Gay Orthodox Jews Deserve Our Support

A response to Brian Camenker, by Rabbi Zev Farber

Letter to the Editor

The Advocate

The Talmud declares that anyone who has no compassion for others is not a descendent of our father Abraham. My mind went to this statement as I read Brian Camenker’s hurtful words.

Gay Orthodox Jews live in a state of tension difficult for many to grasp. They wish to be part of a group whose tradition looks askance at homosexuality while concurrently longing for an intimate fulfilling partnership. It is all too easy for others to say that gay Orthodox Jews should either abandon their religion or “fix” their sexual orientation. The former suggestion is devastating to a religious person, the latter simply impossible.

The situation is also difficult for their religious parents. Some may not know how to relate to their children. Others may feel the loss of a future gone in an unexpected direction. Eshel has kindly organized a retreat for such parents, to process their feelings with others in the same situation. This is the way of our father Abraham.

It is true that homosexual congress is forbidden in the Bible, but this sin is a religious violation between humans a God, not a “moral depravity.” Considering the tremendous forces that pull each of us to find a life-mate with whom we can share love and intimacy, Orthodox Jews should invoke the principle of oness raḥmana paṭrei (God exempts the impossible.) Asking someone to refrain from intimate partnership for life is asking for the nearly unattainable. If this is what a particular gay Orthodox Jew wants, we should offer our support. Nonetheless, I would feel “morally absurd” to insist that people sacrifice part of their lives in a way I have never been asked to do and doubt that I could if the situation were reversed.

Camenker’s claim about the self-destructive behavior of (some) homosexuals misconstrues cause and effect; society’s rejection of homosexual relationships is the root cause. Accepting committed gay couples—with children—into the traditional community (synagogue) structure will be the best cure for avoiding the depression borne of despair suffered by Orthodox gay Jews.

Rabbi Dr. Zev Farber, AITZIM (Atlanta Institute of Torah and Zionism)

Member of Eshel Advisory Board

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