Livvy K., an Essex County, NJ Middle School Student, didn’t believe in God or Judaism until a female soon-to-be Rabbi told her that homosexuality is not and will never be a sin. She now thinks it’s all about education.
For much of my life, I was identified as agnostic. I didn’t believe in God or Judaism because I didn’t know if they believed in my sexuality. I would look at the news and see the lines that state homosexuality is an abomination. Then hear those same lines be chanted in my synagogue the following day. It wasn’t until 2 years ago, when I took a Jewish Studies class, where a female soon-to-be Rabbi told me that homosexuality is not and will never be a sin. She explained everything that you could possibly ask about the morality of homosexuality in Judaism. Two years later, I identify as a Jew. It makes me wonder if all young Jews had the opportunity to ask the questions I asked and get the same supporting answer, or is just merely luck that I had a supportive teacher.
The Jewish community has always been vague with views on being queer. The Orthodox and Hasidic community use their power in Judaism to not address important Jewish lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) issues and make sure there is little to no positive education about homosexuality. It makes coming out in a Jewish community a hard experiences that often doesn’t happen.
To begin, social classes and hierarchies play a major role in the Jewish religion. Orthodox and Hasidic Jews (the most traditional Jews) are on top of the social pyramid within the Jewish community thus having majority of the power. They control the Israeli government, and according to Forward News, they have cut public school funding for more funding towards private yeshiva (Jewish focused) schools in the U.S. The Orthodox part of Judaism has become the face of Judaism with their noticeable clothes and faces. The scary part is they know their power, and they are well aware of the influence they can have on all Jews. Countless times, the Hasidic and Orthodox Jews have used their popularity and numbers to enforce biased procedures. One example of this is the Orthodox’s association with Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH), the largest Jewish conversion therapy organization. Most of JONAH’s methods were unethically, one participant said he had to recreate “traumatic sexual abuse from his childhood” according to Forward News. One participant testified that they asked him to “beat a pillow effigy of his mother with a tennis racket until his hands bled, screaming ‘Mom!’ with each blow.” Once JONAH was abolished in a lawsuit, there was no response from the Jewish community. An apology wasn’t necessary, because it wasn’t the Jewish community as a whole responsibility for JONAH just a few. However, the lack of education of JONAH in synagogue is alarming. The fact that no matter what form of Judaism you practice you wouldn’t know how your religion felt about conversion therapy it was associated with is not right. From cutting public school funding, to being unclear about their thoughts on conversion therapy. The Orthodox and Hasidic have so much influence and don’t use it for the greater good, especially for LGBTQ+ Jews.