Volume 49 Number 05
                    Produced: Tue Jul 19 11:32:56 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Gay family shul memberships (2)
         [Frank Silbermann, Avi Feldblum]
Male Homosexual Acts
         [Martin Stern]
Mundane Matters
         [Carl A. Singer]
Orthodox Gay Community (2)
         [Tzvi Stein, anonymous_2]


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 10:31:38 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:  Gay family shul memberships

Some have compared shul membership by gays with membership of people who
drive on Shabbas.  I think it's a good analogy.  Along that line, I
think offering family memberships for gay couples would be like offering
a gasoline subsidy or discount for members who live too far away to walk
on Shabbas.

Because of the difficulty of properly giving a rebuke, and the advice to
assume the best of any fellow Jew, one can argue for a tolerant attitude
towards gays who have not succeeded in refraining from their practices.
But I don't see how we can go any further than that without radically
changing fundamental assumptions about the nature of Halacha and its

Frank Silbermann	New Orleans, Louisiana		<fs@...>

From: Avi Feldblum <avi@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 10:31:38 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:  Gay family shul memberships

> Some have compared shul membership by gays with membership of people who
> drive on Shabbas.  I think it's a good analogy.  Along that line, I
> think offering family memberships for gay couples would be like offering
> a gasoline subsidy or discount for members who live too far away to walk
> on Shabbas.

As I was at one person who made that analogy, I would like to respond to
Frank's posting. The comparison is between offering family membership to
committed gay partners vs offering membership to people who are
mechallel shabbat. The statement about a gasoline subsidy is an
intellectually dishonest (in my opinion) manner in which to try and
color the discussion. As far as I am concerned, the matter we are
discussing here is how a community should treat/relate to a gay /
lesbian person or couple who is frum and wants to be part of the
Orthodox Jewish community. I do not in any way deny that there are much
more openly gay / lesbian couples that are not part of the frum world,
and there is a significant number of them that want the rest of the
world to acknowledge that their lifestyle, in full, is a valid
"alternate" lifestyle. But that is NOT what we are talking about here.

A similar comment about both a line later in Frank's posting as well as
in several other postings. People continue to refer to issur d'orisa and
to yehoreg v'al yavaar. That is totally not relevent to this discussion,
and only serves to color people's views while avoiding a serious
discussion. If we expand the discussion to non-frum gay (male) couples,
then those issues are ones that can be brought up. For lesbian couples,
even non-frum, there is no issue of issur d'orisa or yehoreg v'al

>From a purely philosophical perspective, here is how I see the
comparison with Sabbath violators. I will also state at the onset, that
I do not think I agree that what I say is correct for Sabbath violators
today. But looking at it in the abstract helps me clarify certain

Sabbath represents HaShem's status as the creator of the world and Am
Yisrael's unique relationship with HaShem as Creator. Therefore,
violation of the laws of shabbat, represent in a metaphorical manner, a
repudiation of HaShem as Creator. This is a very fundamental conflict
with what being frum means.

A person who is gay or lesbian is a person whose attraction is to
members of the same gender. Our best understanding at this time, is that
is something that is part of HaShem's creation of them. It is not, in
general, something that people choose to take upon themselves. For
someone who is frum, this is a very difficult situation, since part of
halacha is that expression of this attraction is anywhere from a d'orisa
level issur with chiyuv misa to rabbinic prohibitions. There appears to
be a natural inclination that HaShem created us all with people wish to
create a relationship / couple arrangement. This is not only a sexual
issue, that is one part of a much deeper emotional and all-encompassing

For hetero couples, this is accomplished via marriage, and halacha has
all the various halachot relating to that. For a frum gay / lesbian
person, the same desire is there, but there is no clear path that
halacha defines. As I am not a member of this community, what I have
been writing is based on both things I have been part of on a list with
frum gay and straights, private emails from members or other frum gay /
lesbian people as well as from various gay / lesbian (non-frum and
non-jewish) that I know.

It is hard to speak of generalities, there are too many frum shuls /
communities where if you do not confirm to all issues - halachic, chumra
and shtus, that they hold, you are basically not welcome. There are many
others where the community is much more inclusive. However, for many of
those latter communities, there is much more openess / inclusiveness for
people who are clearly and openly violators of halacha - in the idea
that they may come to greater observance of halacha - while little to no
tolerance for committed frum gay / lesbians who are doing everything
they can to live within halacha and the general Orthodox Jewish

OK, this is more than enough to take this issue over my normal limit, I
may continue later with these thoughts.



