Volume 49 Number 13
                    Produced: Fri Jul 22  5:18:08 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Gay Families as Shul Members
Gay Issues
         [Janice Gelb]
Gay Pride
         [Orrin Tilevitz]
Gay/Lesbian Shul Membership
         [Michael Mirsky]
Sensitivity to the Minority
         [Tzvi Stein]


From: Mordechai <mordechai@...>
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005 22:02:33 -0400
Subject: Gay Families as Shul Members

The easiest way to understand this issue is to ask

Does anyone know of an Orthodox shul that accepts two single people
living together outside of marriage as a family for membership purposes.


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 09:12:25 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Gay Issues

Shlomo Spiro <spiro@...> wrote:
> 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.

This red-herring argument is used in the secular community as well but
frankly, it is not really relevant. While some in the community might
know that a synagogue member is gay, I doubt very much that any gay
member of an Orthodox shul is going to flaunt homosexual affection at
shul to the extent that a young person is going to be aware of the
situation (and, as others have pointed out, many gays who are frum do
not engage in any homosexual activity). Most youngsters don't even think
their teachers use the bathroom let alone know what most adults are
doing intimately in the privacy of their own homes.

anonomous_4 wrote:
> 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. [...] 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.

Halacha might condemn a homosexual male to have to live without a
fulfilling physical relationship with a mate to whom he is
attracted. However, I find it appalling that you would condemn a
heterosexual female to live without such a relationship in the intimacy
of a marital relationship just so a male could procreate.  Please note
that this obligation is not on women. (And if you're talking about his
finding a frum lesbian woman with whom to have such a relationship, the
mind boggles at finding such a match within the Orthodox community,
which would require both parties to reveal their orientation to a

-- Janice


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005 19:56:11 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Gay Pride

In his latest posts, Avi says references to "issur d'oraita" and
"yehareig v'al yaavor" are irrelevant because frum homosexuals simply
don't do these things.  So let me limit the discussion to gay (or
lesbian; I treat them equivalently here) couples who are either
committing only acts forbidden derabanan or who are abstaining
completely. The narrow issue, once again, is whether such relationships
should be recognized, for example by a synagogue giving a couple "family
membership" when it would not do so to two straight long-time roommates.
(Thus, the question is not whether anyone is committing an aveirah, so
that the shul's acceptance or non-acceptance of mechalelei Shabbat is
irrelevant.) Avi says they should.

In defense, Avi argues that <A person who is gay or lesbian is a person
whose attraction is to members of the same gender [he's wrong; "gender"
is a grammatical term; he means "sex"]. Our best understanding at this
time, is that is something that is part of HaShem's creation of them> In
a similar vein, Matthew Pearlman states that being homosexual "is a
natural aspect" of a person.

That behavior, or an inclination, is somehow proper, or not bad, because
it is "natural" -and I'll assume that both homosexual and heterosexual
attractions are hard-wired--is a non sequitur.  HaShem created both good
and evil, and lots of hard-wired human behavior, or even inclination, is
of the latter variety.  A few examples: people who are hard-wired to
prefer incestuous relationships; kleptomaniacs hard-wired for
kleptomania; white folks hard-wired to hate, fear or despise black
folks; and nearly everybody hard-wired to hate, fear or despise Jews.
(See on this last point Lehrer, Tom, "National Brotherhood Week.") The
argument also proves too much: if a homosexual inclination is ok because
it's "natural", so is an equally natural, hard-wired inclination of
heterosexuals to hate, fear, or despise homosexuals.

But Avi goes further, talking about 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

Similarly, Leah Gordon wrote in an earlier post,

<There is too much reluctance to give credence to gay families as
families.  No sexual content at all there, just family structure
choices, from what I can see.>

This sounds very nice, but it does not explain why a relationship based
on other than sexual attraction- two straight guys living together -
should not be accorded similar recognition as a "family structure
choice".  Also, it does not explain why Avi apparently would not
similarly recognize a relationship, between adults and on the same
no-issurei-de'oraita terms, if it is incestuous as opposed to
homosexual.  Of course no synagogue could; even in today's permissive
environment, it would be ridiculed out of existence.

