administrations of these two schools came out with dozens of others to the Manhattan JCC to remember those who were killed, pray for the injured, and recognize the every day pain, suffering, and fear that plagues the queer Jewish world.
Rabbi Yosef Blau, the Mashgiach Ruchani of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Avi Weiss, President of YCT, and Rabbi Dov Linzer, YCT’s Dean and Rosh Yeshiva each spoke at the event.  Rabbi Blau spoke in direct, clear words to the evilness of hatred and murder, and to need for all of us to act differently to our neighbors.  Rabbi Weiss lead the gathered in Rabbi Nachman’s song, reminding us that though the way is narrow and dangerous – we must never be afraid.  Rabbi Linzer lead the group in a unique prayer that he composed for the occasion.
In addition to the Rabbinic leadership, many leaders of the homodox community spoke about their ongoing activities, and we got an update regarding LGBT issues and organizations in Israel.
The unity, and the size of the event was inspiring, as well as the brave personal stories of the many who are struggling to be proud of who they are in all ways.  However, I still left with a bad taste in my mouth.  While this stuff was great, at the end of the day it was a memorial for two people who are dead, and I still don’t know that much about then.  I hardly heard a word about these people.  About the only thing I know is what the murderer wanted me to know – they are gay, and they are dead.
I know, I know, “You should never let a crisis go to waste.”  And yes, there is much work to be done, and yes, it was very inspiring to see this unprecedented event take place last night.  But, I just wish there was a way we could do that while still honoring the memories of these people who were killed.  To recognize that Nir Katz and Liz Trubeshi were real people, whose identity went far deeper than the gender of those they were attracted to.  I wish I could know them.  I wish we could have this rally, without turning them into dead pawns.

14 thoughts on “Gay Tehillim Rally Brings Orthodox Jews Together

  1. I was there, too. I can’t say that I relate to feeling they were used as pawns, but I definitely sense that we know so little about the two young people who were killed and they talked very little about them at the event last night. Still, I felt moved by the firm, clear, inclusive words of the rabbis and other leaders and as a frum queer Jew it was really important to me to be there to hear Orthodox leaders address the queer community directly, unafraid to use the word “gay” or talk about the hate and marginalization that often comes out of the Orthodox community. In particular, the way Rabbis Weiss and Linzer spoke on reflecting on how they/we are responsible in part when things like this happen by not speaking up, by contributing to silence, by not always challenging homophobia and not being more actively inclusive of LGBT Jews. I think it’s hard to talk too much about the shooting itself in light of the fact that we don’t know who did it, we don’t fully know why (though it’s pretty safe to assume it was out of hatred of gay people), we don’t know a whole lot about the lives of the young people who were killed or injured. If this tragedy is going to help some in the Jewish community see the light about the need to be more proactive about inclusion and addressing the isolation of LGBT people as well as the need for allies to speak forcefully against using our religion as the basis for hateful words and actions… Well, at least some good is coming out of this. It’s about time. As I’ve expressed to friends, I’m angry it took something like this happening for several prominent Orthodox rabbis to take a stand. But it is what it is, and I’m glad they’re catching up.

  2. I think that people should respect gay individuals as people. After all, the torah is Not against them, but the sexual action. We should respect them, while not approving their actions.
    Many don’t understand that it’s possible to overcome these urges, it’s extremly hard, but it’s possible. It wouldn’t be forbidden if nothing can be done about it.
    Both sides should respect each other. Straight individuals should not hurt them, and gay individuals should not have a parade in Jerusalem, but somewhere else

  3. Straight individuals should not hurt them, and gay individuals should not have a parade in Jerusalem, but somewhere else
    Since there are no gay people in Jerusalem! And no homophobes in “somewhere else”!

