Global, Religion, Sex & Gender

Yoffie Tells Liberty U Students to Accept Queers, Gets Booed

The JTA reports,

The president of the Reform movement brought a message of tolerance for gays to the university founded by televangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell.
Delivering the weekly convocation Wednesday at Liberty University, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, got a warm response when he said Reform Jews and evangelical Christians had much in common on Israel, on the “moral crisis in America” and on combating religious persecution abroad.
However, he pointed out differences on issues such as abortion and gay rights.
“Gay Americans pose no threat to their friends, neighbors or coworkers. When two people make a lifelong commitment to each other, we believe it is wrong to deny them the legal guarantees that protect them and their children and benefit the broader society,” he said to murmurs, hisses and scattered boos among several thousands students in attendance at the Lynchburg, Va., university.
Falwell admonished the students afterward, saying, “Nobody ever booed me in a synagogue when I said things opposite to what they believed.”

21 thoughts on “Yoffie Tells Liberty U Students to Accept Queers, Gets Booed

  1. Why, oh why is a Reform rabbi whoring himself out at Liberty U? It’s bad enough that the Haredim and other right wing Orthodox get into bed with the evangelicals, but the URJ is supposed to be on the same side as we godless Liberals. Plus McCain, one of the few Republicans I can stomach, who not that long ago referred to Falwell as an “agent of intolerance”, will now be delivering the commencement address there. I just give up.
    Perhaps Yoffie felt that it was a venue in which he could speak up for tolerance – but I can’t imagine why he would think that such rhetoric would be well-received.
    I must admit, though, grudgingly – classy response on Falwell’s part. I can’t believe that he really meant it. He no doubt consoled himself with a mental picture of Rabbi Yoffie frying in hell (chos v’sholem).

  2. Cipher: The “Christian Right” universities have all started, in recent years, hosting guest lecturers from the “left,” or from outside the Christian Right perspective. IIRC, it started as a way for them to counter the argument that they were teaching only a narrow opinion set to their students. I actually think it’s a great idea, even if the point isn’t necessarily to change their minds. With that said, Falwell’s response would support the purpose of these outside guest lecturers.
    And, yup, that’s why folks like McCain, and Yoffie, are talking there – I think it’s actually a great thing for them to be doing, and doesn’t mean that they’re trying to get “in” with the Christian Right.

  3. Wow. I would have thought that Jews dictating liberal policies to Evangelical communities would have been a sure hit, but I guess I was wrong.
    It’s nice Yoffie took the opportunity to try to find common ground with those so different than himself in terms of world view, and most importantly, decided to talk about the one issue where they would be most likely to listen at least a little to a different perspective.

  4. Yoffie’s got balls. I don’t remember McCain, the “straight shooter” “middle of the road” guy, saying a thing that might upset the fundamentalist theocrats.

  5. It certainly does mean they’re trying to get “in” with the Christian right. Well, at least in McCain’s case. Jon Stewart asked him straight-up on the Daily Show: “Are you heading into crazy base land?” He said, “I guess so.” Looks like the Straight Talk Express is taking a detour through Bullshit Town!
    Seriously though, I don’t necessarily hold with the idea that speaking somewhere confers legitimacy on that place, if they’re within the mainstream already they already have legitimacy. It’s not like they’re a bunch of Nazis. If I were a well-known figure of some kind and someone wanted me to speak to a bunch of gay-hating evangelicals I’d go and try to make friends and have a good time, and make sure they all knew what I thought and try to change a few minds.

  6. Jews shouldn’t really have anything in common with the christian right, no matter how much they support Israel (maybe that should be: especially if they are big supporters of Israel). One day, when the cards are down, the majority culture will come and get us if we give in too much to their nonsense. Jews, as a minority, should stop being tolerant to the nonsense mongers. Even if they are zionists.

  7. EV,
    If Yoffie got balls why didn’t why didn’t he use a nazi analogy…again?
    Does anyone here actually believe they are doing gay men any favors by being so accepting of sodomy? We’re talking about two MEN here. Two men making a lifelong commitment is a fantasy.
    But hey, some “rabbi’s” never saw a Torah commandment they didn’t think needs improvement.

  8. I think it’s pretty clear what bigotry.
    At any rate… That definately upped my respect for Yoffie. We need more of the “good” religious leaders speaking truth to power.
    I recently heard the Baptist head of the Interfaith Alliance speak and he was something else… Those of us who are religious liberals need to be at the throats of everyone who do so much evil in God’s name.

