Volume 49 Number 12
                    Produced: Thu Jul 21 11:23:58 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Accepting Gay Couples as Members
         [Shlomo Spiro]
Gay Family Shul Membership (2)
         [anonomous_4, Binyomin Segal]
Gay Issues (2)
         [Andy Goldfinger, Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]


From: Shlomo Spiro <spiro@...>
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005 21:19:00 +0200
Subject: Accepting Gay Couples as Members

bh - yom hamishi pinhas

I all the postings little has been said about the pedagogical effects of
accepting gay couples and treating them as everyone else, e.g. aliyot,
other honors, holding office.

There are many orthodox youngsters who in their early years find
difficulty defining themselves sexually.  They are confused and look
around for models and examples. When they find that gays ( I am talking
about those who let it be known that they are gay) are accorded the same
courtesies as others, and perhaps are complimented on their contribution
to the synagogue they will certainly get the idea that it's OK to be gay
and that it is acceptable as normal.  Parents talking to them is usually
irrelevant. They observe and make their own minds on the basis of what
they see, especially in a synagogue.

One would ask an average member, if that is your child, would you want
to expose him to this kind of condition?  It's nice to be nice, but when
there is a high price to pay being nice may be too costly.


From: <hlsesq@...>
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005 17:15:52 -0400
Subject: Frum/Gay

I sense that part of the issue for those who would have no truck with a
frum and gay person (whether that means one who abstains, minimizes
halachic violation, narrowly reads what the halacha forbids or even
outright violates the halacha but understands that the act is an aveira)
stems from the reality that there is a negligible to nonexistant
possibility of changing that person's behavior. But not every encounter
with the individual who is not fully observant needs to be an outreach
situation or for kiruv. The reality is that orthodox shuls (except
perhaps on the far right) do not simply "tolerate" the non-fully
observant in their midst only because exposing them to orthodoxy may
result in kiruv, teshuva or whatever else you want to call it. Most of
us know many a member of an Orthodox shul who is not, e.g. a sabbath
observer and in all likelihood n ever will be, but who is a committed
and valued member of the community.  Yes, it's true, that individual may
one day decide to become a full fledged shomer shabbat-- ad yom moso
tchakeh lo. But who are we to say that a gay person --even one who
outright violates the halacha and kal vachomer one who minimizes
violation or commits no violation--is not entitled to the same
presumption, not to mention value as a member of the community?

A person self-identifying as a gay and frum person is one who is
struggling to live in a framework that puts a very big stricture on a
basic human desire and need that he has. As I read the postings, we are
not talking about people who are looking for halachic sanction for
behavior that the halacha forbids. For me, this is what divides a frum
person from one who is not--it is a person who is striving to live
within the halacha and understands that there ar e activities that the
halacha does not sanction, and that in fact are aveirot if performed. I
think it should be obvious by now that if what a frum and gay person
wanted was a "halachic" or "religious" hechsher on sexual conduct or
lifestyles that the halacha forbids, there are several Jewish movements
that will be happy to oblige. Yet these people are davka *not* going to
those quarters. Why as frum Jews should we push away the frum gay Jew
any more than we push away any other person who is not fully observant
but is doing the best s/he can under the circumstances?


From: anonomous_4
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005 16:45:32
Subject: re: Gay Family Shul Membership

I believe that questioning the difference between accepting a
non-Shabbat-observant couple for family membership, while denying that
same family membership to a homosexual couple, ignores a basic point.

In the case of the Shabbat violators, the problem is not the _familial_
relationship.  It is that the people are guilty of a serious aveirah
(sin).  To refer to a previous thread, that may make a difference in
whether or not to count them to a minyan (quorum), but it should be
irrelevant in terms of granting membership as a family.

