Recently I wrote a post announcing the launch of HOD, the Israeli website for gay religious Jews. This website was started especially to counter Atzat-Nefesh, the website operated by straight people who say gays can change their sexual orientation. One of the primary goals of HOD is to put a human face on LGBTQ persons. They do so by meeting with their opposition, including staunchly conservative rabbis. Recently they sent out a letter to Jewish clergy, and Rabbi Ratzon Arussi responded by calling for the rehabilitation of “the sin of our time:”
“I have read your letter with much consideration because it is touching and insightful,” Arussi wrote in his response to Rabbi R., who wrote the letter on behalf of homosexuals. “The religious community requires the correct tools in order to deal with homosexuality, and especially one exhibited openly. Those who can live normally with a female should not develop these unnatural instincts in themselves,”
Rabbi Arussi composes this statement under the false impression that same-sex attractions are a casual choice that are caused by “unnatural development.” He continues by attempting to flaunt Judaism’s “superior” situation for gays when compared to Christianity:
Our holy Torah is a way of life and, in contrast to the Christian faith, does not sentence us to celibacy, but rather, encourages and even commands us to be sexual. However this is meant to make us holy, to purify our souls before the passionate intoxication of sexual lust, and therefore sexuality has been placed within the context of procreation, which builds the world,”
…except that, for a homosexual, developing a sexual relationship with a person of the opposite sex can be (at best) uncomfortable and (at worst) a miserable experience. I believe that the Torah was given to Jews to find complete joy and know G-d, not misery. And since we Jews realize how important sexual experiences can be to one’s overall life experience and their experience of G-d, we should realize that not every kind of sexual experience can bring one closer to the Divine. Secondly, Christianity does not “sentence one to celibacy,” but in fact highly encourages marriage, child-bearing, and fidelity to one’s partner.
“We need to know how to deal with homosexuality, which is the sin of our time, and woe to us for having come to this. We need to know how to deal with those sons of Israel born as homosexuals, in order to ease their pain, and to show them that there are other ways to find true happiness.” [emphasis mine]
It seems the rabbi changes his perspective here, declaring that gays are born the way they are, rather than develop unnatural tendencies despite their ability to “live normally with a female.” And if the rabbi wishes to ease the pain of the gay sons of Israel, it would do him some good to learn about the true cause of the suffering of homosexuals – bigotry and misunderstanding.
Rabbi Arussi does not make any mention of female homosexuals, but instead focuses on the males, something that is very typical among those who oppose gay equality. While Jewish law does not expressly forbid female homosexual relations, lesbians are no more accepted in Orthodox society than gay men. Yet not even lip service is paid to the homosexual daughters of Israel.
Strides have been made in the positive, however – Tel Aviv, arguably the most progressive city in Israel, has decided to establish a monument honoring homosexual victims of the Holocaust.
The monument is to be the first in Israel to commemorate these victims, though four of its kind exist worldwide, in Sydney, Copenhagen, Berlin, and Amsterdam. It has been designed as an iron triangle, on which the victims’ names are to be inscribed.
Homosexual men and women were persecuted by the Nazi Party because they were believed to be “deviants.” Men were forced to wear a pink triangle, while women wore black patches (reserved for those whose behavior was deemed “asocial”). Most of the thousands of people arrested with the charge of homosexuality were men. However, while lesbian activity was not explicitly persecuted, homosexual women were considered no less deviant in the eyes of the Nazis and suffered their fate in the concentration camps. It’s my wish that even the rabbis who consider homosexuality to be a deviant behavior visit the monument in Tel Aviv to honor those souls.