Volume 50 Number 65
                    Produced: Tue Dec 20  6:24:39 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions (5)
         [Avi Feldblum, Frank Silbermann, Asher Grossman, Ira L.
Jacobson, Ira L. Jacobson]


From: Avi Feldblum <avi@...>
Date: Tues, 20 Dec 2005
Subject: Re: The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions

One problem with some of these discussions is that there are often
several different aspects being discussed at the same time, and people
are not careful on ensuring that they reply within the context of the
discussion. This, in my experience, gives rise to more heat than
light. I think this is especially true here. I'd like to try and define,
as best I understand things, the three different discussions / issues
that have been convoluted into this discussion.

1) The term "homophobia" and its usage. It is clear to me that different
people use this term differently. There is one group that uses the
term strictly in terms of the first two parts of the definition
brought down later in this issue by Ira:
   "irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against
    homosexuality or homosexuals."
There are others who focus the term more on the third element of the
definition above, and view any discrimination against homosexuality as
"homophobia". One then gets into a discussion of what exactly is
discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals. Is opposing gay
marriage an act of discrimination against homosexuals? If you so define
it, and accept the above definition for 'homophobia', then anyone who
opposes gay marriage can be labeled 'homophobic'. As such, I do not
think that the use of the term by itself in group discuission is likely
to productive. In my moderator hat, I decline to enforce any particular
usage of the term and would recommend against general use of it. 

I will admit that I do not quite understand the point of Ira's posting,
since the way I read the definition he brings, there are three parallel
elements, any of which would identify the behaviour as being homophopia:
"irrational fear of", "aversion to" or "discrimination against". Lisa's
posting, that Ira is replying to, says that while the etymology of
phobia is "fear of" or "irrational fear of", the accepted use of the
term includes "discrimination against". Ira simply brings an on-line
dictionary definition in support of Lisa's position.

2) The attitude of the organized Orthodox jewish community, or
individual observant jews toward the general GLB community. I believe it
is quite clear that at least a significant portion of the organized GLB
community actively is trying to create a position that a sexually active
GLB lifestyle is a valid and equavelent lifestyle to traditional
marriage. The initial posting in this thread was about the individual
response of a group member to what he saw as public support for the
agenda of the organized GLB community. This is a valid topic of
discussion, and the tradeoffs between the concerns of discrimination /
persecution against individual members of the GLB community vs
acceptance of an agenda that is viewed as being anti-thetical to
halachic judaism is one that can be discussed. It is in this sense that
it makes sense to me to compare the response of the organized halachic
community to the GLB community to the response to early Reform and
Conservative judaism. In both cases, the halachic community sees a
threat to the legitimacy of halachic positions by the other group. The
discussion about the level of opposition relative to the perceived level
of threat is a meaningful discussion.

3) The behaviour of members of the halachic community toward other
individual members of the community who are fully or partially shomer
mitzvot, who self present as both 'halachic' and 'GLB'. In addition, the
behaviour of members of the halachic community toward other individual
members of the community who either do not self present as or are
otherwise known not being fully shomer mitzvot. It may be that these
should be broken into two issues as well, but I'll combine them here for
now. Part of Lisa's response, as I understand it, is that if someone is
presenting as shomer mizvot and a full and active member of the halachic
community, but also is "gay", first of all no one has the halachic right
to assume that they are not shomer mitzvot in that area as well, and
irrespective of their private level of observance, no one has the
halachic right to engage in lashan harah, rechilut, improper and
insulting behaviour etc toward that person. I think it is also very
clear, that when we look at individuals who are not self presenting as
fully shomer mitzvot, there is a major difference between the way
someone who is clearly mechalel shabbos (drives to shul etc) is treated
and someone who is GLB is treated. We are not talking here about someone
who is actively argueing that halachicly forbidden GLB activities should
be allowed. It is simply someone who is "openly" GLB, but that is much
less "open" than the mechalel shabbos person who is doing the issur in
full view of others. In my experience, anyone who says that the average
orthodox shul is more open, or at least equal, to the GLB individual /
couple as to the mechalel shabbos, clearly has their eyes tightly

The statement that Asher makes in his submissionbelow:

"None of them make a public of this . None of them wear their behavior
on their sleeve, and none of them confront you with an ultimatum to
consider their behavior right."

I do not agree at all with Asher in respect to this group. The average
GLB person who is associating themself with an orthodox shul is most
often not "wearing their behavior on their sleeve", and to the extent
they "confront you with an ultimatum to consider their behavior right",
it is in the sense that there is no "behavior" that is halachically
forbidden that they are involved in. I find that it is much more likely
to find an individual who is mechalel shabbos who is public about it,
and will often confront you with the ultimatum to consider their
behaviour right.

I've probably spend too much time on this this already, so we'll
probably only get one or two issues of mail-jewish out today.


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2005 06:53:15 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions

Earlier, I gave a theory why many Orthodox shuls are more tolerant of
members who publicly violate Shabbas, Kashrus & Mikvah than we are of
Jews who admit to ongoing homosexual relations (the theory of "captured
at birth by idolaters").

Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...> V50 N62:
> I believe that largely when discussing this subject, we have been
> talking about excessive intolerance towards homosexual behavior as
> opposed to other sins not only in the larger world but also within
> Orthodoxy towards other Orthodox Jews, where none of the above
> applies.  The fact remains that other lapses in observance, whether by
> observant or non-observant Jews, are not discussed or condemned with
> nearly the vigor and vehemence that homosexual behavior engenders.

I'm not really aware of the vigor and vehemence you refer to.  I haven't
noticed homosexual behavior even being discussed much among the people I
meet at shul.

I may not have paid sufficient attention to earlier posts, so would you
please repeat some examples?

Among the sins for which the Bible demands the death penalty, which of
them receive more tolerance from us?  Are we any more tolerant of
admitted ongoing adulterers, or of those who practice bestiality?  Of
those who capture Jews and sell them into slavery?

Frank Silbermann	Memphis, Tennessee

From: Asher Grossman <asherg@...>
Date: Sun, 18 Dec 2005 01:36:55 -0500
Subject: Re: The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions

Without going through the process of quoting the various members who
commented on this subject, here is an excerpt of something I've written
in another forum, on this subject.

While the severity of homosexuality is as great as desecrating the
Shabbat - both are punishable by stoning - there is another element to
it that is unique. The Torah defines homosexual relations as
Abomination, a term which is not attached to any of the other Arayot,
even cases of incest. This term is applied to two other Aveirot: Avoda
Zara, and a case when a divorced woman, who had married again, attempts
to return to her first husband. Chazal tell us that basically the Torah
is preventing a case of attempting "wife swapping" while avoiding the
problem of an Eshet Ish.

Thus we see that homosexuality is termed "abomination". What raises the
hackles of most people is the "in-your-face" campaign to desensitize
society to this fact. To turn something which is an abomination into
something legitimate. While other sexual deviances are shunned, some
made illegal, and generally ostracized, there is a concentrated effort
to turn this deviancy into a normalcy. And o cource, if you don't accept
this - something is wrong with YOU!

I know many people who are not observant of some mitzvot. Some don't
keep Shabbat (and I mean actually desecrate Shabbat). others think
nothing of lying, cheating, stealing, or other money-related
transgressions. Some Don't observe Kashrut, and some are not observant
of one or more of the Arayot. None of them make a public of this . None
of them wear their behavior on their sleeve, and none of them confront
you with an ultimatum to consider their behavior right.

The Torah acknowledges that there are people who are attracted to their
own gender. The Torah says: "overcome this attraction and don't act on
it". Someone who is weak and cannot control himself in this aspect is to
be punished, the same way as someone who cannot control his urge to
stael or murder must be punished. To attempt to make anyone think
otherwise is to pervert the truth.

I wouldn't discriminate against a homosexual any more than I would
discriminate against a Mechalel Shabat - when dealing with jobs etc.
However, if the Mechalel Shabat was to begin proselytizing for Chilul
Shabat - I would not keep him in my employ. Same goes for those who
can't keep their own sexual behaviors to themselves and proselytize

Asher Grossman

From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Dec 2005 16:13:16 +0200
Subject: Re: The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions

Lisa Liel <lisa@...> stated, first quoting Frank Silbermann

>> The very recent incorporation of a "gay rights movement" within the
>> secular world suggests that the "captured by infants" argument might
>> one day be extended to this sin, but I don't know whether any
>> influential rabbis have made this argument.

> R' Chayim Rapoport is influential:
> http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0853034524/
> You might want to read it.

Indeed, this gentleman has the following to say:

"Jewish Law forbids premarital, extra marital, promiscuous and
homosexual relations. Consequently the . . . homosexual face[s] a
formidable challenge: they have to remain celibate."

But I wish to ask why Lisa think this particular rabbi is influential.
I daresay he is almost unknown in the rabbinical world.

For example, he claims to belong to the Habad movement, yet he wrote a
paper called "The Rebbe's Commentary on Rashi: Some Initial
Reflections," which he admits, "My paper, although they wouldn't declare
it heresy, they wouldn't read it."  So at the least we know that he is
not influential among his own group.

And in any event, how would Lisa have replied if the original statement
had been, "I don't know whether any posqim have made this argument."

IRA L. JACOBSON         

From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Dec 2005 17:05:32 +0200
Subject: Re: The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions

Lisa Liel <lisa@...> stated in mail-jewish Vol. 50 #64:

      Those who try and use etymology to pretend that "homophobia" means
      anything other than bias and bigotry against gay people are no
      different at all from the folks who use etymological arguments to
      claim that "antisemitism" really means being against Semites,
      including non-Jews.  It's a specious argument.  We don't darshan
      English words.

We just need to look them up in a dictionary.  Merriam-Webster defines
homophobia as "irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination
against homosexuality or homosexuals."

Please note the adjective "irrational."  One wonders if the acceptance
of halakhic precepts fits into the category of irrationality.

IRA L. JACOBSON         


End of Volume 50 Issue 65