But that is the problem: homosexuality and incest are not
distinguishable.  They are both arayot, in the same parsha in the Torah.
Even if one does not engage in homosexual or incestuous sex, the
inclination to do so is bad, and must be controlled.  True, a portion- a
limited portion, at that-of secular society has concluded that there's
nothing wrong with homosexuality, as opposed to incest, and has elevated
a homosexual relationship, but not an incestuous relationship, to that
of a "family".  But even that conclusion is of very recent vintage; see
Alan Drury's 1959 novel, Advise & Consent.  No more than 25 years ago,
even secular society treated them identically.  And one cannot argue
that a change in societal attitudes necessarily means that we are more
"enlightened" than our predecessors, because with an increased tolerance
of homosexuality has come an increased tolerance of promiscuous sex
generally and all that results from it, including out-of-wedlock

If homosexuality is a "family choice", so is incest and so is two
straight guys living together.  The only difference is that a portion of
society now calls the first, but not the other two, a "family".  The
problem is not, as Edward Ehrlich claims, that <the personal revulsion
many people have against homosexuality is coloring this discussion.> The
problem is the opposite: the discussion is colored by the assumption of
some that current, and possibly transitory, societal attitudes trump
those of the Torah.  So the only justification for conceding homosexual
relationships this unique degree of kedusha is that an Orthodox shul
must conform its behavior to these attitudes, to be "with it".  I don't
see how such a shul that did so for this reason could be taken seriously
as Orthodox.

By contrast, my anonymous correspondent, whom I called AP, wants only
the acknowledgement that frum homosexuals - and, for that matter, frum
people with an incestuous urge--can exist.  This is a bit of a
subjective question.  Insofar as these urges are manifested only in the
absence of permitted sexual contact with the opposite sex, I don't think
there's much to talk about: while peru u'revu is a positive commandment,
I hardly think the failure to pursue every last such commandment makes
one not frum. (Would a male get credit for this mitzvah by artificially
inseminating an unrelated Jewish female?)

But AP goes further, talking about behavior that is not forbidden
<according to a (no pun intended)straight and narrow reading of
halacha>. She adds:

<All I'm saying is that the same assumptions that the Orthodox community
makes about straight people -- that they're not engaging in forbidden
sexual acts *even when they're living in the same apartment building or
attending the same camp or taking vacations at the same time -- which
both married and unmarried frum people do all the time* -- be extended
to Orthodox gay people.>

So I take it that the standard AP sets out is: Would a straight,
unmarried couple that did the same thing still be considered "frum"? And
That seems to be a reasonable test: while I can distinguish the two
cases, I cannot intellectually do so in a way that makes a material

Now, people simply do not conform to the halachic ideal.  I do not
believe the post a couple of weeks ago that someone who eats traif is
not Orthodox but an Orthodox crook is, well, an Orthodox crook; I
proposed this distinction to Rabbi Herschel Kurzrock, who exclaimed
"there's no difference" and then said, with a short laugh, "both are
irreligious Orthodox."  Nonetheless, there are huge sections of Choshen
Hamishpat that are basically ignored.  I once heard the Rav, quoting his
grandfather, say that if he followed Choshen Hamishpat, he could never
be in business because he'd have to tell customers if the guy across the
street charged less.  And how many frum businesses limit mark-ups to
20%?  IMHO, at least in past years, we have been similarly tolerant with
inter-sexual relationships.  Does an unmarried straight couple, she of
course a nidah, cease to be "frum" if they hold hands? Do cousins,
married to other people, cease to be "frum" if they embrace?  I don't
think so, and I'd be a hypocrite if I said I did.  Would I assume that
either couple beds together? No.  Kal vachomer, I must come to the same
conclusion for homosexuals, where technically neither act is
forbidden. Living together in the same apartment building?  There's no
negative inference I can draw; there would be if they lived in the same
apartment, but AP does not mention that.  Attending the same camp?
Personally, I view co-ed camps as benign, although that view is not
shared by the some Orthodox educators.  Taking vacations?  I'd have to
swallow a bit harder, but I'm not sure I'd draw negative inferences even
there.  So AP may be surprised, and perhaps disappointed, to hear that
while I am personally queasy about both homosexuality and incest-that's
my hard-wiring-I am not sure we disagree about much.