  4. On three points. 1) The Israeli newspapers online had fairly extensive reporting about the two victims, especially Nir Katz. The speakers could have used those reports to talk about them. 2) Plenty of straight people participate in the Jerusalem pride march – I know, I was there and saw them. 3) Lvnsm – have you tried to overcome your own heterosexual impulses? Probably not, or you would realize how hard it is to deny something that is an essential part of your being. Also, your “we” does not include me – speak for yourself, not for “we.” Orthodoxy is not the only way to be Jewish.

  5. 2) Plenty of straight people participate in the Jerusalem pride march – I know, I was there and saw them.
    And I (a straight person) participated in the 2002 Jerusalem pride march.

  6. I heard Don Linzer speak on a panel about homosexuality almost 3 years ago. He was quite open about the need to be supportive of gay people.

  7. Finally something I can be proud about as an orthodox Jew – it seems like everything of last few months has been so embarrassing I have crawled under my baseball hat and hidden from view.

  8. “Many don’t understand that it’s possible to overcome these urges, it’s extremly hard, but it’s possible. It wouldn’t be forbidden if nothing can be done about it.”
    There are a number of assumptions that must be dealt with in this short statement:
    1. The assumption the writer knows what is “forbidden”, a complex area of halacha that is almost entirely rabbinic (and therefore fallible) in origin.
    2. The assumption that sexual orientation can be changed, which is not supported the research or by any professional mental health organization.
    3. The assumption that rules which are impossible to be kept don’t exist in halacha.

  9. It is interesting to note that in the APA’s recent decision against “reparative therapy,” (ie therapy that purports to alter the orientation of GLB-identified individuals), they did include a recommendation that some individuals who find deep discord between their sexuality and their religious faith may seek out therapy to help them lead lives of celibacy. This blog post from Get Religion looks at some of the reporting around this decision.
    I’m not sure how I feel about this decision on the APA’s part, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. And an important, and sure to be overlooked implication of this decision is that it’s up to the individual believer to decide that accepting themselves as celibate rather than GLB is the way to go — it’s not healthy for an outsider to preach or push someone in that direction.
    (GLB = gay/lesbian/bisexual)

  10. dlevy,
    I was just reading an article about this a few days ago… this must have been a recent decision by the APA. Perhaps you can correct me, but my impression was that the APA was urging its members to council patients who had a religion-sexuality conflict in favor of embracing a lifestyle more in line with their sexual orientation. In other words, either to stop being religious or switch to another faith.
    I tried to find the article but could not.
    Did I read that wrong?
    I don’t remember a mention of celibacy. That’s kind of the unspoken Catholic approach to the subject of homosexuality, no?

  11. The APA decision is very recent – I believe it happened last week. If you follow the link in my previous comment to the Get Religion blog, they quote extensively from a WSJ article explaining the celibacy approach. Again, it’s not the main thrust of the decision, but rather the kind of “for use in extreme situations” case. I haven’t yet read the full text of the APA statement myself.

  12. I was there too. Perhaps you missed it but, not all speakers were orthodox- most notably, one of them was a representative for reform youth groups. If you are looking for people not to be seen only by their “labels”, instead of by their complex human lives, it would be useful not to characterize everyone who spoke or participated in this event by their “labels”. Especially when you made up the label. Homodox? I hope I don’t have to explain why that is offensive.
    The event began with a clip of one of the people who was injured in the attack (and who led the group, along with Nir) Both Nir and Liz were spoken about, through-out the event, as were all the other victims of the attack. The speakers also addressed the social environment in which this attack took place.
    JQyouth, who organized the event announced that they would be dedicating their new bikkur cholim group to the memory of Nir Katz and Liz Trubeschi.
    As you can see from the comments on this post- when you post something about gayness, even gay teenagers being shot in tel-aviv, you end up with people discussing whether it’s okay to be gay. It’s sort of unbelievable- but in a world like that- one in which a gay injured teenager cannot count on parental support because he/she is considered so unacceptable, it is important to talk about the ways in which we treat gay people in our society.

  13. In response to overcoming hetero feelings, I don’t have to overcome it since it’s okay. However, I have tried to overcome other things like trying not to gossip, and keeping calm when a friend upsets me etc

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