From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 17:18:20 +0100
Subject: Re: Male Homosexual Acts

on 15/7/05 11:00 am, <chips@...> wrote:

>> If they were to ask my opinion, I would have to tell them that they
>> are transgressing a Torah prohibition just as much as if they were
>> eating a ham sandwich or wearing sha'atnez. Does that make me a
>> homophobic bigot?
> Eating a ham sandwich and wearing sha'atnez hardly ever qualify as a
> "rather one should die" actvity. Doing homosexual acts is just the
> opposite.

I accept this point. Perhaps I should have written "just as much as if I
was told that they were eating a ham sandwich or wearing sha'atnez."
Obviously male homosexual acts comes under the category of forbidden
sexual activity for which one should rather die than transgress but the
fact that someone tells me that they have done so is slightly different.

There is a general principle of "ein adam meisim atsmo rasha, a person
cannot incriminate himself" which means I cannot believe his confession
in the absence of corroborative evidence, i.e. I must be dan kekhaf
zekhut rather than dan lekhaf zenut though the difference is between a
khaf and a nun which is not very great. In the case of male homosexual
acts, I cannot conceive of such corroborative evidence unless the act is
performed in front of me.

The correct analogy would be where someone told me he or she was a
psychopathic murderer though, in that case, I would be entitled to
believe them to the extent that I should take reasonable precautions not
to be the victim of their activities.

The fact that two males share accommodation does not necessarily have
any sexual significance, after all it is not uncommon for several
same-sex students to share an apartment without anyone assuming that
they engage in homosexual orgies. Therefore a synagogue could allow such
households to have 'household membership' but certainly not 'family
membership' since the latter would imply approval of an 'alternative
lifestyle' based on forbidden relations.  Needless to say such
'household membership' could not be offered to heterosexual couples who
were known not to be married since the laws of yichud would apply even
if they did not engage in sexual relations even though such activity
would be less objectionable from a Torah viewpoint than that between two
males. This may sound like casuistry but all I am trying to do is to be
as 'inclusive' as possible within Torah guidelines.

As has been pointed out by many contributors, there is a clear
distinction between those who are homosexual in the sense that they are
attracted to members of the same sex and Torah prohibited homosexual
acts. As regards the former we should treat these people as 'people' who
have a problem with which they have to contend and not assume that they
necessarily engage in the latter. Is that not the correct paradigm for
the Torah observant community?

Martin Stern


From: Carl A. Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 09:01:10 -0400
Subject: Mundane Matters

>So too, when a heterosexual talks about his spouse or family, he intends
>it as a mere mundane comment, but the homosexual cannot help but be
>reminded that he is in the minority regarding these things.

I believe the issue is not primarily with the (majority) speaker but
with the (minority) listener.

Certainly if I speak about my 50 foot yacht and my summer home(s) in the
Hamptons to someone who is dirt poor then the onus is on me (to shut
up), but when I speak of the mundane I believe the onus is on the
listener to understand the context.

Of course there are limits, but the hyper-sensitive listener needs to
consider their own role.

I can't come up with the perfect analogy, but consider how YOU feel when
your colleagues at work talk about Christmas presents or the new suit
they're bought for Easter or the delicious lobster dinner they had last
night.  Sure, there are limits, and some people may be baiting you --
but for the most part the onus isn't on them to hide these ordinary
elements of their life.  It's on you to take it with a grain of salt.

Another example that comes to mind is speaking about children in the
presence of a childless couple (this has been discussed before.)

One doesn't deny having children or hide the fact -- but one likely
doesn't make it the central theme of their conversation.



From: Tzvi Stein <Tzvi.Stein@...>
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2005 18:14:24 -0400
Subject: re: Orthodox Gay Community

> From: Anonymous
> Frankly, many frum gay men and women simply want to be able to
> exist safely in the frum world.  That is, it would be nice to be able to
> say -- not to broadcast, not to take out an ad -- "I'm not attracted to
> members of the opposite sex, and so I cannot contemplate marrying one"
> -- without fear of being sent for reprogramming or being regarded as
> dangerous and damaged and presumptively sinning.  It would be nice if
> frum gay men and lesbians didn't feel that the safest life path was
> heterosexual marriage (obviously fraught with halachic problems for
> someone incapable of heterosexual desire).

Even someone who does not care about gay people at all should
contemplate allowing them to be open about their sexual orientation
within the frum community for this reason alone.  If gay frum people
have to pretend they're straight to the point of marrying unsuspecting
person of the opposite sex, have mercy on that poor spouse!  We need to
prevent these marriages at all costs!

