Israeli Orthodox Rabbinical Group Calls for Acceptance of Gays and Lesbians

Beit Hillel organization presents opinion laying foundation for homosexual participation in religious communities.

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Dozens of religious Zionist rabbis urged their communities last night to be tolerant of gays and lesbians, though stressing that the religious prohibition on gay sex remains unchanged.

“Although forbidden sexual relationships must not be permitted, there’s room for leniency in attitudes toward social inclusion and for accepting them into the community,” the rabbis wrote in a religious opinion issued by the Beit Hillel organization.
The opinion said gays could serve in “any communal capacity,” including leading prayer. The signatories’ goal, it added, was to present an approach that “combines law with compassion and peace” in order to “magnify the Torah and increase love, brotherhood and peace.”

But the document never uses the terms “gay” and “lesbian,” referring only to “people with homosexual orientations.”
Beit Hillel, which includes many prominent mainstream religious Zionist rabbis, worked on the opinion for a long time and presented it last night at a conference in Ra’anana. Participants included the parents of Shira Banki, who was murdered by an ultra-Orthodox man during Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade last August.

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A Wider Bridge welcomes this statement from a group of Orthodox rabbis in Israel. We know that our good friends at Havruta and Bat Kol have been working for years to move Orthodox rabbis in Israel toward a more tolerant, welcoming and accepting position regarding LGBT people in their communities. This statement certainly represents a step in the right direction, and appears to signal an important shift. Of course, there is still a long way to go toward full acceptance and an end to the religious stigmatizing of homosexual conduct and same sex relationships. But as we have seen with acceptance and equality in the Reform and Conservative movements, this kind of change comes in increments, over a period of many years. It is also important to note that a similar statement was issued by a group of Orthodox rabbis and community professionals here in the U.S. almost six years ago. This development in Israel is yet another example of the importance of LGBT communities in the US and Israel working together.

FULL COVERAGE

An Orthodox rabbinic organization in Israel has published what it says is the first Jewish legal document of its kind calling for a more welcoming approach to homosexual Jews. (JTA / April 11, 2016)

In rare move, rabbis say there’s room for leniency in attitudes toward social inclusion for LGBT people (i24News / April 11, 2016)

Dozens of Israeli Orthodox rabbis have signed a religious edict urging religious communities to accept gay members without prejudice and ruling that homosexuals can fulfill the same community duties as their heterosexual peers (The Times of Israel / April 11, 2016)

The document by the nonprofit Beit Hillel “sets forth guidelines, which are founded in halachah, on how to contain people with a homosexual orientation within faith communities,” says director. (Jerusalem Post / April 9, 2016)