Volume 49 Number 17
                    Produced: Sun Jul 24 15:40:12 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Family Membership
         [Alan Cooper]
Family membership to Gay couple
         [Carl A. Singer]
Frum and Gay
         [Shalom Kohn]
Gay Issues
         [Ira L. Jacobson]
Gay Pride (2)
         [Orrin Tilevitz, Abbi Adest]
Pressuring Gays into Straight Marraiges
         [Chaim Shapiro]
Shelter vs. Expose (2)
         [Ari Trachtenberg, Carl A. Singer]


From: Alan Cooper <amcooper@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2005 08:43:37 -0400
Subject: Family Membership

>Avi Feldblum <avi@...> wrote (in part):
>The first is related to the question of offering family memberships to
>gay couples relative to offering the same to other non-gay non sexually
>involved households with the example given of two or more housemates
>living together. A lot seems to made of the fact that I said that I did
>not think that one should give a family membership to such a situation.
>Some other poster asked about how I distinguish proposing to offer it
>to a gay family and not to two hetero people living together as a
>couple but not married. Yet another poster asked how to distinguish
>that from a incest based family unit.

The whole "family membership" issue is a red herring, in my view.  The
obvious solution to this so-called problem is to replace "family
membership" with "household membership."  Simply allow people who live
together in a single housing unit to join the synagogue as a unit,
whatever the configuration and circumstances.  Get the synagogue out of
the business of defining who does or does not constitute a "family," and
allow the private lives of its members to remain private.  I am familiar
with at least one Conservative synagogue that has replaced "families"
with "households," and the walls have not yet come a-tumblin' down.

Alan Cooper


From: Carl A. Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2005 07:07:32 -0400
Subject: Family membership to Gay couple

Let's cut to the chase - we are asking if a Torah institution should
recognize that a homosexual relationship (however that is defined)
exists between two people who are applying for membership.

This is not about the elderly widow and her adult daughter for whom we
grant a discounted membership (cheaper than two single adult
memberships) and for bookkeeping purposes list as "family."  (There is
only one mailing label for their household, vice two.)



From: Shalom Kohn <skohn@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2005 08:50:05 -0500
Subject: Frum and Gay

The discussions of family membership for gay couples, although
appropriately characterized by sensitivity and the recognition that
homosexual acts are absolutely prohibited to my mind misses some
relevant points.

First, there is a Talmudic dictum "aim aputropus le-arai-yot," i.e. that
there is no trustee with respect to sexual matters.  In other words, if
people cohabit where there is an ordinary implication of sexual
activity, the notion that there was a watchman who prevented that from
happening is deemed not credible.  Two avowed gay people living together
in a meaningful relationship are thus presumed to be having relations.
Not that this is anyone's business -- but we should not be so firm in
accepting declarations from frum gays that this is not occurring, as
some on the list have suggested.

Second, the verse "lo sikrivu le-galot ervah" (thou shalt not become
close to uncovering nakedness) extends prohibitions of in cases of
prohibited sexual activity to kissing, hugging etc., either rabbinically
or according to some (e.g. Rambam) biblically.  (The discussions
typically deal with heterosexual activity, but the logic applies to
homosexual activity as well.)  This imposes greater challenges on the
"frum" gay person to restrain himself from any physical manifestations
of affection.

Third, the model of friendship among same-gendered individuals is
certainly a recognized halachic and Jewish value.  In Avot 5:19, the
example of a love not dependent on any reason which is said to persist
is that of David and Jonathan, while the love which is dependent on
reasons and thus ephemeral is a heterosexual attraction of Amnon for
Tamar.  Thus, if the same-gendered relationship is one not dependent on
sexual attraction, it is well within Torah sanction.

Fourth, as observant Jews, we do not operate in a societal vacuum.  The
thrust of the gay rights advocates is to obtain recognition of the
principle that marriage and family are not terms limited to heterosexual
partners, but can and should apply to any two adults who choose to forge
a relationship.  Thus, for a synagogue to accept two gay individuals as
a family is to acknowledge the validity of the principle that the family
unit need not be created by a man and a woman.  That is not the Torah
view.  Rather, individuals sharing a household may be friends, but are
not a family, and for a synagogue to grant family memberships (as
opposed, say, to two individual memberships) blurs that key principle
and places synagogues in the camp of those who would extend societies'
current definitions of family and marriage.

Fifth, the "acceptance" argument is a red herring.  It seems to be a
contemporary mantra that if you don't accept my life style choices, you
don't accept me, and I feel rejected.  A shul should be able to tell a
frum gay couple that each of them is completely accepted insofar as they
keeps torah and mitzvot (let's leave procreation to one side), but that
they are being accepted as individuals, but not as a couple.  Before the
gay rights movement, gay individuals felt no need -- and indeed, great
reluctance -- to declare their proclivities, and much of the rest of
society simply didn't inquire why someone remained a bachelor.  Now,
people feel the need to declare themselves ("gay pride") and demand
others' acknowledgement and society's validation of their choices.  From
a Jewish point of view, sexual activities generally are to be
characterized by modesty and privacy.  Certainly the same should apply
to sexual orientation.  A bit of "don't ask, don't tell," seems to be
well in order.

Finally, to remain frum while being gay is a gut-wrenching burden, and
my heart goes out to those who struggle with those challenges.  But to
the extent that a gay proclivity is subject to environmental influences
(and I think there is a continuum, where at least some individuals can
find satisfaction in heterosexual relationships instead), anything which
increases the perception that being gay and frum is acceptable (such as
family memberships) could result in more people having to carry these
burdens in the future.  The message should be that this is a terrible
tragedy for the affected individuals, which should attract compassion
and not be a life style to emulate.