From: anonymous_2
Date: Sun, 17 Jul 2005 08:50:20 -0700
Subject: RE: Orthodox Gay Community

Another anonymous poster wrote:

> [I]t would be nice to be able to say -- [...]"I'm not attracted to
> members of the opposite sex, and so I cannot contemplate marrying one"
> [...]  It would be nice if frum gay men and lesbians didn't feel that
> the safest life path was heterosexual marriage (obviously fraught with
> halachic problems for someone incapable of heterosexual desire).

Quite apart from my total concurrence with this poster's, and our
esteemed moderator's, remarks about the major deficiencies within
Torah-observant ranks when it comes to treating frum gay men and
lesbians, not to mention others who for various reasons don't neatly fit
the "cookie cutter," with basic human dignity and respect, I want to
respond to this specific point.  As a heterosexual woman unable to have
children, I am considered sufficiently marginal as a human being, and as
a sufficiently undesirable commodity in the marriage market in
particular, by shadchanim and by too much of the Torah-observant world,
that I have been repeatedly set up with the most unsuitable men
imaginable.  Those known to the shadchanim (and, in some cases, the
general communities in which they live, but not always to me before we
were set up) to be gay are but one category.  They may be perfectly fine
human beings, and I've actually enjoyed getting to know some of them as
friends, but by definition their sexual orientation makes them
completely unsuitable husband candidates.

Others can speak to the halachic particulars more eloquently than I.
However, I want to point out how utterly offensive it is to be expected
to make a life, let alone to build an intimate relationship (or to live
in a marriage in name only that will never include a "normal marital
relationship"), with someone who by definition cannot be attracted "that
way" to me.  When I've complained to those who've set me up with such
men, their responses have characteristically been along the lines of,
"What do you care?  You're not going to have children."  I've also been
told that a "good woman" would put up with this gracefully and stop at
no amount of self-contortion to keep up the appearances of a marriage
for the sake both of shelom bayit and of her husband's good name in the

Granted, a physical relationship isn't *all* there is to a marriage, but
whether according to halacha or according "only" to human emotions, it
seems to me that no reasonable person would deny that it is a *very
important part* of a marriage.  (Never having been married, I'm not
speaking from personal experience, but only based on married friends'
accounts and "book knowledge.")  Also, AIUI, according to halacha, a
physical relationship is *not* only for procreation; a woman's inability
to bear children, or the need to avoid pregnancy on medical or other
grounds, does *not* absolve her husband of his obligations of onah
(providing her physical satisfaction).  I've read teshuvot (rabbinic
responsa) that, as I understand them, basically direct a woman to "put
up and shut up" with lifelong celibacy when her impotent or libidoless
husband is unwilling or unable to be treated for his problem, but I
digress here.  My point is that, IMHO, and over and beyond the obvious
and not-so-obvious halachic problems, it is cruel and inhumane to the
heterosexual spouse to expect her, or, for that matter, him, to accept
gracefully a marriage in which her husband's, or his wife's, attractions
and inclinations are so clearly elsewhere.

Another serious concern here is that a number of frum gay men who are
heterosexually married, *do* "step out" on their wives for sexual
encounters, some anonymous and others not, with other men.  If they then
engage in intimacies with their wives, which some do in order to keep up
appearances with procreation if for no other reason, their wives are at
risk for a range of diseases, of which HIV/AIDS is but one.  I
personally know of cases in which frum women, some of whom knew or
suspected, but others of whom didn't have a clue, about their husbands'
"other lives," were diagnosed in advanced stages of AIDS, only when they
developed serious medical complications during pregnancy or delivery
that may have been related to being given this disease by their

> It would be nice if truly frum gay men and lesbians weren't placed in
> the horrific position of having to face a life of complete isolation
> (it's really hard to develop close relationships, even of the
> non-romantic sort, when you are afraid to reveal basic things about
> yourself).  You really have to wonder why a frum gay man or lesbian
> would remain observant.

While I'm at it, I want to add that one doesn't have to be gay or
lesbian to have these sorts of problems.  Unless I have no other choice,
I don't share my lack of reproductivity, nor certain other basic aspects
of my existence, with my coreligionists, though much of the time it
costs me dearly to have to watch what I say to this extent.  IMHO we
have far to go as far as dealing with many types, and levels, of stigma,
lots of which, again IMHO, fall under the heading of groundless hatred.


End of Volume 49 Issue 5