Volume 50 Number 69
                    Produced: Wed Dec 21  5:40:08 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions (4)
         [Frank Silbermann, Eitan Fiorino, Tom Buchler, Ira L. Jacobson]
The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions: Chaim Rapoport book
         [Freda B Birnbaum]


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 11:10:10 -0600 (CST)
Subject: The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions

Avi Feldblum <avi@...> comments in V50 N65:
> ... while the etymology of phobia is "fear of" or "irrational
> fear of", the accepted use of the term includes "discrimination against".

The dictionary entry in question defined homophobia as "irrational fear
of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or

This definition is ambiguous as to whether the adjective "irrational"
modifies only the words "fear of" -- or whether it qualifies the entire
phrase "fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against ...."  -- i.e.,
whether any one of them must be irrational in order to count.

I suspect that the writer of this dictionary entry deliberately
cultivated this ambiguity.

If argues that mere discrimination without irrationality is an
_accepted_ meaning of the term "homophobia", I would ask by _whom_ this
usage accepted.  I suspect it is accepted only by those who agree with
the agenda to normalize homosexuality within society.  We need not
imitate them.  The usage of "homophobia" to refer merely to
discrimination (or advocacy thereof) is no more accepted than was the
use of "kike", "Christ-killer" or "nigger" in the 1930s.

As for those who compare "homophobia" with the term "antisemitism", I
would agree that the latter term is also misleading.  However, the term
"antisemitism" was at least created honestly, during an era when
intellectual religious skeptics based their Jew-hatred on racial
grounds.  (If one argues that it should be replaced by a more accurate
term, I would not disagree.)

Having sins of my own that I have not conquered, I personally would not
try to shun or shame even a practicing homosexual within the Orthodox

With respect to R' Chayim Rapoport
(www.amazon.com/gp/product/0853034524/), Ira L. Jacobson
<laser@...> would ask:

> ... why Lisa thinks 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.

I don't know about his paper on the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rashi, but I
do know that Chabad in New Orleans brought him in to speak about his
book on homosexuality.

I was skeptical about some of his claims.  He says that a person of
homosexual orientation should remain celebate.  My thought was that
homosexual Jews have always existed, and therefore the tradition is that
they should marry members of the opposite sex and have children.  His
response (and the response of the New Orleans Chabad rabbis) was this
this would be terribly unfair to the heterosexual partner.

Frank Silbermann	Memphis, Tennessee

From: Eitan Fiorino <AFiorino@...>
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 09:50:41 -0500
Subject: Re: The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions

I haven't been following this thread too closely, but I gather the
comment I quote below was related to some discussion of rabbinic support
for some position or another with regard to homosexuals and/or

> From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
> Lisa Liel <lisa@...> stated, first quoting Frank Silbermann
> <fs@...>:
> >> 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.
> -snip-
> 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."

I am pretty sure Rabbi Norman Lamm has an article in Tradition from many
years back exploring the concept of ones as it applies to homosexuality.
The idea, if I recall, is not to give a heter for engaging in forbidden
behaviors, but rather to formulate an approach to the halachic
ramifications of these behaviors, an approach potentially more nuanced
and even more accurate than one generated by the quoting of pasukim - he
explores the idea that for some at least, the drive to engage in
homosexual acts is so strong that the person may have the status of one
who acts ast if he/she is compelled.  Again - the point is not that ones
creates a heter; rather, ones changes the culpability for the aveira.

As far as this issue goes, since I'm already writing I'll throw in my 2
cents - in my admittedly limited experience, homosexual Jews seeking to
remain affiliated with the Orthodox community fall into 2 camps - either
they are struggling mightily to supress their sex drive and remain
celibate or nearly so, or have come to terms with a certain level of
non-observance with regard to the issurim and are struggling to not let
that undermine their observance of and committment to the rest of the
mitzvot.  My personal view, which I know is not widely shared, is that
(1) those outside of those struggles have almost no ability to
understand how difficult or painful such struggles are, and (2) I see
absolutely no reason (including the "toevah" red herring) to judge these
people more harshly than those who are (or who may be) performing other
issurim; indeed, I think a person burdened with this conflict is
probably more deserving of my sympathy and compassion than is, for
example, the person who understands shabbat and yet unabashedly and
unapologetically violates it.