Shalom L. Kohn


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Sat, 23 Jul 2005 22:27:44 +0300
Subject: Re: Gay Issues

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabba.hillel@...> noted:

      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[a]
      while dealing with feelings and desires.

In this connection, we find an analysis
http://victorian.fortunecity.com/brutalist/608/29ahrei.html that says the

      . . . the arayot may be split into two categories: 1)Those arayot
      whose purpose is to protect the family as a unit for healthy
      growth and support. 2)Those arayot whose purpose is to protect the
      family as a unit for reproduction.


      Under the second category, we would include:
            a)      A nida.
            b)      Bestiality.
            c)      The male homosexual act.

      Under this analysis, the prohibition of male homosexuality,
      whether or not it involves actual MZ, is based on the aim of
      protecting the family unit.  As such, the prohibition seems not
      precisely to stem only from the performance of MZ.  Rather, even
      such an abstinent couple does not engage in familial procreation.

      IRA L. JACOBSON         


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2005 08:51:51 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Gay Pride

In response to my post questioning Avi's reasoning that an attempt to
create a gay "family" has some validity because HaShem created
homosexuality, Avi writes:

> As for the case of incest and some other cases I have chosen not to
> forward to the list, I think they are totally non-starters and not an
> intellectually honest attempt to deal with the real issues at hand. I
> feel no real interest in even trying to respond to those questions. I
> also think that anyone trying to honestly deal with these questions
> who sees no difference between a frum gay individual and someone they
> describe as "hard-wired for kleptomania or white folks hard-wired to
> mhate, fear or despise black folks" is so far out of my framework that
> I do not see how to continue the conversation here.

If Avi would read my post, he would see that I made no such claim; I
merely showed that this is where his reasoning lead. This is reductio ad
absurdum: if your argument is true, these are the consequences; since
the consequences are unacceptable, so is the argument.  Of course they
are distinctions, but they have nothing to do with his argument, and do
not advance his thesis.

I find an accusation of "intellectual dishonesty", which Avi also hurled
at the person who compared recognizing a gay 'family' with encouraging
chilul Shabbat, offensive and an attempt to avoid a serious discussion.
This is why I did not accuse Avi of the same thing.  I am aware of one
case Avi declined to post; as I told the would-be poster, I thought it
was distinguishable and I wanted to limit the discussion to cases that I
thought were not.  Suffice it to say that it that Avi is obviously
unable to distinguish these cases and as a result resorts to

From: Abbi Adest <abbi.adest@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2005 16:14:23 +0300
Subject: Re: Gay Pride

Orrin Tillevitz writes:
> 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.

Wow, this is really stunning jump in logic and assumption. How is it at
all logical to compare gay people who are naturally attracted to the
opposite sex, but don't act on it to white racists and anti- Semites?
Also, do you have any studies or any kind of data to back up this
assumption that racists and anti-Semites are "hard wired" for these
feelings? This is the first time I've every heard such an argument made.

Abbi Adest


From: <Dagoobster@...> (Chaim Shapiro)
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2005 09:28:39 EDT
Subject: Pressuring Gays into Straight Marraiges

This was touched on in a few posts.  How does the list feel about
pressuring frum gays into hetero relationships for any reason?

Chaim Shapiro


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2005 11:56:24 -0400
Subject: Re: Shelter vs. Expose

> From: Anonymous_5
> Finally, I want to remind Shlomo that, as a parent, he has more
> influence on his children than anyone else.  He should have more
> confidence in his own ability to "model" appropriate behavior for his
> children.

I think that this is only true insomuch as the parents can choose the
locality of residence and schooling.  However, IMO a child's environment
(friends, teachers, etc.) clearly exerts more influence than a parent's
model, especially in adolescent years.

Ari Trachtenberg,                                      Boston University
http://people.bu.edu/trachten                    mailto:<trachten@...>

From: Carl A. Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2005 07:25:14 -0400
Subject: Shelter vs. Expose

I believe key here is who and when.

It is/was my job as a parent to make those shelter / expose decisions.
For better or worse (based on my judgment) I decided what and when my
children are exposed to.  Whether it's homosexuality, talking in shul,
eating trief, whatever -- it is/was for my wife and I to decide.

If you take that decision away from me -- even just by being yourself --
there is potential for conflict.  If you purposely take that decision
away from me - -than that potential becomes reality.  For example, give
my 15 year old son a beer and I will kick your butt.  (Sorry to be so

What do you say to your child when they see Mrs. such-and-such not
covering her hair, or Mr. such-and-such walking down the street with
takeout from McDonalds.

Relative to the homosexuality issue the following is innocuous -- but
may illustrate a point.  A few weeks ago I was visiting long time
friends on Shabbos afternoon -- one of their grand daughters, a
precocious 5 year old saw that I was wearing a class ring -- and
proclaimed "men do not wear rings" -- she lives in a kolel community
where I'm pretty sure men do not wear rings.  I inadvertently had
exposed her to something that was in contrast to what she had learned.
I made sure to change the topic -- it's for her parents to decide what
and when to do about this.

Contrary to Hillary Clinton's proclamation -- it doesn't take a whole
village to raise a child -- it takes two parents.

Carl Singer


End of Volume 49 Issue 17