  9. I just read the original article at JTA (I’m not sure that it’s the same one that Mobius cites – the quotes are different – but it’s the only one that I could find there). It quotes Foxman as saying, “By going there, he did not give a hechsher… to Falwell’s views; he gave expression to Falwell’s reaching out.” I hear what the rest of you are saying, but I can’t agree.
    In an article in Jewish Week dated 4/7, at least two weeks before the appearance at Liberty U, Yoffie said, pertaining to Hagee’s new Christians United for Israel group, “if we’re talking about a group that is going to oppose any territorial flexibility for Israel, we’re talking about a group that opposes the government of Israel and the clear will of its people. I would consider that dangerous to Israel.” I have to see his appearance at Liberty as part of the process of our pandering to the Christian Right in order to garner their support (Dan, you’ve been pretty vocal about this, as I recall).
    The article goes on to say,
    “Yoffie said he hoped Wednesday’s appearance was the start of a relationship.
    ‘I would hope as we move forward there will be follow-up and there will be coalition building,’ he said.
    Falwell, who said the idea to invite Yoffie came during an interview with journalist Zev Chafets, was noncommittal about a follow-up.”
    This is all just PR.
    If we need their money and political support, fine – but let’s be honest and admit it. I hate that it has to be that way, but I understand pragmatic necessity. But let’s not pretend that we have “common ground”.
    The bottom line for me is that they think that we’re all going to hell, and they’re perfectly happy to use us to further their abominable “end times theology”. They believe that if they can just get a critical number of us to move to Israel, it will pull some cosmic trigger, Jesus will return, they’ll all be “raptured” up to heaven, a minute number of Jews will convert to Christianity, and the rest of us will die horribly and go straight into the fire. The other day, I heard Falwell ranting about the liberal Christian “myth” of universal salvation, claiming that absolutely no one can get to heaven without a belief in Jesus Christ, and that no “real” Christian would ever believe otherwise. There’s a picture of Falwell and Yoffie at the top of this article, Falwell smiling as though butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, yet he believes, passionately and from the core of his being, that this man is going to burn in hell for all of eternity – and the prospect doesn’t really bother him.
    When Jews of any denomination work with them to accomplish a mutually-held social agenda, pretending that that this huge boulder of an obstacle doesn’t exist between us, it really sets me off. It’s simply inappropriate for us to validate their obscene beliefs, even tacitly. And yes, of course I realize that if we were to be direct and tell them, “We can’t stand you or your theology, but we’ll gladly take your money”, that would be the end of it. However, this doesn’t give us license to kiss their collective ass (which, in Falwell’s case, is a sizeable target).
    I’m not sure where the line is. As soon as someone tells me that I’m going to hell, I start to lose objectivity. I’m funny that way.

  10. You’ve gotta hand it to Yoffie for having the chutzpah to talk to a bunch of righht-wing Christians about gays in a town called LYNCHburg.

  11. “I think it’s pretty clear what bigotry.”
    To the brainwashed maybe. If you’re refering to my disapproval of homsexual acts between two men, maybe you should read this bigoted book called the Torah.

  12. Good on you FM.
    Many folks on this site love Judaism…so long as it fits into their hipster definition of what’s cool.

  13. FM and Shtreimel:
    a) the bigotry is making statements like 2 men can’t make lifetime commitments to one another. It’s simply a lie and if you’d like to drive up to Toronto I’d gladly introduce you to gay couples who have been in monogomous, loving relationships for longer than any of us have been alive
    b) It’s funny… traditional Judaism has a way of twisting Torah – and that is as it should be. The debate, nuances, and halachic flexibility of Judaism is what has helped as survive this long. It is sad that today’s orthodoxy refuses to accept that halacha does evolve. That there are halachic arguments for the acceptance and embracing of gay couples.
    It’s a sad state of affairs when the orthodox community has adopted the Christian view of our religious obligations as inflexible, rigid, and unalterable when 200 years ago halacha looked very different.

  14. Well, the comment about men not being able to make a commitment may be unfounded, but there’s simply nothing biggoted about accepting 2000 years of precedent, all of which agrees that homosexual (male) sex is against the Torah. I agree “That there are halachic arguments for the acceptance and embracing of gay couples.” Just as their are arguments for being kind and accepting of all sorts of people who don’t do what they are supposed to do according to the Torah, like people who eat traif, or work on Shabbat, etc. Homosexual sex is clearly a lo ta’aseh min ha-torah, just like those other issurim listed above. If you have actual halachic sources (which are within the system of halachah) which support homosexual sex-acts, please tell me where I can find them.

  15. Actually if you really read the text, that’s not what it says. it’s sad to me that people continue to read leviticus in this way, and still claim to be all about text study and halachah. read the text again–and really read it. there are MULTIPLE ways it can be interpreted, and many of those interpretations have nothing to do with two “biologically physical” men sleeping together.
    in fact, one of the main problems with these arguments is that people continue to talk about gender and sexuality in modern terms, when this was not the way bodies and sex were understood and discussed when this portion was written.
    and how sad then that this is what you need to support what truly is bigotry–and bigotry is hating on gay people and defending that through text, text that was written as a response to a particular time (i.e. greek culture of men sleeping with younger boys) and coming out of that environment that is not applicable to today–period.

  16. Cole,
    If I recall correctly, even according to the documentary hypotheses (multiple authorship), Leviticus predates the encounter with the Greco-Macedonians. If one accepts the principle of Torah m’Sinai – which I don’t – then it certainly predates it.

  17. Krawitz-
    A: For the record, I do not hate gay people. Nor do I hate people who don’t keep kosher. People can do something wrong without being evil. I reserve hate for evil.
    B: How do you interpret Leviticus? Also, your ‘reinterpretation’ assumes that I do not accept the oral tradition in which the meaning is even more clearly laid out. If you do not accept the oral tradition, you are not following the Law. But even if one throws the Talmud out the window, I fail to see how the text can be interpreted–in good faith–other than condemning homosexual sex. If you reject the Torah, fine, but don’t try to make it something it’s not.

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