For the homosexual couple, however, it is exactly the family
relationship which is the problem, and thus, while they, too, should not
be denied membership, it should be strictly as individuals, not as a

Granted, there are homosexuals who practice celibacy. (And it should be
noted that they deserve tremendous respect for their ability to
overcome so basic a human urge, time and time again, in order to
fulfill Hashem's will.  There are not too many, even of the most
committedly observant, who could control themselves in the face of such
a strong urge for their entire lifetime.)  Nonetheless, they should be
denied family membership because (1) they are not a family as the term
is and should be used; they are no more entitled to family status than,
say, two 75-year-old heterosexual males who have no desire nor intent
to remarry, and because of their compatibilty and enjoyment of one
another's company, decide to share living quarters.  (2) As I'm sure
even the celibate will agree, they are the small minority of such
couples, and granting family status will most assuredly send the wrong
message that such couplings are tolerated.  True, we are required to be
dan likaf zchut (j udge favorably), but human nature being what it is,
it will certainly not be assumed that they are celibate.  Especially
when today's society seeks to sell the idea that homosexuality,
including the prohibited acts, is a viable "alternative life style," we
must not give any indication whatever that Torah Jewry agrees in the

One further point, not related to the question of membership: a
homosexual male, despite his lack of desire for the opposite sex, is not
exempt (so long as he is physically capable of so doing) from fulfilling
the Torah's precept to procreate. True, the desire does not exist, but
the Torah mandated the end, regardless of whether there is enjoyment of
the means.

It is not an easy task.  Clearly, it would be wrong of him to marry
without disclosing his proclivity. (I hesitate to call it "orientation,"
since I am not convinced one way or the other whether the tendency is
innate and/or irreversible).  On the other hand, how many women, knowing
his bent, would agree to marry him?  However, just as there are
heterosexual men who can have a warm, caring, fond relationship with
another man, without sexual desire entering the picture, so too a
homosexual should be able to form a warm, caring, fond relationship with
a woman, without physical desire, who could form the same relationship
with him.  Indeed, he could possibly find a suitable partner among his
female counterparts, who would not object to the virtual lack of
physical contact with him other than for the purpose of procreation.

From: Binyomin Segal <bsegal@...>
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005 13:22:31 -0500
Subject: Re: Gay Family Shul Membership

I have been reading this thread carefully. As I am also a participant in the email list that Avi referred to, I felt a certain responsibility to weigh in on these issues. Unfortunately my current schedule has made detailed response impossible.

Allow me then to just add support and emphasis to some of the things our
fearless moderator has said.

> the basic discussion is about individuals / couples for whom there is
> no issue of "toeiva", in that they are fully observant of avoiding any
> activity that falls under that rubric.  The problem we continue to see
> is that despite those statements, there are a significant number of
> members of the list who seem unable to differentiate between an
> individual who is gay / lesbian and one who engages in forbidden gay
> acts. We are discussing individuals who are frum.  What halachic right
> to you have to question their implicit or explicit statement that they
> are not violating halacha in that respect?

I admit that I was originally very skeptical that such people
existed. But conversations - email and personal - have convinced me that
they do in fact exist. So now consider, here are people that are
battling their yetzer hara and WINNING the fight, but most of the
community can't get past the fact that they have this particular
desire. Instead of celebrating with them their success at controlling
their desire (and I do not mean here having a pride parade, but simply
acknowledging the real accomplishment) we deride them for the fact that
they face challenges that we do not understand.

When a person tells you - I have this temptation, but I am acting
appropriately, it seems to me that if you believe the first part (which
you probably shouldn't believe) then you should certainly believe the
second part.

So, why is that NOT what is happening. There are a few reasons. One is
pointed to by Avi:

> I would to also use this as an oppertunity to question how much of our
> reaction is truely Torah based vs how much is influenced by Christian
> views of sexuality in general.

Over the years, I have had many students who are not religious. They see
nothing wrong with deriding gays. When I ask them why that's ok, they
quote Bible to me. So then I make fun of their mcdonald's hamburger and
they get upset. Clearly something is going on here.

Beyond that though, it is my impression that the traditional Jewish
community has not accepted the idea that homosexuality is not a
choice. They implicitly accept that if a person has gay tendencies it is
because they CHOSE to feel that way. This bias implies that
homosexuality is "catchy", that somehow exposure to others who made this
choice will encourage my children to imitate this "cool" behavior. An
honest look though makes it clear that this is just plain
silly. Certainly in the Jewish community it is hard to believe that
anyone would make this choice - especially if they are committed to
being frum. That is, even if you believe that there are some people out
there for whom this is a choice, it is plain ridiculous to believe that
a frum person, living as a frum person, would make this choice.