On a communal level, I am constantly perplexed by what are to me some
striking contradictions.  I see much genuine committment to kiruv (and
plenty of additional lip-service paid to it too), I see many people
celebrating the achievements of baalei teshuva who have, for example,
just kashered their kitchen and started lighting shabbat candles but are
not shomer shabbat, yet the homosexual struggling to hold onto his/her
shemirat mitzvot in the face of a seemingly impossible situation is
looked upon with disdain and disgust.  I see a community that heaps
honor upon honor upon assorted scoundrels, thieves, tax cheats,
adulterers etc. (especially if they shuffle a portion of their
ill-gotten gains towards charitable organizations that dole out such
honors), yet seems unusually and single-mindedly committed to purging
itself of even the most discrete and private members who happen to also
be gay.

The conclusion I draw is the following.  On a communal and individual
level, there is a visceral fear about homosexuality within Orthodoxy.
For the benefit of the language police on the list, I won't call it
homophobia, but in my opinion, there is no better description of the
phenomenon.  I think there are plenty of reasons why this is the case
(none of which really justifies the stance), but in my opinion it is a
fact which is probably not going to change much in the near-term.  In my
opinion, homosexuals who stick with observance and moreover cling to the
Orthodox community are heroic in their committment, considering that
most people would not want any part of a community that has made it so
abundantly clear that it wants nothing to do with them.


From: Tom Buchler <tbuchler@...>
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 12:01:45 -0500
Subject: Re: The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions

Two responses:
>From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
>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?

Driving to shul on Shabbes fits into the description of a capital 
offense which receives more tolerance from us.

>From: Asher Grossman <asherg@...>
>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
>Thus we see that homosexuality is termed "abomination". 

First, I am not a rabbi and don't presume to specify halachah, nor to
imply that anything we are talking about here is permitted or not
permitted. I do live in a small town that has a proportionately large
gay population, including some Jews and including some that have become
baal t'shuvah, and so I felt it due diligence to research these matters.

With all due respect, where does the Torah define homosexuality as an

In Vayikra 18:22 and 20:13, the Torah specifies exactly one male
homosexual act as an abomination -- as Rashi to Vayikra 20:13 put it,
"He enters [as the] painting stick enters the tube."

This leaves all other forms of male homosexual expression in other
categories, but not in the category of a to'evah, nor (as far as I can
see -- but I don't have nearly the education many here have) even
aveirot that lead to capital punishment. Some may lead only to lashes,
which gives those acts a lesser degree of punishment than cohabiting
with a niddah.


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2005 07:50:44 +0200
Subject: Re: The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions

Avi Feldblum <avi@...> stated on Tues, 20 Dec 2005:

      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".

I am sorry to point out that I believe Avi is misreading the definition.
If Merriam-Webster had taken this possibility into account, they would
have spelled out their definition of "homophobia" more clearly, by
adding a few more words, to wit: "irrational fear of, irrational
aversion to, or irrational discrimination against homosexuality or

      Ira simply brings an on-line dictionary definition in support of
      Lisa's position.

Quite the contrary.  I brought the definition to show that Lisa's
understanding is not accurate.

IRA L. JACOBSON         


From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 08:05:46 -0500 (EST)
Subject: The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions: Chaim Rapoport book

>> R' Chayim Rapoport is influential: 
>> http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0853034524/
> 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.

He's also written a book about Chabad, in response to David Berger's
book, which isn't easy to find, so I haven't read it yet.

But his book on homosexuality is reasonably available and, as far as I
can tell, gaining ground.  It's a serious attempt to deal with this
issue from a halachic standpoint which is NOT homophobic and not
dismissive of gay people's concerns.  I highly recommend it.

Freda Birnbaum, <fbb6@...>
"Call on God, but row away from the rocks"


End of Volume 50 Issue 69