From: Michael Mirsky <mirskym@...>
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005 17:45:20 -0400
Subject: Gay/Lesbian Shul Membership

Avi said:

 >I'll continue to respond in a similar manner. First, what evidence to
 >you have that those gay / lesbian couples who self identify as "frum"
 >are in violation of halacha? It is far, far easier for them to simply
 >reject the Orthodox community completely. Those that maintain a self
 >identification as Orthodox, I would argue, are likely to at a minimum be
 >acting in a manner to minimize, if not totally avoid, halachically
 >forbidden activity.  Those who may not, still view it as a forbidden
 >activity that they are not able to desist from, but what right do you
 >have to say that they "want to stay that way"?

OK, maybe I just don't *get it*.  You seem to be saying that there are
three categories of people who identify themselves as gay/lesbian:

1. Those who have feelings for the same sex but take no action (either
keep it to themselves or don't do anything *publicly*)

2. Those who identify themselves *publicly* as gay, may live with
someone, but they do not engage in any sexual relations forbidden by the

3. Those like 2. but *do* engage in halachically forbidden sex.

I presume you are referring to those who are category 2.  OK, you're
right that there is likely nothing halachically wrong with that from the
d'oraita aspect.  But I still think many people (myself included) have a
hard time separating people in category 2 from category 3 because most
assume Category 2 is a small minority and so it is assumed that one who
publicly self-identifies as gay is in category 3. So there's a maarat
ayin aspect to according them shul membership as a family.  Unfair,
perhaps, but issues stemming from category 3 are so severe from a
halachic standpoint that accepting category 2 would suggest category 3
is also OK.

As for those who are category 3, you suggest there are two other kinds
of people. Those who have no qualms about it, which I assume you exclude
from those self-identifying as frum, and those who try but are not able
to resist.

I can only imagine how painful a situation that is.  You are pulled by
urges for which there is no halachic possibility of release.  You want
to follow halacha but just can't do it.  I'm speaking out of ignorance,
but the pull may be almost along the lines of an addiction?  In any
case, we must be sensitive to their plight on a personal level.

I think the problem stems from publicly self-identifying as gay.  If it
was two guys or gals who happen to share an apartment, then I don't
think the issue would arise (ie. shuls could include them in some sort
of household membership).  Then it's no different from people who break
Shabbos in their home.  We don't spy on them and refuse shul membership.
Similarly we don't know what this couple does at home.  But if a family
publically desecrates Shabbat as a matter of course, I think many shuls
would have a problem.  In this case it's the same - publically
identifying as gays with the blurring between category 2 and 3 in the
public's eyes leads to the maarat ayin issue.

So I still maintain that because of the public maarat ayin aspect,
although it may be unfair to those who truly are in category 2, we
should not accept couples who publicly declare themselves gay/lesbian as
a family members in a shul.



From: Tzvi Stein <Tzvi.Stein@...>
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005 22:07:21 -0400
Subject: Re: Sensitivity to the Minority

> From: <Dagoobster@...> (Chaim Shapiro)
> They challenged me.  They said, but you have to be sensitive to the
> minority!  I responded, funny you should say that when your pizza is not
> kosher!  What about my feelings as an Orthodox Jew?  And even if you
> were to claim that it is a very legitimate assumption that no one would
> want kosher food in Riverside, California (a presupposition I proved
> false anyway), did you take into account all those people, many of whom
> are Jews, that are lactose intolerant?  Aren't you Anti-Semites or at
> the very least lacticcentric?

I have often had that very same thought.  For example, a lot of energy
is being expended on how to make gays feel welcome in the military, but
very little attention is being given to making sure Orthodox Jews can


End of Volume 49 Issue 13