Accepting that homosexual desire is not in the person's control opens up
a serious theological question - one that I have personally struggled
with for over 2 years, with no satisfactory answer (for me). Why would
G-d do this to people? Now I know that this is "merely" a special case
of the general suffering question, but I do see some differences that I
will not delineate currently.

Anyway, I've already written for longer than I can right now. Allow me
to again voice my support for what Avi has been saying (without assuming
that he agrees with everything I just wrote). And encourage everyone who
is willing to stretch to continue grappling and thinking about this
issue - and especially about the PEOPLE.

To the WORLD, YOU may be ONE person; but to ONE person, YOU may be the WORLD


From: Andy Goldfinger <Andy.Goldfinger@...>
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005 09:15:02 -0400
Subject: RE: Gay Issues

"Anonymous" writes that a gay person can be completely "frum."  That is,
observe halacha by not acting on his desires.

He is, of course, completely correct.  I once said to an audience that
there is no Torah prohibition on homosexuality.  What there is, is a
prohibition on homosexual activity.

I am heterosexual.  I am also 60 years old.  It is now Summer in
Maryland where I live and work.  Down the hall from my office is a very
attractive secretary who dresses in very abbreviated clothing, indeed in
a manner quite inappropriate for the work place.  I assure you that even
at my age, I am affected by her presence when I interact with her.  Does
this mean that I am not observant?  I was once asked if these feelings
made me feel guilty.  No, I said, I don't feel guilty about having these
feelings when I must go into her office, but I WOULD feel guilty if I
acted upon them.

I assume that "anonymous" experiences something similar.  The difference
between him (or her) and me is that when I discuss my predicament to
friends, they all understand.  There is no stigma.  "Anonymous" must
have a harder time trying to find people who can empathize.

This is unfortunate.  No -- it is tragic.  In fact, "anonymous" is
probably "frumer" than most of us, because he or she is confronting an
intense desire and managing it.  Rather than stigmatize such people, we
should learn from them.

I have a friend who married a man who was marginally shomer kashrus.
She said that he must become completely shomer kashrus for them to
marry.  But -- he had a problem.  The local kosher butchers could not
get "U.S.  Prime" beef of sufficiently high quality to satisfy him.  So
-- he went to the butchers to see what he could work out.  Finally, one
butcher agreed to place special orders for him so he could get the meat
he wanted.  He then said that he would marry her, and they are now
happily married.

Now -- to some of us -- this may seem ridiculous.  Is high quality meat
so important that one would base their decision to marry upon it?  Isn't
this a crazy priority?

Well -- to me it is -- but not to him.  Can I really understand the
internal desires he has for quality food?  Can I understand why he once
spent over $1000 ordering chocolate on line so he could find one that
would satisfy him?  No, I can't because I am not faced with his desires.
He faces a significant challenge managing his drive and appetites.

Whether or not a person is "frum" does not depend upon his or her
internal desires, but rather on how they manage (or do their best trying
to manage) them.  I greatly respect a "frum" woman I recently met who
openly admits she is an alcoholic, but has been "dry" for over 20 years.
I cannot imaging the difficulty she goes through.  I cannot imagine the
difficulty "anonymous" goes through.

Every person has forbidden desires they must manage.  Some people admit
them, some do not.  HaShem gives each of us a challenge. We must become
more accepting of what others go through -- maybe, then, we can learn to
admit to ourselves what our own problems are!

-- Andy Goldfinger

From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabba.hillel@...>
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005 11:20:33 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re: Gay Issues

It appears from the discussions and the various postings that there are
a number of different circumstances that arise.  As a result we
sometimes get confused about the specific issue being addressed and what
we can or should do about it.

1.  A truly frum person who is attempting to follow halach while dealing
    with feelings and desires.

2.  A person who *claims* to be frum but attempts to "justify" actions
    that are not necessarily in accord with halacha.

3.  A person who flagrantly and outspokenly attempts to be "in your
    face" about violations of halacha and attempts to force this
    behavior on the community as "normative".  The example of the "ham
    eater on Yom Kippur" was such an occurance.  The *original* post
    about the "gay pride parade" was speaking about this type of

In looking over the discussions, we need to be careful to differentiate
between the various types of circumstance.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz | Said the fox to the fish, "Join me ashore"
<Sabba.Hillel@...> | The fish are the Jews, Torah is our water


End of Volume 49 Issue 12