Confessions of an Orthodox mother and father of an LGBT child
Thank you so much for your compelling article about the experience of Orthodox parents of LGBT parents (“They just want to be regular people,” November 30).
As longtime members of the Bergen County Orthodox community and parents of an LGBT child, we wanted to add our personal perspective.
We’ve been so impressed by the outpouring of support offered in recent months by Bergen County Orthodox communities to individuals and families who feel marginalized because of the challenges they face. Recent stories about the support offered to those dealing with mental health issues and substance abuse make it clear that the Orthodox community knows how important it is to stand with those who are suffering.
Yet there is one group long marginalized that has not benefited in the same way from our community’s support. As a community, we have quietly but definitively forgotten about the suffering of our LGBT children and their families.
Our child came out to us almost 10 years ago. Since then, we have searched within our community for support groups but have not yet found them. We waited for public calls for inclusiveness by our leaders, but (with rare and welcome exceptions) have not yet heard them.
During that same period, there has been a sea change in the way that society as a whole relates to LGBT individuals. Ironically, the outside world accepts our children as G-d created them, while the community in which they were raised seldom acknowledges their suffering and often makes them feel unwelcome.
The one organization that works to create for Orthodox LBGT Jews and their families a sense of acceptance and belonging is Eshel.
For us, going to the Eshel parent retreat is a breath of resuscitating air when we are choked with loneliness. Once a year we can be open and honest about our family’s reality instead of pretending or being silent. And we eagerly look forward to the inaugural meeting of the Eshel New Jersey parent support group next month.
We recognize how complicated the LGBT issue is for a believing and observant Jew. Science has proven that “recovery” is not an option for the LGBT Orthodox individual and there is no clear and agreed upon “solution” at this time. But we also know that the community in which we grew up, and in which we raised our children, is kind and good and will someday find a way to include us.
We hope that there will come a day when Eshel is unnecessary, when LGBT Jews and their families find a way to include us. We hope that there will come a day when LGBT Jews and their families can find all the support they need in their local Orthodox communities.
But until then Eshel is our source of comfort and a ray of hope.